Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 6

      That night Jet got ready for bed as quietly as he knew how, tiptoeing around the bedroom in his pajamas and brushing his teeth so gently he barely broke a decent foam. Maybe if he slipped in between the covers without making so much as a rustle his mother wouldn’t think to stand in the doorway and give him the nightly quiz:

     "Hands washed?" she’d ask.

     "Check."

     "Teeth brushed?"

     "Check."

     "Room picked up?"

     "Check."

     "Ready for bed?"

     "Check!"

     "Did you say your prayers?"

     That was it. The jig was up. The first part of the ritual was a piece of cake; it was the nightly prayer that he dreaded. It wasn’t that he couldn’t remember the prayer, but simply that he wasn’t interested.

     When he’d been young, barely old enough to retain the memory, his mother taught him the prayer to say each night before going to sleep. She hoped this ritual would become a habit with him, just as it had become one with her. At the time she taught him this prayer she was still a number of years shy of discovering the first of her seventeen religions. Saying the prayer was strictly habit, a habit she wanted to instill in her children.

     "Good children always say a prayer before they go to sleep each night," she told young Jet.

     "Why?" he asked.

     "So they can give thanks," she replied.

     "Why?"

     "Because they're good children. And good children should be thankful."

     "For what?"

     "For being good children," she answered.

     "Why?"

     "Because no one likes bad children," she tried to explain.

     "Why?"

     "Because children are supposed to be good. If you're good everyone will like you. If you're bad no one will like you."

     "Why?"

     "Because. That's why. Now say your prayer," she said with finality.

     "I don't remember it."

     "Sure you do," she told him. "Just say it after me. Now I lay me down to sleep."

     "Now I lay me down to sleep."

     "I pray the Lord my soul to keep."

     "I pray the Lord my soul to keep."

     "If I should die before I wake."

     "If I should die before I wake."

     "I pray the Lord my soul will take."

     "I pray the Lord my soul will take."

     "Now climb into bed and kiss Mommy goodnight."

     "Now climb into bed and kiss Mommy goodnight."

     Jet made his mother repeat this scene many times, always feigning ignorance of the prayer. The truth is, Jet was just too young to keep all the words from getting mixed up and he didn't like saying the prayer wrong. When he tried it by himself it came out like:

Now I pray me down for keeps.
I hope the Lord will let me sleep.
If I should die before I wake,
I'll pay the Lord my soul to take."

     It took the better part of a year before Jet finally got the prayer straight. While the early changes were because, like most children, he heard things just a bit differently than adults, by the time Jet was twelve he’d customized the prayer to suit his new philosophical outlook.

     That night after the wedding, Jet knelt beside his bed, folded his hands, bowed his head, and declared:

"Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
I hope I die before I wake.
And all my friends will split the take."

 

Chapter 7 ]



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                 19   20    21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34  



  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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