I have a big brother in the sky. His name’s Raff, he likes ice cream, and his eyes are yellow like the sun. He’s real tall and takes me out flying with him to catch lightningbugs. He’s got these big old white wings that are fluffy as my kitty. Sometimes, when it’s dead winter and I’m shivering, he’ll wrap his wings around me like a blanket. I know I can always count on him to make me laugh when I’m crying or tickle me awake when I nod off in church, like now.
Raff’s perched by the edge of my coloring book like a bird: “May-flower, time to wake up: Sunday school’s over and you knocked over your juice when you nodded off. The sermon’s soon. Don’t worry, I cleaned up the spill.”
“Aww, Raff, why did you ruin my dream? I was like Princess Leia, except instead of being captured by Dark Vader-
“Darth Vader, sweetheart.”
“Yeah! That scary butt. Instead of being his prisoner, I beat him up really good with a pink light saber. It went pow-pow and sliced him right in half!”
Raff frowns like he just smelled an onion from granmama’s garden. “That sounds unpleasant. I think I should start taking you to more kid-friendly movies.”
The sermon starts, and Raff goes away to do whatever the silly fool does.
He’s up there in the sky, I’m guessing, going about his heavenly business. He tells me it’s real important, but I dunno if I believe him. My pa’s a real businessman – a lawyer, he dresses up in a suit and tie and everything, but Raff wears these silly outfits like you see on those Christmas cards, with those funny looking angels flying round the manger of baby Jesus. Except those angels are all white, and Raff’s brown as a sun-baked potato. I told him so later that night: angels are only pretty blonde women in white dresses that sing soprano, and he laughs so loud I think the sky’s falling.
“We’re not all white, May. Look at your Papa. He’s one of the most holy men around.”
Raff’s sorta right, I guess. Papa Leggie is a nice old man with a fine long beard and skin the color of wrinkly wood, with a big long cane he carries everywhere with the keys to Heaven clinking on the grip.
Raff says he’s something like a saint. I don’t know about saints, but Leggie’s a real charmer. He laughs a lot and says he likes my curls, and sometimes, he even lets me play with his dog. It’s a white dog, real fluffy, and real little just like me. Leggie likes sitting in the park and watching flowers grow. I say: Leggie, what are you doing alone? Why don’t you have a wife? You must be awful lonesome. But he ain’t. He’s happy, in his quiet old Papa ways.
Momma don’t believe me when I tell her about my friends. She tells me I’m just indulging in childish fantasies, and oh honey, isn’t our child just so precious! Sure I am, but just because I’m precious doesn’t mean I’m lying. That’s the problem with grownups: they’re stupid. They can’t see what’s right in front of them, the silly coots.
Dinner rolls around, and granmama sits on the porch sipping on sweet tea and talks on and on about Satan and how I better watch out! – otherwise he’s gonna come snatch me up because you’re playing on the wrong side of the street again, you silly child, so come back to your granmama and stay away from the traffic. She doesn’t like me playing over there, but I do it anyway when she ain’t watching. Raff helps me cross the street. Mostly I just don’t wanna eat dinner because I know momma made peas again, blech. Guess I’ll feed them to Raff or Leggie’s puppy. I don’t know why they like peas? I bet the mean old Devil grows them in his garden just for me and delivers them straight to momma’s door.
Why this Satan man would want me, I don’t know: maybe it’s because I’m just so precious, like the diamond on momma’s wedding ring. I ask Raff if that’s so, and he laughs again, then wraps me up in his big old arms and tells me: “Honey, I’ll never let that fool get you. Satan’s scared of little girls.”
“Well,” I say, “he should be. I’m mighty fearsome.”
I tell that to granmama and she says: “Child, how do these silly ideas get in your head?”
I tell her Raff said so, and she just smiles.
She never believes me either.
