ILittle seven-year-old Veronica Davis sat on the uncomfortable church bench with an ever growing impatience. Dressed in her Sunday best on a Saturday, amidst ninety degree weather, she was stuffed into a compact, one room church like a sardine in a crushed sardine can. Though she did not know it, Veronica was attending a funeral.
As her legs dangled playfully from the wooden bench, Veronica observed gobs of people weeping with great passion: some in sincerity, some just followers of the crowd. Every time the man in black—Father Cristo to the adults—said something new, the people gathered in the assembly cried out in great agony and remorse. Unfortunately, the Father’s sermon lasted for the most tedious forty-five minutes she had ever experienced, so the adults’ ridiculous behavior endured with the melancholy message. Just as the girl’s legs were finally standing still, her head sagging downwards ready to fall into a lively nap—much more lively than the service, anyways—to pass the time, the Father finally quieted himself.
As soon as the Man of God has shut up, the congregation commenced to cry, snort, and snot for a lengthy spell. Once the commotion has reached a climax, the room grew silent save for the shuffling of a few feet. Then the choir came onstage and led the population in a dry, wearisome song about God, his angels, and how everyone couldn’t wait to see the Savior some glorious day. Veronica was trying desperately to make sense of all the stuff going on around her, but couldn’t—and the things she did think of were paltry explanation and made the situation altogether more confusing.
The slow, depressing hymn ceased; the man in black came back to the center of attention. Both of his arms were extended heavenward in a sign of surrender, and he was chanting some silly words Veronica had never heard of before. The girl looked around and saw that practically everyone had their head bowed towards their chest and were murmuring gibberish as well, so she decided it only reasonable to do the same. When the chant—or rather, prayer!—had concluded, the congregation stood. Veronica stood also.
Six burly men that were tall as trees came out from the sea of occupied pews and made their way down to the base of the sanctuary, stopping at a large black box. Three of the men went on each side of the oblong thing and hoisted it off its resting place on the pedestal. In a scrupulous manner they carried the box down the middle aisle of the church and out of it once the doors were opened for them. As the doors creaked open, Veronica grew happy for cheery bars of sunlight crept into the mournful place; this could only mean that a small matter of time separated her from leaving the dreadful place.
By and by the people began to file out in an orderly fashion from the church into the free and waiting world. Veronica thought that once outside, she would be going home soon so she could play with all her friends—her hopes were proved wrong. Instead of being escorted home in her father’s mediocre sedan, she was lead to a bright green field encased in a fence of iron. She tried to ask her parents where they were going or where they were at, but did not receive an answer—only a sad look and a shake of the head.
The girl noticed while being in the field that the beautifully trimmed grass was speckled with monuments and tablets of stone, which she thought quite odd. The church people were in the field, circled around a rectangular shaped hole. Veronica took notice that the strange black box was now being lowered in the hole—never to return.
Veronica clapped both of her tiny hands to each of her ears because now the distressed wailings of the mourners had reached an all-time high. Waiting about a full two minutes before she dared let go, Veronica lowered her hands. The crowd began to dissolve as people blew their noses into a trusty handkerchief, taking their leave.
Feeling obligated to do something other than standing idle, Veronica watched as two men grabbed shovels in effort to fill the hole with dirt. Though the task the men were performing was simple, it entranced Veronica because it seemed, even in her mind, that what they were doing was something gruesome and eerie.
She continued to watch them pour dirt into the hold until she felt a large, but gentle hand clasp her left shoulder. Turning to see who it was touching her, Veronica’s face lit up like wildfire: it was her grandfather.
“Grandpa!” the girl exclaimed elatedly, jumping into the old man’s waiting arms in a loving embrace.
The elderly fellow caught the girl, planted a stubbly kiss on her smooth cheek, and laughed a merry laugh spawned by joyful love.
“Ronnie!” said he, his voice cracking with age. “How are you, my love?”
“Good, Grandpa! I’m good! How about you?”
The man’s face contorted into a wrinkly, warm smile. His chestnut eyes locked with Veronica’s blue ones and he said, “Well good! I’m glad! How would you like a flower, missy?”
Veronica squealed with delight, her mouth transformed into an eager smile; small pearled shined graciously in the light. “Yes, Grandpa!” she said. “I want a flower! I want one! Give me a flower!”
He sat her down and produced a daisy. He twirled the flower in his hands, pretended to take a whiff of it, sneezed for her giggling pleasure, and then tucked it behind her right ear. He stood back a ways, arms set on hips to admire his handiwork.
“There!” he announced. “That makes you look might fine, my dear. It brings out those lovely golden locks of yours. Lord have mercy, I think you’ve turned into a little princess!”
