In the valley of Lower New Orleans, in the shadow of the pawn shops, the Court Cashier, the state assistance check, You are with me.
The rod of foster care under Mac Davis gave me no comfort.
Comfort belonged to You and to Laurie.
She was my staff and my standard. My lover forever. My nineteen-year-old hero.
She led me to the Missionary Baptist Church, here, and to You, from a path of pick-pocketing at the Winn-Dixie, and petty theft from those afraid of my fists, and of the violence in me that drove them.
She lay with me beneath her grandmother’s Creole lace throw.
She restored my body to me and to love.
You restored my soul.
You led us in the path of Carver High graduation together and in the path of righteousness, past the street corners crowded with the call of cash and pills, to 10-hour days earning just enough to feed ourselves and the ever-more-hungry rent.
I feared no evil.
I forgot to.
You were with me when they found Laurie after four days, gray as November and torn every way a woman can be, in the elephant grass where Mac dumped her.
Forgive Mac his covetousness, for I did not.
Forgive the police their protection of this foster father of eight who kicked back a slice of his government checks to them, for I did not.
Forgive the hollow-eyed boys, unread and unloved, who sold me a gun, for someone must.
You prepared for me an unlocked screen door to Mac’s house, and did not wake the children there as I crept by their sleeping bags, so that I might come to the presence of my enemy.
You made me strong in the presence of my enemy. You marked my heart with a moment of doubt. You filled it with memories of Laurie so that I might pull the trigger on a sleeping man.
You anointed my head with infamy, so that I have been fleeing sirens since.
You anointed my head with guilt, so that I might come to You here for sanctuary from myself.
You anointed my head as ‘armed and dangerous’, as Yours was crowned with thorns.
My eyes and heart run over. My fingers run Laurie’s senior year photo between them. My time runs out.
They are with me, just outside the door, with rifles raised and visors lowered. Mac’s cousin is lead sergeant.
Surely goodness and mercy have seen their end in this life.
I am ready to dwell in Your house forever.
Bless those who will pull the trigger on me. Bless this man who will not be taken alive. Or consign me to eternal fire where I need never see the cold gray of November.
The officers come. Your will be done. In Desire as it is in heaven.
Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a staff writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. The 2010 Spinetingler Award winner, Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has work printed in publications such as NEEDLE magazine, Speedloader, D*CKED and Pulp Ink, and online work featured at numerous sites indexed on matthewfunk.net.
His story “The New Way” can be found in the debut issue of Grift.