Note from the Author: This is the story I mentioned entering into a contest. I posted about the contest on this blog on July 29. Please give it a read and let me know what you think. Just remember, this is my story. Do not steal or copy it in any fashion. (Copyright 2011)
Eric Ferguson woke up Thursday morning to the sound of his cell phone ringing. Without opening his eyes, he felt for the device on the coffee table that stood next to the couch he had called his bed since the day she left. He picked it up. The tune playing was “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. It was Katie’s favorite song. It wasn’t his ring tone, though. It was his alarm clock, so he pressed a button on the side of the phone to silence it.
Slowly he peeled his eyes open. Shafts of morning sunlight sliced through the slanted window blinds. The light stabbed his eyes like tiny needles even though he was squinting. The pain was intense, so he slowly stood up and shut the blinds the rest of the way before fully opening his eyes.
He looked around his living room. Empty beer cans and bottles were everywhere, as well as half-finished bottles of vodka and whiskey. A half-empty glass of what Eric thought was whiskey and Coke sat sweating on top of his Bible. He picked up the glass and wiped the ring of condensation off the cover of the book. He stared at the glass for a while. His mouth watered to drink the concoction, but he knew he couldn’t. Over the course of the past week, he had existed in a state of mind-numbing drunkenness. He didn’t remember much of it. He didn’t even really remember the night Katie left because he had already began his journey into the depths of the bottles of Jack Daniels due to the pain he felt because of what she was going through. He just knew he woke up one morning and she was gone. He couldn’t remember if he even said good bye. He hoped the memory would come back to him if he cut back on the booze. Besides, he had somewhere to be.
He put the glass down on the coffee table and picked up his Bible. Looking at the cover, he smiled a faint, sad smile. She had tried to get him to become more religious since they day they were married two years ago. Near the end, he finally began to read the book, but it was too late. Her faith had made her so strong, but she still left. Maybe if he had found religion sooner all the pain could have been prevented.
Eric walked toward the hallway. He stopped in front of the fireplace and looked at the pictures lining the mantel. One of them caught his eye. It was a picture of him and Katie standing in front of the Ferris Wheel at the state fair. It was their first date, and he had fallen in love with her that night. She looked beautiful in the picture. Her shoulder-length red hair was tucked behind her ears. Her blue eyes sparkled with the carnival lights. Her perfect teeth gleaned out from a stunning pair of glossy, red lips. She had three freckles on her left shoulder that formed a triangle, and they were clearly visible next to the strap of the white tank top that clung to her petite body. Her bellybutton could be seen above her short jean skirt. She was radiant with beauty.
Standing next to her, Eric thought he looked like crap. His brown hair was a little long and shaggy. His brown eyes weren’t looking at the camera. They were turned down to look at her. His jeans were frayed, and he had a stain on the chest of his white T-shirt from when they were sharing nachos and some jerk had bumped into him on the midway. The plastic nacho tray smashed into his chest, leaving cheese and bits of tortilla dripping down his stomach and to the dirt below. He probably would have gotten into a fight that nigh, but Katie just laughed about it, which kept him calm. That’s when he knew she was the one for him.
He took the picture off the mantel and carried with him into the kitchen. He sat the picture up on the table, and he put the Bible next to it. Then he poured himself a bowl of off-brand Captain Crunch – his favorite – and sat down in front of the little shrine he had constructed.
Staring at the picture, he realized he remembered the entire date. His friend, Shawn, was dating a girl named Aubrey who was friends with Katie, so the two set him up on a blind date. It was his first blind date, and he was very nervous. He spent the entire day washing and vacuuming his pickup. He picked her up at Shawn’s house, and when she came outside, she took his breath away.
“I told you Aubrey had hot friends,” Shawn said quietly as they leaned on the hood of Eric’s pickup.
“Wow! I should have listened to you sooner,” Eric said.