It’s some holiday or something, and church is awful boring. We sing these silly songs and clap our hands and sing, Alleluia! Praise the Lord! The granmamas shake like Kingdom Come and belt out the lyrics. It sounds oh so beautiful, and I like to dance to everyone’s song.
I don’t know what an Alleluia is. I ask Raff, and he says it means we’re praising God. Then I ask Leggie why God wants all that praise, and Leggie smiles a bit and says He don’t need it, but people do it anyway, so it’s fine by Him. Leggie’s real close with God, he tells me they’re poker buddies. Don’t know how I feel about that, but I guess it’s okay to gamble if you’re a saint.
I ask Leggie if God goes to church, Leggie says no, so I tell him God’s a bad Christian. Granmama says if you don’t go to church, Satan’ll get you, so I tell Leggie God better watch out.
Leggie gets this sorta sad look on his face, so I tell him I’ll protect God because Satan’s scared of little girls. Leggie smiles then and lifts me up, up, so high in the sky, I’m flying with the stars. It’s awful cold up there, so he gives me a special blanket that feels like a kitten’s kiss.
I have a little kitten, y’know, and she kisses me all the time. It’s cute as a button. My kitten is just so dang adorable.
I tell that to Raff, and I ask him if he thinks so. He pets my kitten’s back and watches her purr, like a lil fire engine, then tells me she’s gonna be a mean fierce momma cat someday. I ask him if I’ll be a mean fierce momma, and he tells me not to rush my childhood.
I hate it when adults say that, and I tell him so. He tells me he ain’t no adult, but I don’t believe him. Tell me what you are then, I say. He tells me he’s an angel, just like before, and I laugh so hard I almost fall down the porch stairs. Ain’t no angel got a five o’clock shadow!
Raff’s pretty gentle, but he’s got edges. Poky bits like a knife. The kind I use to mush my gross nasty peas with.
Raff’s covered in scars he says he got in a war, and his face is awful fierce sometimes when he ain’t smiling. He shows me his sword, and I say it’s cool, but not as cool as a light saber. I have a little blue light saber – my second favorite color, there were no pink ones, a shame! – that lights up and makes blasty woop-woop noises, just like Dark Vader’s. I wonder if there’s a Light Vader too, a princess of the galaxy, except her armor is white like Leggie’s fluffy puppy?
I take out my light saber and show it to Raff. He has to admit my light saber’s darn fierce, but then he says wait, honey, watch this, and fwoosh! His sword lights on fire! I scream and giggle and tell him he’s gonna burn himself, but he doesn’t and just holds it all superhero-like, and then I gotta admit, it’s almost as cool as my light saber.
My kitten don’t like the flames though, she cowers and mews, so Raff puts it away and goes back to petting her. Raff likes cats a lot. I tell him he better find a wife soon, otherwise he’s gonna be an old cat lady, just like Leggie and his dog, and he looks at me all funny and says: I can’t be an old cat lady, honey, I’m a man.
I say no you ain’t. Men don’t have wings. Raff says: I know, honey, I’m an angel and a man, and I says: no, you’re an old cat lady, you silly fool. Now go dress up in a nice suit like my pa and find yourself a job, then a girl, then buy a house and stop squatting on my roof.
I’m still working on him, but I think with a little training, Raff’ll make a nice husband for someone someday.
I just gotta find the right woman for him.
It was raining awful hard today, so I just sat at my table, bored as anything, drawing Raff with a crayon. He posed for me real nice, all still as a painting, and I just feel so bad, because he don’t know what I’m gonna do.
“Raff? How do you spell batch-a-lore?”
He looks at me all funny. He’s always looking at me funny, head sideways, lips squiggly like chicken scratches. Maybe I’m a funnyman like Bill Cosby. “And why do you want to know that, May-flower?”
I start stumbling over my words, then cross my fingers behind my back to save myself from the sin of lying. It’s awful hard, lying to an angel. Something about it ain’t right. “Because I’m drawing a storybook, and this is the prince. The princess’ll only know he ain’t taken if he’s got batch-a-lore on his crown.”
