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Month: August 2022

A SHORT STORY: It’s Not Fair by Lorilyn Roberts

 

Hope walked out of the courthouse tired and hungry. After a three-hour deposition filled with too much banter between irate lawyers, she wanted to grab a bite to eat before heading home. While 24-hour rush jobs for court reporters paid well, when unexpected, they sucked. How many times had a rush job bashed her plans for the evening? But at least tonight, she had no plans.

The quickest dinner would be takeout Chinese food. Hope went to Kung Fu near her condo and bought some orange chicken and rice. Kung Fu always added a free fortune cookie. After eating most of her meal, she opened the fortune. On a small slip of paper inside the cookie were the words, “Life is not fair.”

“What kind of fortune is that?” Hope muttered. “What does that mean?”

She thought about the clinic she drove by on the way home and the women waiting outside. Was it fair that the babies in those mothers’ wombs would never see the light of day, feel a mother’s breath on their face, or know what it was like to be loved? Hope lamented, “Those babies will die because their mothers don’t want them.”

She remembered the panhandlers who came up to her car begging for money as she sat at the red light. Had life been fair to them? Probably not. They would likely say life had not only been unfair but unkind. The idea that life wasn’t fair had never struck Hope in such a profound way.

Over the next few days, the idea of life not being fair became an obsession. She saw how hard some people worked and earned only minimum wage. Was that fair? Perhaps the workers could make more if they went to school or received training in a skill. But maybe they didn’t have the money, intelligence, or opportunity to do that.

When Hope drove by the hospital, she thought about all the patients undergoing treatment for various ailments, like cancer, heart disease, and names of diseases she couldn’t even pronounce.

One day, after succumbing to depression over her inability to understand how anyone could be happy, she went to the beach. Stashed in her bag was bread to feed the seagulls. Hope noticed one seagull was lame, but he pushed his way through the crowd of frenetic, cocky birds and snatched a couple of crumbs. His tenacity inspired Hope, and she tried harder to get the crumbs to him. When the bread was gone, the lame bird hobbled off with bread crumbs filling his happy belly.

“Maybe there is more to this ‘it’s not fair’ thing than meets the eye,” Hope said as she climbed into her car. Was it fair that the poor bird had an accident? Maybe he was in a fight. Maybe he was born that way. Did it matter how he got hurt?

Hope noted the lame seagull wasn’t sitting around feeling sorry for himself; he was surviving. He was fighting with every ounce of strength he had to make it even with all the odds stacked against him—because he lived in an unfair world.

Hope’s thoughts returned to mothers who didn’t want their babies. What chance did a helpless babe have at the scalpel of a skilled surgeon? She couldn’t be sure, but she had heard that the doctors did their deed while the baby was still alive. Once a body dies, the organs die almost immediately. Now she was more depressed. Some circumstances provided no hope and no future. It wasn’t fair. In fact, it was worse than that. It was inhumane.

Hope focused on the seagull again. Life had dealt the bird an unfair blow, but he chose to make the best of it. Was he just lucky that he had survived?

Luck of the draw, that’s what it was. How depressing, though, to believe life was nothing more than karma. Some people receive good karma, and some people receive bad karma. Hope shook her head. “No, that can’t be true. There must be something that controls the world besides karma and luck.”

The idea of life being nothing more than a series of chances bothered Hope. “So, does that mean you cast your dreams upon the waters and hope one of them comes true?” Hope shook her head again. “If that were so, that would mean life was just a chasing after the wind.”

Trying to make sense of it, Hope argued, “If everything that happens is just by chance, what difference does it make what kind of person you are? You can be a good person and have bad luck, or you can be a bad person and have good luck.”

That thought alone made Hope angry. She wanted justice, but, as the fortune cookie said, “Life is not fair.”

One day Hope decided to make a sandy butterfly way station for new monarch butterflies. She had seen the butterfly garden at Epcot and remembered how the butterflies would emerge sticky wet after undergoing a metamorphosis from the chrysalis. They would seek a place to dry off before heading into the sky on their magical journey across thousands of miles. She put sand in a dry birdbath with several small rocks. Then she put the birdbath next to where she had planted milkweed for the butterflies.

