The Inside-Out Woman
CHAPTER 26: MR. BRICK
“Padre mío, me pondrás a prueba, por mis pecados y probaré mi devoción hacia ti una vez más,” exclaimed Father Chapas at the sight looming north of County Road 25 behind the Brick house, its enormity reducing the house to a white spec. He crossed himself three times, kissed his fist upon each signing, and with the last kiss came to a stop in the Brick driveway.
He parked behind the van and stared at the running car next to it. Mr. Brick, Billy, he thought.
A pang of disappointment stirred within him, as if the car conveyed a diminishment of his holy mission. But, no, it did not. It was the demon at work, attempting to weaken and divert him with the sins of envy and jealously and coveting and rivalry. Resiste, Chapas. Piensa, Chapas. Billy was here to save the impermanent body of Maryam. He was here to save the immortal soul of Maryam.
“Gracias, Father, gracias,” he prayed, as he pushed against the car door and edged himself out onto the gravel driveway.
The storm nearly slammed the door on his fingers. Father Chapas, God’s knight under God’s protection, yanked his hand away as the door grazed his fingertips. As if spiteful, the storm sent a blast of wind his way. The blow rolled him along the side of the car and at its end launched him into the air. In a vicious shift, it next leapt above him and swatted him onto the gravel.
He wanted to lie for a minute, to find his breath, to rub the pain from his limbs, but the storm fired another salvo at him that sent him tumbling toward County Road 25.
“Detente, diablo. Detente.”
It ignored him, changed direction again, and bowled him off the driveway and onto the Brick front lawn of swamped grass, muck, and wreckage. There it paused, as if mulling new torments for the priest.
Father Chapas spied the front porch through the blur of deluge and took advantage of the reprieve. He sprinted on hands and knees to the steps, to the shelter of the house, and through the gaping entrance, looked into the mess of yellow garbage.
“¿Qué? ¿Tu obra del mal, demonio,” he said, scrambling in the tatters of his yellow basket, through more scattered destruction into the living room, praying the house would cease its gyrations so he could get off his throbbing knees.
The demon seemed to hear his accusation, for from inside issued a piercing cry, either of pain or anger or both Father Chapas couldn’t tell mixed as it was with the roar of the storm and the complaints of the house.
He pushed to his feet, steadied himself on the swaying floor and shuffled cautiously to the doorway. He peered in expecting a horrid manifestation of the devil. What he saw was a man prostrate on the floor.
“Mr. Brick,” he shouted, “Billy, it is Father Mario.”
The house bucked violently, toppling the refrigerator and the stove.
Father Chapas fell back and landed on his backside. He spun himself around and crawled into the kitchen next to Billy.
“Mr. Brick, Billy, can you hear me. It is Father Mario.”
“Father,” Billy groaned, “Iam, the children.” He raised a hand and pointed to the slider.
Father Chapas lined his sight along Billy’s finger and saw the blue flame spreading from the stove to the floor.
“You are injured, Mr. Brick. A tornado is here. The house is burning. I will help you.”
“No, Iam, the children.”
Father Chapas crawled pass the fire to the slider. He saw the deck pummeled by rain and debris. Back he went to Billy.
“Vamos,” he said.
“No, Iam, the children. Leave me.”
“No, I cannot. I will save Iam. God has ordained I will. But first, I must help you, Mr. Brick. Come. Arriba.”
“I can’t. My ankle, my knee.”
Father Chapas hastily inspected Billy’s wounds. Painful and crippling, yes, but there was no choice and little time. He urged Billy up. He threw Billy’s right arm over his shoulder and supported him. Together, they hobbled across the bucking floor pass the flames to the slider.
“One more step, Mr. Brick,” Father Chapas said, when the house and the wind teamed against them. The house jolted up and Father Chapas and Billy flew with it. Father Chapas lost his hold on Billy when their feet thudded on the floor. Billy shrieked and collapsed, half in the kitchen, half on the deck.
