THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER
Here’s another segment from the book ”Sharon.” We see Michelle going through her day and returning to face the harsh realities of life. Thirty pieces of silver means a lot.
Michelle found her way to school that morning. Her day was uneventful. Most of her days were like that. She paid attention in class, and made fairly good grades, but her life was somewhere else. It was in her apartment with her mother and her eleven year old sister.
Her little sister had cancer. And all the chemo in the world wasn’t going to change that! The little family had lived with this fact for eighteen months. Each day the disease ate a little more of the little Puerto Rican girl, and each day they wondered if it would be the last. Michelle had prayed until her knees were stiff for her sister to be cured, but the little girl progressed slowly down, slowly down, slowly down!
This made no sense at all to Michelle, who at fifteen, was just beginning to find that there was a bigger world than the little projects off Westend. She never let on in school about her situation at home, but everyone knew that Michelle didn’t do much of anything at all. No parties, no football games, just every once in a while showing up at “Holy Joe’s” church and that was about it. The main reason that she’d done that the first time was because of the bus that came around every Sunday morning. She didn’t even let them know that her and her family didn’t have a father in the home. He’d never been there, really. Finally he found greener grass and did what he’d threatened to do all along.
Michelle’s mother was a small woman. Often taken for the older girl’s sister rather than her mother. A pretty lady of about thirty, she worked in one of the burger barns down on Westend. Michelle’s mother was a good Catholic. The communion wafer never touched her tongue as long as she was living with her husband because they had not been married in the Church, but now she was back.
Confession had cleared it all up, both with the Church, and with her God. Her devotion to the Blessed Mother was the driving force of her life. She considered that she’d made one mistake in her life marrying her husband outside the Church, and now, praying her Rosary daily as an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary, she vowed never to make that mistake again!
Her faith was her only consolation. She worried about Michelle, now the same age that she had been when she gave birth to the girl. She prayed for “Joley”, her nickname for the youngest, but, surprisingly, she had consigned the girl’s fate to Mary. The Blessed Mother had never let her down, and whatever decision she made now would be the right one.
She had met “Holy Joe,” and didn’t think anything bad about Michelle going to his church every now and then. She knew that the girl had her priorities in order. Joe’s church was nice, but the Church of the Immaculate Conception was THE Church. Still, he was a very nice man. He’d been by a couple of times to see them, and even prayed with Joley once. He didn’t preach to
them. His main concern was to give the little apartment as much peace as he could.
Michelle found her way home about four in the afternoon. She could ride a bus, but she preferred to walk. It was cooler now and the air smelled so good. In Michelle’s world there were few really good things, and a good day was much appreciated. The little apartment was very clean. You walked into the living room, which measured about eight by twelve. Right behind that was the kitchen, which was about half that size. Beside the kitchen was a little storage room where they kept can goods and things like that. Upstairs were two bedrooms, both small, and one bath. Michelle’s mother had “dolled” up the little place, and, to be perfectly honest, it was home.
It was more home now that the father had left. He made more trouble than was compensated for by what little money he parceled out to the family. But, he left deep dark secrets in the house. Of everyone there, Michelle was the happiest that the man was gone. She carried her little secret inside, and she never let it out. She had prayed to the Blessed Mother for one other miracle, and Mary had granted it. The man left shortly after that. Michelle’s faith was unshakable. Rich kids get to go to doctors, and fancy clinics. There are laws, and there are social services. Michelle had Mary, and Mary had done a good job. And all she charged was a Rosary.
She slept in the same room with her little sister, but no longer in the same bed. As the illness progressed it became impossible to sleep still enough to avoid causing the little girl pain. Michelle made a little pallet on the floor beside the child. She was very attentive to any whimper, request, or moan. No matter how late, no matter what the request. And each afternoon she brought the outside world to the little shut in.
“I saw the lady again today,” she greeted Joley as she ran upstairs.
The little girl’s eyes brightened but she did not sit up, “What did she say?”
Michelle sat in a chair near the bed. She was very careful not to touch the bed. The pain the little girl had didn’t have a location, it was just “there” and any unexpected movement brought it into her eyes, though she rarely cried out. “She told me, that when we say the Rosary we should always say, ‘Oh, my Dearest Mother Mary, behold us your children in prayer before Your Immaculate Heart.”
“Not ‘at your feet?”
“No! She told me that we all pray before her heart, and that we should acknowledge it to her when we pray the Rosary. She also told me that God would not lead us into temptation. We should say instead that we don’t want to fall into temptation.”
The little girl turned over onto her side and slowly reached for her drawer to get her Rosary. She was weak, and the movement caused her to have pain, but that was OK. She had to try the new prayer to see how it felt. Her hair was very short, and her skin had a yellow tint to it. She pulled the little beads from her compartment and found the bead that went with the first mystery. “Oh, my Dearest Mother Mary, behold us your children in prayer before your Immaculate Heart. Yes! Yes! It does sound good!”
She eased back, and closed her eyes. She’d put up a good five minutes, but that was all she had for now. Michelle knew it was a dismissal, and left the room. She went into the bath, and sat on the tub. There were no words, just tears, but she didn’t sob out loud, because she didn’t want to wake Joley.
The Butcher Shop