But Hope forgot about her butterfly way station in the birdbath. A few weeks later, the forgotten birdbath caught her attention. She noticed the summer rains had filled it, and no butterflies could use it because rainwater covered the rocks.

However, as she peered into the water, she saw hundreds of things moving around. What were those wiggly bugs? When she examined the tiny creatures more closely, she realized they were tadpoles. A mother frog must have found the birdbath and decided to lay her eggs there; hundreds had hatched.

What was Hope going to do with all those tadpoles? Life would be unfair to them if she dumped them on the deck. That would unkind, even cruel.

Perhaps life wasn’t just about being fair or unfair. A friend had recently died, so in honor of her friend, she wanted to release the tadpoles into a nearby lake, much like people release balloons into the sky. That would bring redemption out of sadness, save the tadpoles, and make her feel good that she did something for some tiny critters who could do nothing for themselves.

A week later, Hope took the tadpoles to the lake, said a few kind words about her friend who had passed away, and released them. A feeling of satisfaction swept over her. The tadpoles would grow into frogs—those that didn’t get eaten—and someday have baby tadpoles themselves.

And the circle of life would continue—at least for them.

Then Hope had a new revelation. The fortune cookie said life wasn’t fair, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t make a difference. Hope had a free will. She could accept the fortune cookie’s proclamation, that life wasn’t fair, and live her life in that vein, or she could choose to make the world a better place. And while that seemed like a lofty goal, was it enough? Or was there more to contentment than simply doing good things? She longed for something bigger than her dreams, abilities, and expectations.

One day she was at a basketball game, and one of the players committed a foul. He argued the call with the referee, and the referee tossed the player from the competition. Then the player’s coach came out and contested the same call, and the referee threw the coach from the game.

 “So who referees our lives?” Hope asked. Someone or something had to be in charge. If there were referees to manage basketball games, there had to be a referee or referees to control the world or entire universe.

Even in a basketball game, somebody kept a record of how many shots a player made, how many fouls he committed, and how many assists he had. If officials did that in a meaningless ballgame, somebody must keep score in the bigger game of life. 

Hope accepted that life wasn’t fair, but sooner or later, things that weren’t fair had to be reconciled, just like her checkbook had to be reconciled. She had recently learned about the importance of that when she overdrew her bank account because of a silly mistake. But the bank didn’t think it was silly—they charged her over a hundred dollars for three overdrafts.

There had to be a reckoning in this unfair world. Maybe that’s what Hope longed for, judgment. Then she asked, “Who determines what is fair or unfair?” Hope recalled the basketball game and the ref who threw out the player and the coach. Only an impartial referee could do that.

Could there be a divine being who called the shots, ensured justice was carried out and fixed those things that weren’t fair? What about all the wicked people who did evil things? There had to be a God who weighed the good and the bad, and who someday would assess everything that everybody had ever done.

One day Hope was working as a court reporter in a trial that lasted for several days. The judge called a lunch break, and she went to a nearby restaurant to enjoy the much-needed time off. Following lunch, when she returned, she knew her job would be taxing. The defense had brought in an expert witness from out of state, which meant it would be tedious with multiple direct and cross-examinations. She thought about the jury and their task—to decide if the plaintiffs had proven their case. Sometimes it was hard to know where the truth was, and she didn’t envy their job. All she did as a court reporter was write down what was said and certify that it was accurate.

Soon she returned to the courthouse and took her seat in front of the judge. The defense began their direct examination, which went on for a while. As she sat close to the witness to write his testimony, she noticed that he started having a medical issue, perhaps a seizure; but nobody else, at least initially, noticed.

It became apparent to everyone in the courtroom when he passed out on the witness stand. At first, nobody did anything. How often did witnesses die in the middle of an examination?