Father Chapas got to his hands and knees as the house lurched left and right, up and down, as if it had a will, and that will’s purpose was to stop him. The house’s thrusting raised the volume of clatter in the kitchen to where it surpassed the howling of the storm. Objects hurled left and right, and one secure throughout the maelstrom dislodged and shot up, hit the ceiling and repelled with doubled velocity downward, tail first, the tail a blue blade that plummeted and sliced into the neck of Father Chapas.
Father Chapas jerked and bellowed with surprise and pain and fell over onto his back, banging the clock against the floor, hammering the tail deeper into his flesh, until it broke clean through the other side to protrude within the priest’s peripheral vision.
“Padre, lo siento. Te he fallado,” he wailed, watching his blood spill down the plastic tail and off the tip onto the floor, certain he was witnessing his own death.
But when he saw the blood trickling, not gushing, he traced a hand along his neck. The blue blade had imbedded itself in the outer muscle and had not cut his carotid.
“Gracias, Padre misericordioso,” he muttered, reaching up and grasping what had attacked him. With his other hand, he held the tail at its base. He closed his eyes, said, “Padre, protégeme,” and snapped. He sat up and examined the blue cat clock. “Usted diablo,” he said, and pitched it into the kitchen. He felt the tail. The wound hurt, but there was little bleeding. He would have plenty of time later to remove it, but not now for fear that bleeding would impair his mission.
“Mr. Brick, we must rush,” he said. “Mr. Brick.”
Billy lay as if dead. Father Chapas felt his neck for a pulse. Billy was unconscious but alive.
Father Chapas stood and crouched. He secured Billy under the arms and dragged him across the deck, down the stairs, to the foot of the deck.
“God will watch over you here, Mr. Brick,” he said, rolling Billy underneath the deck.
He scurried into the yard, over splinted boards and rocks and corn stalks and nascent cobs, to survey and find Iam and the children. He couldn’t stand erect. The wind blew too fiercely. The rain proved too driven. The air was too thick with remnants of life. He couched and looked around. He saw the cars and the van. He saw the garage. The roof was half off. No, he thought, they are not there. He moved toward the barn. It jigged to the storm’s howl. The remaining siding boards pulsed in and out and up and down. The roof lifted and settled, lifted again. He prayed it wasn’t her refuse, for as he watched, the barn finished its dance by flinging its roof up as a whole into the spinning air, where it exploded, and then reformed into a stringy line of shingles and beams and splinters that rocketed out over the field and ascended into the swirling black cone. As he followed, his eye caught white reflections in the distance, and he thought, Maryam, the children. No, a child, and she on her knees, as if in meditative prayer. No, not prayer, for he saw her raise an arm, and at the end of the arm, the light of the storm glinted.
“Maryam, no!” he shouted. “No! Wait. It is Father Mario.”
The storm devoured his words and he knew she could not hear him. Even if she could, he knew she would ignore him. Because his soul told him that evil possessed her. It closed her ears to his cries. It shut her eyes to his summoning of her. It lifted her arm.
He yelled anyway. “Maryam, wait. Wait. No.”
He signed himself. “Protégela a ella y a los niños, Padre, y dame fortaleza.“
He tore off his raincoat. The wind tossed his surplice into his face. He slapped it down. The wind tried to steal his purple stole. He wound it around his neck. It pulled at his raincoat. He removed his sick call kit from its pocket and let the wind snatch the coat. He opened the kit and removed the crucifix. He wished he could use the rites book, but the wind would shred it, possessed, as it seemed to be, by evil. He would rely on his memory and, with the help of God, be as perfect as possible.
He raised the crucifix to the tumultuous sky and ran toward Iam, the child, and the funnel bearing down them, crying, “Evil Spirit, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the mysteries of the incarnation, in the suffering and death of God as man, and of Jesus coming again to judge the living and the dead, I command you. I command you, Evil One. Obey the word of the Lord! Obedece, le ordenó.”
COMING NEXT WEEK, MONDAY, August 17, 2015: CHAPTER 27: REDEMPTION