It was going to be long night. The kid wouldn’t shut up. Her mom called her Cathy. The name fit - Chatty Cathy.
My sister had a doll named Chatty Cathy. Pull the ring and the annoying squawk box spit out several phrases in endless repetition. I’d smashed it.
I felt the heat rise, burning my cheeks. Even as a kid, I was a devil.
I shouldn’t have come tonight. I knew I’d have to listen to some sermon – that would buy me food and rest. What I didn’t figure on were the words that would gnaw at my insides like so many maggots.
The preacher was ordinary. ‘Bout 5’ 6” would be my guess, glasses, hair a bit shaggy around the collar of a jacket that had seen better times. He could have been one of us if he wasn’t spoutin’ scripture. Talked about being a new creation. “God could give you a clean slate,” he’d said.
If only… I shook off the thought. Nah. Some people may be able to change, but not me.
Minutes ago, I had been in the soup kitchen, warming my belly on the warm broth. Now, the homey smells followed me to the sleeping quarters, mingling with the stench of disinfectant and sweat. It sickened me. My nausea deepened at the thought of what I’d become. My life was a waste.
The old cot creaked in protest as I lowered my weary bones and sat.
“Hey Mister? Want me to draw you a picture?”
Chatty Cathy plunked herself next to me on the bed, some box-like thing in her hand.
“Uh - I don’t think so, kid. Your mom might not like…’
“She’s asleep. Besides, I’m not tired yet.”
Too true. The woman was sprawled on a bed, two rows over, one arm dangling over the metal edge, snorting air for all she was worth.
My bed squeaked as the life-sized doll wiggled herself into a comfortable position. “I’ll draw a house.”
I was about to object when she started turning knobs at the bottom of the device that looked like a little TV screen. One knob drew lines across; the other up and down.
“It’s an Etch a Sketch.”
“I knew that,” I told her. I didn’t.
“How old are you?”
“What you drawing?”
“A masterpiece. Wait ‘til you see.”
I uttered the laugh of a cynic, bemused by her youthful ignorance of life.
In spite of myself, I watched, fascinated by her command of this medium. She constructed a house with a door and windows, a tree, shrubs, even a dog – sort of. The lines were jagged and angular but, all in all, it was pretty good. The best part was that she shut up while she drew.
“Ta da!” Holding the box flat, she lifted her creation, searching my eyes for approval.
“Yep, looks like a great piece of art to me.”
“Thank you!” A smile lit up her freckled face, showing slightly crooked teeth.
My nose began to burn, a sure sign that a sneeze was to follow. Turning from the kid, I buried my nose in the crook of my arm and rubbed a rough sleeve across my face.
“God bless you.”
“Yeah, thanks kid.”
When I’d turned back, the tablet was blank.
“What happened to your masterpiece?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Gone. I can always make another one. You want to try?”
Before I could protest, she’d passed the box to me.
“Well, okay; I’ll take a shot at it.” What looked so easy when she’d done it, left my fingers fumbling. The thing had a mind of it’s own.
Defeated, I handed it back, my scratchings meaningless zigzag lines.
“What is it?” Her eyes widened beneath raised brows.
“My life.” I mumbled the words under my breath, sparing her my foul mood.
A dull pain crowded my thoughts and I rubbed at my temples.
“What do you do when you make a mistake?”
“That’s easy.” Holding the sides, she flipped the thing upside down and rattled it like some barmaid mixing drinks. “You start over.”
When she’d flipped it back, the frame was empty, all evidence of the fractured art wiped away.
“Thanks, kid!” I bolted from the bed and headed toward the chapel. Maybe I could change. If He could make me new, I was willing.
I knelt, a prayer on my lips. “Turn me around, Lord. Make something beautiful from my life.” I rose, a new creation.
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