The Inside-Out Woman
CHAPTER 23: ABRAHAM’S TOOL
Amid the strobes of lightning and penetrating thunder, Iam lurched into the hallway and steered toward the staircase, again the Church’s warrior on her mission.
Dear, halt this very instant. Do you realize what you are doing?
“I am fulfilling the word of the Father. Please, Aunt Margie, let me obey him.”
I certainly will do nothing of the sort, dear. I feared such foolery. You have always been a sweet girl. But you’ve never been much for confronting people, let alone demons.
“Pater is laying claim to what is his.”
Listen to yourself, rambling on about the Pater this and the Pater that. The creature was, is, and will remain a monster forever. It’s time you demonstrated you are not a lamb easily led to the slaughter. Unlike the others, you have gumption. You fled my absolutely detestable sister. You escaped the lecherous solo Ricky. You saw the handwriting on the wall and ran from the loon when the others didn’t. Now, turn yourself in the other direction, dear.
Iam spun woodenly at the command and lumbered into her bedroom. She switched on the bedstead lamps. They flickered as the storm trespassed into the house’s electric lines, choking them. She went to the closet, opened it, reached up, and pulled from the back of the shelve an oversized box. On the bed, she removed the lid and lifted from the box a strapless gown of white, through the skirt of which were vertically threaded ribbons of pink, and a simple white veil, the band of which was soft pink. She stripped to her skin, stepped into the gown, and set the veil on her head. Also from the box, she took a pair of pink blush satin pumps and slid her feet into them. She staggered to the mirror behind the bedroom door to study herself.
“Billy loved the dress,” she heard herself say.
Of course he did, dear. Billy is a prince of a man. We loved him the moment he found us stranded in that junk heap you drove us around in. Such a thoughtful, noble man. Quite unusual these days. I don’t know why you did not see his virtue instantly. But never mind, all’s well that ends well I always say.
“His mother called the pink odd.”
Odd, indeed. She’s the odd one. Quite hidebound, if you ask me, a plain Jane afraid of a soupçon of panache. I do believe she is the reason your attire lacks color.
“She has a kind heart. She raised a fine son. And she has been generous to the children and to me.”
Yes, I’ll concede you her etiquette. In the future, though, we will add spice to our wardrobe.
“Not too much, I hope.”
Goodness, dear, gauche is not my style. We’ll infuse you with just a pinch to demonstrate we understand chic, a quality your mother never could appreciate. Streetwalkers dressed better than she, don’t you agree? But let’s not get started on the vixen. Banish her, and on to the joust.
My dear, I am such a silly romantic that our terrible contest with the beast thrills me. We are like Rowena and Rebecca rolled into one, fair maids in peril, who will gladly bestow upon their champion, in our case the glorious Sir William of Sullivan, the most delicious chaplet of victory.
“Our enemy will cry, ‘Beau-seant!'”
Yes, dear, you remember the romantic history. How many hours did we linger with it? We sipped it, didn’t we, dear, like wine, and didn’t it rush to our heads, a virtuous put-upon and a princess, an outcast and a kingdom to reclaim, dastardly deeds and heroic triumph? Well, perhaps you are Rowena and I am the Disinherited Knight, and when the fires have ceased, and the dust has cleared, and the wounds have mended, I will win you completely, and with you renewal. Then, in my colors, dear, we are …
“Armored for battle,” Iam heard herself finish.
As if encumbered by the weight of iron, she stumbled into the hallway and tottered down the stairs like someone possessed of irreconcilable sovereignty. She paused at the front entrance. She surveyed the mess on the porch and outside the half bath and wondered how these had happened, that perhaps the children had been a bit too rambunctious in her absence, and then speculated as to how long she had been upstairs, and then shook her head as if to say it didn’t matter, that she was downstairs now and ready to take charge. But of what, redemption or destruction, she couldn’t say.
At the sight of her wobbling into the living room, Dominic and Dominica, exclaimed, faces afflicted with sudden, blanched expressions of monster phobia, “Mommy!”
“How are you enjoying your film, my little sweethearts,” she gushed, as if gazing on shining penny faces, in happy unison with them greeting a gorgeous summer day, bright already and gravid with delightful promise.
“It’s done,” said Dominica.
“We were waiting for you, Mommy.”
“How lovely to be desired, little darlings.”
