Martha was mad at the world, mad at Pearl, even mad at Johnny and God.
It was Johnny’s birthday, exactly one year after he died in a freak accident.
Martha dreamed of him that night. He was happy. But she was still heartbroken.
Martha sighed. Then she remembered more of her dream. He wants me to befriend Pearl. How can I love the woman who killed my only child?
Martha knew God forgave Pearl. She knew Johnny forgave Pearl. She knew in her heart that Pearl hadn’t done it on purpose. -- She loved Johnny too, everyone did.
Pearl became home-bound after she gave up driving. She relied on others for just about everything now. Like she’d relied on Johnny before -- before she backed into him on his bicycle… on his sixteenth birthday…
Pearl once said to her, “Johnny was such a good kid. Why couldn’t it have been me instead?”
Martha had no answer, then or now.
Johnny loved Pearl. He called her “Granny.” He shoveled her driveway in winter, did her heavy lifting, stopped by to chat, and ran errands for her.
Martha wasn’t surprised to find Pearl at her door that day.
“Sorry to disturb you dear,” she said.
Martha invited her in. She was still in her bathrobe. She didn’t bother to dress anymore, unless she had to go out.
“I just had to tell you. I had the strangest dream last night, about Johnny.”
“Me, too,” Martha whispered.
Pearl eased herself into a kitchen chair while Martha made tea.
“I heard Johnny’s voice singing,” said Pearl. “One of those rap songs he always listened to while he worked around the yard. But… and this is the funny part, I was dancing, cane and all. And you were singing. We were in a big hall. Everyone was clapping and laughing. We were a big hit.
“I woke up laughing. The thought of this old body boogying around on stage…”
Martha couldn’t help but grin. She laid her hand on the older woman’s. “In my dream, Johnny wanted us to be friends. I think he knows how lonely we’ve both been… without him.” Martha still had trouble talking about him, thinking about him, without crying.
“I’d like that,” said Pearl.
“In my younger days, I was quite the dancer you know.” Pearl picked up Johnny’s old hat, still hung up on a hook by the door. She put it on backwards and tilted to the right side -- just like Johnny wore it. She started dancing…
Pearl spoke the words more than sang them. Martha stifled a laugh. Rap wasn’t exactly her style. But at that moment it was just right. She could almost feel Johnny there with them.
Pearl’s rap song matched the tune that had been in Martha’s head all morning.
When the dance ended, Martha couldn’t control herself -- she laughed out loud, hysterical laughter. Tears were streaming down her face.
And then she cried: deep, loud sobbing. All the pain, sorrow, and loneliness of the past year came pouring out all at once.
Pearl cried, too. The two women held each other until there were no more tears.
“This has to be a God thing,” Martha said after wiping her eyes. “How else could an 87 year-old woman dancing remind me so much of my 16 year old boy?”
“You have got to do that dance at the fund-raiser, to help raise money for the new church,” said Martha.
“That must be it! -- The big room in my dream… I’ll do it. Dancing is good for these old knees. And it’s kind of fun. But… could you bear to sing?” asked Pearl.
“It seems Johnny wants me to. I still have his guitar... And a tune has been running through my head all morning -- Johnny’s Song. It’s a perfect match for your rap.” said Martha. ”We could be ready by the eighteenth, don’t you think?”
“Only Johnny could cook up something like this,” said Pearl. They both laughed.
The big night arrived. On stage Pearl said, “You all know about Martha’s boy, Johnny. Well, tonight we’re here to perform ‘Johnny’s Song.’ It came to us in a dream, on Johnny’s birthday. It’s a song of hope, togetherness, friendship, and new beginnings.”
Martha and Pearl donned their matching baseball hats, backwards, and tilted to the right -- Johnny style. They danced for the past and rapped for the future. There was still sorrow, but more laughter than anger.
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