The Common Good

A Ragamuffin's Dream (Part 1, by Claudia Mair Burney)

Almost midnight. Dark.

I'm entangled in wrinkled sheets, slowly being strangled by an obscenely cheap pink burial cloth. The brown comforter I kicked to the floor looks as lonely as a mound of dirt. It's the color of dead leaves. Blush-colored blossoms, void of scent, skitter across its surface. I bought it at K-Mart in a happy Asian revival moment. Now, I find it depressing. Brown is the new black, they say.

I turn. The mattress creaks as I shift to face the air conditioner, which sputters and wheezes inadequate puffs of cold air into the suffocating heat. I am miserable. Close my weary eyes. Whisper compline prayers to the white, mocking ceiling. Worries buzz around my head, biting, teasing, questioning. Those awful, futile question:

Will I find a job? How can I see about this lump on my breast with no health insurance? How can I even look for a job when gas is so high? What will we have for dinner when our cabinets have only a bag of flour and two cans of sweet peas?

I wait for him, refusing to dream until I hear his voice. Until he visits the artificial cool of my room like I were his Eve, and it is the evening. And he doesn't mind that my fear is naked and trembling.

Mercy.

"Ask something of me and I will give it to you."

I'd better think this through. Broke as I am! And my friends, Lord, everybody's trimming the fat and cutting out the sweets. And not because we're dieting. I'm not a queen, just a ragamuffin diva, but I need you. Didn't you stand on a hill one day, a long time ago, speaking to the beat-up and bedraggled? People just like me? And what did you say to ease their minds?

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

What?!?!

That one's gonna have to bake a little longer. It's been a coupla thousand years now, and you know what? We're still trying to deal with the fact that you're talking about us! Who wants to be poor? And I'll tell you quite frankly, Lord, it isn't even about riches. We don't want great wealth. We want to get off of food stamps, and be okay enough that when we do we don't promptly wish we had them back. We want to take care of our families. We want to be able to keep our low-paying jobs -- plural -- and please, please, please can you help with that busted-up transmission?

I know you understand.

So, why is it so hard?

I don't know. And he doesn't say. So, back to the question. His awful question:

"Ask something of me and I will give it to you."

What, when so much is needed, do I ask for?

[to be continued ...]

Claudia Mair Burney is a novelist and a member of theGuild, along with Melvin Bray (language artist), Lisa Samson (novelist), Yaisha Harding (writer), Ercell Watson (comedian), Daniel Ra (singer-songwriter), Eugene Russell (singer-songwriter-rapper-actor), Russell Rathbun (storyteller), Daley Hake (photographer), Ed Sohn (multimedia artist), and Prisca Kim (writer). Learn more on theGuild's Facebook page.

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