Sunday, August 9, 2009

Opening Heaven's Gate - Part 3

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.


Sarah didn’t say anything, but agreed that she was. All wrapped in pure innocent white, with a pink shell to protect her, the child had no conception of the life that lay ahead of her, but was somehow contented, like a turtle pulled into a pastel fortress against the world. Sarah knew her child would need to be comfortable around her father, needed to become a strong figure capable of coping with the leering eyes of the community’s grown men who in fourteen short years, no doubt, would be looking for another plural wife. Maybe there was a man out there, already with a few wives of his own, who the Lord had destined to join her daughter in holy union. Hell, rumor had it Abe had gone visiting the Gantry homestead up in Hildale a few weeks ago. Terah Gantry, still virile at eighty years of age, had a few daughters who were coming of age. Sarah wanted her daughter to be strong, familiar with the men so she would not be taken advantage of. Confidence around the men would give her the power to influence decisions, make a difference in the community through influence with her eventual husband. Sarah lifted the child out to Abe.

“I don’t want to hold her, not yet. Only a woman knows how to hold a child proper, and that little foal needs to get further acquainted with her mamma,” Abe said.

Sarah fumed, barely able to conceal the undercurrent of rage that burned deep within her bosom. Her face flushed and she used her free arm to pull the blanket further up over her chest. His lack of attention during pregnancy was forgivable. She had plenty of help from the other wives. But to not hold his child, his brand new, living, eating, breathing, possibly thinking child? His temerarity drove a stake deep into her very core.

“Well I came in because I’ve decided on the name,” he opined, fully ignoring her crimson cheeks. As was tradition, the man in the house always had the responsibility for naming the child. The women conceived, carried, suffered, cared for, and raised the children, but it was the husbands who always decided the name. “We’re going to call her Hannah. It means God’s grace. I was hoping to one day have a Hannah. I’ve almost gone through every other name in the book, but this one’s something special. Look at her blond hair and blue eyes, just like her daddy.”

Sarah’s anger slowly abated. Hannah, the Lord’s good grace, a fitting name. Birthed like an angel, rising up to relieve Sarah from all her pain. The physical incarnation of the Lord’s grace manifested on earth, in a tiny bundle of white cotton and pastel pink. Her personal friend and saviour, a guaranteed package of unconditional love, delivered for her to enjoy for the rest of her life. And best of all, the last syllable of the name rhymed with her own. Hannah, Sarah, just like mother and cub. The cub never straying too far from her benevolent, omnipresent protector. Life would be good, with Sarah to guide her. Hannah would be her daughter forever, tied to Sarah through blood and name, a bond no earthly force could rend apart. There would be a certain musical cadence to the name when, in a few months, the cantor would sing out in his deep bass voice, “Hannah daughter of Sarah and Abraham, be forgiven for your sins,” eliciting a stately echo from the marble walls of the temple’s main chamber. Sarah approached the baptismal font with Hannah grasped close to her chest, clothed in a miniature plain white gown she had sewn just for the occasion. When she reached the font, the elder acting as priest said the necessary prayers and instructed Sarah to baptize her child in the Lord’s life-giving waters. Sarah moved her child away from her bosom, held her above the font, and completely immersed her for a short half-second in the water. The baptismal gown, once a brilliant pure white, now soaked, clung to the tiny body as Sarah pulled her from the water. The cotton turned a shade of grey and felt heavy with the weight of the water, desirously grappling to drag the young girl back into the depths of God’s healing waters. “The Lord welcomes you, Hannah Clarkson, into his full communion,” the apostle said as Hannah shivered, now safe against Sarah’s chest. Shivered, without so much as a sound.

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