Mary Grimm ~ Rules for Resurrection   

In those strange times, she began a new reli­gion, based entire­ly on the birds she could see from her win­dow. The win­dow was her tight view on the world, although it was no small­er than it had been. The world stretched beyond it, although it was no larg­er. The birds were mes­sen­gers, chirp­ing dis­as­ter and singing a warn­ing.

Memory: When she was a child her aunt had set her and her broth­er to pick­ing up plums in the back­yard for two dol­lars a bag, which had seemed like a good idea. But the plums were sticky, ooz­ing juice, and the bees were all over them. Sometimes now she woke to the feel of the bees on her skin, some­thing you couldn’t see or wash away.

She count­ed things instead of pray­ing, for what good could pray­ing do now. Her cup­boards received her dai­ly wor­ship in silence, each can, each bot­tle of water a tes­ta­ment to the future. She didn’t rend her gar­ments, but instead wore the same shirt three days in a row, let­ting her hair hang about her face, uncombed.

There was no room now for song, but she had come to under­stood time trav­el, for she was liv­ing in the present as if it were the past. Each day added anoth­er lay­er to the his­to­ry that was accu­mu­lat­ing under her feet.

Memory: The man who had once come through their back gate, salut­ing her where she sat on the back steps, nine years old, her hair in a ragged braid. “Just pass­ing through,” he said to the dog who for some rea­son didn’t bark. He plucked a small red toma­to from one of the plants climb­ing poles in the cen­ter of the yard and put it in his pock­et. “Be see­ing you,” he said. The dog laid his head back down on his out­stretched paws and the two of them watched the man sidle through the gap in the hedge, from which a lit­tle cloud of but­ter­flies flew out, small and pale blue. She under­stood then that any­one might come in, through a gate or a door. Or any­thing.

When she was lit­tle, she had believed she could see her soul on the inside of her eye­lids — a reflec­tion of it any­way, an irreg­u­lar oval shape, pale and glow­ing.

Now, when she was get­ting ready to go to sleep, she went into her room and stood in front of her pan­eled mir­ror, reflect­ing three of her, like the tryp­tich of a holy saint. She stared into the mir­ror, and imag­ined that her image came for­ward through the glass to stand before her, almost close enough to touch. In the morn­ing she decid­ed that she had had a vision, although she didn’t know what it meant.

Memory: At her aunt’s funer­al, a stranger had come up to her and said, “You look like your aunt, bless her dead soul.” This was many years ago now. Her aunt had died as they say in the full­ness of time, of a respectable dis­ease of old age.

Standing behind her screen door, she told her neigh­bor about the strange behav­ior of her reflec­tion. He laughed and said he’d like to have two of him­self because he nev­er got every­thing done in a day. Thus it was, she said to her­self, when some­thing sig­nif­i­cant and holy hap­pened in the real world. That night she stood before the mir­ror again. This time her reflec­tion didn’t seem inter­est­ed in a clos­er con­tact. Instead it turned and walked away into the room that was the dou­ble of the one in which she stood. Her reflec­tion walked for a long time, becom­ing small­er and small­er until it was impos­si­ble to tell in the fail­ing light if it dis­ap­peared or if it found at the end of the room a door which was too small to see.

The next morn­ing was when she decid­ed that she ought to start a new reli­gion, but she had the sense not to tell any­one about it. There would be no sac­ri­fices, no pen­i­tence. Prayer would be option­al.

Memory: A man she had gone on a date with had told her he couldn’t dis­tin­guish between blue and yel­low. To him they looked like dif­fer­ent shades of green. His blonde wife (who was dead), to him, he said, she had green hair. I see her at night some­times, he said. This was when the dead were more sin­gu­lar, she believed.

If she became con­vinced that a species of beings lived on the oth­er side of her mir­ror, did that mean that she had to do some­thing about it? Was it only her mir­ror, or all mir­rors? When she combed her hair, she felt the bone of her skull under the skin. All the news of the world, the num­bers, the sta­tis­tics, the earnest recita­tions of who had done what to whom, came down to this, that you lived in a cage of your bones.

~

Mary Grimm, whose sto­ries have appeared in The New Yorker, Antioch Review, and the Mississippi Review, among oth­er places, is cur­rent­ly, work­ing on a his­tor­i­cal nov­el set in 1930s Cleveland and teach­ing fic­tion writ­ing at Case Western Reserve University.