Eight years old with freckles that cover, cowboy boots that kick, blond hair that glistens and little ears that listen …
“I love you,” He heard it as he ran by the picture.
Ricky only had one speed – fast. On his way to the kitchen he heard it – The Voice. “I love you.” By the time he slowed to a jog he was half way across the Living Room. Ricky tilted his head dipped his right shoulder and changed directions. Back to the Foyer he had just bolted through – where he heard, The Voice.
When he reached the corner, that turned left into the Foyer, he stopped. He stood at the edge of the carpet before it changed to ceramic tile. Like a hunter stops at the edge of the woods, before stepping into the clear, he surveyed the room. He stared straight across the Foyer. He looked at the landing, where he had just landed – after jumping most of the twelve steps from upstairs. He slowly scanned the right wall, the wood entry door was closed, his eyes looked again at the landing and then slowly moved up the stair railing – nothing.
Who said that? He scanned the left wall of the Foyer – closet door slightly ajar – aha. Sister must be hiding in there. As quiet as pointy-toed-cowboy boots could tip-toe across tile he approached. And all at once, with all he had, he swung open the door and let out his best lion’s roar(which sounded more like a scarred cat.) Nothing. Nobody in the closet. Nothing but coats – and stuff. But no Sis.
“I love you.”
“Huh?” Ricky jumped.
His eyes left the closet. He inched sideways, pausing between each small-sliding-step.
It was the first thing you’d see entering the house. Hanging on the Foyer wall, opposite the entry door, was a picture; framed in silver. A small light illuminated from the top. Actually, it was three pictures in one.
The first thing Ricky saw was the face of Jesus – staring, right, at, him. He walked slow, eyes glued to the eyes glued, to him. The 3-D picture changed to Jesus on the cross, as Ricky moved front and center. The little boys head tilted slightly as he gazed at the man on the cross. He had never really looked at it before. The man’s head was bleeding from what looked like pointy sticks wrapped around his head. And blood ran down his hands and feet and side.
The little boys chin started its little quiver, it always happened just like that. First his lips grew tight. The corners dropped. And the bottom lip pushed up, making a quivering, upside down smile. And then, three jerky inhales through his nose and an exhaled whimper caused his eyes to leak – every time, just like that. Ricky’s sisters always knew the dam was going to break as soon as they saw that quiver. Kids at school knew, too. And they were cruel. “Cry baby’s quiver – here comes the river,” they’d say. Ricky hated it, but he couldn’t help it. His eyes dropped to his pointy boots, and saw a tear hit the tile. I feel all mixed up, he thought, with his upside down smile.
He slid his sole across the liquid soul pouring out on the floor. He moved two steps to his left wiping his eyes with the tail of his tee-shirt. When he looked back the man wasn’t on the cross, but floating in the clouds – How come He’s looking right at me? A white robe –like a sheet – wrapped around Him. He had scars, holes in his hands and feet, but He wasn’t bleeding. His hands and arms were open wide as if to say; “I love you.”
The quiver quickened, and the river flowed. A little boy’s knees hit a wet tile floor. Little hands rose toward the man in the clouds. And a little voice whispered, “I love you, too.”
The little boy grew, into a man. The pictures long gone, but the man in the picture and His Voice live on…listen I think I hear Him now.
“I love you.”