Shawn chuckled. “It’s a good thing Aubrey can be so persuasive. Your stupid ass probably wouldn’t have ever agreed to this if she didn’t give you those damn puppy dog eyes. I tell ya, women are evil. They can always get what they want from a guy, but I don’t mind giving in when I get to do what I want in the sack, ya know?” Shawn asked with a wink.
Eric smiled. “I get it.”
Katie and Aubrey walked up to them.
“What are you boys talking about?” Aubrey asked with a devilish smile.
“Well, Eric here was just saying how beautiful Katie was,” Shawn said matter-of-factly.
Eric blushed and stammered as he tried to respond.
Katie flashed an award-winning smile and said, “Why thank you, Eric. It is great to finally meet you. Aubrey and Shawn have told me a lot about you.”
Eric smiled. “It’s great to meet you too.”
Eric remembered walking her around to the passenger’s side of his pickup and opened the door for her. She climbed in and he ran around and jumped behind the wheel. As they left, he remembered seeing Shawn and Aubrey standing on the sidewalk watching them go.
When they got to the fairgrounds, they walked around and talked for a while. Eric soon learned a lot about her. He found they had a lot in common. They both skipped college to just get jobs because school wasn’t for them. She, like him, loved eighties music and scary movies. Being outside was preferable to being inside, and she grew up on a farm with three older brothers.
They shared an order of fried alligator and then ordered nachos. They were standing in front of a beer garden laughing at the drunks stumbling around when a large man’s stomach slammed into Eric’s back. It threw him forward into Katie. The nachos were smashed between them.
“What the fuck?” Eric said turning to look at the man.
“Sorry,” he mumbled around an ear of roast corn and a funnel cake.
“You sonofabitch,” Eric said, starting toward him.
Katie grabbed his arm, laughing. “It’s okay. I didn’t get anything on me,” she said with a wink.
Eric smiled at her and looked down at his chest. Nachos were smeared all over him. “Dammit.”
Katie continued to giggle. “Here. I have napkins,” she said as she began to wipe the mess off of his T-shirt.
After he was left with only a large yellow spot on his shirt, the two went hand in hand down the midway. When they got to the Ferris Wheel she stopped him.
“I want to ride it,” she said looking up at the brightly lit gondolas.
“Okay,” Eric said and fished some money out of his pocket to pay the carnie running the ride.
When their turn came to ride, they sat down and Katie snuggled up to him, putting her head on his shoulder.
“I’m really glad I came,” she said into his arm.
“Me too,” he said before lightly kissing her on top of the head.
She sat up.
“Sorry,” he said, his eyes wide with alarm. “I shouldn’t have kissed you like that.”
She shook her head as the ride began to swing them upward. “No. You shouldn’t have.”
Eric’s eyes dropped to his lap as the ride came to a stop at the top of its circle.
“You should have kissed me like this,” she said gently pulling his head up by his chin.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion. The entire fair was lit up behind her like some magical backdrop. Her eyes slowly closed, and her lips parted. When her lips gently touched his, he swore he felt a jolt of electricity. He put his hand behind her head and kissed her back.
They didn’t break the kiss until the gondola jolted forward and began to take them down. They looked deep into each other’s eyes, and Eric’s heart began to hammer in his chest.
“I won’t ever forget you,” he said.
“So you’re getting rid of me already? After one kiss? Don’t guys usually try to sleep with a girl before dumping her?”
Eric blushed. “No. No. That’s not what I meant. I just . . . shit. Sorry.”
Katie laughed. “I know what you meant. I was just teasing. It was perfect.”
Eric simply looked at her in wonder as she jumped off the gondola. Eric almost went around for another ride because he was too stunned to realize he too needed to get off.
“Hey! Get the hell off!” the carnie shouted.
This shook Eric from his shock and he jumped off and joined Katie on the ground.
“Let’s take a picture,” she said as soon as he was beside her.
Eric chuckled. “With me looking like a hobo in a stained shirt?”
“Yep,” she said with a smile as she fished a digital camera out of pocket Eric didn’t know she had.
They stood close, and she held the camera out in front of them. The flash would have blinded Eric, but he was too busy looking at the girl he was in love with.