Someone called an ambulance, the bailiff escorted the jury out, and the judge called a recess.

*

The legal system is supposed to be about fairness. You get into trouble and somebody sues you. You’ve been a victim and want compensation. You hope the system treats you fairly.

Death has a way of stopping everything. That day everything seemed meaningless. Was it fair that the expert witness had diabetes and died on the witness stand? Of course, the judge was powerless to do anything to save the man. He was just the judge of the trial and not of the man’s life.

The question continued to linger in Hope’s heart. Was there a judge over life and death? Or did everything happen by chance? She reasoned that there must be a supreme being somewhere. Otherwise, people would be mere puppets on a string and only able to respond when someone pulled their string.

Hope shook her head. “No, I don’t believe that,” she said. “I’m not a puppet. I have free will to decide how I will react to the unfairness of life. That’s a good thing.” She thought about that fortune cookie she had opened several months earlier that said, “Life is not fair.” Because she had free will, she had chosen a higher moral path, to do good things because she wanted to.

One day Hope was shopping, and nature called. She needed to make an unexpected visit to the ladies’ room. As she squatted over the toilet, she saw a pamphlet on the door with a beautiful monarch butterfly. Underneath the photo was the question, “Are you born again?”

Was it a coincidence? She remembered her monarch butterfly garden full of milkweed and her failed attempt to provide a sandy way station for them when they emerged from the chrysalis. Tadpoles were born instead, and she took them to the lake so they could grow into frogs.

She pulled the pamphlet off the door to read all of it. Suddenly, she understood. Just like caterpillars and tadpoles have to be “born again” to become butterflies and frogs, people must be born again spiritually to become all that God created them to be.

Why had nobody explained this to her? Or perhaps she had closed her eyes, ears, and heart to this simple truth. Now that God had opened her eyes, she wanted to find a Bible. She wanted to learn more about the creator, the referee of the universe, the one who gave her free will.

In the bathroom stall, after poring over the words in the pamphlet, Hope committed her life to Jesus Christ. How would anyone believe she locked herself in a public, smelly bathroom to pee and then emerged cleansed from all unrighteousness? Probably no one except another born-again Christian—and monarch butterflies and frogs.

Hope reflected, perhaps aborted babies would be born again—in heaven. She hoped that was the case, but for today, God had healed her heart. The fortune cookie had only conveyed a half-truth. Even if life wasn’t fair, as a born-again Christian, she would choose a higher calling than just being a good person—she would live for the glory of God.

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A SHORT STORY: Mirror, Mirror by Lorilyn Roberts

WILLIAM CHRISTENSEN pulled up to the beach house with his wife and two daughters.

“We’re here,” he exclaimed. He turned off the engine and pointed. “And the house is right on the ocean.”

His teenage daughters squealed.

“Go check it out. Your mom and I will join you later.”

The girls leaped out of the car.

William winked at his wife. “That didn’t take too much convincing.”

She surveyed the sandy shoreline and clipping waves in the distance. “It’s a dream come true. One week away from everything.”

William nodded. “With my brother and his family.”

A highly successful doctor with a thriving medical practice, William had been nominated for a significant award for his work on pancreatic cancer. He had recently appeared on Fox News, Bloomberg, and CNN.

As those thoughts swirled in the doctor’s head, he thought about the attention he had received from strangers. However, the toll on his family was steep. With all the deadlines, presentations, expectations, and media hype behind his promising cure, he wasn’t sure it was worth it.

In contrast, his brother, Noah, had done much for the kingdom of God. Why couldn’t he be like his brother—faithful to God and the truth?

But, for now, William was thankful to be with his family. He hoped this vacation would help him to get back on track.

He stepped out of the car, and his phone chirped. “Almost there.”

William smiled. “Noah will be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you make sure the house meets your expectations, and I’ll stay here and wait for him.”

His wife adjusted the sun hat over her eyes. “In this heat?”

William nodded. “You go. I’ll be there soon.”

Before heading to the vacation beach house, his wife stepped back into the car and grabbed a few things.

