Title: Face Your Fears
Author: Bill Mathis
Genre: LGBT/General Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Eve leans over and whispers to Mikey and me. “They’re getting into the spirit so someone will get healed tonight.”
Mikey tries not to giggle.
His mom pokes her elbow into his side.
I’m confused. I don’t understand this getting in the spirit stuff. Why is everyone crying if someone’s going to get healed? Wouldn’t they be happy? How do they know who’s going to be healed? Besides Mikey, am I the only disabled person here? I kind of wish I wasn’t one right now. That way, I could stand up and look around to see if anyone else is. Does it hurt when you get healed? Would it be like one big spazz, then you’d be all better? What would it be like for Mikey? Would he feel his muscles get all strong again?
I wish Dad was here. He’s good at explaining things. He doesn’t go to church much. He says, “I’m a holiday Catholic, Easter and Christmas is enough, especially after twelve years of nuns and priests.”
The other day, I heard him tell Mom she was taking this borned again stuff too seriously. This morning at breakfast, he got upset when Mom told him she and Judy were taking us to a healing service.
Dad hardly ever gets upset, but he pushed his chair back hard and almost yelled. “Krys, this is going too far. He’s fine just the way he is.”
I thought he was going to say more, then he looked at Mikey and marched outside to the pool and started getting it ready for winter.
I wish Mikey could get healed. He’s the one who will get worser and worser, then die. I’ll have some surgeries and get a little better. I’ll probably live a long time in my chair.
After lots more singing, some people talk with weird words, Eve whispers they’re speaking in tongues. I hear a man ask anyone who wants to be healed to come down front. My wheelchair is back by the coat rack, so even if I wanted to, how was I going to get down there?
Mom leans over Judy and Mikey. “Nate, do you want me to get you in your chair and take you down front?”
I jerk. My eyes get big. I shake my head back and forth lots. I want to say hell no, but I don’t. “No,” I whisper kind of loud. “I’m not going anywhere in front of all these people.”
Mom sits back down. I think she looks sad. I feel bad, maybe I should have let her, that’s what she brought me here for.
An old man pushes an old woman in a wheelchair by our pew. She’s wrapped up in a blanket. Her head flops to one side. Her eyes are kind of funny and her lips have got spit bubbles coming out. Her feet stick out in front and she has pink fluffy slippers on. The healing man prays real loud and talks about the stripes of Jesus healing her. I hear him say he’s anointing her with oil. He repeats everything all over, but louder. Next, he asks if there is anyone else who needs healing. I’m not sure the old lady got healed, ‘cause she didn’t come back up the aisle walking.
All at once, Eve stands up and points down at me and Mikey. Part of me wants to head butt her for pointing us out. Part of me is scared as heck.
“Pray,” Eve hisses. “Close your eyes and pray hard. You too, Mikey. Pray!”
I put my head down and close my eyes. How do you pray? Does it have to be out loud? That would be crazy with other people next to me, especially Mikey. So, I think about walking and running and swimming by myself and not being in a wheelchair. I guess that would be nice. And then, no one would have to wipe my butt or feed me, that would be good for my family. But they don’t seem to mind, they never complain. It all seems regular to us. Mom’s the only one who wants me normal, but it’s not ‘cause she’s tired of helping me. I think she feels sorry for me, or sometimes guilty, which I don’t understand.
Someone touches me and I jerk. I open my eyes and the healing man is leaning over us. He’s old and fat. His shirt button behind his tie is popped off. He’s got stains on his tie and shirt and suit coat. He says all the same things over us he did for the old woman. I get tired after a while, especially the louder he yells.
I peek at Mikey. He won’t look back, which is probably good. We might start laughing. He looks a little scared and worried.
His mom sits straight as a stick. She looks upset and don’t even look down at us, just stares out at nothing.
I can’t see my mom, but I can hear her. She’s whispering and crying real quiet.
The man dabs some oil on my forehead and my arms and legs. “Everything is in God’s timing, so be prepared for a miracle at home,” he says.
He does the same to Mikey and goes back up front. They take an offering. At last they sing the last song, another long one.
The service is over, and my butt hurts from sitting on the hard seat. I don’t think nobody got healed. No one is talking about it. I think if I was healed, or Mikey, everyone would be excited for us. He tried, the preacher healing man really did try hard.
Judy lights a cigarette as soon as we get out the door. Mikey says she only smokes outside and when she’s nervous.
