JUST ENOUGH

By John Thomas Tuft

At a quarter to the witching hour, the man steps out of the bedroom and pauses. The long hallway is dimly lit, just enough to cast dark shadows into gray corners. The wind is blowing, just enough that the branch from the old apple tree scrapes like a dragon’s claw across the window pane. He won’t admit it, but he’s afraid of the dark, just enough to take pause. He thought he heard something. No, not the dragon, something softer, that cuts more deeply. He eyes the closed door at the other end, wondering. Gathering himself, he tiptoes to the carpet running down the center, edges past the old grandfather clock that belonged to his mother and keeps time erratically. It ponderously ticks away his footfalls. He reaches the door, reaches for the knob, turns it…and the door swings open, just enough.

*When the day is long and the night/the night is yours alone/When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life/hang on/Don’t let yourself go/Cause everybody cries/And everybody hurts sometimes.

On the bed in the far corner lies a young boy. Soft moans rise from his lips, just loud enough to be heard by the man in the doorway. The boy’s spirit is as crumpled as the soft blankets. To the man, it is a cozy bedroom. To the boy, it is a devil’s lair. The man crosses the chasm, sits on the side of the bed, reaches to touch the boy’s arm. “I know you don’t understand now,” he says. The boy angrily pushes the hand aside. “They didn’t have to take momma away. She never hurts me.” Turns his face to the wall. The man sighs. The child is their first foster placement. And he knows that on such moments a life can rise or fall. Just enough to make a difference. It takes so many tiny drops to fill a cup with trust.

Sometimes everything is wrong/Now it’s time to sing along/When your day is night alone(hold on)/If you think you’ve had too much of this life/Well hang on, because everybody hurts

The minutes tick by. The old clock in the hallway tries to keep up. The boy stares out the foggy window without seeing. Wanting to not be feeling. Finally, the man murmurs, in what sounds like just enough to be a prayer, “I’ll be here with you. No matter what happens.” He tucks in the covers, slowly stands to make his way back to the door, the waiting hallway. He hears the rustle of the covers as the boy turns back and whispers, “Would you please leave the door open. Just enough.” As the man makes his way back past the clock there is just enough light to make out the reflection of a shadow. Or is it just enough of a smile?

If you’re on your own in this life/the days and nights are long/When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hold on/Well everybody cries/and everybody hurts sometimes/everybody hurts sometimes/So hold on, hold on…

Now admit it. At no time in that story were you wondering about what is the race, the religious faith, nor the sexual orientation of these two human beings. Were you? Sin is an attitude. It is lack of imagination. Look at it again. Right here on your screen. There on the right are two pairs of eyes. That’s them. They don’t condemn you.  Up here on the left, that’s me. I don’t condemn you. Now look in the center of the screen. A reflection of a shadow. Those are your own eyes watching you. Just who exactly is casting the first stone? So, now, verily we say unto you.  Go and sin no more.

It will be just enough.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.

johnthomastuft.com

*Everybody Hurts, Michael Mills, et al., performed by R.E.M.