As she disappeared, William reminisced how he loved his wife now more than the day he married her. When had he last thanked God for his family?

*

PASTOR NOAH CHRISTENSEN exclaimed, “We’re almost there,” as if the rest of his family hadn’t figured it out.

The two teenage boys cheered in the back of the van.

When the family pulled into the driveway, Noah saw his brother leaning against the car, waiting for him.

Noah’s wife smiled. “You and your famous brother have much catching up to do.”

Noah squirmed. His twin brother was a successful doctor, but she didn’t need to rub it in. While William was winning international awards, Noah was pastoring a small church of two hundred members. However, recently, the church no longer felt like a bastion for the weary and the hopeless. Members had become preoccupied with social justice, wokeness, and inclusivity. Many of the congregants wanted to get rid of him.

Elders had met two weeks earlier to discuss firing him. A new controversy erupted every week. Discouraged, he wanted to walk away from it all. Perhaps they were right; his suffering was because of his unwillingness to compromise.

Even though he hadn’t told anyone, Noah planned on turning in his resignation. He believed his ministry had failed despite many coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The boys quickly exited the car and headed for the beach.

His wife put on her sunglasses. “I’ll leave you to with your brother.” Her eyes followed the steps to the beach house. “I can’t wait to see the inside.”

Noah nodded. In his heart, though, her words pricked him. A whole week to feel inferior to his brother. He didn’t begrudge what his brilliant brother had accomplished. He only wished he could have had the same success as a pastor.

William hurried over to greet Noah as he stepped out of the car. “Hey, Brother.”

The twins embraced. “It’s been too long,” William said. “And your boys have grown so much.”

Noah smiled. “Where are your girls?”

William glanced toward the beach. “They took off that way.”

Noah chuckled. “Our kids will find each other.”

In many ways, the twin brothers’ lives paralleled each other. Except William had become a doctor, and Noah had become a pastor. William was wealthy and respected in the medical community. Noah was disrespected and hated by many in his church. William had a bright future. Noah couldn’t bear to think about his future.

But for now, Noah would be thankful for this time with his brother, William. He wouldn’t tell his brother that his church wanted to fire him. Resigning sounded better than being fired.

*

WILLIAM clutched his brother on the shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”

Noah looked at his shoes.

As if William could read his twin brother’s mind, he chirped, “Just leave them in the car. Come on, before we get busy with family stuff. Let’s go.”

Noah didn’t need much convincing. He flipped off his shoes, and they made a beeline to the beach.

William remembered their summer vacations as kids when they would kick beach balls, build sandcastles, and look for sand crabs. Those memories were sweet to William, but they seemed like eons ago. William longed for that time again when he didn’t feel burdened with so much responsibility. He felt like he was sinking under the expectations of an overreaching medical complex. “Publish, publish, publish,” his superiors would say, “so we can get more funding.”

William only wanted his brother to tell him inspiring stories about what God was doing in his church. He tried to imagine how awesome it would be to serve a God-fearing congregation and an elder board that loved the Lord. William couldn’t remember the last time his family had attended church regularly. He was out of town so much—and while he longed for church fellowship, he could never find the time to make it happen.

“How is your church?” William asked. “Are you growing? Many new converts? How about those missionaries in Africa? Do they need more money?”

That was always William’s answer for not attending church regularly. Send more money. Not that money wasn’t necessary for missions, but—was there more God wanted from him?

Noah evaded answering for a minute to frame his words carefully. “The church is going through some tough times.”

William nodded as he stopped to soak his feet in a freshly made water hole. “Yeah, I suppose with all this woke stuff and gender confusion and social justice”—He paused for a second. “Of course, I’d rather deal with that than—”

“Than what?” Noah asked.

“Ah, just all the political stuff. Practicing medicine is harder when the government tells you what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t prescribe, you know, all that stuff you hear in the news.”

Noah quipped. “But everyone respects you, William. You practically run the medical research at the University. Without you, their funding would disappear.”

