Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Staff (01/31/13)
TITLE: Words of Comfort
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For Geneva, war has no meaning. For her, it is a word that brings no images of chaos or bombs or guns. Or rivers burning. Or families running away from their burning homes. Or soldiers for that matter. What she sees is abandonment: father leaving his family to fight in the war.
Geneva is eight when the war arrives in her country in the Far East. She sits just outside the door of the bedroom where Mom and Pop are talking quietly about the war, out of the earshot of the children, they say. She doesn’t understand what all the fuss is all about the war. She doesn’t understand why Mom is crying and why Pop is assuring her softly with words that are foreign to Geneva. She wants to run into the bedroom, put her arms around Mom, and comfort her. Tell her she’ll be all right because Geneva, her youngest child among five, is there to ease her sorrow when Pop leaves for the war.
“I’m here, Mom, to help you, to listen to you the way Pop always does when you’re sad. I’m here to be your rod and staff.” I whisper.
Geneva remembers Psalm 23rd, where it mentions that rod and staff are comforts. She doesn’t understand why rods and staffs are comforts, but she believes because the Good Book says so. When Mom is sick, Pop comforts her and cares for her until she gets better. When Mom is sad, Pop makes her laugh, makes funny jokes to erase the sadness in her eyes. Geneva thinks the rods and staffs are Pop’s jokes and the care he gives Mom to make her better.
Geneva hears Mom and Pop moving, they are both coming out of the bedroom. She tiptoes from her hiding place to her room next door. Mom and Pop are not aware of her presence outside their bedroom because she’s perfected a way to run without stepping on to creaking floorboards. She knows the parts of the house that creaks. She is proud of how she can remember things. The floorboard outside her own bedroom makes an awful noise when she steps on it. She knows when someone comes near her room because the floorboard warns her, all the time.
“Hi, Mom, Pop, is there something wrong?” I come out of my bedroom just as they pass my room.
“There you are, Gen,” Pop looks back at me. “No, nothing’s wrong.”
“Mom looks as if she’d been crying.” I take a long stride towards Mom.
“Oh, nothing’s wrong, Gen,” Mom turns to me. “I think I’m coming down with a cold.”
“Would you like me to make you a cup of tea?” I walk ahead to the kitchen.
“Thanks, Gen.” Mom’s words are low-pitched.
The kettle is boiling as Mom and Pop approach the dining table. I measure the tea leaves, drop them in the cup, and pour the boiling water.
“Here you are, Mom. Take a sip and it’ll help with your cold.” I place the cup before her.
“Thanks, Gen. You go on and finish your homework.”
“I’ve done it all, Mom. Please don’t worry.”
I sit opposite them. I look straight into Mom’s eyes. “Do you remember teaching me Psalm 23rd?”
Mom’s and Pop’s eyes focus on me.
“Of course, I remember,” Mom says. Pop just looks with curiousity.
“Do you remember explaining to me why the “rod and the staff” are comforting?”
Mom’s smile widens and her eyes clear of tears.
“I have forgotten your explanation, Mom.” I confess my failing.
Mom reiterates her explanation:
A man is lame and a cane is the only thing that eases his pain when he walks. In the olden days in the Bible, a rod and/or a staff are aids to people, a comfort, to people who are lame and unable to walk.
“Now I remember why rods and staffs are comforting. Thanks, Mom.” I reach over and give her and Pop a kiss each. Then, I walk quietly to my room, singing to myself, “thy road and thy staff, they comfort me. And comfort Mom, too.”
As I close my door, I hear Pop comments, “Do you know, Gen is your rod and your staff, darling.”
Mom’s reply is much more comforting to me.
“Yes, dear, Gen is my rod and my staff.”
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