Mom straps me in the car and loads the chair. She kisses me, then asks in a croaky voice, “Nate, honey, do you feel any different?”
I think a minute. I know she really wants me to feel something different. I tell my brain to tell my left hand to move, but it only jerks a little, like it always does. I wiggle my toes, or try, as usual, they don’t do much, instead my legs and body spazzes. I look at her and shake my head. I look away, so I don’t see how she looks, but I think it’s sad. I feel bad, but I can’t tell her something when it ain’t true, that’s lying. Once she washed my mouth out with soap for lying.
Mom closes my door and goes over by Judy, who’s smoking by her door. Mikey climbs in and leans over close to me, his face almost touches mine. “I think that man was crazy! I was scared you’d get healed and I wouldn’t. Then you could walk and everything and make new friends, normal friends, and not have time for me. That’s why I didn’t look at you in church. Are you mad because I wasn’t praying you’d be healed?”
I kiss his cheek. “Mikey, you’re my bestest.”
He joins in, “And bestest and bestest friend in the whole universe.”
We giggle, he slides over and hooks his seatbelt.
Mikey’s door is still open, and he can see our moms. “They’re hugging. I think they’re both crying a little. Your mom’s saying she feels guilty ‘cuz it’s her fault you’re handicapped.”
“It is not! Some cord was wrapped around my neck when I got borned. She didn’t do it on purpose. What’s your mom saying?”
“That she’s scared I’m going to die young. She doesn’t think church or God will heal me and it makes her mad.”
He puts his finger up for me to stay quiet.
“Nate, your mom is saying she doesn’t understand why God didn’t heal both of us tonight, especially after all her praying. Maybe we’ll get healed at home.”
He waits some more, listening to our moms. “My mom said she isn’t going to hold her breath and your mom shouldn’t either. Now they’re hugging tight.”
We’re quiet. “Mikey, I’m scared you will die young, too.” Mikey reaches over and touches my shoulder. I think he’d like to slide over and give me a hug, but he’s buckled in and getting tired out.
“I’m okay. You’re okay. Dad says we have to take it one day at a time. I think that means not to worry. So, I’m not.” We don’t talk anymore.
Judy closes Mikey’s door and climbs in the front seat. Mom gets in and starts the car. It’s cool when the car starts, it’s got a big engine. It’s an old Jag with a stick shift, but it’s in good condition. Mom’s always getting it washed and waxed. Sometimes Mom jokes she should have been a race car driver instead of a CPA and owning her own accounting business. Both our moms have tears on their cheeks, but they don’t seem as sad anymore.
Judy wipes her eyes, turns and looks back at us. She smiles extra big, like she’s making herself happy. “How are you boys doing?”
Mikey looks over at me, shrugs his shoulders and winks. I don’t know what he’s going to say, but I’m ready to laugh. In a deep voice, he says like he’s an announcer or something, “Well, Mrs. Howard, I found that to be an interesting way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Almost better than watching the Bears.”
He and I giggle. Both our moms look like they want to laugh and cry at the same time. Judy stretches her arm between the seats and pats Mikey on the leg. “Oh, Mikey, you always see the humor in everything, don’t you? I like that about you and wish I was more like you instead of worrying all the time.”
Mikey pats her hand back, then looks out the window for a while. It’s quiet till Mom turns on orchestra music, real low.
After a while, Mom clears her throat. “Nate, are you feeling anything different happening? Are you all right?” Her voice sounds shaky, but not as much as before.
“Ma.” I say Ma when I want to tease her or get her attention. She doesn’t like me calling her that. “Ma, I’m fine, at least I’m not worse or anything.”
“That’s nice, honey. I’m…”
“Hey, Ma? That man’s breath smelled really gross. Maybe he was constipated or needed to brush his teeth. I thought I was going to pass out before I could get healed.”
Mikey looks at me like he doesn’t know what to do. Judy snorts like she sucked milk up her nose. “Oh my God! Krys, you look like you’re going to lose it. Pull over someplace. Quick, there’s a McDonalds.”
Mom whips the Jag into Mickey D’s, puts the shift in neutral and yanks up the parking brake. She and Judy burst out laughing so hard tears run down their faces and they can hardly breathe.
“Oh my God, Nate. What cabbage plant did we find you under?”
I’m glad I got Mom to laugh hard. I hope she forgets about getting me healed. My bony butt still hurts.