William shook his head. “Everybody owns me. Sometimes I feel like a pawn in a chess match waiting to be wiped off the board for some idiotic king who thinks he’s God. At least in church, you are surrounded by people who seek the truth and want to improve the world. With you as their pastor, the church should be thankful. You’d never compromise God’s word for—for popularity.”

*

NOAH couldn’t state the truth. His unwillingness to compromise had cost him the pastorate. If his brother knew the truth, if he really knew—suddenly, a crazy thought swirled in his head. What if they traded places for a few days? He would be William, and William would be Noah. They would only let their family in on the hoax. Being twins, no one would know the difference. All their lives, people had confused them, even those who knew them well. But before suggesting it, his brother blurted out exactly what he was thinking.

“Let’s trade places,” William said. “You be me for a couple of days.”

Noah pretended not to want to go along with it.

“Noah,” William said. “I need a diversion. I haven’t been to church in so long. I’d give anything to be around God-fearing churchgoers. I don’t want this fame and notoriety. It’s not what everybody thinks it is.”

Noah couldn’t believe his ears. Could they pull this off? Maybe God had planned all of this out and brought them to the beach for a week to make it happen.

Besides, Noah imagined William’s battles being easy compared to his. William had no idea what it was like to pastor a church where the people hated you. And to be admired by doctors, the media, the University—how could that be hard to handle? Of course, he didn’t know a thing about medicine. He certainly couldn’t practice it, or he would go to jail. But he could sit in his brother’s office, wear a white coat, and feel important.

“Okay. I’m all in,” Noah said. “Not for very long, though, or we could get into trouble. If we did get caught, we’d call it a joke. Nobody needs to know except our family.”

The brothers continued talking about how they could pull off the hoax. As they talked, the plan grew, taking on a life of its own.

Suddenly, the cries of someone in the ocean reached their ears.

“A waterspout,” Noah exclaimed. “My God, somebody is caught in it.”

The brothers ran toward the water—was it one of their children?

At last, they could see the person struggling in the water. Thank God he was alive, although he was in trouble. Noah followed William into the swirling waves. The victim was an older man, perhaps in his sixties. The brothers struggled through the cresting tide as the spout tossed water in every direction. The undertow was stronger than Noah had ever felt. If he had not been focused on saving the dying man, he would have been terrified that he was going to drown.

Noah prayed, “Please, Lord, help us.”

With the man choking and gasping for air, the brothers managed to haul him to shore. The waterspout dissipated, and the sudden calmness of the water seemed supernatural. William laid the man gently on the sand. As a doctor, he knew what to do. And Noah, a Godly man, prayed like the man’s life depended on it.

Together, the twin brothers worked on the rescued man. After a short time, the man revived and sat up. Noah praised God, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for answering our prayers.”

Dr. Christensen continued to assess him. “We need to call an ambulance, or do you have a relative we can contact?”

The man peered into William’s eyes with such intensity Noah saw fear on his brother’s face. Was there more to this near drowning than Noah recognized?

As the brothers waited for the man to answer William’s question, the man stood abruptly.

The brothers stared in amazement. How could he recover so quickly?

“Who are you?” Noah asked.

“Do not be afraid,” the man said. “You wanted to save me. In doing so, you saved yourselves. He glanced at William. “You are a doctor,” and then he looked at Noah. “And you are a pastor.”

The two brothers exchanged glances. Who was this man? How could he know their profession? Noah knew his brother was thinking the same thing.

“The reality is,” the man said, “I saved you from losing your rewards. Salvation is a gift, but rewards are earned. Think about it. Each of you wants what your twin brother has. Is that not like Satan, to fool you into believing that what the other person has is better?”

Speechless, Noah and William stared at the man.

“Don’t believe the devil’s lies. Do what God has called you to do. If that’s suffering, suffer with joy. If it’s achieving success, give God the glory. If it’s weariness, don’t give up. Accept your lot in life with humility, and love God when things are easy and when they aren’t. If you do that, heavenly awards await you.”