Raff takes a slow sip of his Coke. I steal him food from the fridge every morning. Momma always wonders where the mac and cheese went then gets all huffed up at my pa. Mac and cheese is Raff’s absolute favorite, next to my granmama’s gumbo. Yum yum yum!
“You’re a funny kid,” he says, ruffling my hair like a momma bird. Then he tells me how to spell it, and I write the word real careful in big blocky letters, just like my teacher taught me to. Her name is Missus Lovelace, and she’s sweet as anything! She makes us apple pie and lets us play with hamsters. She even let me bring my kitty in for show and tell, once. That was before it peed on the carpet. Oh well.
It’s still nasty as mushed peas outside. The Devil must be beating his wife – that’s something my granmama says when it rains. I tell Raff that, and he bursts out laughing.
“The Devil’s scared senseless of his wife, honey,” he tells me. “All men are, deep down.”
Since we’re on the topic of women, I just gotta ask. “If Satan’s gotta wife, then why are you and Leggie alone? The dirty old Devil ain’t got nothing on you. He’s not a pinch as pretty like your fluffy wings – all he’s got is gross spidery bat wings and fangs – and, and slimy scales!”
“I don’t need a wife – May, why in the world are you doing drawing hearts on that paper?”
“Nothing,” I say, real real guilty. I cross my fingers even tighter. I hope God doesn’t look down on me from his poker game with Leggie and see me lying to an angel.
Raff gets this look like he knows I’m up to no good, and in that moment, I swear, he’s just like Santa Claus. I pray to the Lord I don’t get a big stack of coal for Christmas. I really really want another light saber or maybe a cassette player.
“Let me see that,” he says, and before I can hide it in my jumper, he snatches up my drawing. He reads it, and his eyes get wide as the moon. “Raff – heart, another heart- illegible? Oh – eligible… bachelor?’ Eligible bachelor? And more hearts?” He looks at me mighty scared. “Raff the eligible bachelor? Is this a personal ad?”
I look down at my sneakers. “No,” I mutter.
“Now May, look: I appreciate your wanting to help me, but this is way too far.” The scars on his pretty face twist into a kinda smile. “I like the way things are. You’re the only girl I need.” Then he tousles my hair and hands back the paper. He delicately takes a crayon in his long, thick hand, just like he’d break it, he’s so so strong, and draws a crown on himself. “There. Now I’m a real prince.” He crosses out ilegible bachelor, then draws a lil girl right next to him, holding his hand.
“It sure is,” he says, writing my name in beautiful teeny-tiny letters next to his. He makes crayons look like a painting. I add a big red bow in my hair, then the picture’s perfect.
“I don’t wanna be a fairytale princess, Raff. They’re boring. They sit around in towers waiting for dumb knights to save them. Real princesses are like Leia: they got guns.” I launch outta my seat, and grab my lightsaber from my dresser. “I wanna be the one that slays Jabba the Hut, and I want a flaming sword like yours! You can’t beat up aliens in a dress, or climb trees, at least.”
My kitty’s curled up on Raff’s lap, purring like an engine. He pets her absentmindedly, watching my antics – that’s what my momma calls them. I think they’ve got something to do with ants?
I swoosh my lightsaber through the air, chopping an alien to bits. “See! Just – like – that.” I punctuate my words with vicious lil thrusts, stabbing it again and again. The dragon dies, and I run up the tower to save Raff. I bow, then draw him a pink paper flower. “Here you go, m’lady. I saved you!”
Raff pales a bit, which is funny, because he’s so darn dark, and his face turns the color of pa’s tea. “I ain’t a princess,” he says, all low I nearly shiver.
I giggle like a maniac, then draw a dress on him. “Now you are, Raff-ay-el.”
“You’re as bad as Michael-” Raff begins, then freezes like a snowman.
Something clatters in the kitchen, and my granmama comes out with her afternoon sweet tea. Quick as a minnow, Raff disappears.
