Tag Archives: Christianity

The Stove

by Brian Lance

 

Gramp left at dawn. Side job. I found his note under the Coco Puffs box. Temp’s dropping today. Light the stove early. Right after church. Move Gram’s new Jesus so the heat doesn’t warp the frame. Think you can handle that? I’d never lit the stove. I called Rene next door. She had the same cast-iron potbelly. And with her father often gone, she’d lit plenty of fires.

Rene told me to pack the stove with newspaper and pine shards from a wainscoting job my grandfather did. She handed me a long wooden match.

‘Strike it here,’ she said, pointing to the bottom of the match tube. ‘Good. Now get it in there before it dies out.’

Flames leapt from the paper to the pine and then flapped out the stove. Smoke stung our eyes, squeezed tears from them. I went to slam the hatch.

‘No!’ Rene grabbed my wrist. ‘Let it burn.’

We watched the stove. The sudden heat from Rene’s fingers between mine twisted something in my chest. When the first flames settled, we fed the stove damp poplar until dusk.

‘Who painted that one?’ Rene pointed at the watercolor Jesus touching the Sacred Heart above the hearth.

My stomach gurgled. How could I forget?

‘Gram,’ I said.

Gramp’s boots clunked outside. His tool bag thumped. I swung the door open, sweating under the gaze of my grandmother’s Jesus.

‘Smoky in here,’ he said. His nose twitched like a dog’s. He headed toward the bathroom. ‘Well, glad to see you figured it out. Fifteen and never lit a….’ He froze. A strip of red satin peaked from between the couch cushions. He squinted at the glow under the bathroom door. A shadow moved in the beam. Gramp smirked.

 

Brian Lance is an MFA in Writing student at Western Connecticut State University. He earned a bachelor’s of science in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. And he served nine years in the U.S. Navy. He was selected to attend the Yale Writer’s Conference in June. He lives in Connecticut.

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The Raven’s Unction

by Art Bupkis

Naarah and her mother started the journey south with the others after they ate their last goats, but it wasn’t long before they fell behind. The two stragglers took water from a muddy well, and the mother died of dysentery. Naarah escaped that illness, but was now traveling alone, and near death from starvation. 

Night approached. A small mud-brick church appeared in the distance. A church offered special promise of protection for Naarah. The girl’s family had converted to Christianity when she was four. Naarah had nearly died of measles then, but lived after the family called on Christ at the suggestion of a friend. She pushed to make the building before dark.

When she arrived at the church, Naarah saw that fire had gutted it. All that was left of the roof were rows of blackened beams. With the last of her strength she pushed the heavy twin doors open. There was little inside but ashes, and certainly no food. Still, she decided to sleep there with the doors shut against the creatures of the night. 

Naarah collapsed on the hard dirt floor next to the white stone altar. Gazing up through the dying light of eve she could barely make out the silhouettes of a raven being pursued by a mob of crows. She tried to sleep as the night cold of the desert plain settled upon her.

‘Are you in need child?’ a voice asked.

Naarah shook her head, but still the image of a large raven persisted on top of the altar.

‘Yes, Father,’ she whispered. ‘I am without family or friend, and am about to die of starvation.’

The raven looked the girl over carefully.

‘I can lead all my flock from this place of death to lands of ample water and rich harvests, but first you, child, must pray for salvation.’

With the raven’s words Naarah felt desperate pains of guilt, for she had cursed God at the time of the villagers’ flight. But she also felt hope, for she was ready to repent and be saved.

‘As penance you have but to pray through the night,’ reassured the raven. ‘Just as Jesus prayed in the garden before his time of glorious sacrifice and triumph, so too can you ensure life through this simple act of reverence.’

Naarah knelt by the white stone altar. Eyes fixed on the raven, she chanted her prayer in the moonlight.

 

‘Savior in darkness, Father of Light,

Whose Son before torture did pray like me,

Keep safe my spirit, by Your great might.

The new land of plenty, grant we may see…’

 

The raven listened approvingly, cocking his head first left, then right.

Hours later, when the first light of the rising sun poured over the white stone altar, it glistened off the feathers of an ancient raven and a small congregation of black carrion crows noisily celebrating the feast of Naarah’s corpse. They gorged themselves for days before heading south, as their provisions were secure within the church.

 

 Philosopher, poet, and small-time humorist, The Rt. Rev., Professor, Dr. Art Bupkis, is a literary ward of L. R. Baxter, a professor at the University of Florida.

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