Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Youth (Gemma's Story)

They had to move the memorial service to Saint Joe’s because so many people wanted to come – the kids from school, everyone from church, the soccer league, the musicians he hung out with. The whole town came. Even here, the pews are packed. Good for Nikko - he loved a party, maybe too much.

Mom sits beside me, worrying a hanky in her lap. She twists it tight and releases. The cotton whirls open like a ballerina’s tutu, stark against the black of her dress. She hasn’t cried since she found Nik, not that I have seen anyway. Then again, I haven’t really cried either. Just once, when I talked to Grams. I turn around. People stream in. Daddy shakes hands with everyone, even hugs some. He borrowed my make-up this morning, to cover the brown circles under his eyes.

Miss Miriam sits alone in the third row, very straight and still, hands folded in her lap. She’s wearing purple, the color of blueberries. Looking at her, I kind of want to sit next to her because I’m alone, too. Josh didn’t come back, he’s still somewhere in Seattle. She must be worried sick, like we were with Nik. Mom refuses to be in the same church with Reverend Martin, so he’s staying away to give her space. Which makes me sad, because Nik liked him, respected him, and would have wanted him at the memorial service. So stupid the disagreement. Both Nik and I voted for Rev Martin. The vote caused the split, it’s why Nik and Josh left. Sometimes I wish I’d gone with them, but I’m not as strong as them.

I feel bad for Miss Miriam. She taught the Coming of Age program and after all those sleepovers and retreats, she knows me better than mom for sure, and probably dad, too. But she’s not crying, she doesn’t even have her notebook out. She keeps looking at the huge Jesus bolted to the cross hanging behind the casket. Right over Nik. Which makes me want to laugh because none of us, even Miss Miriam, believe in God or Jesus or even miracles.

Miss Miriam always was kind to me, and to mom, and mom needed all the kindness she could get. I mean, I respect mom, she survived cancer and all while she was pregnant with me, but something about getting through all that crap made her heart tough, like an over-cooked piece of beef, and no one likes meat you have to chew forever. Sure, daddy holds her hand in church, they hold hands everywhere, but she’s cold. Glacier. I blame her coldness on the chemo and radiation. Back then, doctors tended to overshoot doses and the methotrexate and all the rads turned mom into a bitch. The treatment is what made me a peanut. Strangers think I’m in the fourth grade. My friends call me T-cubed – tiny tough tiger – and I guess I am, though I am dreading driver’s ed because I can’t reach the gas pedal without sitting on my biology book. Dad always says what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ll see.

In the end I blame everything on the chemo. Because she’s the one who made Nikky crazy enough to look for rope, find the pills. I just wish he hadn’t given in.

The organ sighs. I stare at the notes crumpled in my hand, my poem to Nik, my twin, my best friend. The ink has bled on my hand, purple streaks, and it hits me: I am alone.

I wonder if Jesus cried at the end.

Another character sketch from The Minister's Wife, a novel-in-progress. Working on this story, or series of stories, I feel exhilaration as I map out the relationships, the events, the aftermath.

It feels good to ponder new stuff. Peace...


  1. I always sink into these bits of your stories and gather your words around me like a warm cloak.

    As always wonderful imagery. (Hugs)Indigo

  2. Wow. So sad. Really feel for her

  3. Heartbreaking, Linda. You have a deft hand with the pain of loss.

  4. This is a powerful little sketch. You pour such depth into your characters.

  5. Is the entire novel about the aftermath of a death?

  6. You create such vivid characters, Linda. I'm really enjoying these sketches.

  7. Linda, I was captivated straight away. Your writing is consistently good, the characters come alive immediately, the little details (colour of blueberries) are so evocative but never overdone. And then, as I read it I began to wonder if you were writing a novel or if you could develop this into one, and then lo and behold you told us that this was indeed the case. Good news! I look forward to reading your future novel and other pieces in the meantime. All the best!

  8. I wonder too..a gut check of a piece

  9. 3 things I love about this: The voice. Strong, and I don't think I've seen one like this from you.

    and this

    "Dad always says what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ll see. "


    "I am alone.
    I wonder if Jesus cried at the end. "

  10. luscioius and immediate.
    Now, I have so many questions.
    Was Nikko little too? Is this set now or a decade or so ago?
    In a church but don't believe in god?

    I will wait impatiently while you write the whole story. Thank you for the peeks.

  11. Gorgeous imagery as always Linda, and, as has been mentioned, the characters POP immediately, and the voice is superb, and, and, and...I could go on and on. So glad this will be a novel!