She tsk-tsks, shuffling about, reprimanding me for the “Uncleanly state of my room! And May, it might as well be a pig sty in here, for the love of the Lord.” I wish right then I could disappear, just like silly old Raff.
The Devil may be scared of his wife, but even angels are scared of grannmamas.
Church was awful boring today. The reverend droned on and on about sin and salvation, and I think: h’oh Lord, make him stop. Leggie’s sitting in the back, humming to himself, reading the newspaper, and all the while I wait for him to butt in and correct the minister. But Leggie just chuckles at the Sunday funnies. They’re the best part of the day of the Lord, he told me. Leggie says you can learn a lot more about the world from comics than you ever do in church. Leggie says God likes Peanuts and that’s why Leggie’s dog is called Snoopy.
I start humming to myself under my breath. Making sure no one’s watching, I take out my pretty red crayon and start drawing hearts on granmama’s hymn book. She’s snoring like a groundhog in February, hiding under her big purple hat. It has this kinda dead-looking plastic bird on it. I feel a little like the bird.
Momma and pa don’t notice me drawing because they’re too dang busy listening to the reverend, trying to get a slice of their own salvation. I guess salvation is like apple pie at a family reunion: the folks here sure are trying awful hard to get it, and there doesn’t seem enough to go around.
“May, sweetheart: listen,” Raff whispers, gently taking the crayon away from me. He’s sitting all solemn-like at the end of the pews in his canary yellow Sunday suit. How can I take him seriously in that suit, I tell you, it’s gotta be a joke! I glower, leaning against Raff’s strong arm and poking him in the side.
“Raff, you gotta get a job. I don’t need a stupid babysitter,” I tell him, trying to get my crayon back. But he hid it real well in his pocket, and there’s no hope – just none at all. I sigh. “I’ve been on this green old earth nine years. And I work more than you on an honest day. I don’t need to listen to a silly reverend, and I sure don’t need you stealing my crayons.”
Raff draws his lips real thin and sighs, mussing my hair. “You’re my job, sweetheart. I look after you.”
I cock my brow all sassy, just like Leia. “I don’t need any looking after. I can tie my shoe, braid my hair, and cross the street all by myself. You don’t even do that. You just fly over like a fat New Orleans pigeon!”
I like to feed the pigeons in New Orleans. They’re real pudgy and squeaky. So fat they can’t even fly!
“A pigeon?” Raff tickles me with his wing, and I scream, laughing. He smiles bright as the sun. No one can hear us when Raff doesn’t want them to. Not even my granmama, who has ears like a submarine spy ship.
Nobody notices me when I’m talking to Raff or Leggie either. Dunno why.
Raff might not be good for much, but he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. I like Raff anyways. He’s kinda like my kitty: cute in a scruffy way. Sometimes he forgets to shave and I gotta remind him. His kisses are scratchy then. What a mess! I don’t know what he or the cat would do without me.
“Yes sir. I’ll babysit you!” I say, smacking him with the Bible. He bites his lip and sits ramrod straight. “That’s it, Raff. Sit all nice and straight, mister, like my daddy, and ask for God’s forgiveness.”
“Because, silly, you sinned.” I show him how to pray. “I’ll pray for your forgiveness: Dear God. Hello. I really like Snoopy – she’s cute as a button. Maybe Leggie will let me play with her in the park today? Thanks a bunch. And Mr. God, I’m sorry Raff is no fun. Please forgive him for stealing my crayon and momma’s mac and cheese. Amen, Mr. God, and please save the funnies for me.”
I wink at Leggie. He has to keep himself from bursting out into laughter. Raff don’t look none too pleased.
“I am too fun,” he insists.
“No you ain’t. The last time I tried to get ice cream, you started yapping about how ‘Bad ice cream is for you, so why don’t you just go eat your vegetables?’ Everyone knows peas are gross, Raff. Now I dunno what angels eat, but it sure ain’t quality food if you think peas taste good.”
