Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)
TITLE: A Dart through Despair
By Noel Mitaxa
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For everyone else.
Travis sat stonily in the passenger seat. It was time to go.
She got in and caught his eye as they buckled their seat belts. “Ready Trav?” He nodded, and she forced a smile as they eased away from the elegant but now empty house. It briefly captured her glance in the rear-view mirror, but she reacted with a steely, unspoken: “That’s my last look back!”
In no time they had caught the van. Its back door slogan “You’ll be moved by our experience” was forcing her, despite her recent silent vow, into a high-speed review of all her recent experience.
Today, a step-by-step encroachment of emptiness was being consummated as she followed the van and its contents—her packed-up world—which were now in the hands of people she hardly knew.
The first departure had been her faith in Brad. At first it was camouflaged in his lies and in her longing to believe his excuses. But when he cast all pretence aside to declare his wrinkle-free secretary as the new love of his life—and all that Diana could never be—her last flicker of hope expired.
No looking back, but what could she look forward to? And what could she offer Travis? At eight years of age, he needed a father. Which was something else she could never be.
Self-pity was turning to anger—at Brad; at herself; at God; at the whole twisted, rotten world that she and Travis now had to face. On their own.
Diana had no job prospects, so buying a house was not an option, even with the property settlement from the divorce.
She had always been able to bounce back before, but that old self-confidence had expired—with Brad’s expert help.
She could look no higher, for God was clearly keeping a safe distance from her. Had he been finally convinced by the advice that all those super-pious home-town people had given her; that marrying Brad would destroy her?
Talk about hope reaching its expiry date. At least her parents had offered them a roof, two days’ drive away, and for who could know how long…
Two weeks later, their welcome had settled down into familiarity; the kind which readily shifts recognising personal quirks into resenting them.
Diana was finding that same encroaching emptiness launching another offensive.
After fifteen years away, she kept looking for the glass case that enclosed this community of expired minds.
Church? She remembered how medieval it had been while she was a teenager, so she refused as politely as she knew how. After all, Sister Bucketmouth was still hanging on, with only the thrill of dying keeping her alive, as she persisted in her pilgrimage of prophesying pain and punishment on whoever crossed her path. Diana still winced at her acid-breathed warnings about Brad.
It was their second Sunday, and staying home promised some protection from the prayerful concern that was a barely-disguised inquisition. She could still recall the earnest prayers that confessed everyone else’s sins—in case God had forgotten—and she had no desire to be on display. Even if everyone’s eyes stayed closed.
“You might be surprised, Diana,” said her mother, “but we’ll give you some space. Travis is coming with us. He really enjoyed it last week!”
True, last Sunday Travis had come home, excited about the Sunday School. She was too jaded to listen, and any time she heard “Sunday School, Sunday School, Sunday School,” she’d quickly redirected the conversation.
She woke at the gentle tapping on her door. It was a beaming Travis, armed with a paper dart. “Check this out!” he commanded, and launched it at her.
By reflex, she flinched as it landed on her pillow.
About to admonish his vandalism, she suddenly noticed that this leaflet had been designed as a dart, so she unfolded it. Its pictures and its pitch briefly touched her heart with a faint fragrance of hope. It was a promo for the church kids’ program, called “Sunday’s Cool!”
Author’s note. This story was birthed from recalling how a poorly-expressed reading of John 10:10 – “I have come that you might have life more abundantly”—became “I have come that you might have life moribundly!”
However, since moribund means “at the point of death,” the reader unwittingly invited everyone to give God’s grace more room; for Jesus shared the same promise with the penitent thief on the cross.
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