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Lenten Man

The Lenten Man - David Wilson-Burns © 2010

“Where am I?”

“Oh my God.  Phillip.  You’re in the hospital, honey.  You had an accident.  Oh sweety.”

His neck cramped with pain as he attempted to survey the room, his eyes eventually focusing and settling on a praying woman at his bedside.  He squinted at her through the bandages and crushing pain in his face and began to cry hot, stinging tears. Something terrible was wrong, but he knew this woman.  Somehow, he could feel her love flowing through his veins. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

“Jessica.  You’re Jessica,” he croaked, his voice barely audible.

“Yes, sweetheart, it’s Jessica.   I’m your wife.”

“Jessica.  Yes.   I know you.  Yes, sweetheart.  Yes, I’m your husband…so confused…don’t remember what happened…can’t remember. ”

“Honey, just rest.   You’re going to be ok.  God is taking care of you.”

All the time she’d been holding his hand.  And she kept holding and patting his hand as she bowed her head and wept in a low, murmuring stream of sobs and prayers.

“Yes, God is taking care of you, Phillip.”

God, thought Phillip. Yes, God.   God is taking care of me.

Glimpses of the last forty days began to form in his aching head.  Glimpses of prayer and fasting and worship and study of scripture.   These things he held on to, turning them over and over in his mind like precious jewels that he could scarcely believe were his.   They were nearly all he had left.  He thought of his wife who was holding his hand.  He thought of —Yes, children–his two beautiful children.  And he thought of his God…who took  care of him

Phillip’s memory never fully returned.  He remembered pieces of his childhood.  He remembered how he and Jessica had met.  He remembered falling in love with her.  He didn’t remember the days his children were born.  He wasn’t even there, but he didn’t remember that either.  He just remembered that he loved them.  He didn’t remember the nights of pouring stinging, numbing booze down his throat, the endless string of one night stands with roadside bar girls, or the times when he threw his fist into other drunken men’s faces.   He didn’t remember Easter night three days before, when he plowed his truck into an the 60-year-old, oak tree a half mile from a bar off route 77 with a fifth of bargain whiskey in his gut.

The only span of his life that he could remember with any completeness or clarity was the the forty days before his accident.   The forty days of Lent in which he annually–miraculously–managed to straighten out his crooked ways out of devotion to the God of his mother and her mother before her.  The forty days that had kept his wife hoping and praying desperately year after year for a permanent change…for a miracle to save their marriage.

To Phillip, those forty days were his life,  and they would continue to be his life.


Growl and Thump

Lingering summer heat drifted in through my open window as I traced another drop of cold water on my bare belly.   I knew she would be going out soon.  She always got to stay out late on Friday nights while I, little sis, was stuck at home waiting for my high school days to begin.  Lucky her, senior class of ’81, and then she’d be out of this do-nothing, know-nothing town.

As I dipped my finger into a glass of ice water for another cool touch,  the approaching rumble of what might have been a lion or some other vicious, wild beast seized me and a thrill raced through my body.   It growled and roared and thumped and screeched, growing louder as it approached.

I sat up in bed and looked out of the window just in time to see its eyes throwing light onto the dark street as  it stopped in front of our little house on Cherry Creek Lane.   I could feel the pulse of its music deep in my body.  My heart and breathing quickened as the engine of the shining, black van idled down into a low growl, punctuated by powerful, roaring, thrusts from the driver’s foot.   Concealed by tinted windows and a moonless night, he pushed the passenger side door open, letting the full range of the song cut like a jagged knife into the night air.

Aaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaa-aaaah!  Aaaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaaaa!” screamed the singer, his voice running icy fingers up my spine.   I closed my eyes to savor the full impact of its menacing touch in me.

Cuz I’m back in black!




In an instant, the front door of the house slammed shut, and my sister  climbed into the black beast…engine roaring, tires screeching, door slamming as she laughed and cheered it on.  Then she was gone once again.  I listened intently as the beat of the music and the groan of the engine faded,  dissolving gradually into the August night air.

By the time she rolled back home,  I would be asleep.