Several seconds passed until the brothers could speak, and then the man disappeared.

“We just had a vision,” Noah said.

William nodded. “The first thing I’m going to do is—repent.”

Noah’s pride evaporated. “Things have been terrible at my church.”

William interrupted him. “That’s because you stand for truth. Don’t compromise, Noah,” William said. “You heard what the angel said.”

The voices of four teens approaching interrupted their supernatural encounter. Noah said, “We need to pray for our children.”

“I must spend more time with my family,” William said. “I must. I’ve been warned.”

“Giving up is not an option,” Noah said. “I will never resign.” He looked up into the heavens. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I feel like I’ve been born again.”

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A SHORT STORY: No Fear by Lorilyn Roberts

 

 

The cemetery beckoned Deborah’s mother every year about this time, but Deborah didn’t know why. She suspected, but her mother wouldn’t tell her.

“It’s enough that you know your nanny rests in peace here,” is all she would say, “until the right time comes to tell you.”

Deborah reminisced. Her beloved grandmother was so intelligent, so beautiful, and so kind. She wouldn’t have hurt a fly.

The weather was cold even in the noonday sun, and Deborah wondered why they couldn’t come to the cemetery in the summer when it was warmer. Her mother placed some flowers beside the headstone, and as she leaned over, Deborah could see tears in her reddened eyes.

Deborah’s memories of her grandmother were dreamlike because she was so young when her grandmother disappeared, but she remembered vividly the last time she saw her Nanny. It was her favorite memory from childhood.

“Mother, what happened to Grandma?”

The older woman remained silent. She wanted to tell her daughter, but she couldn’t. Every time she tried, she choked up, and the words wouldn’t come out.

Deborah propped up the red flowers and ran her fingers over the dates on the stone marker. She longed for one last conversation with Nanny. Death was so final, especially for one so young. The date on the tombstone was only a few weeks after that special event in Washington, D.C. Deborah remembered her grandma that day as healthy and vibrant, laughing and singing as she pushed Deborah in the stroller.

Now fourteen and a young woman, she believed she could handle the secret her mother hid in her heart. She was old enough to think about serious things and determined not to let another year pass without knowing the truth.

She turned to her mother sitting beside her, but at that moment, the stricken woman bent over and turned away. The young girl lovingly touched her mother’s shoulder. “The last time I remember seeing Nanny was when we went to Washington, D.C.

Her mother’s face turned to Deborah, and she held her pointed index finger up to her lips. “You mustn’t talk about that day. The drones hide in secret places,” and she sternly admonished her a second time, her words clipped with fear.

But Deborah didn’t care who heard. She wanted to speak her heart. “That day was my favorite day as a child. You, grandma, and I were together. I don’t know where pappa was, but the three of us were there, and I remember the music, the beautiful singing, and everybody praying.”

Deborah stopped speaking as if a new revelation gripped her. “Mother, we never hear beautiful music anymore.”

Resignation crossed her mother’s face. “You mustn’t ever talk about that day again, you hear me, Honey?”

The fragileness of the moment beguiled Deborah. Discouraged but unwilling to admit she had been cheated of the truth once more, she would try again later. The two returned to their tiny one-room house that looked like every other house on the street. The houses were so close together everyone knew everybody else’s business. Several times each day, drones scoured the sky looking into windows for something, although nobody knew what. Sameness was important. Nobody wanted to stand out. Nobody wanted to be noticed. Nobody wanted to be seen or heard.

Deborah remembered her grandmother loved to read. She remembered the books that lined the walls of her living room and bedroom. Nanny was the most intelligent person she ever knew, yet somebody took her away. How could someone so amazing just disappear? Nanny never did anything wrong. Why wouldn’t her mother tell her? Deborah had even scoured the Internet, hoping to find her grandmother’s name. But it was like she never existed.

January 6, 2021, was only nine years ago, yet there were only a few articles about that day on the Internet. How could there be so few references when Deborah remembered the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people walking beside her in the stroller?

