Friday, August 7, 2009

Opening Heaven's Gate - Part 1

The following short story, titled "Opening Heaven's Gate," was written for an assignment in a narrative theory course I took during my final year in college. This was my first attempt at any type of creative writing

It will be presented in a series of four posts. These divisions were not part of the original assignment, and carry no thematic or structural intent. Enjoy.


Opening Heaven's Gate

“Almost there, just a little further, another good push or two and this will all be done. Stay with me here, stick with me. Stick with me, you’re ready. Deep breaths. On my count, we’re going to push. One, two.”

Just as she heard three, Sarah prepared to push, summoned all of her will to break through a pain-induced fog. It was not enough. The world quickly reduced to slits, smaller than the eye of a needle, and then, with another contortion, zoomed back in its bright, variegated glory. Starched white curtains and neutral yellow walls were cutting, razor-edged. The lavender pleats of Rebecca’s dress contrasted sharply with her flushed, sanguinely pleading face. The past thirty hours had been rough on her too. Sarah just had to stick with her. Gather the strength one more time. The world began to fade again.

Then a jerk and the plea underwent a spontaneous malevolent transformation.


Sarah supposed the Lord would forgive Rebecca’s single curse in a moment such as this. Spurred to action, she collected her reserves for one final salvo. She bore down with all her might and, miraculously, the acute, searing pressure released. A naked, wingless angel arose from between her frog-splayed legs, held aloft by Rebecca, dripping yellow molasses, tethered to the table, kicking, face contorted in the grimace of a nascent scream. Sarah’s body, its resources spent, gave out, and she spun into the midnight black of a moonless night.

She awoke supine, unable to move her legs, a consequence of the heavy woolen blankets under which she lay, Rebecca’s knowing action taken to guard against the encroaching winter cold. Looking out the second story window, she noticed a teenage boy traipse by on the dirt road outside, preoccupied with a stone he kicked along as he walked. Not in the mood to see any of the outside world, she tried to move her arm to pull the blanket up over head, but instead felt as if she was lifting a weight, something about as heavy as a half empty bag of potatoes. Turning her head and staring, she was startled to find a small pastel pink bundle, the now serene angel face gracing the end closest to her head. Sarah took a closer look, and a set of new bright blue, unfocused eyes connected with hers. Thank God. The cerulean glow of her eyes was just like Abe’s, blue as the sky, not her own muddy light brown. This little one would not have to cope with the incessant teasing of her fellow schoolchildren, as Sarah had.

“Where’d you get your eyes? Devil visit your mamma in the night? My mamma says all God’s children got blue eyes. Just like all the angels. Blond hair too. Brown eyes is real bad.” That childhood scourge would end with Sarah. Her little girl’s eyes and hair were blue and blond, beautiful, normal, communal. Blue and blond, just like Abe. No one could question her paternity; The Lord had colored her eyes just the same as all the children of the other wives.

The miniature face contorted again into the recognizable grimace, though this time out of hunger rather than anger at the eviction from the familiar comforts of its mother’s womb. The child’s mouth opened to release the scream and the face turned three shades of famished scarlet. Sarah felt the frustrated exhalation lightly brush her cheek, but no sound came out. Maybe she was tired, unable to hear anything. But she had heard the boy’s boot lightly scrape the gravel outside as he kicked the stone. Sarah labored out from under the weight of the blankets, propping herself up against the headboard of her large, oaken bed, one of six in the house. Suddenly, she was overcome with a wave of fatigue. Unable to give the silent scream more than a few seconds of cognitive attention, her thoughts and movements relied on newfound maternal instinct. Lifting the bundle with her right arm, taking care to support the head, she bared her breast and the child took as naturally to suckling as the brown calf Abe had delivered last spring. The warm flow of milk made her instantly relax. It was a relief. The child Rebecca birthed a few months ago had trouble suckling just like her other five, but that one lost a pound or two, looked like a starved lizard there for awhile until he figured it out one day. Scared his mamma half to death. Sarah would not need to deal with those problems. This was her first child, and with her children things would be different.

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