Writings / Fiction

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A Solemn Prayer

Tashania Colquhoun

Salt should do the trick, thinks Jevaughn. Maybe if I scrub with some salt, it will come out. In his 15-year-old mind, he remembers his mother always washing the rice, the lettuce, the meat with salt, claiming that it removed all the impurities that lingered in and on foods. “Purify,” she would murmur whenever he asked her why she used so much salt to wash with, cook with, soak with. “To purify.” That is exactly what Jevaughn needs to do. To wash the sick and rank odor of death and blood and sweat and guilt away from his barely creased hands. He spends 20 minutes in the bathroom, alternating soap and salt as he holds his hand under the scalding hot water, vigorously rubbing the back of his hands, the creases between his fingers, the flat of his palm, the curves of his finger tips. The water flows in one continuous, steaming stream, so strong it has lost its translucence, and to Jevaughn’s soul-crushing dismay, always with a tinge of fiery red.

What have I done? Jevaughn gawks in horror at his ashen, fear-stricken reflection in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. He has aged in the past 3 hours. He had left his mother’s tenth floor Tobermory apartment a boy, but had returned a man. The years and wisdom that he has yet to experience unfurl before him in silent agony. A part of him does not want manhood just yet. Whatever happened to Saturday morning cartoons? When’s the last time he went to the library and read one of those Tin Tin books? What wouldn’t he give up in this world to be 10 again, when life was innocent and less complicated. Before he learnt that you could “fuck” a girl with your cock and “fuck” a man up with a piece or a blade. When his only worry was multiplication tables and nouns and verbs. He used to sit atop the jungle gym bars, his bare feet dangling as he exchanged “yo momma” jokes with kids from the neighbourhood. Now, he dared any man to say anything about his momma. He’d cut the words out of the motherfucker’s throat before he could even finish his sentence, a threat he had stood by tonight.

The salt of his tears stings a scratch on his cheek. He feels the rhythmic pounding of an imminent headache pulsing at his temples. Into his palm he tips one Tylenol, no two, better yet three, which he swallows all at once and follows with a cupped handful of tap water that he both drinks and uses to wash his face. The sight of his wet, sullen face in the mirror reiterates the hopelessness coursing within.

Jevaughn stumbles down the hallway, his head swimming in tears and haunting memories of the crime he has committed today. He must lie down. He attempts to relieve the heat and pressure on his skull by loosening and removing articles of clothing. The waist of his jeans are around his ankles and his shirt hangs loosely from one shoulder by the time he flops himself face first into his bed. The low pulsing at his temples has matured into a complete, merciless attack on his frontal lobe. Sleep – that is what Jevaughn yearns for – to end this agony. Tomorrow, he will deal with this, he will know what to do then. The drowsiness of sleep comes to him within minutes, but his tears do not dry.

*                                              *                                              *                                              *

“And Lord I pray in earnest, as your humble and meek servant, Mabel Aleshia Palmer, that you please, please let Jevaughn be home safe and not out there running around,  getting himself into no kind of trouble. Lord, he is a good boy and I only ask that you please save him, God. Bring him into your bosom and protect him. Bring my son home to me every night, God. That’s all I ask. Some women have more than one children, but Jevaughn is all I got. He’s my light, God. Deliver him into my loving arms each and every night. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

Mabel’s eyes are still squeezed shut as she kisses the key she has been clutching against her breast in prayer. It is the same prayer she whispers every night outside her apartment door when she returns home from work. The words change, but the plea to God is always the same: Let him be home when I open this door. She does not give voice to her silent bartering with God – whom she will praise and repay by not going to the casino for a whole week if she finds Jevaughn at home; and the Devil – who controls the hand that pours the rum to soothe her disappointment if she does not find him there.

To Mabel’s relief, Jevaughn’s dirty running shoes are carelessly left at opposite ends of the hallway. His house keys are on top of the dining table and his spring jacket lies in a crumpled heap on the floor outside his door. She is too elated to be concerned about his lack of respect for common household courtesies. To be sure, she knocks twice on his door and calls his name softly. She hears a light groan, but her heart can’t stop racing until her eyes rest on proof that it is really Jevaughn in this apartment and not her mind playing tricks on her. She turns the knob on the door gently and peers into the room. A half-dressed Jevaughn is lying on his back, head cocked to one side as his chest rises with each breath.

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2 Comments so far ↓
  • Maritn says:

    Brilliant! It was riveting and left me wanting more. I felt the both jevaughn and his mother’s struggle and unconditional love for one another despite their circumstances like a rose among thorns. Keep writing young lady. Look forward to reading more.

  • Sasha Fellows says:

    This story has ressurected childhood memories and has captured the essence of innocence in a child and the instant you enter into a different life of adulthood, responsibility and pain. I would love to read more and see the development of the mother’s character. There is a curiosity I feel not so much about the murder but the roll the mother plays in her son’s transition from childhood to early manhood. Don’t leave us readers hanging! would love to see where this leads keep feeding your talent.

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