He don’t know what to say to that. As momma says, Raff ain’t the shiniest penny in the pail. But it’s okay. I take care of him.
Sometimes he comes to school with me. I sit with him at the table all the way in the back, where the toy kitchen is, and help him with his math. I’m awful good at math. I can add and subtract like nobody’s business, and Raphael asks me bunches of questions. He’s teaching me this funny language that he calls our secret code, and lemme tell you, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world! All clear and clean like a good wind or rain. He speaks it a lot with God when he prays.
Miss Lovelace’s passing out snacks now. Me and Molly run up and grab the best chocolate chips, then bring them back to the girls at our table. Raff’s sitting on the beanbags, sleeping like an owl. I think of drawing a mustache above his lip, but then I remember the Golden Rule and think that I’d hate to have one. Mustaches are only for distinguished gentlemen. That’s what granmama says.
I say they’re only for gentlemen and God. Raff’s got no business going around unshaved.
Halfway through my cookie, Raff wakes up. Billy Morse is pulling my braids and I’m hollering at him. Miss Lovelace is too busy dealing with another dumb boy, so I get out my lightsaber from my backpack and thwack Billy on the head right hard and good.
“May!” Raff says. “Don’t break that Golden Rule I told you about.”
“Then why else do we have lightsabers and swords?” I groan. He takes my lightsaber away from me and slips it into his robe, then doesn’t give it back to me til we’re back in my room, the silly coot.
“To remind us what the cost of failed peace is. Swords and lightsabers aren’t for fun, sweetheart.”
“Jack’s rabbit they ain’t! What else are we gonna slay the bad guys with?”
“Kindness, May. You kill your enemies with kindness.”
And I ain’t got nothing to say to that, so I just sit there, looking at Raff. He laughs at my expression.
“What is it, May-flower?”
“You may not look it, but you’re pretty smart, Raff. For a wifeless fool.”
Later that night Raff tucks me into bed and helps me read Nancy Drew. I wanna be Nancy Drew because she’s always solving mysteries and going on bunches of adventures. I’d have her spy-glass and precious skirts, except I’d take Raff along with me, and my kitty.
I tell him I’m gonna be Sherlock, he’ll be my Watson, and we’ll go around saving lost pets. He asks what I’m gonna pay him, and I say I’ll give him granmama’s cookies, because the old fool’s always stealing them anyways.
Raff blushes. “I’ve never stolen from you.”
“Oh yeah? I’ve seen the crumbs on your lips. I know my kitten doesn’t eat chocolate chips. She only eats oatmeal raisin, and granmama never makes those, only Missus Lovelace. See? I just solved a mystery. Hah!”
“There are greater mysteries than that.”
“What? Is Leggie’s puppy missing? And don’t spout silly Sunday school nonsense at me, Raff-ay-el. I see straight through that molasses. Angels don’t have halos, God doesn’t smite nobody, and the Devil’s a big old sissy. If I were some big mighty God, I’d come down as a little girl and give Satan a real good scare!”
Raff suddenly looks all concerned like pa does when I give the kitty makeovers with momma’s lipstick and my cute little markers. “May, don’t say that. I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Aw, horseradish, Raff,” I say, punching him in the arm. “We’re gonna find that Devil-man. It’ll be our greatest adventure yet! I’ll beat him up real good with my lightsaber and let you finish him off with my squirt gun. Then we’ll marry the old fool off to granmama and he’ll be too scared to torture even his peas. Granmama says all men are the Devil, but she’d make a Christian out of even him.”
“What is it with you and marrying people off?”
I sniff and cross my arms. “I just want them to be happy, Raff. Is that really too much to ask?”
He buries me under the covers and tickles me. I scream: “Stop it, you fool! Stop!” but he just laughs and turns out the lights, then climbs outside to sleep on the roof.
