Joy Nurses Headache, Lots of Worry and Old Scratch, Too!

PlaygroundEffete would be released the next day. She was well on the mend … physically. There were much deeper wounds, Joy knew, wounds that wouldn’t heal quickly. Effete was a shattered woman. She had been for many, many years. And she was mother to two shattered lives … two precious boys who’d never known what it meant to be whole and healthy and happy. Joy looked up from where she sat on the park bench. Rue and Bane were playing on the monkey-bars like any nine and eleven-year-old should, and they were laughing. They were happy.

Joy smiled. Sitting underneath the bright afternoon sun, listening to the voices of vibrant children echo through the air provided her a much needed respite from the day’s activities. After her early morning theology session with Rue, she’d fixed them all some breakfast. They all pitched in to clean up the dishes, then showered and dressed. Of course, Joy made sure the boys brushed their teeth and ran a comb through their hair for good measure. Then they went to the hospital for a nice, long visit with momma, had lunch in the cafeteria, then visited some more.

All in all, it had been a good day, but Joy was already exhausted. The mental, emotional and spiritual strain of it all had quite simply worn the usually lively, energetic pastor down to a frazzle. She could only imagine how Effete felt. At least Rue and Bane seemed alright … for now, anyway. And what about Fen? Joy couldn’t help wondering if he’d gone to his fundamentalist cult shop that morning to preach as if nothing had happened. Or maybe his congregation had heard? If so, had he preached some sick sermon justifying himself and explaining it all away?

Joy felt dizzy. Her mind flew in a hundred different directions. The devil himself may as well have been sitting next to her … or maybe it was God. Joy was having some trouble telling the difference anymore. Some of the worst relationships in the world were also the most religious. Why? Some of the most horrific abuses occurred in ostensibly “christian” homes. Why? So many preachers, evangelists and counselors touted the glorious ideal of “biblical” marriage and family, yet faithful church-goers divorced as much as everyone else. Why?

Joy pressed her fingers into her temples and began rubbing in circular motion. Damn!  She silently cursed the approaching migraine. Maybe it is the devil!  But whether or not the devil had anything to do with her headache, Joy knew he couldn’t be blamed for the nearly-ruined woman now lying in a hospital bed, and he couldn’t be blamed for the deeply hurt, terrorized children she now watched playing on the playground. “Nope! Old Scratch didn’t earn any points with this one!” Joy emphatically whispered. “The ‘man of God’ played it all, from start to finish!”

But I’m a ‘man of God,’ right? No, o.k. woman of God, but damn! Am I in the right profession?  Joy closed her eyes and kept massaging her temples. The headache was starting to nauseate her, which made her worry she might up-chuck right there in the middle of the park!  Great! Just great… I’m sure Rue and Bane would like to see that! Yeah! She’s taking care of us! Oh wait a minute, she’s chocking on her puke! Call an ambulance! Yeah … maybe I can bed down with Effete!  Joy breathed in deeply, and forced a full-stop to the tirade in her mind.

Movie. What movie would they see? Joy had already decided the boys wouldn’t go back to the Ebenezer church school ever again, if she could help it, and the attorney in her church had at least agreed she’d be alright keeping them out for the time being. So … they could afford to stay up a little later than usual, and Joy desperately wanted the day to end on a high note. The Stone of Iblis  was still running, and seemed like a decent sci-fi, action, fantasy-type that might appeal to a couple of rambunctious boys … or, well, boys that should  be rambunctious.

No, it did no good to blame the devil for any of this, or really much of anything at all. “Yep! Old Scratch has a damn easy job, I’d say!” Joy opened her eyes again to make sure no one was near enough to hear her talking to herself. “He just sits back while we do all his work for him and then collects the pay… Ha! He may as well be in Congress!” Joy laughed at herself. “Hell! Maybe he is! But what about you?” She looked up at the blue sky above and squinted. “Yeah … probably isn’t easy running the universe, but you know…”

“Joy! Look at me!” Rue called from the top of the monkey bars. He was standing straight up, waiting for her to notice.

“Hey, yeah! I see you,” Joy called back. “Just be careful, buck-o! Can’t have you getting hurt on my watch!”

“No, wait!” Joy could see Rue gleaming, which meant he was about to do something, which meant she should probably switch into frantic-mother mode. “Watch!” And before Joy could open her mouth to protest, Rue was flying through the air and down to the ground where he rolled over a couple of times before hopping up again with the biggest grin an eleven-year-old boy could plaster on his dirty face. “Did ‘ya see that?”

“Uh, yeah I saw it!” But she sure as hell didn’t want to see it again. What? Am I getting squeamish in my old age? But, hey, I’m not old! And I’ve done the whole jump thing a million times! Still… “Wow, that was great, Rue!” But don’t you dare go back up for another! “Hey, it’s about that time, guys… The movie?  Come on and we’ll grab some ice-cream before show-time; what d’ya say?”

The broad smiles and elated answers of both boys was enough to let her know they wouldn’t miss the playground … not with ice-cream and a movie, probably with plenty of popcorn and soda, ahead of them. And Joy wouldn’t have to worry about any broken legs, arms, or collarbones either. Or bloody noses, cracked skulls… Joy stopped herself, grabbed Rue and Bane in a big bear hug and twirled them around three or four times, which they both answered with delighted squeals.

When Joy put them down, Rue held on long enough to give her a quick peck on the cheek. Joy returned the affection, then reached over to give Bane a kiss on the head, too. Bane smiled and looked kind of embarrassed, but Rue was practically glowing.  “You know,” he said cheerfully, “if God were anything like you,  I don’t think I’d mind going back to church. In fact, I’d love praying and singing, too!”

And for one fleeting moment, Joy thought she could hear a barely audible whisper in the gentle breeze.  I’m here, right here … I Am.


One thought on “Joy Nurses Headache, Lots of Worry and Old Scratch, Too!

  1. Jonathan: Every time I read one of your stories, it takes me to places that are somehow familiar. Joy reminds me so much of a pastor from my youth, and to this day, I always remember the kindness, compassion and honesty that I felt when he spoke. Rue is very fortunate to know such a Pastor. I can’t wait until the next chapter………………….

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