It was a great night, Eric though as he finished his bowl of cereal.
He picked up the picture and kissed Katie’s image.
“I miss you,” he said to the image. “I miss you so much.”
Tears began to sting his eyes, so he stood up and took his Bible with him to the bathroom off the hallway. He looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot. Maybe it was from the drinking. Maybe it was from the crying. He also saw he needed to shave. He hadn’t done much for his personal hygiene since she left, but he needed to that day. He had important things to do.
He lathered up his face and began to shave. His mind continually wandered back to Katie. The bathroom smelled like her perfume. Strands of her ruby locks were woven between the bristles of her hairbrush. Soon tears mixed with the shaving cream floating in the sink full of water.
When he finished clearing away his facial hair, Eric stripped out of his T-shirt and boxers before crawling into the shower. He felt a slight headache coming on. He needed a drink, but he wouldn’t have one. He turned on the shower and let the cold water beat down on his head. Slowly it warmed up, so he turned around to let the water massage his shoulders. He started to reach for the shampoo but pulled his hand back short of the shelf where the bottle sat. Sitting next to his shampoo was Katie’s conditioner. Next to it was her razor.
Tears began to stream down Eric’s face. He grabbed both the conditioner and the razor. He popped open the bottle of conditioner and inhaled the fragrant fumes. It put him over the edge. He began to sob. His body convulsed with the emotion exploding from him. His knees began to feel weak, so he sank to the bottom of the tub and sat there bawling as he clutched the bottle of conditioner and the razor with the water spraying down on him.
Eventually he regained his composure and finished cleaning up. He dried off with one of the fluffy bath towels Katie had bought for them after they got married. He dried off quickly so he wouldn’t dwell on that fact.
He left the towel on the floor and walked naked out of the bathroom and down the hall toward his bedroom. He walked slowly, though. He hadn’t gone into the room since she left. At the door, which he had left closed, he stopped. To the right of the door was a picture of him and Katie from their wedding day. Emblazoned on the picture frame was the Bible verse from their wedding. It was from Song of Solomon, Chapter Two, Verse Sixteen. It said, “My lover is mine, and I am his.” He starred at the picture. As usual, Katie looked radiant in her flowing, white wedding gown. Her smile was so big it took up almost the entire sixteen-by-twenty-inch image. She had worked for months on a tan, which was difficult because she said red-heads don’t tan. As usual, Eric thought he didn’t belong next to her. His tuxedo fit well, but his looks paled so much in comparison to hers that he still wondered how he was lucky enough to snag her.
Even though he was fighting withdrawal-like symptoms from the lack of alcohol already, memories were flooding back. He remembered the wedding day like it was yesterday. It was a warm day in late May. At least one hundred people were packed into the Christian church Katie and her family attended. Eric stood at the front of the church. Shawn, as his best man, stood next to him. A few of his other closer friends filled in the groomsmen positions. His mother sat in the front pew, next to his grandmother and grandfather. His father wasn’t there. He had left them when Eric was four years old. Katie’s mother and grandparents were in the pew across from his family. Her mother, like Eric’s, was smiling and crying at the same time. Every face in the crowd, though most of them only knew Katie, was beaming with pride for the couple.
Aubrey, who was then married to Shawn, stood on the other side of the altar with a few of Katie’s other friends. They were smiling and trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill from their eyes.
When the organist began playing the wedding march, the entire crowd of well-wishers stood up in unison to watch the ring bearer and the flower girl, two youngsters who lived down the block from Katie’s parents and attended the church, walk down the aisle. Then Katie began walking toward the front of the church with her father as her escort.
Once at the front of the church, Eric shook hands with Katie’s father and held her hand as they turned to face Pastor Mike, who had been Katie’s pastor since she was three. Eric didn’t remember what Pastor Mike said exactly. He just remembered looking into Katie’s eyes and knowing he was marrying the woman who was put on this Earth for him. His hand shook when he placed the ring on her finger, but he wasn’t nervous about the kiss he delivered when Pastor Mike told him it was time to do so. He kissed her long and hard. Shawn started whistling, and soon the crowd was hooting and hollering for them.
