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Stories Tragedy

Another Form of Water

The weather forecast called for snow flurries, unusual for this time of year. Yes, she had bundled up the kids for Halloween in all types of inclement weather when they were young—but never for snow. It never snowed this early in the season. No matter, she thought. The ground was parched and dry. Any precipitation would be welcomed.

The cold winds had been strong and biting all day. Dead yellow leaves swirled in little vortexes, soon to be accompanied by carelessly discarded candy wrappers. Halloween kicked off the holiday season, culminating in her favorite holiday—Christmas.

For now, out of habit more than anything else, she silently hung the few remaining black and orange decorations on her front door to attract the fewer and fewer trick-or-treaters. Their neighborhood full of winding cul-de-sacs no longer brimmed with young children, their parents pulling wagons full of princesses and pushing strollers full of superheroes. Only the lone family now and again would come to her door, faces unfamiliar as the years slipped by.

Even their own home looked old and tired, in desperate need of a paint job, darkened most nights except for the flickering light of the television screen her husband endlessly watched, clicking through channel after channel, finding nothing to keep his interest for very long. She understood him, as she often sat alone in the kitchen with an open trashy bestseller or gossipy magazine, more often than not gazing out into the barren backyard where her children used to play when they were young.

Nowadays, the community’s sidewalks were emptied of bikes and skateboards and chalked hopscotch boards. She missed hearing the sounds of children’s squabbling and chasing each other, kicking balls and skipping rope. All that remained on her block were what her husband called the newlywed and nearly dead. He would laugh at his own wit, and she would cringe.

She had warned him against making corny puns from the pulpit, but he didn’t listen, surprised when his congregants finally asked him to resign. They wanted to go in a different direction, find a pastor who could magically conjure up the Holy Spirit for all to feel. His church finally tired of an aging pastor who told stale jokes while making uncomfortable remarks instead of solely preaching the Word, especially one who couldn’t keep his own house in order.

She sighed. She missed when things were simpler, when she could bake treats for her children’s friends after school. She missed when it had been easy to make her own children happy.

As she had done for almost twenty-five years, she sat down in the living room with stacks of full-sized Hershey milk chocolate candy bars, scotch tape, orange ribbon, and strips of paper with printed Bible verses. She carefully taped a Bible verse down the spine of the chocolate bar, skillfully covering up the calorie count. She then flipped the chocolate bar over to tie a festive orange ribbon around the midsection.

She felt the scriptures were a comfort to those children fearful of Halloween. She liked to see the children dressed up, but disliked them dressed as ghouls and ghosts and goblins. She despised the monster and devil costumes, not permitting her own children to wear them. There was enough evil in the world without bringing more into it.

She read one Bible verse aloud, her voice echoing a bit in the empty room. “2nd Timothy 1:7 — For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

There was a quiet knock at the door. She closed her eyes, knowing who it would be, affixing a smile to her face as she arose to open the door.

“Nicole,” she warmly said, “I am so glad you came by to help!”

A slight, masculine figure entered, giving her a warm hug. “Mom, you know what I said about using my dead name.”

She looked at her feet. “I’m so sorry. I know that offends you.”

“Please just try, mom.”

“All right. Cole. I will try harder.”

“Am I too late for wrapping candy bars?” Cole said, taking off Cole’s jacket. “It’s getting cold out. Is it really supposed to snow?”

“That’s what they say,” she reported matter-of-factly. “But I’m not sure of anything these days.”

Cole sat down, artfully affixing a Bible verse and using a pair of scissors to curl the ends of the ribbon.

“You are really good at this,” she said. “That looks pretty.”

“Or pretty handsome,” Cole replied with a grin.

Cole’s mother blushed. “Oh, I didn’t mean—”

“I’m just kidding, mom.”

“Oh, I know.” She attempted a passing chuckle.

“Any new verses this year?”

Cole’s mother held one up. “Psalms 27:1 — The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

“That’s a good one,” Cole remarked. “I remember that one from youth group.”

Cole’s mother nodded.

“So, you are still giving out Hershey bars? Why not mix it up a little, mom? Try something different. I remember you liked Hershey’s Whatchamacallit. You should try their new one—the Whozeewhatzit Bar.”

“I don’t want to try anything new. I like Hershey’s milk chocolate candy bars. I’ve always bought them. It’s tradition.”

“Traditions are meant to be broken, mom. Live a little,” Cole replied, grinning. “How about Mounds or Almond Joys? You can have your treat with or without nuts.” Cole laughed, good naturedly.

She felt angry at Cole’s joke, unsure why such a rage threatened to roil over. She stood up and went into the kitchen, poured herself a glass of water, left it untouched on the counter.

“You know your father will be home shortly,” she called out, blinking back tears. “You might want to head out before he returns.”

“All right, mom,” Cole said. “I understand. I’ll call you next week, all right?”

She nodded, walking her youngest child out the front door. Cole gave her a thin smile and a slight wave before opening the driver’s door. Cole’s mother watched as the car drove away.

At that moment, the grey skies decided on a cold misty rain—instead of expected flurries. No matter, she thought. Both were forms of much needed water.

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