Deborah knew what the government said—many people had died that day, all at the hands of “Trump supporters and right-wing religious fanatics” who took over the Capitol. Because of the widespread destruction and damage, the government hauled many off to jail.

Was her beloved Nanny one of those eyewitnesses arrested? How could that be when Nanny wouldn’t even kill a spider?

Besides, they wouldn’t have gone to the event if there was any danger. Nanny was an American patriot and wanted to be there that day. How could Deborah learn what happened? Did her mother even know? Or had she been brainwashed to forget? Deborah knew those things happened routinely. It was called re-education.

As Deborah watched her mother twist and turn in bed, uttering groanings too deep to understand, the young girl went through everything in her mind she could remember starting with January 6, 2021, and the days and weeks that followed.

It wasn’t long after that that her dad went off to war. According to government reports, he was a hero, but Deborah didn’t believe those reports. Why didn’t he ever come home? The government said America was winning the war, but how could anyone know? No one knew what happened outside the country. She hadn’t seen her father in years, but occasionally, her mother would receive a letter declaring he had won another medal for his heroism.

Deborah didn’t care about medals. Her mother would scold her, “You have food to eat, a roof over your head, and clothes to wear. What more do you want?” And then, emotionally spent, her mother would stomp off.

Deborah felt sorry for her mother. At least Deborah was honest with her feelings; her mother just believed her own lies. But she could never come up with a good answer to her mother’s questions. Yes, they had food, clothes, and a roof, but Deborah felt like a person with no past and no future. Is this how she wanted to live the rest of her life?

The two-week winter break would end soon, and Deborah would have to return to school. But the nightmares were unrelenting and made it difficult for her to focus in school. She would see herself in the stroller among the thousands of people on that wide roadway, swept up in the music, the celebration, and the wonder of the events that took place on that special day. And then everything would go dark. Two of the dearest people in her life suddenly disappeared.

What happened? None of what the state-run media said was as she remembered. But, she was only a young child that day; maybe she was too young to remember.

Deborah walked over to her mother as she rested on their small bed. Mother probably wished she would turn out the lights so she could sleep. But Deborah was determined to find out what happened.

“Mother,” Deborah asked, “do we have any of the books from Nanny’s old house?”

Mother sighed. “Even if I had any, I wouldn’t show them to you. You know books have been banned unless they are state-approved.”

“So her books are not state-approved?”

“I didn’t say that,” her mother snapped.

“Why can’t I know what happened to my grandmother? Why?”

Her mother sat up in bed and glared at Deborah. “Your grandmother was a domestic terrorist. She was sent off to prison and died. What more do you want to know?”

Deborah didn’t like her mother’s rebuff. “Don’t you care about my feelings? I loved Grandma, domestic terrorist or not.”

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” her mother scoffed.

Deborah glared at her. “You don’t really believe that, do you? Nanny was so smart, compassionate, and—she loved Jesus.”

Mother’s eyes moistened. “Don’t say that name, or they will come and take you to a re-education camp.”

Deborah retorted. “Some things are more important. You’ve allowed the government to take your soul. Fear is your constant companion. Nanny would never let that happen.”

Mother leaned into Deborah and whispered. “And that’s why they hauled her off to a re-education camp.” Mother’s countenance fell. “I’ve lost everyone important to me. I’d die if something happened to you.”

“Please, Mother,” Deborah insisted, “just show me one book of hers. Just one. I can hold the book to my chest and feel Nanny’s presence in my heart.”

Her mother glanced around the small house and whispered, “Unplug everything, the computer, TV—better yet, cover them up with towels. Close the blinds. And we must do it quickly before the nightly drone stops by and hovers in front of the window.

Quickly they concealed anything that could send or receive information, and Deborah followed her mother as she walked over to a small closet in the corner of the room. The older woman slid the door aside, knelt down to move some boxes, and then stacked them on top of each other. Where the boxes had been, several loose tiles appeared.