The reception afterwards consisted of Eric and Katie dancing close, thanking family and friends for coming and watching everyone get drunk in celebration. Neither Katie nor Eric drank much, though. They both wanted to be clear headed for their first night together as a married couple.
Right before they left for their honeymoon suite, Shawn pulled Eric aside and slipped something into his hand.
Eric looked down at it and saw it was a condom. “What’s this for?”
Shawn laughed. “If I have to explain that, then we’ve got some serious issues here.”
“No,” Eric said, laughing. “I know what it’s for. But why?”
“You don’t wanna knock her up the first night you’re married.”
Eric shrugged. “I don’t care if I do. I love her, Shawn. Having a kid with her would be great.”
Eric didn’t use the condom. He wouldn’t have been able to even if he’d wanted to. Katie came out of the bathroom wearing a black negligee that made Eric’s jaw hit the floor.
“You like it, mister Ferguson?” she asked.
Eric nodded. “Yes I do, Missus Ferguson.”
She smiled. “I like the sound of that.”
Eric stood up and went to her. They embraced and kissed each other deeply. His mouth traveled down her neck. He stopped at the triangle of freckles on her shoulder to kiss them, and then he continued down to the valley between her breasts. She moaned softly as she slid her fingers into his hair. He slid his fingers up to the negligee straps over her shoulders. He slowly pulled them down to reveal her naked body.
“I love you, Katie,” he said.
“I love you, too,” she said.
They didn’t make it to the bed the first time.
Eric made love to his new bride three times that night on almost every surface in the room. The shower was his favorite.
The honeymoon in the Bahamas was enjoyable. If they weren’t lying by the pool sipping on drinks, they were in their bedroom. It was a week-long session of passion.
Eric put his hand on the picture. Tears were running down his cheeks again, and he had a slight erection.
“I miss you, baby,” he said to the picture.
He took a deep breath and grabbed the doorknob. He slowly twisted it and swung the door open. He made a bee-line for the closet where he fished out his best suit and dressed quickly. As he checked himself in the mirror, he caught a glimpse of the bed. He couldn’t avoid it any longer. He turned around.
The sheets were still thrown off of her side of the bed. Eric swore he could even see an indention of where she had been laying her last night there. Next to the bed were the heart monitor, oxygen tank, saline drip and other machines. The people from Hospice House hadn’t come to pick up their equipment yet.
“Oh, Katie,” Eric whispered to the empty room.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer ten months after they were married. It moved quickly. It reached her lymph nodes in her armpit and raced throughout her body. The doctors said they were shocked with the speed the cancer was moving, but they were hopeful. They began treatment immediately, but the chemotherapy didn’t do the trick. Eric remembered the day the doctors gave the worst of the news.
It was four months ago. He and Katie sat in the doctor’s office holding hands. Katie was weak and sick from the treatments. The doctor came in and sat down on the edge of his desk. He wasn’t smiling.
Eric looked up at him. Desperation in his eyes. “What’s the good word, doc?”
The doctor grimaced. “It isn’t good. The cancer has spread too far. It is attacked nearly every organ in your body, Katie. There’s nothing more we can do.”
Eric and Katie looked at each other. They both began to cry. Eric pulled her in close to him, hugging her around the shoulders.
“So she’s going to die?” Eric asked.
“I’m afraid so,” the doctor said.
Anger flared in Eric. “That’s not fucking good enough! You’re a doctor for Christ’s sake! Help her!”
The doctor’s shoulders sagged in his white lab coat. “I’m sorry, Mr. Ferguson. It’s not worth putting her through the pain of more treatments when we know it’s not going to work. The best course of action now is to get hospice involved to make her as comfortable as possible until the end.”
“Fuck you!” Eric shouted.
The doctor stood up. “I’m sorry. I will have the nurse give you the phone number for Hospice House. It’s a good organization. They will do all they can for her,” he said. Then he left.