“We want meatloaf,” said Dominica.
“We’re hungry,” said Dominic.
“And scared, too, Mommy,” added Dominica.
As if attuned to Dominica’s proclivity for anxiety, lightning seared the room, so white, hot, and frictional, all felt their skin burn, their hair spike in shock. Fast upon the burst rolled thunder, roaring down on the house as if from directly above, pushing the children deep into the couch and knocking Iam off her eroded kilter. Next, while all teetered on the edge of terror, the lights flickered, the television died, the room went dark, and the telephone came to life, adding to the chaos. Dominica, tumbling into the pit of mad panic, screamed a scream that rattled every nail and board in the house, extending beyond the house to reach the ear of who or whatever was responsible; for in the instant of her scream, the lights flickered back, the storm retreated to a growl, and the phone fell silent.
“My goodness, but what weather we are having,” said Iam, artificially composing herself and than wiggling between Dominic and Dominica. “Do you know many songs have been written about storms?”
They responded by crying and gripping her.
“Let me see. How about life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere, stormy weather, just can’t get my poor old self together, da, da, da. No? Okay, here’s a favorite. I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, what a glorious feelin’, I’m happy again . No? My oh my, we’ll have to attend to broadening your musical vocabulary, won’t we? But you must know this one. The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun. And there will be. I promise.”
“I want Daddy,” cried Dominica.
“Oh, my dear, so do I. Oh, I ache for the man. I really do. To be in his arms—well, I mean to say, I’m beside myself waiting for him to return home. Tell you what. Let’s watch your movie, Dominica, and before you know it, Daddy will be snuggling with us. What was your movie, dear?”
“Oh, delightful, I adored ‘Cinderella.’ Why moments ago I was talking about princes and princesses.”
“With who?” asked Dominica, as Dominic put the movie into play.
“With whom, dear. We may be in the midst of a thunder boomer, but that’s no excuse to neglect the rules of English. Why, if every time a crisis erupted and we forgot our grammar, where would be? Speechless. Oh, but whom? I guess with myself.”
“Is that why you’re dressed … so fancy?” asked Dominic.
“You noticed. How observant and mannerly of you, dear. Why, I suppose so. I am the picture of a princess, aren’t I?” she said, flipping her veil and flaunting her skirt.
“Shh,” admonished Dominica, “the movie’s starting.”
Marcella, it is no time for idiocy. Has the woman seduced you so easily? You recognize her, do you not?
“No,” Iam muttered.
“Shh,” whispered Dominica.
No? She is the Great Whore of Babylon, the Great Harlot. The Vile Temptress.
“I was the Babylonian queen once,” Iam mumbled.
“Mommy,” said Dominic, “are you sick?”
No you were not, Marcella. You were a lesson to yourself and the others. Did I not pardon you for your fornication? Did I not take you into my bed and honor you with the sacrament of my divine seed?
“Into your lap,” she whispered.
“Shh, Mommy. I want to sit here,” said Dominica, misunderstanding the mutter.
You dare to trifle with your Pater, when I am about to reveal the prophecy of prophecies to the world, when I carry it to them fresh from the lips of my Father?
“Forgive me, Pater, for I have sinned.”
“Mommy,” asked Dominic, “why are you praying? Is something wrong?”
I understand, Marcella. It has been a long time, and the way of the Father is mysterious.
“It is brutal,” she said.
“Mommy, please,” said Dominic, directly into her ear to shield his concern from Dominica, “you’re scaring us.”
Tell the vessel not to be afraid. It should show gratitude, for from it will spring the world’s path to salvation. Inform it and calm it. Instruct it God wishes it.
She patted Dominic’s hand. “All will be well.”
“When the storm ends,” he said.
It is a prescient and worthy vessel you have created for me, Marcella. It senses the present tumult will cease once I have reincarnated in it.
“Yes,” she said.
We require Abraham’s tool. Take the vessel into the kitchen. Select a knife.
“No,” she demurred in an undertone lost in the whistle of the rising wind.
You defy your Pater. But, no, I see you do not. You dazzle him with more of your craftiness. He sees with your eyes, little warrior. We must pacify one to manage the other with ease. You are clever and I praise and cherish you for your foresight. How I wished you had been at my side instead of the Judas. You should have been. You were the one I loved, Marcella, the one who pleased me most.
