This Is the Day

Pasatiempo - - HONORABLE MENTION - by Heidi Neff

“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us re­joice and be glad in it!” It’s Sun­day morn­ing in Par­adise, and even the church floor is vi­brat­ing with mu­sic. From my un­der-the-chair cave I peek through the gaps my mom and dad make when their hips sway apart to the rhythm of the wor­ship band. I pull scraps of pa­per out of my mom’s purse and draw peo­ple re­joic­ing in the Lord. I draw the backs of my mom’s high heels. You can tell she’s re­joic­ing, just by the way she rocks back and forth on those pur­ple heels. Some peo­ple re­joice so much that they fall over. Dad says they’re slain in the Spirit.

I watch in awe ev­ery Sun­day as they fall down like trees at the al­tar. Slain trees. They’re all on my level then — the soles of their shoes so close to my face I can smell their feet. Ush­ers step care­fully through the fallen bod­ies and lay bright blue blan­kets over the ladies’ legs. I al­ways thought it was be­cause they were cold, but mom says it’s so no one can see their un­der­wear when they’re ly­ing there. I don’t know who else would see their un­der­wear but me, but I guess I count.

Af­ter ev­ery­one’s un­der­wear is cov­ered up, Mom and Dad go up to the slain and whis­per magic prayers that wake them up. I try to lis­ten, but all the words sound funny, like an African lan­guage. Maybe when I’m closer to God I’ll learn that lan­guage too. Mom and Dad are really close to God. They are pas­tors at church. Or at least Dad is. Mom does a lot of the things he does, but I guess she’s not al­lowed to preach. She sings so­prano on stage some­times, and she talks to ev­ery­one in so­prano. She’s al­ways re­joic­ing, but she never falls over. She has to stay stand­ing so she can help the slain.

Some­times Dad preaches about the End Times, and that’s when I close my eyes and pray the sal­va­tion prayer again, just in case. When he talks about heaven, I pay at­ten­tion. It sounds great, so I hope I get in! There are huge houses, and an­gels, and we’ll all be able to fly. There are pearls and clouds, and you never get hun­gry or tired! Mom and Dad say my brother Dustin is in heaven too. He died in a car accident on the way to church — imag­ine that! (So I al­ways lay down low on the floor of the mini­van and pray hard on the way to church.) I was the re­place­ment baby, ex­cept I’m a girl. Mom calls me a mir­a­cle baby. I won­der if that means I can per­form mir­a­cles — turn­ing wa­ter into wine, like Je­sus. But wine is bad be­cause it makes you drunk, and you should only be drunk in the Spirit, which is like be­ing slain. Cut down like an old, dead tree. It doesn’t sound like fun, but it looks like fall­ing asleep, which is what I end up do­ing by the end of the ser­vice, curled up safe in my cave.

I love Sun­day af­ter­noons the best. I mostly spend them ad­ven­tur­ing in the woods with my best friend, Mar­garet. We both have glasses and cats and bangs. We have a lot in com­mon, ex­cept she doesn’t go to my church, so I don’t know what cat­e­gory to put her in. Is she go­ing to heaven or hell? I fi­nally got up the nerve to ask her about it once, but she didn’t seem in­ter­ested. She just wants to play. And so do I. Wit­ness­ing is very se­ri­ous work, and I forget to play. I’m sure Je­sus would want me to take a break, as long as I don’t back­slide. (We sneak into her par­ents’ garage once, which is off lim­its. It smelled smoky in there, and a lit­tle bit like skunks. I bet a skunk lives un­derneath the garage and is just wait­ing to come out and spray us for tres­pass­ing.) Is tres­pass­ing a sin? It in the Lord’s Prayer … “For­give us our tres­passes as we for­give those who tres­pass against us.” I’ll have to ask Dad about that. He al­ways has the right an­swer.

Like tonight, when I asked dad why Ge­orge Bush couldn’t keep be­ing our pres­i­dent, he said that maybe Clin­ton’s elec­tion was a sign of the End Times. I know it’s the right an­swer, but the End Times sure freak me out, es­pe­cially at night. That’s when all the demons growl at my door, and I can’t find Je­sus any­where, no mat­ter how hard I pray. I’ll ask Mom to scratch my back a lit­tle longer tonight. If it’s the end of the world, I want to be asleep.

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