Every Tear Unshed

It was the summer I turned eleven when I got famous. If someone brings it up now, Pa just laughs and tells me the right word is infamous. He says I should try to see it as a life experience.

Then again, he also called the whole thing a grade A shit-show.

It was Mikey that first told me about it. Her, I mean. The statue. He had talked us into cutting class on a June afternoon.

“Y’all tell it somethin sad, like what’s got you down,” he told us. “It makes things better.”

He led us past the strip mall at the bad edge of town. I looked around, wondering if I might see my brother who hadn’t been home in a while. Last time I’d seen him, he’d looked real bad, his eyes all sunken in and his teeth worn down. He wasn’t around this time.

Mikey led us across a used car lot, and through a dusty field to where an old mansion sat up on a hill. It was teeterin, half grown over with weeds. It was hot as hell and bugs was hollerin and the air was abuzz like lightnin was gonna jump right out of the earth.

Then I saw her, and for a second or two everythin went quiet.

She was standin in a dirty pond surrounded by lily pads. She was one of them old fashioned stone statues, one hand up against her head like she had a headache. She had a fancy set of wings spread half open, except one was broken.

Cigarette butts and beer cans lay scattered all around.

“Go on,” said Mikey. “Tell her.”

“Tell her what?” I asked.

“Say what’s gotcha down. Your problems. Look. I’ll do it.”

He walked up close and yelled, “I hate Connor Mackey cause yesterday he gave my sister a shiner and he ain’t no good for nothin and he should just get lost.”

Nothin happened. One of the boys snickered.

All around bugs was whirrin. I started wonderin how it was their legs that made the noise. How could little bugs holler so strong? They didn’t stop even for one second and I reckoned maybe that’s how loud the world is all the time if you’d just shut up and listen.

Then I saw somethin glimmer.

“See?” yelled Mikey.

A teardrop was slidin down the statue’s cheek.

“She can fix stuff,” said Mikey, quieter, leanin in near me, and I knew he wanted me to wish somethin about my brother, but I just nodded and said we should go back home.

That afternoon Connor Mackey got taken away for possession.

Word spread. Other kids came, and college students. Soon, everybody was showin up with sad stories. If somethin was broken or there was someone that was makin your life hard, a tear would slide down her face and she’d fix it.

It got crazy real fast. She was on the news and people all around the world was talkin about her, namin her, tryin to understand how she worked. Some reckoned she was a hoax or ungodly and others said she must be an angel, here to save us.

Every time I saw her on the TV, all I’d notice was her tears, streamin down her face.

*

“I wanna go back,” said Mikey.

I knew he didn’t have a good wish in mind, but I went anyway.

The police had shut the roads into town, but we knew the back ways in.

There was so many people there, playin guitars and drinkin beer, sellin bits of rock they said was from the statue. There was a boy with no hair who looked sick and one older girl was layin out on the dirt, starin off into nothin like Mikey’s uncle did before he went to rehab. I asked her if she was ok and she said in a funny accent, “Oh, pet. Every ting’s goin to be just grand from now on.”

We snuck up close, a jumble of talkin all around, as people tried to tell the lady somethin. Folks was pushin and cussin.

“Shut up! It can’t hear my wish over all yer yellin!”

“Touch me again, I’ll wish you dead!”

“Just try it, asshole!”

Someone threw a punch and a man fell right on me. I cracked my hand on the edge of the pond. Hurt like hell. Above the dark water I saw tears streamin down the statue’s face. Everyone was shoutin out wishes and you couldn’t hear nothin else.

“They ain’t gonna like this, lady,” I whispered. “But what’s makin me sad is seein how sad you are right now.”

An old woman gave me a double take, then leaned down close.

“What’d you say?”

A man looked at her and I heard him whisper somethin angry and it gave me a chilly feelin but then came this shudderin and shakin. There was a crack like thunder, then the mansion made a splinterin sound and the whole thing fell into itself.

People was shoutin, but no one ran away, because the statue herself had started to glow. The rocks began to break and fall and somethin inside all sparkly was crawlin out.

She was green and blue and red and every other color. She was floatin, stretchin out her wings. She looked at the broken one and raised it up a bit and she rubbed at her cheeks. Then she turned to me. Her eyes shone, flashin wild like cats do, like she was half-scared and half-ready to kill me.

Then she was gone. Just disappeared. People went crazy, yellin and fightin.

“Let’s GO!” yelled Mikey, pullin me away, leadin us home.

*

It was bad for a while. People was real mad at me. The cops had to stick around for days at our place. Some news guy said someone so young couldn’t have known just what had been squandered.

Some things people say are pretty awful, but Pa tells me to ignore them. “Shame ain’t nobody wished away all them assholes!”

Me and Mikey went back in the fall. You’d never know anythin was ever there. There was no sign of the house other than a few bits of stone half buried in mud. We searched around but even the beer cans and cigarettes was gone.

Mikey reckoned she might come back. “For you,” he said.

When it got dark we shivered our way home, walkin back through the woods, our breath slippin away like ghosts.

 

by

Paul Alex Gray

 

 

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