THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN
I am very nervous. I adjust my clerical collar again and again and again. Anuncia Salón – Madam President of the United States of America, Anuncia Salón – has requested The Sacrament of Penance from me before she speaks to the United Nations about the crisis.
I enter the Confessional compartment and sit fidgeting with my crucifix. I hear her enter into the adjacent Compartment of the Penitent. God give me courage, my hand is shaking as I open the sliding screen.
I hear her unmistakable voice say, “Forgive me, Father, for I…,” and she hesitates and then she continues, “I have not been to Confession since I was an adolescent.”
I think, “The Politicians’ Creed,” but I say, “Go on Anuncia …, Madam Presi-…, uh, my child,” and so I feel silly and then disrespectful. Calm down!
Madam President seems to mull for a moment and then she says, “I had a child. Years ago. A daughter. Her father had deserted us for his true, his true whore before I realized that I was pregnant.
“Abierta Salón was my daughter. She was only two years old when… She was the meaning of my life. She was all the good that remained to me until… She died”.
I never have heard this horrible revelation!
“There had been a terrible winter hurricane and my neighborhood had lost all power except prayer. I prayed. We had no heat, no light. The city was fixing power first everywhere else besides my poor neighborhood. We had no heat for a week. My little Abierta froze to death. We were never warm… I was sick myself, and cold. I held her tight against myself, wishing I could put Abierta back into my body. I prayed, I prayed.”
Struck, I offer my deepest sorrow, but she raises her voice to cut me off.
“Little Abierta. My little Abierta. That day I cursed Heaven. I wanted to hurt God. I wanted to tear down the Pillars of Heaven. That day I prayed to the Devil three times. Yes. And then, finally beyond despair, I just didn’t want to live. I carried Abierta through the snow and sleet to the train overpass and I closed my eyes and I threw myself off to be with her forever.
When I opened my eyes again I was wrapped in a dirty blanket and I was lying on the ground under the train trestles. There was a man… A homeless man was kneeling over me, holding my poor Abierta. I couldn’t move. The homeless man was exhaling upon my little Abierta like he was blowing on kindling. Then I heard her cry! I thought I must be dead in the limbo between Abierta’s death and my sin of suicide. I didn’t care. I cried out, ‘Abierta!’
The homeless man spoke to me and his voice was like a dog growling and he said, ‘You have denied your Maker. You have only two more obligations to perform for me.’
I suddenly felt colder than I had felt during the worst night of that terrible storm and the homeless man continued, saying, ‘When I have helped you fulfill those two obligations then you may have your beloved Abierta back,’ and the homeless man stood erect with Abierta in his hands and he inhaled from her face and my little Abierta went limp again and turned blue. He held her out to me and I screamed.
I begged the homeless man. I knew who he was now. He was at home everywhere on earth. I begged, ‘Bring her back! I will do anything you want. I will worship you!’”
Anuncia, Madam President, is now silent and I realize that she actually wants her words to pummel me. I realize also that I am pressing myself back against the compartment. I am holding my crucifix to my lips. I cannot find words. She speaks and I am startled.
“Are you searching for my penance, Father?” and then Madam President continues, “The homeless man said that when I threw myself from the train trestle that he was the one who caught me, and he said, ‘I enjoy it when you tempt me so, Anuncia,’ and he said that he would always be my power and my protection from then on. He soothed me, his voice changing to honey, ‘You will soon enough have your little Abierta in your arms again because you will now have faith in me.’
Father, I assure you, I gave God one last chance and I heard nothing from Him and so I threw myself and my faith to the homeless man.
I was suddenly able to roll the dirty blanket away from over myself and I was able to stand up. The homeless man said to me, ‘I will make the kingdoms of the earth your very own, Anuncia. And then you will give them to me in exchange for little Abierta.’ The homeless man turned away with Abierta still limp in his arms. I reached out my arm, crying, ‘Abierta!’ and I started to pursue the homeless man as he walked away but I suddenly fell to the ground helpless again, cutting myself on the sharp stones.