A small hole emerged. Deborah gasped. “I never knew there was anything underneath the tiles.”

Her mother retrieved two books—a family album and a Bible. “At least I have these. Our social score would drop to zero if they discovered these in my possession. You wouldn’t be able to go to college. They would force us to live on starvation rations.”

She handed Deborah the book with photographs.

Deborah opened the photo album and saw pictures of when she was little, along with her pappa and mom. Her mother was so beautiful, and her grandmother was stunning. Deborah sat back and cherished the family memories. She gently touched a photograph of her father and grandmother. She whispered under her breath, “What happened to them?”

Deborah continued to pore over more photos, noticing something she didn’t expect to see—wealth. Grandma’s house was very large.

Unexpectedly, Deborah remembered things she had forgotten. Like her grandmother playing the piano, the rides they took in Nanny’s car to the park, and the ice cream store they would visit when they left the park. What happened to that world? When had she last tasted ice cream?

Sadness overcame Deborah. She set the family album aside. What had started as an exciting adventure into the past became an overwhelming lump of sorrow in Deborah’s throat.

“Can I see Nanny’s Bible?” Deborah asked.

Her mother handed the old book to her, and Deborah ran her fingers along the frayed edges of the cover. Had she seen one of these before? Deborah closed her eyes—and remembered. “Where is that book you used to read to me that had Bible stories?”

Mother shook her head. These are my only two books—your Nanny’s Bible and these family photos.” Her voice quivered. “Deborah, only a tiny bit longer. It’s getting late, and the drone will be coming by at any moment.”

Deborah blurted out, “What good is it if you don’t read the Bible? Or even look at these photographs? You can’t enjoy them if they’re hidden in a dark closet.”

“They are so precious, Deborah. I don’t want to risk losing them. They would take these from me if they knew I had them. Or worse.”

Deborah opened the Bible and found a note inside.

“Oh, the note,” Mother exclaimed, “I forgot about the note. Please read it.”

Deborah whispered the words to her mother. “Dear Deborah. God told me someday you would find this Bible. The demons will flee if you call on the name of Jesus. Seek the truth, and never give up. Love, Nanny.”

Deborah swallowed hard and handed the note to her mother. “Mother, something supernatural happened on January 6, 2021, which changed America. Why didn’t the people who were there speak up? Why didn’t they tell the truth? Why did they let the news media spread lies?”

Deborah’s mother lowered her eyes. “Because if they did, they would have been arrested, like your dear grandmother. She spoke up. She spoke the truth. She knew what the CCP had done in China. That’s why she took extra pamphlets to share with others. Nobody thought the CCP would take over America, except perhaps a few conspiracy lunatics.”

Deborah thought about the CCP pamphlets her mother and grandmother handed her that day. She remembered circling the letters “CCP” etched in bold letters on the covers. Of course, as a child, they were just letters—nothing significant or earth-shattering. But because Nanny had handed them to her to hold, she felt important. Never could she have imagined the dire warnings in those words. If only somebody had taken those warnings seriously.

Deborah grabbed her mother’s hand. “They were warning the people, weren’t they? They knew what was coming, those people in the booths.”

Mother nodded. “We must put these books back and open the blinds,” Mother said. “We can’t wait any longer. It’s late.”

Deborah wrapped her arms around the Bible and imagined she could smell the faint scent of her dear Nanny. She breathed in deeply. “I want to sleep with Nanny’s Bible.”

“If they see you with that …” her mother’s voice trailed off.

“It’s the Bible, Mother. They will not see it. God will protect us.”

Mother bit her lip and hesitated, and for the first time in years, Deborah saw hope in her eyes.

“I believe you,” her mother said. “I want to trust God. If only I had more faith.”

Deborah and her mother clasped each other tightly. Then Deborah released her hold and said, “I remember something Nanny once said, ‘Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’”

Her mother nodded.

“No fear,” Deborah said. “No fear.”

 

 

 

Psalms 30:5:  “…weeping may endure for a nightbut joy cometh in the morning.”

 

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