“I adored you,” she breathed.
“I do to,” said Dominica, distracted for a second, hearing her imperfectly. “I adore you, Mommy, because you’re the best mommy.”
It is only right to adore your Pater. After today, you will receive the greatest love of the centuries, for again there will be a mother of God on earth, and she will be you. For that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Ghost, and she has brought forth a son, and he will be reborn as the new salvation of the world. Ha! A fictitious princess is air measured against the joy and honor and eternal peace that will reign upon you, Marcella.
Dear, I cannot tolerate another second of this buffoon’s bluster. I have witnessed my share of windbags. Goodness knows enough of them have squatted across from me and passed judgment. But they were breezes compared to this hurricane of rubbish. A god the creature calls itself. Maybe the plastic variety your mother plunked on the dashboard of her jalopy, but nothing more, I assure you.
Iam’s complexion paled and flushed. She frowned and smiled. She keened and tittered ever so softly. Her body twitched left and right. Apart from these subtle movements, akin to seeking a comfortable position on the couch, the children noticed nothing but a smattering of her periodic exclamations.
I hear you, Whore. Worse, I smell your vileness, the putrid rank of Hell’s sulfur. Marcella, believe your Pater. She pretends to love you, but I see hot malice in her heart. It is a black cauldron encased in a soulless shell. She is a mighty deceiver. She is a mighty beguiler. Sin is her meat and she devours it in great ravenous chunks. And she plans to eat you up until there is not a morsel of you remaining. Expel her, Marcella, and live forever and ever in glory as the new mother of the new earthly manifestation of God.
Honestly, dear, the years you devoted to the creature had me questioning your sanity. Well, it will stop now. Let us continue relaxing with the dear ones. We’ll concentrate our full attention on the film and block its abominable spouting.
Obeying the whore, the reeking harlot, is dancing to the devil’s tune. Be gone you queen of pustules. Enough from you, Marcella. Time is short and our destiny rises or falls on your devotion. Hurry into the kitchen and return with Abraham’s tool. The moment of sacrifice roars down upon us.
Iam bowed her head and pushed up to leave the couch.
“Where are you going, Mommy?” quivered Dominic.
“Don’t go, Mommy,” followed Dominica in kind, tugging Iam’s arm.
Yes, listen to the wisdom from the mouths of our babes. Watch the film.
“Success depends on me.”
“Mommy,” cried Dominic, “Mommy, you’re sick.”
Maryam Beatrice Maria Cardinale Brick, halt and sit. The kitchen is unsafe. Remember what is there. The clock. The innocent clock, the gift of our prince, corrupted by the pretender. Why, if pressed, I would call the creature the antichrist we’ve heard so much about. Your antichrist is the damned one, and it has opened a pathway to perdition, which you glimpsed looking into the cat’s eyes.
“The cat scares me,” Iam said, falling back on the couch.
“What cat, Mommy? Lucifer is only a movie cat,” said Dominica.
Must I strike you with a bolt of lightning to move you, Marcella? The clock is the old bag’s contrivance, mere witchcraft to persuade you to betray your Pater. Marcella, see me. See me extend my hands to you. Observe what glitters on my blessed palms, and what I offer to you. It is the key that unlocks salvation and eternal life. There is only one key, it is mine alone, and I will share it with you as my mother, if you go into the kitchen.
Iam rose again.
“Mommy, don’t go,” said Dominica.
“Don’t, Mommy,” pleaded Dominic.
“I must, children. God is asking me to go into the kitchen and bring something for you.”
“For me, too, Mommy?” asked Dominica, excitedly.
“Especially for you, Dominica.”
“Goody, I can’t wait, Mommy.”
Iam trudged to the kitchen doorway.
Dear, you astound me, falling for the beast’s lies and deceptions. The beast transformed the clock into an instrument of terror. That is how the monster controls and defiles, dear, don’t you see? The beast turns beauty ugly, faith blasphemous, life dead. Please, I implore you. Reject the call and rejoin the children and me.
“No, I am of the Anointed People, and of many I am chosen to mother the reincarnated Pater and at his side win the world for God.”
Energized by her rhetoric, she strode into the kitchen unafraid of the clock. It saw her and she it as she crossed the threshold and in her eyes it was what it was when Billy bought it for her: it was a silly cat clock, not a portal to Hell.
