Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
TITLE: The Awakening
By Marilee Alvey
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I haven’t seen Jack since I was thirty-five. In my sixties now, I want to gaze at his broken down shell. It’s a good thing they don’t have screeners at the funeral home door to make sure you’re not packing a bad attitude. No plastic zip lock bag could possibly keep back the black ooze of his shadow which has darkened my life. He’s dead. Game over. I won.
Jack had a lot of luck with his art work. Nationally known, even. But he was narrow minded. If you wanted to stay out of arguments with him, you didn’t talk politics. From the very beginning I thought that Jack should grow up. I did my best to make up for what others weren’t doing, but, after ten years of marriage to his daughter, I figured it takes a village to raise this idiot so I checked out, altogether.
Sitting here as the Pastor speaks, I remember clearly the night I walked out on Jack. I had talked politics with him. Jackie said I shouldn’t, but politics were my passion and I didn’t see why I had to shut up over it. My candidate was the best. I was actually working on his committee. Jack was a willing target for any politician that claimed to be Christian. He only had a Master’s degree….and that in Art, for crying out loud. Hardly a Mecca for intellectual thought. I’d told Jack that, if he was any kind of real Christian, he wouldn’t support the war his candidate had gotten us into. It was like cornering a rabbit, but Jack wouldn’t allow me to show him for the inconsistent fool he was. He was no match for me, so I walked out. I’d just finished my doctorate in Math and had been accepted to teach at the University of Arizona so I was leaving, anyway. “Come on, Jackie, I guess we’re not welcome here,” I said, taking her hand and pulling her out.
I let Jackie come home to visit but not on holidays. Her place is with her own family now. I sit here, watching her crying. Her cries are ugly, not like in the movies. She was too close to see her ill placed devotion, but even the Bible says she must break away from her parent, so she has had to grow up. At least that’s how I see it and I believe the Bible backs me in this. So we moved….far away.
The Pastor is now opening the service up for people to be able to say something about Jack. I’d like to, but I won’t.
“If it weren’t for Jack,” a woman said, “I don’t know where I would be. I was a single mom of six. Jack used his contacts to get me enrolled in Art School and sometimes would come over and watch the kids. He believed in me when I didn’t. I’ve been teaching now for twenty years.”
“I came from Russia as a foreign exchange student and wanted to attend college in the U.S.” a thin young man with an accent is claiming. “No school would take me because I didn’t have the funds. Then I met Jack at an art show. He told me he’d find a way. He had me sharpening pencils, cleaning out paint pots, you name it, but because of his help I now have a job making animated movies for Disney Studios. Jack would never accept any money from me to thank him. He just told me to pass it on.”
I feel the pew beneath me shift slightly as Jackie slowly rises.
“My dad raised me and my brother, alone, after our mom left us. He managed to cook and clean and heal our abandoned hearts while working full time. It had to be exhausting, but all he ever said to me was, ‘Jackie, you and James are SO worth it.’ Over the past thirty years I haven’t been home as much as I’d have liked, so your words today are filling up a bank inside me that’s been totally empty for so long. Thank you all.”
I glance around furtively. Where are the artistic accolades? I stuff my face into my hands as ragged sobs rip through my throat. I am the loser. I, too, cry ugly.
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