Sometimes he snores real loud and the roof shakes, and I have to throw rocks up at him. It’s hard getting them over the gutter but worth it for his screams. He wakes up crying like a little girl, speaking our secret language, and I cackle like Alice’s Mad Hatter and go back to bed.
But sometimes I’m scared, and I need Raff.
I can see a darkness others can’t.
Granmama might call it sin.
I’ve seen it in the eyes of killers, on people whose souls are downright nasty. They’re black, I tell you, black as tar, and I cry when I think about it. Sometimes the blackness creeps in at night, when the dogs howl, and the lights turn off in the streets. Raff shuts the windows and bolts the door, and I’m not allowed out of my room.
Granmama sings feverish hymns in her sleep and Raff hides me under his wings, his face all fierce like a lion. When I was little I used to cry, but I ain’t very little anymore, so I make him feel better. He won’t tell me what it is, but I know he’s scared to death by it, so I make up stories about me and him. He listens and braids my hair and just holds me like he thinks I’m gonna slip away. He asks me to sing and I do, and no one else can hear us, not in the whole wide world.
Leggie don’t come back for days after that blackness, and when he does, he’s got ten more lines on his face. Pretty soon he’s gonna look like momma’s garden gnomes. He won’t tell me where he goes or what he’s seen. It must be mighty fearsome if it makes Leggie scared, just like Jabba the Hut.
We’re eating oatmeal one day, and it’s gummy and gross because momma made it wrong, so I spit it down the sink. Raff eats what I don’t want, and in between spoonfuls he asks the darndest question:
“May, have you heard of destiny?”
I puff out my lips and roll my eyes. “Sure I have. Destiny’s what all heroe ha’ve got to do. I don’t know exactly how they get them, but I figure it’s some kind of instruction book, see? Like pa’s car manual, except it’s written in pretty gold ink and looks like a fairy tale.”
He finishes the last little bit of gross oatmeal. He don’t seem to get what I’m saying, so I try to explain it easier to him. Like I said, Raff’s pretty slow. Anyone who eats peas and actually likes them has gotta be missing a few brain cells I’d guess.
“All heroes have got quests, Raff, and before they get them, they need to know their destiny. Except sometimes, they don’t find out til the end, and by the time they slay the dragon, they realize who they were all along. Knights don’t know nothing, anyways, not like Yoda does. They don’t need to kill something to find out who they are. That’s why Snow White’s queen had a talking mirror. It told her who she was every day! She didn’t need a silly knight, or some loony prince. Except one day, the queen’s destiny changed, and she wasn’t very happy about that. So lemme ask you, Mr. Raff-aye-el, are you happy with your destiny?”
He looks all shocked and bites his bottom lip like a rabbit. “You’re very wise, May-flower,” he says finally.
“It ain’t hard to be smart. I’m not some dumb grownup. You’re only kinda one, so at least you know something. Now take me flying, or you ain’t getting chocolate chips ever again, I swear on granmama’s Bible.”
Raff’s better than an airplane because he can talk. We fly out to the apple orchard past the pancake house, and I eat so much fruit I think my stomach’s gonna explode. I’m moaning and acting out under the tree like it’s Kingdom Come, and Raff finds a bee’s nest and whispers the little buzzers to sleep, then coats his wings with honey.
“Watch this,” he says, then he fans his wings out in the sun, like he’s drizzled in maple syrup. Suddenly, the butterflies come from every corner of the woods. They land on his feathers like he’s a buffet. I gasp and go catch them, and he puts them on my nose and in my hair. The honey makes them stick. “Here you go, sweetheart,” he teases, making me a crown of orange ones. “A tiara fit for a princess.”
“That’ ain’t very funny, Raff. Look, here’s a halo for you, so you can finally be an angel.” I take a bunch of yellow ones and stick the bugs on his head. “Now you’re finally fit for God’s marching band.”
He smiles kinda funny. “You think so?”
“Yep, I sure do. All you need is a bed sheet and you’ll be ready for the Heavenly Choir. How’re your hallelujah’s doing?”
