ONE DAY LESS

By John Thomas Tuft

She lies awake and weeps. The house groans and creaks as it endures the birthing pangs of the long night, hoping for the sun crowning on the eastern horizon. If true prayers are sighs too deep for words, guttural moans that defy the confines of language, what is she to make of well-wishers’ endless drivel of chattering wish lists and protestations passing for prayers? Or hollow Deus benedicat scattered casually in order to salve disturbed conscience, with sacred trinkets hanging on hallowed walls like a child with the key to his house hung about his neck so he can let himself in, fearful of the very freedom he covets? Marilyn stares into the shadows, desperate to discern the very force that invented existence. Ghosts, holy and otherwise, appear to have the need to be recognized to validate their existence, leaving Marilyn to wonder what chance she has to challenge the unseen powers at work in her life. Maybe it would be best if the next day never came. One day less…

It seemed only yesterday she surveyed the world with the detached arrogance of an adolescent, listening to Bob Dylan singing “You’re A Big Girl Now” on endless repeat. But now it was Shakespeare’s words that chased her thoughts around: “Say that thou did forsake me for some fault, And I will comment upon that offence…” The eternal question of human frailty; what is wrong with me? What makes me unlovable? Why is life so hard? Or more pointedly, why do you reject me? Marilyn rubbed her eyes vigorously before letting one hand fall onto the lump of fur beside her on the bed, Rusty, the labradoodle who was frightened by most noises known to mankind. Her other hand brushed against the bedside table where amber liquid in a glass sat beside a bottle of sleeping pills, the lid casually tossed to one side. The pill bottle was empty. She drained the last of the whiskey from the glass and set it back down with a thump. Now it was empty, too. She was empty. The clock was ticking…

Born in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico, Marilyn always felt like the oddball of the family. While the rest of the family busied themselves with school and church, she roamed the vastness of the area around Santa Fe. She read a lot and wondered about things. Things like what did the Apache people think of their land being called the Blood of Christ? Why wasn’t it enough to believe in a Creator, Mother Earth and the Four Directions? The stars above were forever, but they could not hold back an evil force that tried to wipe away the Apache food source, the buffalo, hunted into near extinction, leaving them to survive on bones and dust. Marilyn’s parents told her she was too sensitive, too curious, too softhearted. She came east to go to college, discovered dance and theater, fell gloriously in love with the sense of freedom, shared exploration and discovery, friendship and romance. Falling in love with utter abandon…

And landing with terrible pain. No matter how hard Marilyn worked at them, relationships never seemed to work out. Mother and Daddy passed away and still she had not found her roots, her place, her person. She considered having a child to raise, either by birth or adoption. She could give the child all the love she had stored up inside of her. She could take her back to Santa Fe and show her the mountains, reveal all of her secret places from childhood, introduce her to the land and lore of the Apache people. They would have a small house, lots of pets, lots of friends, shared adventures. She went to the doctor for a checkup as she began the search for how to fulfill this desire. The news was not hopeful. The news was fateful. Disease had taken root inside her and she faced troubling decisions. The clock was ticking…

In fairytales a handsome prince would come to the rescue, slay all the dragons, kiss away all the hurts. In a biblical tale a healer would appear and restore Marilyn to wholeness.  In a tale from the Apache people, she might learn the deep meaning of the medicine of her ancestors and a song sung to guide her in the desert of her troubles. But, alas, this is none of those kinds of a tale. This is a tale of a hurting and lonely soul. A tired of caring so much soul. A tale of someone who deserves one less day of pain.

Marilyn puts her head back on the pillow. She thinks of the mountains of New Mexico and how they were here long before her, long before anyone, and will still be there, unmoving into the future. She lets her thoughts dwell, one by one, on the people over the years who touched her life. One by one they appear to give her a smile, a look of recognition and gratitude. She’s feeling very sleepy as she reaches to touch the Apache medicine wheel that hangs above her bed. A quick start as Rusty pushes his wet nose against the side of her neck. Her hand drifts to his soft fur. She smiles.

Rusty stirs, raising his head, thinking he heard something moving on the other side of the door. But it was nothing…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.