Eric and Katie sat in the room for nearly an hour as they cried and clung to each other. After a while, they left, and Eric called Hospice House as soon as they got home. By the end of the week he’d made the arrangements to have the care provided in their home. He quit his job to care for her as much as he could.
That’s when he finally found God. He began by reading the Bible. Sometimes he read it silently to himself. Other times he read it to Katie. At first, she would respond and they’d talk about what he was reading, but towards the end, she was too weak to do much but lie there and listen between naps. He even started attending church. Pastor Mike was very comforting, and Eric began to pray for the one thing that stood out in everything he read from the Bible. He prayed for God to show Katie some mercy.
She fought hard, even longer than the doctors expected. She stopped eating, and it became difficult for her to breathe. That’s when the oxygen was added to the array of machines already hooked up to Katie.
Then she finally left. The pain and suffering ended.
“Why did you leave me, Katie?” Eric asked the empty bed. “I know you were in pain, but I need you, Katie. I miss you. I love you. I’m sorry you had to go through what you did, but I wish you were still here.”
As tears streamed down his face, Eric went to the bed and sat down on his side. He lied down and pulled Katie’s pillow to his chest.
When he was able, he got up and smoothed his suit. He left the bedroom, grabbed his Bible and left the house. He got in his car and began driving toward the Christian church where Katie’s funeral was going to be taking place. As he drove, he again wished he could remember the night she died. Something was bothering him about it. He just wished he could remember so maybe the pain would go away.
As he pulled up to the church, Eric looked at the sky. It was overcast, and the air carried the familiar smell of rain that was on the way. There was a barely noticeable breeze. The parking lot was silent. Walking up to the doors of the sanctuary, he realized his senses were turned up. He could hear the gravel crunching beneath his shoes. He could feel every pebble he stepped on. The door hinge seemed to creak incredibly loud when he opened the doors, and his footsteps were deafening as he walked down the aisle toward his pew. The floor was polished to the point it seemed to glow as if it were lighting his path.
As he walked, he saw many familiar faces in the pews, but very few sounds were being made. A few people had puffy, red faces and were dabbing at their eyes with tissues. Near the back a baby whimpered. He heard an old man clear his throat.
Eric sat down. The pew felt harder than normal beneath him, but it didn’t bother him. He felt numb, and he was still wrestling with himself to remember Katie’s final night on Earth. As he wracked his brain, he inhaled deeply. The perfume of the flowers lining both sides of the church and the altar filled his nostrils. It nearly suffocated Eric, so he looked up at the ceiling. Fans slowly spun overhead stirring the thick air.
Eric looked down at his shoes. They were scuffed and dirty. Katie would have been pissed if she’d seen them. He wished she was there to nag him about his appearance . . . or anything for that matter. He just wished she was there.
Pastor Mike stepped up to the microphone at the front of the church and lightly cleared his throat. Eric looked up and saw Pastor Mike’s eyes were focused on the back of the church, so he turned and saw two guys in dark suits wheeling a casket toward the front. Eric could hear the wheels squeaking quietly as it traveled forward. The casket was a deep maroon with silver handles. Each handle had the letters K and F engraved on them. Atop the casket was a beautiful array of lilies, Katie’s favorite flower. This was the first time Eric had seen any of it. Katie’s parents had handled the arrangements for him, including the decision to have a closed-casket service and no visitation since Katie had wasted away as she battled the cancer. Eric was in no shape to do much of anything after she died. To people on the outside it probably didn’t look good that he wasn’t involved, but he didn’t care and neither did Katie’s parents. Katie’s father had become the father Eric never had, and they understood that it was too much for him to bear, even though it wasn’t easy for them either. After all, Eric had been the one who found Katie dead. Hadn’t he?
Eric didn’t hear a word of what Pastor Mike said. He was lost in his own thoughts. He didn’t even remember standing up to walk with the casket out to the cemetery. He was a zombie. The world finally came back into focus when he stepped outside. The sky had darkened, and he could feel the moisture in the air. The bell of the church began to clang out into the still air. It rang once for every year Katie had lived.
