Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)
TITLE: Fifteen Minutes Behind
By Loren T. Lowery
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A full moon brushes the eastern hay fields, its yellow light making goblins of the growing shadowed crops. With soft murmurs from inside the house, we are content in our silence together. And, with crickets serenading on the lawn I am drawn back to the day we painted the ceiling above us.
“I’m giving my life to Jesus tomorrow,” I tell my brother as I dip my brush into the cool colored paint. It smells of lime. I scratch my nose and blue streaks race across my sunburned cheeks.
He looks down from the ladder. “You ain’t old enough to do no such thing, Luke. Mama know about this?”
Kirk is fifteen minutes older than me. My life to that point had been a futile attempt to catch up to that quarter hour difference. To be where he was and see things from his older, wiser eyes. Yet whenever I did, he was still fifteen minutes ahead.
“I told her this morning. She called the preacher so he’d be ready. She seemed proud. She even cried.”
“Ma cries at the drop of a hat, like when Pa said she could paint this ceiling. Why do you think she wants it blue?”
“Said because it reminds her of the sky.”
Plain foolish, like you wanting to give your life to Jesus. If she wants to see the sky, all she has to do is step off the porch and look up. And Jesus, he’s always there, too.”
“Skies not always, blue,” I respond. “Sometimes there’s clouds and sometimes it’s black, like at night.”
He seemed to consider this and said, “Maybe.”
I laid down my brush. “Why do you think giving my life to Jesus is foolish?”
“Don’t know. But we were christened when we were babies. No need repeating it.”
I look up at him. “But we didn’t have no say. Like Ma dressing us when we were little. Now I want to do it myself.” I hesitated at my next words and barely breathed them. “And to say I’m sorry for my sins.”
Kirk laughed so hard the ladder rocked. “Sins? Why you aint hardly old enough to have sinned.”
My face flamed as my transgressions paraded across my mind. Dirty jokes I had heard, but yet understood. Pictures of naked ladies in girlie magazines brought to school by older boys. Smoking grapevines behind the barn.
“I have.” I swallowed hard. “Same as you.” My voice was a whisper.
“Where’d you get this fool notion anyway?”
“At church, listening to Revered Thompson preach.”
He sighed. “You got a soft heart, like a sissy. You want people thinking that about you, being a sissy?” There was disdain in his voice.
“Lotta people died for believing. It’s in the Bible.”
“Yeah, well I think that’s just a bunch of made up stories to make sissies like you look foolish.”
I balled my fist. “Quit saying that. I’m no sissy. I can lick you as good as anyone.”
He came down from the ladder and looked me straight in the eyes. “We’ve always done things together, but this is not a man thing you’re talking about. It’s for girls. Why do you think it’s always Ma going to church and not Pa?”
I couldn’t answer and only said, “‘Cause he never asked Jesus into his life either, just like you.”
He threw down his brush, a blue constellation splattered across my bare feet. “And I ain’t doing this, not tomorrow, not ever.” His eyes never left mine, as if searching. “Painting can wait, I’m going fishing.” He walked away. “You coming or not?”
I watched him leave, down the road. “God’s not out there by no fishing hole.” I yelled. “He’s at church waiting for you.”
His answer is an unfriendly salute.
The screen door squeaked opened behind us, pulling my thoughts back to the moment. “Reverend?” a voice states. “Everything’s in order. All we need is your brother’s signature to sign this home over to the church as your parsonage.”
“Guess I was wrong,” I tell my brother. “God was at that fishing hole; wasn’t he?”
“Close as this blue ceiling above us.”
I sign the papers. Fifteen minutes wiser, yet still fifteen minuets behind.
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