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A Life Near the Bone
“And I am come to deliver them…unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Orange County, California
April 3, 2050
“My cup runneth over.”
The sun had risen early that morning and watered my room with pale, ageless sunlight. It was the type of light that illuminated the dirty air so that I could see the little specks of dust floating in whirlpools around my room. I sat up, my back cracking a little bit, my eyes weary and crusted with cobwebs of sleep. It was summertime when it happened, so I had woken up late.
I looked at my fingers in the morning light. I was the only one who had these fingerprints. I knew this because my third grade science teacher had told me that everyone’s fingerprints were different.
I padded down to the kitchen and tossed some yogurt and bananas into the blender, then watched as they whirled into something deliciously pink. I didn’t realize it then, but I was lucky to have any breakfast at all.
April 3, 2050
“For too long have we been trampled under the iron feet of oppression, too long bound in the starless night of racism.” –Martin Luther King, The New Yorker
“When it rains fruit, the poor have no bowl to catch it with.”
She put her hands on her hips and called out to the children with an old, deep voice of a woman who had felt great pain and lived many years.
“Come, little ones,” she sang in a voice that knew the world.
Her sixteen orphaned grandchildren came to her with open arms, for they knew she was the source of their one daily meal.
Out of her pocket came a handful of moldy millet, infested with bugs and grime. The children cheered. She dropped the handful of life into a pot of lukewarm water, and the children watched as it billowed out into a thin, almost colorless broth.
Orange County, California
April 3, 2050
“Who steals my purse, steals trash, ‘tis something, nothing/’Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands.” –Othello, Shakespeare
“The poor…all broken, humble ruins of nations.”—Carl Sandburg, “Masses”
As I sipped my smoothie, the world stopped. A shadow came over the world and
blackened the sky until it was not black like the night, but black like an enormous wallowing hole, gaping at me in terror. The hole was made up of evil faces and black wings, of walls, of hatred and prejudice and terror.
The earth started to shake, but it was not an earthquake. I could feel the shaking beneath me like a distantly powerful vibration that burned into my very being.
People ran out of their houses now. They were screaming, grabbing their children, all staring at the hole yawning at them in the sky. Mothers wept, children clutched their parents’ legs, and all looked at the blackness in wonderment.
I ran back inside and turned on the TV. The reporters told of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, mud slides…all happening in every country…every city…every town. And as world crumbled, the sacred places tumbled to the ground.
The reporters inside my television screamed to find an open field and stay there. But we just stood, dumbstruck, like everyone else in every town in the world. Ash flew around my head in circles of confusion, and I hugged my sister tightly with one arm and squeezed my brother’s hand in the other. Love burned in my heart that I had never felt before. My brother looked at me, his eyes fearful in the flaming light.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
I opened my mouth to say something, but—
“I don’t know.”
As people began to swarm around me, I noticed with interest what they clutched. It was not what they had valued before when their world was calm…it was not their money, their jewelry, nor their fine leather steering wheels. Instead they clutched their loved ones, their husbands, their daughters and sons…in so much desperation that it brought tears to my eyes.
And then, suddenly, the world stopped shaking. The sky was still black, but not the same kind of black it was before. Now it was a peaceful, nighttime black. We looked around. The darkness was gone, but it had left its mark.
Not one room was left standing. They were but random bricks and splinters of wood.
And then it began to rain.
Ironically, the road was intact. Little did I know that it was the road to a better place. We lay down on this road, our heads pressed against the wet asphalt. But we didn’t care…we were alive. And it was then, after the fall of the world, that we realized that we were just all humans…there was no difference between us, pink or purple, black or white.
Nothing except for the shape of our fingerprints distinguished us. Our clothes, nice or ragged to begin with, were all now reduced to tatters.
We were one nation and one people—people lucky to be alive, people thanking God for every breath we drew in.
The next day, world hunger ended. When someone was hungry, we would all forage for food, and after we ate, we planted the seeds instead of throwing them away. This is how it was across the entire world. The only difference in us was the color of our souls, and these bloomed inside us like a fiery blue flower bursting with exuberance and life.
And so, when one person wanted something, we shared. And as we built up our world once again, we kept our newly found ways. We planted trees in the ruins of our old world, then shared its harvest. And when we were tempted to move back to our old ways, all we had to do was remember.
“Poverty…is a life near the bone where it is sweetest.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“I am the Alpha and the Omega.”—Revelation, The Bible