Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: One
Title: She Cried In The Rain
When I saw the Angel, I stopped and stared. I knew she was a statue. Cold, unfeeling stone. I’d walked past her every day for years, sometimes pausing and taking a long look. I loved her long hair, her fully spread wings, the way she held her sword. “If angels are real, I like to think they look like you.” Yeah. I told her that one day.
I stared because the Angel cried. Yes, it was raining, so I know you will say the tears were only rain running down her face. A coincidence, nothing more. But you weren’t there. You didn’t stop. You didn’t stand in the rain. You didn’t watch her tears fall. So you do not know. You were not there as I brushed the tears from her eyes and asked her, “Tell me, my angel, why do you cry today, in the rain?” You were not there when she answered me.
“My dear friend, I know you see me. I know you believe. I know to you we are real,” her voice was light, fleeting as the breeze, the music of the leaves of the trees as they rustled in the breeze.
“Of course you’re real. You’re an angel.”
I heard the sorrow in her voice, the sadness in the whisper of the wind, “Not everyone.”
“Then tell me, my angel. Who does not know?” I closed my eyes, felt the cold of the rain, and listened to the music of the rain, and the gentle breeze, as she spoke with me.
“A little boy and his mother visited the park today. It was a joy to watch him run, and jump, and play.” As she shared her tale, it came to life for me, and I saw what she’d seen. I felt what she’d felt.
I saw the little boy, pull his mother’s hand, “Mom! Mom! It’s a statue! I want to play near the statue!” His mother sat on a nearby bench, and he played. He hid behind the Angel, “Gotta be careful. Can’t let them see me.” He pulled a make-believe pistol from an invisible holster on his belt. He carefully checked the number of bullets left in it, then checked for extra clips on his belt. He nodded. “I’ll wait here. They’ll be here soon.”
His mother sat on the bench, holding her phone, tapping at the screen, oblivious to the game he played.
The boy licked his lips, wiped his brow, nodded his head, and whispered, “Now!” He leaped from behind the Angel, holding his imaginary gun out, pointing it at people as they passed by, pulling the trigger, and thinking, “Die! Die! Die! You’ll never take me alive!”
The angel could not believe what she saw. A child, playing imaginary games with guns. Shooting. Killing. Fighting. She cried out, “Stop!”
The boy stopped. He stared at the Angel. “What do you want, statue?”
“Don’t you know it’s wrong to kill?”
The boy laughed. “I’m not really killing anyone. I’m just playing a game.”
“Don’t you have any other games to play?”
“Nah. Only sissy games. I don’t play those. I play better games.”
“How are they better?”
“They’re more like life."
“Tell me how. How are they more like life?”
“It’s on TV every night. On the news. People shooting people with guns.” The boy sighed, “Like the big kids in the neighborhood.”
The angel closed her eyes and reached out to the boy. She saw the violence in him. The way his brother died; shot one night as he walked home from work. The way the other children he knew behaved. How they fought. “The strongest survive.” She realized, the boy was learning violence was the answer to everything. Taught by the people in his life. By the news each night, the songs he sang, and the games he played. Everything was teaching him to fight.
He knew no other way.
The boy looked at the angel. “You’re not real anyway. Everybody knows that. Angels aren’t real. They don’t exist. Like fairies. And unicorns. And all the rest. Make believe things. Not real.” The boy giggled. “Just a statue I can hide behind, as I try to escape the bad guys chasing me in my game.”
As the angel’s story reached its end, I stood beside her in the rain and wiped away her tears again.
There was nothing I could say. All I could do was kiss her cheek and whisper to her, “Little boys grow into men like me. And I believe.” Then, I slowly walked away. The Angel wasn’t the only one who cried in the rain that day.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.