“Pretty good, I think.”
He makes me a wreath of daisies and puts it on my head. I twirl around and chase after a lil precious squirrel.
“What do you think makes me an angel?”
I shrug. “You help people. That’s what angel’s do. Momma’s an angel, pa too, except they don’t got fluffy white wings because they’re not dead yet. You got them because you died, I guess.”
“Is that it?”
“Yep. Though you can be a devil at times. Can you reach that apple up there? And did you make the sandwiches?”
He pulls the PB and Js out of his robe. I don’t know how he fits so many things in there. It’s just so strange, like all the things Raff does. I have half the heart to tell him he should be a magician, but he takes himself too seriously. That would break his pride, and momma said a man without his pride is nothing.
Raff puts peanut butter on my apple slices then sticks raisins on them, just how I like, and my full belly grows like a balloon, with room for more food, because who can turn down even more yummy dessert?
“Y’know, May, I’ve never been a man. Not really. It’s… different. Up there.”
“Mmhmm. Over the rainbow. Just like in the song Satchmo sings on momma’s records. You guys have bunches of bluebirds and golden doors and rivers of jewels, just like in Revel- revelah- um, how do you say it?”
“Dang, that’s a mouthful. The people that wrote the Bible have to make everything difficult, don’t they?” I say, bits of peanut butter falling out. It’s the chunky kind, with nutty bits, and they stick to my shirt. Raff wipes them off. “I think Heaven should be an apple orchard. Oh, and it should have lots of cute animals, too. And maybe waterslides, and bad guys, so it doesn’t get too boring. Are there light sabers in Heaven?”
“If you want one, I’ll make one just for you. I’ll even make it pink, out of starlight.”
“M’kay. I’ll pay you in chocolate chip cookies.”
We watch the clouds roll by.
“What’s it like?” I ask. “Sitting on one?”
Raff fans us with his wings, scaring away the swarming skeeters. “Hmm… like a kitten. Curled up beneath you.”
“Well that seems worth waiting for. No matter how many Sunday schools I gotta go to. Raff, does everyone go to Heaven?”
“Of course. Anyone who tells you differently, sweetheart, they’re lying, or they don’t know God. But even we forget sometimes. There was a time that I was young. That’s why I wear my scars. To remind myself, each day, what I stand for.”
“Then what does the Devil do?”
“The less pleasant things, I suppose. Someone has to do them.”
“So there’s no Satan?”
“Then what does granmama go on about?”
He lures a white butterfly into his hand and puts it on my shoulder. “Sometimes, May, people need someone to blame. They get old and set in their ways, or their minds aren’t open like yours. They’re afraid of differences, of change. From that comes pain, war.” A wind picks up around us, and Raff closes his eyes. “Others have nasty lots. They suffer, ask God why, and then… then there’s no reply. Just silence. It’s the hardest lesson of all.”
I don’t know why, but I find myself crying. Raphael dabs my eyes.
“Oh May, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Tell me there’s a happy ending. I need to know.”
He hushes me and fixes me another apple slice. “Of course, sweetheart. Sometimes, it just takes a while. For humans, life seems long, but in the end, it’s a dance. They switch partners, change songs, and move on. In order to have summer, one has to go through winters. It’s like… the dark nights.”
“I hate that. I hate it I hate it I hate it! What is it, Raff?”
He hangs his head. “People’s sorrow.”
The apple farmer’s wind chime rustles in the distance on the dusty old barn. I shiver, thinking about it.
“Even it has a place in the world.”
“What does it do?”
“It takes their pain away. Then it moves on, and people wake up. You can’t hide fears in your dreams. All your sufferings come out. It’s like Confession each night, a cleansing. Then, the blackness goes away. It’s cleaned by the morning sun, and poof! All troubles are gone.”
He scrunches his face up like he’s lying, but I don’t press further.
Sometimes, with Raff, there are things better left unsaid.