Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exit wounds

Katie raced down the hall as fast as her young legs would take her. She couldn't keep up. The other kids were faster, older. They rounded the corner and disappeared before she reached the gym doors.
She stopped, bent over, placed her hands on her knees and panted to catch her breath. The hammering of her heart gave an odd time signature to the square-dance caller's song. She closed her eyes and listened to the shuffle of shoes as the grown-ups do-si-doed across the tile floor of the public junior high cafeteria. In her mind's eye, she imagined the kaleidoscope created as women in can-cans whirled from partner to partner.
With her breath calmed, Katie straightened her body and strolled to the end of the hall. The rest of the kids were nowhere in sight. They'd probably gone upstairs where locked doors kept them from exploring the world of floating dead frogs and five colors of chalk. She wouldn't follow. She didn't want to get into trouble. Not again.
She hop-skipped back to the gym entrance, figuring she'd fiddle with the combination lock that kept the doors chained shut. Why'd they have to lock up the gym, too? Were they afraid someone would pull out the bleachers?

Dropping her head against the narrow glass windows, Katie picked up the lock. The cold steel against her palm sent shivers through her arms. She twisted the dial: 42 right, 30 left, 0 right. Pull!
She sighed and lifted her head, peering into the darkness on the other side of the glass. An "Exit" sign glowed above a door on the far end of the gym, casting eerie shadows into the room.
Katie returned her attention to the lock: 27 right, 15 left, 4 right. Pull!
Still, nothing.
A frown pulled at her face. Why couldn't she figure this out? And when were her friends coming back?
Another sigh lifted Katie's shoulders, but before she tried another combination, movement in the dark gymnasium caught her eye.
Katie pressed her head against the glass and cupped her hands to block the glare of backlight. Her heart began racing as a man slipped in her view. She knew him -- his beard, his scraggly hair, his peculiar clothing. But what was he doing here?
He moved toward her and smiled as a golden aura bathed him. She smiled back. He reached out for her. She pressed a hand against the glass.
Katie jumped back at the sound of her mom's voice. "Mommy, come look!"
"You aren't supposed to be down here, Katie. Where are the other kids?"
"But mommy, I saw him! He's in the gym!"
Her mother's forehead creased. She cautiously approached, grabbing Katie's hand as if she feared her daughter had seen a murderer. "Who's here?"
"Jesus, mommy!" Katie tugged at her Mom's arm. "I saw Jesus in the gym. He waved at me!"
Katie's mom glanced through the window before shaking her head. "Oh, Katie. Don't be ridiculous."

The words hit her like a knife. Every Sunday, they talked about loving Jesus and rejoicing in the day they would meet him face to face. Why wouldn't mommy want to see him now?
"But mommy -- I did!"
Katie's mom tightened the grip on her hand and led her toward the dancers in the cafeteria. "It was probably the janitor," she said, directing her to the pile of crayons and coloring books piled at the end of the table. "You just stay here and draw until we're done."
With tears swelling beneath her eyelids, Katie grasped a yellow crayon and began drawing the man she saw. Did her momma not believe in her or in Jesus?


Eva Gallant said...

Gave ME a chill!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Great work, Kat. I love the description in your little girl's POV. More! More!

LynnRush said...

Wonderful, Kat. I want to see more as well!

christine said...

Wonderful writing Kat. Love it!

Crimogenic said...

Agreed! The writing in the girls' pov is right on. I love the child's conclusion and would like to see where it goes from there.