Oblivious to the disheveled kitchen, she went to the cutlery draw. From it, she removed two items: her chef’s knife and her steel sharpener. She stroked the knife blade against the steel several times to insure she filed it from tip to hilt to razor sharpness. She tossed the steel on the counter, and turned for the living room.
Stop, dear. Think about what you are doing. Yes, I know the monster’s intentions. I am in the beast’s mind as it is in mine. It knows I will not allow harm to come to our children through you. I would have us hurt ourselves than fulfill its barbarous desire. Drop the knife, dear, and return to me and the children.
As the imploration ended, the dormant storm revived an amplitude greater than before it had quelled to a snarl. Lightning flooded the kitchen, blinding Iam. Wind shook the windows and rain pounded the walls in a cacophonous blast that deafened her to all but the sounds in her head. The house quaked and its joints creaked and the nails shrieked pulling from the wood and the sheetrock fissured and the floor buckled, and Iam moved blinkered to the commotion surrounding her with the single purpose of her duty to Pater.
Yes, yes, Marcella, at last we are together again. Into the living room. Inactivate the only resistance to our mission, the girl. Drive the tool of Abraham through the demon’s heart, for make no mistake, mighty little warrior, the devil is wily and a shape shifter and violently opposed to my Father and to my earthly work. Drive Abraham’s tool through its heart knowing it is not a child; it is the Archfiend, the Monarch of Hell, Belial; it is the enemy.
Dear, stop … stop, I beg you. Do not allow this creature to deceive you. Do not harm our poor, innocent child. Dear, as much as I love life, as much as I love living with you, as much as I would love to taste a second of your physical life, I cannot abide the horror you are about to undertake. Drop the knife, dear. Close your ears to the devil, for the creature is the real devil. And if you cannot, dear, concede to me now, and I will oppose him on our behalf. Let me out, dear. Let me be our salvation, the Brick family’s champion.
Iam screamed, “Leave me alone! The both of you leave me alone! I am me, Iam. I am me, Iam. And I will do no one’s bidding but Iam’s.”
And as she voiced her plea for independence, she drew the honed blade across her chest, across her stomach, across each arm. She howled and the house suffering the storm around her swallowed up her anguish. She dropped to her knees and, as if in supplicating prayer, and she cried.
“Mommy, the house—”
It was Dominic with Dominica in hand charging into the kitchen.
“Mommy, you’re hurt,” he said, the two halting in front of her, gazing down on her in horror.
The children, dear, mind the child. It was the storm, tell them. It was the storm.
She looked up at them. “It was the storm, children.”
Get out, dear. We have to get out before the house falls in on us, tell them.
“We have to get out before the house falls in on us, children,” she said, staggering to her feet.
“The knife, Mommy?” asked Dominic.
Yes, the knife, Marcella. Use the knife now to open the way for me. Death will be but an instant of time and I will suffuse the child with a new, purposeful life ordained by my Father. Open the path to my resurrection, Marcella.
Release the knife, dear, and gather the children. The house is falling down around us. I feel our life draining from us. Such a terrible thing to do to us. Act before we are too weak. Take the children and run outside. Save us, dear. Save us from the storm and the beast.
“The knife is to clear our path through the storm,” she shouted. “Out the slider and run.”
“But you, Mommy?” said Dominica.
“Run. I’ll be behind you. Run.”
A hand of ferocious wind blew under the house and twisted it and pulled it up. The house bucked and screeched in protest, but its foundation refused to yield. Dominic struggled to slide the door. The pressure of the storm sealed it and his small arms couldn’t budge it. Iam shoved him aside and tried with no effect.
“Dominic, get a chair.”
Iam griped the knife in her teeth and she pulled until he shoved the chair at her.
“You both, stand over there,” she spat around the blade, indicating the refrigerator that jigged back and forth.
She swung the chair with all the strength her wounded self could muster. It shattered and the glass flew away into the black, roiling sky.
“Go,” she shouted, pointing the way with the knife.
Dominic and Dominica ran through first, and she followed and with her Aunt Margie, gleeful over her ingenuity, and Pater, rejoicing at rebirthing in the maelstrom wrought by his Father to trumpet his return.
COMING NEXT WEEK, MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015: CHAPTER 24: HELL’S GATE