The Other Side of Light

By Leroy Bovee

Josh slammed the door rattling the picture window over his mom’s favorite bed of daisies. Should tear all the stupid flowers up he thought. Show her! Always nag, nag, nag – nothing ever good enough. Clean his room, do the dishes, pick up his clothes, did he do his homework yet? Now just when his favorite Transformers movie was starting on HBO she says he has to go to confession before the day got any older. Said it just like that – before the day got any older – as if that made sense. He kicked at the Rock Cress lining the walk and stubbed his toe on a boulder freshly covered by this spring’s growth.

“LOVE A DUCK!” he shouted – getting madder. No reason to pile up any more to confess. Only had to confess the stuff he said not what he thought. He pushed owl-eyed glasses up his nose and tossed lank blond hair off his forehead.

The church was on the next block. It was simple enough – a long rectangular building with massive oak doors opening on seven shallow steps that ran the front of the building ending at the sidewalk. Above the door a single bell tower pointed to the sky – heaven’s signpost according to Father Timothy. The simplicity ended when you walked in the door. Every window was a stained glass Bible story that lit the air with vibrant colors. Josh paused. Walking through the doors was like stepping into an alternate universe. The hush that greeted him was not merely quiet it was tomb-like, which, when you think about it, is spooky for a church.

Josh continued through the foyer into the sanctuary. The ceiling as high as the peaked ridgeline ran the length of the building. At the other end a crucified Christ hung before a round window depicting Golgotha. It cast him in shadow. Holy Crosses Batman, someone ruined the bat signal thought Josh. He snickered to himself. He hated confession. Kneeling on the plush, velvet stool while Father Timothy called him “My son” and said “awe” and “oh” and “uh huh” to his stream of wickedness was really retarded. Sometimes he made stuff up just to see if he could shock the priest. Today was different. Father Timothy listened in silence. When he was finished the priest did not assign Hail Marys or rosaries, he asked two questions. What would happen if Josh said only positive things? What would happen if Josh did things for his mom before she asked?

That was too much. Now Father Timothy was nagging? Josh would have slammed the confessional door, but it’s hard to slam a curtain. He did pound his fist into the foyer door. Boom. The noise was satisfying. The jolting pain up his arm was not. As the door swung shut the Holy Water Fountain caught his eye. Josh stomped to it, took his glasses off and scrubbed them in the water. That’s what I think of this church, he thought. Still dripping, he put the glasses back on just as the priest entered the foyer.

“Are you okay, Josh?” asked Father Timothy.

“I’m wonderful,” muttered Josh. The light gets weirder and weirder he thought. The priest seemed to be bathed in golden light. Like it was coming from him not shining on him.

“I have a towel, if you need, for your glasses.”

“I..I..I don’t need a towel,” he stammered, stumbling backwards. When the priest spoke gold light had spilled from his mouth, rolling toward Josh. And when he answered, was that muddy blue color coming from him?

Josh turned and ran for the door. He pushed through the door and stepped carefully into the late afternoon light, shutting the door quietly. He sat down abruptly on the first step.

Across the street was Geyson Building Supply and Hardware. Mrs. Serber was coming through the door with a bag in one hand and dragging her son Danny, at arms length, with the other. The five year old was screaming and trying to kick his mother. This was not an unusual scene. Every step or two he screamed “I want candy.” It became a vaudevillian cadence that any other time would have been funny. Scream – step – kick –“I want candy” – scream – step – kick and repeat. Truly funny stuff if you were not Mrs. Serber.

What took Josh’s breath away were the colors. Mrs. Serber was enveloped in a cloud of swirling yellow and orange. Danny was surrounded by gray, blue, and black. He seemed to be sucking the color from his mother and as it joined his cloud it flashed red, dulled and joined the funeral march of his own color scheme. When he opened his mouth to scream, black gushed in streams from his lips – his face momentarily disappearing behind the pall. The color around Mrs. Serber dulled to a flat gray as she took a fresh grip on Danny’s hand and jaw set walked down the street. Before she turned the corner sunlight flashed off a single tear silently tracing her cheek.

A moment later a couple came around the corner. They walked arm in arm – hips bumping – in sync and out of step. The boy was feeding a cloud of iridescent red and the girl white-yellow. Together they floated in a mist of mellow orange. As they spoke – their words puffs of red and yellow/white – the color streaming from their mouths twined and caressed each other.
They passed a few feet away. Josh felt calmed and strangely peaceful looking at them. With a jolt he noticed tendrils of orange snaking from them and wrapping around him. The color around his body lightened.

As they bumped down the street they passed Mr. Benson. The tendrils touched his light brown transforming it to pale tan. Mr. Benson looked up and smiled. Old Lady Crawford had stopped to lean on her cane and rest her aching hip. Once again orange tendrils reached and caressed dull red and faded pink producing a corona of orange and another smile.
To Josh it felt as if the church step was a ship’s deck, all the color and movement tingeing his senses with vertigo. He lurched to his feet and headed for home. The trip home was a series of snapshots.

Snapshot. The Miller’s house. Dr. and Mrs. Miller fighting at peak performance – explosions of color bursting through the windows and door (which they never seemed to close) firework bright in all but sound and sulfur atmosphere.
Snapshot. The Stanley brothers. Leather vests stretched over bulging muscles and awesome stomachs. Tattoos their art. Cadillac sized motorcycles their religion. Surrounded as they talked (yelled) and laughed by voluminous clouds of intense golden light. Josh had heard they gave all their spare time to raising money for the children’s hospital. Now he believed.
Snapshot. A pick-up game of hoops in the Weller’s driveway – shirts and skins – everyone was laughing, yelling, just having fun. White, greens, light blue, and orange, colors swirling – mixing – reaching for him. As he passed he felt the excitement and understood a feeling of belonging.

Snapshot. The Alders, in their 90s and still living on their own, sitting on the porch rocker hand in hand – vague shapes in a fluorescent glow of warm gold. Josh felt the warmth of their contentment like a stove on a cold day. He waved and said hello. He was surprised to see his voice a soft orange and their returned greeting pure white.

At home he opened the front door quietly. His mother sat at the kitchen table with slumped shoulders, resting her head in her arms. Her color was pale gray with a filigree of yellow. He looked around the room. His school bag lay on the floor, books spilling out. A pair of his socks peaked from under the couch and his jacket lay crumpled in a corner where he had thrown it. He remembered Father Timothy’s second question. What would happen if he did things before his mother asked? Josh began picking up his things. As he worked he noticed thin tendrils of orange reaching for his mother and as if sensing the approach of love, his mother’s faint yellow brightened and met his part way.

Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student