The homeless man said in farewell, ‘See you in your dreams, Anuncia,’ and then he held up my little Abierta’s limp body into the sky and he laughed, ‘Your fortune is about to change, Anuncia.’ Only when I had lost sight of him with my dear Abierta could I again stand up.
I never stop thinking about my little Abierta. I am in agony.
But my luck did change. At my job I suddenly could do no wrong. I had insights. I had ideas. I was noticed. I was promoted. And soon enough I was offered a job with Williams Ebub Capital, a venture capital firm. They wanted me to manage a new start-up company.”
I know this part of Anuncia’s legend and I blurt out in desperation, “Mannatech. Food from sunlight and water. A miraculous device, a miraculous blessing to the world, Anuncia. We can all thank God.”
Madam President conjoins my digression saying, “I understand that this year’s model will make wine. Hello? Are you still here, Father? No comment?”
I now know that I am no longer just ministering to a snared soul; I suddenly feel evil closing over me like jaws. I become afraid. I whisper out loud to myself, “Fear is lack of faith.”
Madam President asks, “Lack of faith, Father? I am not afraid,” and the irony in her voice terrifies me. She continues, “After the success of my, my miraculous company as you say, Father, the realm of Politics was given to me. I was begged, courted, idolized, expected, and prophesized to run for highest office. My election was fulfillment of that prophesy, you must agree, Father? The whole world, all the nations,… history is now waiting for me to speak this afternoon at the United Nations and heal the crisis.”
My dry voice barely rustles, “And what will you do, Anuncia?”
Madam President says, “I will offer the expected conciliation. While I am offering conciliation I will order a very special “Special Forces” unit under my direct command to fire upon the United Nations troops gathered now in the Plain of Esdraelon between Israel and the Armies of the Twelve Imāms.”
I hear my voice fumble, “Armageddon! Anuncia, why… why… what are you telling me?”
Madam President replies, “I have never spoken to God again. I need you, Father, to tell your God that I am about to hand over His earthly kingdoms to the only one who will return to me the child that your God stole. Poor, dear Father. I know your pain. There is no one you can turn to except your God. Is He with you now? Or has he abandoned you? I just want Him to hear what I have said from your lips, that’s all. He denied my daughter, my innocent Abierta, and now I deny Him the world that His Son died to save.”
I find desperate courage. I press my face against the screen between us, pleading, “Anuncia, no, no. Don’t do this. Madam President…. Think what innocent Abierta is saying to you right now, from Heaven. God has a plan for you Anuncia, and this cannot be it!”
But a face presses back against the sliding screen at me and it is the face of a young child, a girl child, but her face is cracked and eroded like a forsaken doll. I am startled backwards. The child growls in the manner of a dog, “Madam President has left the building, Padre.”
Who will believe me?!
I cry out tearfully, “Dear God, what can I do?! Help me, my dear God. You have brought this terror to me for a reason! Do not abandon me!”
I hear the doll creature vomiting laughter at me.
My faith is crumbling beneath my feet from doubt as I find myself clawing back with earthly logic, “If there is a Devil there is a God!”
I hear the doll creature mocking my trembling voice, asking, “So, does the Devil make God for you at this moment of your faltering faith? Padre, Padre, Padre, God did make the Devil! The Devil is God’s True Son!”
And there is more laughter like dogs vomiting, “Jesus was adopted!”
I cover my ears with my hands in impotent defiance.
The doll creature now asks me, “Is there anything that you would like to confess, Padre?”
Like a child I begin to holler the Lord’s Prayer, falling, falling, falling to my knees in the Confessional.
I am crying to Heaven in agony, “Anuncia! Forgive me! I didn’t know! I swear to you! I am sorry that I abandoned you and our child!”
I am sorry unto the End of Days.
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