A Morbid Sort of Anecdote
“I got a proper story,” said Derrick around the campfire.
“Alright. Let’s hear it,” said Josh.
Derrick hit some rum out of a water bottle and began, “So my mom gets a phone call early one morning. It’s the police and they say they found her sister’s body. She goes in to confirm the body. When she gets home that day her face is a mess. I ask her what happened and all, and she won’t tell me for a couple of days. I did overhear her on the phone the first morning talking to different people, all I had made out was that her sister had been found in a river burnt and scarred. I became obsessed with curiosity. How could you get burnt by a river? So there I was a little youngster, sick with torment.
“I did not sleep for two nights while obsessing over the river. I had vivid nightmares of a burning river devouring anyone near it. It looked like any other river until you tried to take a sip of the cool water or cool off your tired feet, then it would spread like an angry inferno.” He paused and tried to perceive the reaction of his story, “My parents were so caught up in the death that they thought I was just in shock.
“My prayers were finally answered when my mother explained to me what had happened. I will always remember that moment. My mom tells me that her sister was hit by lightning as she was kayaking in the river. I was relieved in a way because I was no longer curious. It left me very fascinated but scared nonetheless.
“It was the first funeral I ever attended. I remember a man of the church giving a speech. Something he said jarred me, he said, ‘God took her away.’ I asked my mother, you know that week or whatever, I ask, ‘Did God take your sister?’ She tells me of course that God took her sister. So I ask something like, ‘did your sister do something wrong, against God?’ My mother gets agitated by my question and slightly offended. She tells me that her sister was a great woman and was kinder than anyone she’d known. Now mind you I was not introduced to death up until then. I knew what God was but did not understand death, and the only person I knew who’d died was struck out the sky by lightning.
“I get it in my head then that that it is the only way to die. I imagined God spending every day looking down at the world randomly striking people down with huge bolts of lightning because of how someone was dressed or because they were not exciting enough to watch. There was a storm one night and I was distraught with terror and fear. Everyone thought I had lost my mind, they found me shaking and sweating. I was hiding from God.”
Everyone was quiet and coyotes howled above them in the canyon walls. Everyone’s gaze went from being on the fire to being on Derrick’s face. He knew he had told everyone too much about himself.
C.A. Murray is getting his MFA at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. His poetry has been featured in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.