Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
TITLE: The Bus Ride to Mania
By Deborah Bauers
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Eleanor idly swiveled the wire rack, grimacing at the tranquil appearance of the scenic postcards as they swung into view. If there was one thing she had learned about the specter of the idyllic, it was that it existed only in the shadows of the mind. Unlike these picture-perfect photos, real life was a birthday party gone bad, an uninvited guest who ruined the magic of all-things-happy-ever-after and gave broken gifts cloaked in the festive wrappings of hopefulness.
Eleanor’s index finger stroked a profusion of wild flowers, resplendent against the dazzling blue of a midsummer sky. Smugly, she contemplated the nasty little hornet that lurked under the fragrant blooms, just waiting to deliver its fiery sting. Her eyes dropped to a second card that contained charcoal reproductions of rustic little cabins; each which most assuredly came with a musty interior and a fireplace that smoked! She grabbed a handful of the remaining cards and briefly held each up to her forehead before hurling a caustic rejoinder and then pitching it to the floor.
“Sea shore--nasty undertow, cruise ship--falling overboard, worse yet, being pushed. Move over, Johnny Carson!” she chortled as if her gyrations were all a part of some macabre stage act designed to both horrify and entertain. She continued; “A snow-covered mountain--avalanche in the making, The Swiss Alps--I hate cheese! A rushing river--”
Eleanor clenched the postcard, hand slightly shaking. She gazed at the photograph, absorbing its content into her essence. “Enough of this stupid game,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with pent-up emotion. She pocketed the postcard before making her way back to the bus.
Clad in lounging pajamas and pink bedroom slippers, Eleanor was a spectacle and the subject of considerable scrutiny. She was scarcely aware that her traveling companions were more-than-a-little nervous about her presence on the bus nor did she realize that her behavior at the last rest stop had confirmed to those around her that she was, indeed, a “crazy woman!” Eleanor had boarded the bus one block east of Sacred Heart Psychiatric Hospital. This was no coincidence!
She read the road sign aloud, “Entrance to Rocky Falls, 1 mile.”
The woman hastily withdrew her postcard, scrutinizing it feverishly. She was certain that she could now see a flash of her son’s red bill cap and catch a glimpse of her husband’s yellow slicker as the little canoe entered the rapids.
“Almost there now!” she panted, her face flushing with the telltale signs of heightened mania.
Putting the postcard to her ear she could hear her husband’s voice yelling above the roar, “Daddy loves you. Now close your eyes tight and take hold of my hand!” Then she watched in horror as the familiar bodies of her husband and eight-year-old son disappeared over the raging falls.
Eleanor was incapable of sorting fact from fantasy. After the accident, her memories had become a vague jumble of struggling with futility, punctuated by the intrusive sounds of someone’s guttural crooning. Six months of treatment had done little to restore her mental state. Her moments of greatest clarity followed weekly attendance at compulsory chapel services where she sang the words to once familiar hymns of faith. There she felt strangely drawn, as if in another life, to the man called, Jesus.
The bus came to a rolling stop. Its occupants stretched their legs and edged mindfully toward the precipice to gaze at the sheer force and magnitude of the mighty waterfall below. Eleanor saw herself in the postcard, paddling a little blue canoe toward the falls. She willed herself to drop the paddle and called upon her demons to be silent. Sightseers were horrified as the “crazy woman” threw herself from the precipice and fell, like a giant rag doll, into the raging waters below. As she plummeted to her death, Eleanor heard a new voice inside her head whispering, “Your Heavenly Father loves you. Now close your eyes tight and take hold of My hand.” When Eleanor opened her eyes, she was home.
According to a 2004 survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, 31,484 suicides occur each year in the United States, alone. Suicide remains a highly controversial topic within the Christian community. It is this author’s contention that the eternal disposition of a soul that takes its own life due to mental illness is best left in the hands of a loving God who deals with human life according to accountability, culpability, and Divine mercy.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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