short stories

sudden, small gifts of insight




Picture a hot summer day under the cool drops of a lawn sprinkler. A teenage boy is lying on the grass under the droplets, talking with his eight year old twin brother and sister, who are trying to catch the drops on their tongues. Peter is the big brother, Bets and Freddy are the youngsters.
This scene is from
a story by David James Duncan .

Can the hurtful power of anger travel like a roaring wildfire from one person to another?













"The great thing," Peter said, "the reason you can lay a river in the path of any sort of wildfire, is that there's not just rivers inside us, there's a world in there."

Seeing Bet's scowl deepening, he added, "Not because I say so. Christ says so. And Krishna. But I feel it sometimes too. I've felt how there's a world, and rivers, and high mountains, whole ranges of mountains, in there.

And there are lakes in those mountains--beautiful, pure, deep blue lakes. Thousands of them. Enough to wash away all the dirt and trouble and [hurt] on earth."

Bet's scowl was gone now, because her mind had eased down into a place where hiss of sprinkler, splash of drops and babbling of brother were all just soothing sensations.

But Freddy was still watching Peter's face, and still listening when he said:"But to believe in them! to believe enough to remember them. That's where we blow it!

"Mountain lakes? In me? Naw! Jesus we believe in, long as He stays out of sight. But the things He said, things like The kingdom of heaven is within you,
we believe only by dreaming up a heaven as stupid and boring as our churches.

"Something truly heavenly, something with mountains higher than St. Helens or Hood and lakes purer and deeper than any on earth--we never look for such things inside of us.... So [when we get hurt], we've got nowhere to go, we just get hurt or get mad, or hurt somebody else...

"But if you want to put out the fires, you can do it. You can do it if you just remember to crawl, right while you're burning, to drag yourself, if that's what it takes, clear up into those mountains inside you, and on down into those cool, pure lakes."

--David James Duncan


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