A contest entry that I threw together this weekend, for Writer’s Digest’s Your Story short fiction contest…
It was the worst day of my life, and I didn’t realize how fast I was driving until I saw the red and blue lights in my rear-view mirror. Then I remembered passing a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit sign a few miles back – I glanced at the speedometer. Shit! Knowing there was nothing I could do, I pulled over and put my flashers on. A few seconds passed and then a bright light shone through the window. Rolling it down, I tried my best to look remorseful. “
Ma’am do you have any idea how fast you were going?” the officer asked. “
Sixty-five,” I mumbled.
“Did you not see that the speed limit is 45?”
“Then why were you driving so fast?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “My mother died a few hours ago and I just wanted to get home…”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but I need to see your license and registration.”
“Of course,” I sniffled. I reached into my purse and withdrew my driver’s license. Then I opened the glove compartment. Shuffling through the oil change receipts and tune up paperwork, I felt my hand brush something coolly metallic. I gasped as I realized what it was.
“Is there a problem, ma’am?” the officer asked.
“No, sir, my registration is right here.” I handed him both documents and closed the glove box. When he left I opened it again; reaching in, I withdrew the metal. The floodlights from the cruiser illuminated my car enough for me to see what it was.
My mother’s rosary! The golden cross, with its tiny image of a bloody Jesus, had been all she had wanted in the last few days of her life. I couldn’t find it anywhere and had torn the house apart in a frenzy looking for it. When I told her that I had no idea what had happened to it, I could almost see her spirit deflate.
I had tried to rationalize with Mother after that. Wasn’t a rosary just a symbol? It didn’t make her less of a Christian because she hadn’t counted her rosary beads. Wasn’t her faith alone enough? She would hear nothing of it though, and had spent several hours talking to no one but the nurses. I had been angry with Mother then, although the anger made me feel guilty. As sick as she had been, she was brain addled from the pain and medication. I was certain she didn’t mean to take it out on me. She had been hallucinating all day about my brother, who had died of leukemia before I was born. Maybe she thought I wasn’t real, either. Maybe the crucifix, in its representation of moral absolutes, had been her only anchor to reality.
So what’s the point? I thought bitterly. Why did I have to find it now? What spiritual need had my mother’s rosary fulfilled? It had failed her by going AWOL when she needed it the most, and I knew that if I kept it, I’d just be reminded of how I failed her. The best thing to do was bury her with it, but what need would she have of a crucifix now? A rosary wouldn’t help her, regardless of where she was. I tossed it on to the seat beside me.
The crunch of the officer’s boots on the gravel drew my attention and I looked up as he approached. The beam of his flashlight gave him a strange aura, and for some reason I thought he looked angelic. Not like the cheesy, backlit television angels, but an otherworldly creature suspended somewhere between heaven and earth. He had reunited me with a piece of my mother’s soul. Wasn’t that enough to make him one of the seraphim?
“Since you have a clean driving record, and because of what happened today, I’m going to let you off with a warning. Just make sure that next time you’re this emotional, you get a ride home with someone.”
“Thank you, officer.” I took my license and registration back and laid them on the passenger seat beside the rosary.
“Be careful, the right lane ends a few hundred feet ahead.” He pointed his flashlight up the road, its beam illuminating orange traffic barrels in the distance. I thanked him and waiting until he left. Then, I noticed the rosary. Picking it up, I hung it on the rear-view mirror, knowing that much like the officer’s flashlight, it would show me the way home.