Another Thursday, another prompt from BeKindRewrite. The muse was determined to come back to this one – raise heaven – however much I tried to consider some of the others. Let me know how you think she did!
The Limits of Omniscience
My father never blasphemed. I mean, never. When we were small and shouty, he used to say “You’ll raise heaven with that racket”, because Hell was outside his vocabulary. I’m not sure what he thought would happen if he said it, or any of the other words he avoided. We used to discuss it as children. My brothers – all older than I – would goad me into expletives, then threaten eternal darn-nation or the wrath of GD.
It made church attendance in our family something of a pantomime too. My first boyfriend, Stephen Thompson, lasted from Thursday to Sunday, when an uncensored ‘Jesus’ during the first hymn saw him ousted from our family pew, never to darken my door again.
We knew, of course, that our family were extremists. We heard good Christian children at school using these words as though they had no magic power, and not once did I witness a spontaneous lightning strike in the playground. But knowing you’re in the minority isn’t the same as knowing you’re wrong.
When I was seven and she was five, Magda Thorpe, who was the oldest daughter of Reverend Thorpe, told me she prayed to Jesus and he talked back. In so many words: “Jesus”. I clapped a hand over her mouth and pushed her under a yew tree to protect her, but the only punishment was mine. And it was far from divine. Mrs Davis had me stand up in front of class and explain how I shouldn’t push people because it was bad. I couldn’t even explain why I’d pushed Magda, because I couldn’t say the word she’d said.
I believed I was saving Magda that day, and I trusted my father to have our best interests at heart, even when he drove away good prospects like Stephen Thompson.
Right until I turned eighteen. Since my father had always wanted me to be another boy, he insisted that I join in the same tradition my brothers had, and celebrate my birthday with a beer at the Rose and Crown. I sat across the table from him, the pint glass a few inches from the tabletop and heavy in my hand. One sip had told me I wouldn’t enjoy this initiation, but the look in his eye ensured I would weather it.
“Get it down you,” he said. “God knows you’ve waited long enough.”
The breath caught in my throat. The cool glass slipped from my hand and back onto the table with a bump. All my muscles seemed to be simultaneously tense and flaccid, like I’d gone into some unheard of form of medical shock.
All around me, I felt like the world should have stopped, but my father and his friends, even my brother sitting beside me, hadn’t reacted at all. They were talking about the latest football game and waiting for me to drink. One by one, they stopped talking and looked at me.
Then my father laughed and they all joined in. “The rules don’t apply in the Rose, my girl. God doesn’t dirty his feet in this little corner of the world.”