Get to it

Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to. – Timothy Keller

Boule de neige sur ses échasses (24 April 2020)

God helps those who help themselves, your mother always said.

How it annoyed you to hear it. How it insulted your intelligence. If you received a 100 on your geometry test last week, it is because you put in the time and the effort. You studied for hours. Likewise, if you swept all your events and broke your own record for the 200-meter dash at yesterday’s track meet, it’s because you practiced your butt off. What did God have to do with any of it?

Your pre-teen second cousin who fell ill and died suddenly? Parents who didn’t react fast enough in getting her to the hospital because, like so many poor people around here, they didn’t have health insurance. That girl from school who died in her sleep of ketoacidosis? Forgot to take her insulin shot. As for those two brothers who were killed in that car accident, they just did the stupid thing of getting tanked at a tailgate party in the quarry right before doing that other, even more, stupid thing of getting into a car with a classmate, equally tanked, who barely knew how to drive sober, forget trashed. What did God have to do with any of that stuff, either?

Why couldn’t your mother just look at the facts for once! You’d had it with this God helping people who help themselves bullshit! Ditto for this whole God works in mysterious ways bullshit, too! God and his plan! God and his plan! What a pile of crap! What kind of jerk made the death of kids a part of his plan? An irrational, volatile, emotionally unstable, narcissistic bully with a hair across his ass, that’s who! If you had to be subjected even one more time to this superstitious Catholic voodoo nonsense, you were going to lose your fucking shit! What the hell did your mother know? This woman had no freaking idea what she was talking about!

Petit canard aux oreilles de lapin (11 March 2020)

Except that she did, you poor, misguided, self-righteous child.

L’Unijambiste (29 March 2020)

Here we are all these years later, and I have a few questions for you. Remember how she was given a 30% chance of surviving the surgery her doctor would perform to remove her cancerous stomach? Remember how after that, when she beat those odds, he gave her five years to live? Five? Maximum? Well. We are now a decade past this time limit, and the old bird is still walking around, still making her pain de femme and crétons and bouillis de choux and full batches of needhams, still trimming the grass around the trees and shoveling the snow off the walkway leading up to the front porch, still making puzzles and beating the shit out of everybody at rummy. The woman is old as dirt! She’s a sack of bones! She creaks when she moves! It defies understanding! How is any of this even possible?

You will tell me that it’s because she keeps a strict diet and eats at regular intervals and doesn’t drive or go upstairs anymore, that her days are relaxing and stress-free, that she gets good sleep and takes daily naps, and also that she has given away all those little decorative carpets that even you trip over sometimes. To which I will say, Ding, ding, ding! Correct: your mother is helping herself! Which, if you are following me here, means that God is helping her, too. She’d be dead, otherwise, see? Admit it! Your mother was right: God helps those who help themselves! And since I’m assuming you would naturally want to know how she goes about receiving this help, I will tell you: she prays.

Escargot (21 March 2020)

You are, too, in case you haven’t noticed. A psalm of David, to be exact. Psalm 31.

L’oiseau-éléphant dans ses petites bottines brunes aux boutons rouges (15 March 2020)

“I am alone and deformed and broken,” says the snowball with the disjointed limbs, but also the duck with the fragmented rabbit ears, the square-headed one-legged bird, the snail with the bubbling shell and fucked-up antennas, the aberrant elephant-bird with the split trunk.

“I stoop under the weight of my sins,” says the armless old woman, “My years have been shortened by my sadness.”

“Lord, have mercy on us,” they plead, “Bend low and hear our cry! Come quickly to our rescue.”

La vieja bella (30 March 2020)

And just like that, because they ask, He will come.

L’Arrivée du roi (13 April 2020)

No sooner arrived will he help them, will He help you. But only if you help yourself. You will do this by being humble, by being open. Also, you will call your mother. You will ask her: “Mum, c’est quoi pour toi, la prière?” And because she is gracious and forgiving, because she is generous and good and kind and loving, because she has in her heart a God who answers prayers like the one she has been asking for you and your lost soul, she will tell you.

It doesn’t have to be anything ceremonious, she’ll explain. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. It can be a simple sentence spoken just under your breath as you are doing the dishes or sweeping the floor.

“Petit Jesus,” she will say in her creaky voice by way of example, “Aide-moi à trouver ce que j’ai perdu.”

It will pierce your heart to hear it; you will want to cry. Go ahead and do so when you hang up the phone, but only for a minute. After that, get to it. Pray. To God. One simple, unceremonious sentence at a time.

Pigeon poop stain for Boule de neige sur ses échasses
Water stain for L’Unijambiste
Bubble gum stain for Escargot
Paint stain for L’Éléphant-oiseau
Water stain for La vieja Bella
Combination tar patch and water stain for L’Arrivée du roi

The photo of the stain that inspired Petit canard aux oreilles de lapin is unfortunately not available.

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