The bell wasn’t the only sound that accompanied them toward the cemetery for the graveside portion of the service. The wheel on the casket was still squeaking, and Eric could hear the scuffing of everyone’s shoes on the sidewalk.
In the cemetery, the pallbearers, one of whom was Shawn, carried Katie to her grave and sat her down on the apparatus that would eventually lower her into the Earth. Eric took his seat next to Katie’s parents on the lawn chair provided by the mortuary. They were under a green, canvas canopy held up by four wooden poles. Beneath their feet was turf rolled out to cover the dirt exposed from the digging of the grave.
Once everyone was outside, Pastor Mike again spoke to the crowd, and again Eric heard little of it. After Pastor Mike was finished, the crowd began filing past to shake hands, give hugs and express their condolences to Eric and Katie’s parents. As he shook hands with people, Eric realized he was still clutching his Bible.
I have this Bible because of Katie, he though. I will always keep it with me.
After a while, everyone went inside, but Eric stayed sitting next to Katie. A few hours later a person working for the mortuary came up to him as he sat lost in thought, continuing with his struggle to remember Katie’s final night.
“Excuse me, sir,” the man said.
Eric looked up at him through tear-filled eyes. “Yes?”
“I need to, um, lower the casket. Would you like to leave while I do that?”
Eric shook his head. “No. I want to sit out her for a little longer.”
“Oh. Okay,” the man said uncomfortably.
The whine of the motor pounded against Eric’s eardrums, and he felt his headache coming back as he watched the love of his life being lowered into the ground. Once she was safely at the bottom, the man collected his equipment and left Eric in peace. The sky darkened further still overhead, but there still weren’t any sounds. No birds sang. No crickets chirped. Nothing accompanied Eric but his thoughts.
After a about a quarter of an hour, Eric began thumbing through the Bible. He didn’t notice when Pastor Mike walked up and sat down on a chair beside him.
“I’m glad you’re turning to the good book for help, Eric,” he said.
Eric jumped a little and looked over at the man. “You scared me.”
“Sorry. I was just getting ready to leave when one of the mortuary workers told me you were sitting out here. You should come inside, Eric. Let them finish their job.”
Eric was confused for a moment, but then he realized the grave was still open. “Oh. Sorry. I was just thinking.”
Pastor Mike nodded his head and patted Eric’s knee. “I understand. And I’m glad you’re seeking solace from word of God. He has a lot to offer those who are grieving. Have you found any comfort in His words?”
Eric shut the Bible. “No. Not really. I’ve been trying to think about the night Katie left, Pastor. I can’t remember it clearly. I was, um . . . well, I was drinking a lot near the end. I know it was wrong, Pastor, but I was trying to deal with everything.”
Pastor Mike sighed. “I understand why you did it, but, Eric, the Bible could have helped you so much more. And church could have been your support. You were coming so regularly once Katie got sick. Why didn’t you tell me you needed help?”
“Church was helping, and so was the Bible,” Eric said. “The booze just helped take the edge off. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, Eric. God forgives you. He understands,” Pastor Mike said. A brief silence spun out between the two. Then Pastor Mike attempted to redirect the conversation. “Well, if the Bible was helping, what exactly was it that the Bible told you that helped you?”
Eric sat still. He had his elbows on his knees. “Well, at first. It created a bunch of questions. Everything the Bible said was about how God showed mercy to those who believed. Yet there was Katie, the strongest believer I knew, and God wasn’t showing her any mercy.” Tears brimmed Eric’s eyes. “Why? Why? Why couldn’t God end her pain? Why didn’t he make her better?”
Pastor Mike draped an arm over Eric’s shoulders as the widower began to cry. “It simply wasn’t in God’s plan, Eric. Healing her wasn’t his plan. And he did make the pain and suffering go away when he called her to heaven.”
“No!” Eric said angrily. “That’s not good enough! If his plan was to just let her die, then why didn’t he let her die sooner so she wouldn’t have suffered so much?”