I wasn’t supposed to know that song.  I wasn’t supposed to be listening to that kind of music yet, but still I  snuck into my sister’s room every Friday night just as I would tonight.  Plugging in her big, studio headphones, I dropped the needle and laid back onto her bed, and as the guitar tore into my mind, I felt something begin to ache inside of  me, something growing and throbbing and pounding.   It ignited a hunger deep inside me that I didn’t know how to satisfy.   I listened to the record over and over again, tracing the outline of my emerging hips as Brian Johnson’s vocals ripped into me, claiming a little piece of my soul.

This Old Town

At what point is a town not the same town it used to be?  Is it when the Super Walmart shows up?  Is it when the local restaurants give way to fast food chains lined up by the interstate like guests at a party who act like they own the place.   Or is it when all the people you used to know have either left or changed beyond any hope of recognition?

No, my feet say no, this is the same town.  This is the same street  I use to walk down from my little church house to the corner market for candy and a Coke.  My ears hear the same cry of the blue jay and high song of the park swing.  The smell of the pine and cedar still rest on the same breeze and rise to the same steeple of the old church that I called my home.   And I knew that when it rained on a warm sidewalk, that the fragrance of rainwater and concrete still rose to meet the smiling faces of bare-footed children exploring the puddled terrain.

And maybe the events of the past that formed this town had fallen out of the memories of its inhabitants, but the pain still flowed through there veins, knit into the fabric of their beings.   This town would always bear the curse of its past.  The bitter would always be mixed with whatever sweet was to be found among the big houses that still stood at the center of this old plantation town where the bare feet of an enslaved race toiled and suffered and blistered and bled.

If you looked deep enough into any open eyes, you could still see it.  If you walked to the east of the old park, you could  still see the deep division of color.   You can still meet folks who remember what this part of town used to be called and was still called behind the closed doors of the big houses.    I can still remember the warnings of the old schoolteacher who’s grandson I used to play with, “Don’t you boys be riding your bikes over there in N—-r Town.  There ain’t nothin’ over there for you.”  The same teacher who stood with us, white children and black children, and led us in the Pledge of the Allegiance and the 23rd Psalm.   The same teacher who used to paddle our little first grade bottoms for speaking out of turn, who’s mother and grandmother did the same, and who’s grandfather used to hold a whip, was teaching us to say

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

And I can still say it, and so can all of the children she taught, no matter which side of the park they lived,  even while her body rests in the family cemetery along with the forgotten memories of this old town that will always be the same no matter how it may change.

#fridayflash Accidental Whore













"Accidental Whore" - David Wilson-Burns © 2010














“Hey, baby, how much for 1 hr massage?”


“Free tomorrow night?”


“Ok, so I saw your ad.  How does this work?  Do I meet me somewhere?  Do you come to my apartment?  I’ve never done this before.”

“Oh, I meant you.  Do I meet you.”


“$500 for an hour?”


“Lonely tonight, can I see you?”

pop! pop! pop! pop! pop!

In a panic, Tammy Love pulled the plug on her computer straight out of the socket.  She’d received at least twenty instant messages in a period of two or three minutes while sitting in her quiet gray cubicle at her quiet gray job at a home and life insurance company that nobody had heard of.

Whoever these men were, they all had two things in common:  they all wanted sex and they all seemed to think that she would provide it as a service.  She was flush with panic and embarrassment sitting in her cube with her hand on her chest trying to catch her breath, and trying to regain her composure.  Clearly, she thought, there’s been some sort of mistake. My email must be similar to someone else’s!  Some WHORE!!!

That night, she laid in bed trying to sleep, but couldn’t get all of the filthy requests out of her head.  And for so much money!  These guys must be really be lonely and depraved! And what was more disturbing to her, was how it was making her feel.  Wasn’t she as lonely as they were?  And didn’t she need the same things they were needing.  She hadn’t been with a man for nearly two years.  And suddenly, she found herself a little bit….curious.

Maybe these weren’t all bad guys, she thought, maybe they were just a little lonely.  And then she remembered one of the messages, “I’ve never done this before.”  Maybe she was no different than he was.  Maybe he was alone in bed just like she was just wanting to be close to somebody?    There was something almost sweet to her about the nervous tone in the message, now that she thought about it.   She dragged her laptop onto the bed, wondering if she could find the message in her chat history.   She logged in, tammylove69, with a new kind of thrill inside, open to new  possibilities.