Veronica giggled again. She loved it when her grandfather would act silly.
Just then Veronica’s father showed up on the scene. Grandpa, taking note of her father, turned to him, gave him a big grin and said, “Lookee here, Jimmy! I’ve got me a princess.”
Jimmy smiled when he saw the flower in Veronica’s hair and said, “Well you got lucky, dad! Where did you find this princess at?
Grandpa stoked his chin in thought. Then: “I don’t rightly remember, Jimmy. It seems as if she just appeared to me right out of the blue!”
Jimmy crossed his arms in defense. “I believe that the princess you’re trying to win over is my daughter. Be careful, now—if you do anything to hurt her you’ll be in it deep!”
Grandpa bowed in a likeness that suggested he was the perfect gentleman and extended a hand for Veronica to take. Once latched on to him, Grandpa turned to Jimmy.”
“May I take Princess Ronnie—er, I mean your daughter—on a dance, my Lord?
Jimmy let the matter weigh on his mind. “I suppose so. Dance away, my man!”
Then, with her father’s permission, Grandpa lead Veronica in a silly—but fun!—waltz through the open green field. They danced faster and faster, and spun crazily like tops till at last, they fell upon the grassy carpet, defeated with exhaustion.
Veronica’s mother—called Rebecca by adults—came over to the two with a faint smile, but a grey sadness set deep into her eyes. She held out a slightly trembling hand for Veronica, and when pulled up, dusted the spots of dust on her gown.
“Veronica,” her mother inquired, “how did you come by getting all dirty like this?”
A gleeful laugh erupted from Veronica. “I was dancing with Grandpa!”
Rebecca rolled her eyes, sighing. Then, turning to her father, she said, “Are you going to come up off the ground anytime soon? I’ve had enough of this dreadful day already and am peckish!”
A groan issued from Grandpa. “Yeah, I’ll get off the ground! Just hold your horses!”
The man humorously pulled himself off the ground and with a faint pip of his back he was standing again. He took Veronica’s hand and said, “Are you ready to go eat something, pumpkin?”
Veronica licked her lips and rubbed her tummy vigorously in agreement.
“Good,” Grandpa said laughing, and began to walk Veronica’s parents to where the cars were parked.
The family walked in a straight line, hand in hand—a rare sight. Veronica looked left and right and saw that something that didn’t quite match up. There was something missing out of the equation. So she stopped walking and in thus doing so made everyone else halt in their jaunt.
She thought a bit, and then found the answer; her eyes grew big and she tugged at Grandpa’s sleeve. “Grandpa,” she said, “where’s Grandma at? I haven’t seen her all day!”
Veronica saw her grandfather’s dark eyes moisten and eventually overflow with tears. His lower lip trembled and quivered; his face became a mask of sorrow. He looked down on her, his face gentle as ever but saddened. “Oh honey,” he said, voice weakening with emotion, “Grandma’s gone away for a while.”
Veronica raised her brow. “Gone away? Where, Grandpa?”
The man shuddered; the tears were now a constant waterfall flowing in a steady stream.
“Honey,”—he shuddered a second time—“she’s gone to bed and will be sleeping for a long time to come, I imagine.”
“Wake her up, then!” Ronnie demanded.
A pained chuckle came from Grandpa’s throat. “I wish I could, honey, but only Jesus can wake her up now.”
And with that said, the man buried his face in his hands and wept. Veronica stood by and watched as both of her parents tried to console the old man in his sorrow. While she did, Veronica wondered how a person—her grandmother, for instance—could to sleep and not wake up.
The thought both frightened and fascinated her.
It took Grandpa a long while before his crying ceased. When he did stop, however, the family did not go to a restaurant and eat as planned; rather, Grandpa went one way, and Veronica and her parents the other. Veronica had overheard her mother tell her father that Grandpa needed some “alone time.”
After buckled in the car to leave, signaling for the highway, Veronica gazed out her window from the backseat. As the car turned, she said goodbye to the strange field with the big rocks. When she was about to look away, the sight of a boy caught her eye.
The boy was plain looking: he had brown hair, freckled skin, and was short. He was kicking a tin can and was standing by the gate of the strange field. Veronica was about to dismiss him when he looked at her—made eye contact. What made the exchange so different was the fact that his eyes were green; but no ordinary shade of the color—they looked like lizard eyes, burning with a secret fire from within.
Those eyes bore into Ronnie’s soul and knew her in an instant. They flared, and a flash of emerald brilliance blinded her—pained her. She had to look away.
Blinking hard three times, Veronica finally had her sight restored to her. She scavenged for him out the window, but found herself lacking of query.
The boy had vanished.