Eric’s eyes were wide with rage, and his body was shaking. Pastor Mike took his arm off of Eric’s shoulders and picked up the Bible from his lap. “Well, let’s look in here for an answer to that question,” Pastor Mike said.
Shaking his head and exhaling loudly, Eric flopped back into the chair.
As he began thumbing through the Bible, Pastor Mike noticed one page’s corner was folded over. He turned to it. “Look, Eric. You were on the right path it seems. You have the Chapter Three of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes has a lot of good advice for the loss of a loved one.”
Suddenly Eric sat up straight. He body went ridged as the memory he had been chasing all day began to come back to him. “Ecclesiastes?”
“Yes,” Pastor Mike said, happy he was reaching the man. “You even have a few verses marked.”
Eric’s faced had turned pale. “What verses?”
“Verses One through Eight, which say, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.'”
Eric jumped to his feet. “Oh, God!” he cried out.
“Yes!” Pastor Mike exclaimed. “God! God is great!”
“No,” Eric said, turning to the pastor. “That’s not it. I just remembered the night Katie died.”
“Well that’s great!”
“No it’s not.”
Eric took a deep breath and began to speak rapidly as he paced back and forth in front of Katie’s open grave. “I was drunk. I was reading the Bible to Katie. I read that chapter and I started to wonder if it applied to us. I thought about mercy. I wondered why God wasn’t showing Katie any mercy. I got angry. God wasn’t doing his job! The Bible said there was a time to heal, a time to die and a time to kill. But God wasn’t doing any of that!”
Eric was nearly screaming. “What are you saying?” Pastor Mike asked, his voice and face strained with concern.
“God wasn’t doing his job,” Eric said with an eerie calmness. “So I decided to finally do what Katie and you had been urging me to do from day one – act as God and the Bible tells me to. So I did it. I crawled into bed with Katie, and I told her what I thought. She was too weak to respond, but I looked into her eyes, Pastor. I knew what she wanted, so I got up, cracked open a fresh bottle of Jack and downed half of it in three swallows. I remember my hand shaking as I reached for Katie’s oxygen bottle. I started to cry. I slowly turned off her oxygen. Then I finished the bottle and crawled into bed next to her. I passed out. I barely remember calling the ambulance the next morning. I started drinking again as soon as I woke up. I haven’t been sober since that night. Until today. I don’t remember anything from the past few days.”
Pastor Mike was shaking his head frantically. “No! No, Eric! I can’t believe what you’re saying!”
Eric sank to his knees facing Katie’s grave. “I’m so sorry, baby,” he cried out. “I was just trying to help. I wanted to stop the hurting.”
Over head, a flash of lightning was closely followed by an ear splitting clap of thunder. Eric looked up at the sky. “I’m sorry!” he bellowed, digging his fingers into the soft dirt as large drops of rain began to fall.
“You’re evil, Eric!” Pastor Mike shouted over the coming storm. “How could you do that to poor Katie? How could you kill her?”
Eric began to sob. “I didn’t mean to kill her. I just wanted to take the pain away. Oh, God. What have I done? Please forgive me. Please, God, show mercy on me. I just wanted my baby to stop hurting.”
“You are an animal!” Pastor Mike shouted as he began to walk away. “Damn you! Damn you, Eric Ferguson!”
The heavens opened up and rain began to dump from the sky. Eric staggered to his feet, his hands still clutching clumps of dirt. He looked up at the sky and screamed. “I’m sorry, Katie! I love you! I love you so much! Please, forgive me!”
He sank into one of the chairs under the canopy. He put his elbows on his knees and pressed his face into the dirt in his hands. He cried. He cried long and hard.
“Why did I do this?” he asked himself. “Why?”
The rain continued to fall. Bolts of lightning flashed brighter and brighter in the dark sky. Over the drum of the rain on the canopy and the frequent explosions of thunder, Eric heard the sound of sirens in the distance.
“Mercy,” he cried out. “Please show me mercy.”