It had been more than five years since John, now twenty-three, had been here. He stared blankly at the sunny yellow door, positioned directly between two pairs of picture windows. John reached forward tentatively and found the door unlocked. Inhaling deeply, he closed his hazel eyes and pushed the door inward.
The door welcomed him with a creak of rusty hinges. No other sound ushered him into his childhood home. The dust, thick upon the wooden floor, was woven into a single blanket by spiders. As John looked around, the tapestry by the hand-carved coat rack caught his glance.
Our Father, which art in heaven
The tapestry was over two hundred years old. It had been made in the old world before the Myers family had ever moved to this country. It had hung there for as long as John could remember. The words were engraved in his mind, though perhaps not in his heart. He turned away with a jerk and put down his briefcase by the door. Having laid his long overcoat on top of it, he pivoted toward the steps. The house was eerily quiet. During his childhood, it had never been quiet. Ever.
The stairs creaked as he made his way up them. The second step from the top nearly caught the toe of his shoe. The crack in it had grown quite a bit since he had left. John found himself smiling, just a little, at the memory of catching his shoelaces in that crack as a child. The wooden hall above was curved downward in the middle, no doubt from the numerous times he and his brother had set up Army Men at one end and knocked them down from atop a skateboard.
John glanced right. A scuffed yellow door remained unchanged in the newly-painted wall. Against the pale blue paint, the door looked like the sun just after high noon. John slowly turned the handle of that door and entered his old bedroom. The twin bed with the horse spread was gone. In its place was an old white wicker chair with lacy pink cushions, wildly disparate with the rest of the room. Nothing else had changed. John stepped toward the chair. He could almost see his mother sitting in it.
“How are you, John?” her soothing voice seemed to ask.
John turned his back on the apparition. Now he faced the Picture of Heaven print that his mother had nailed up the day after his first femoral surgery. The grass in the picture was a vibrant green – not the chemical kind of green like an suburban lawn, but a healthy, earthy green. A small, pudgy child sat in the grass with a majestic lion three or four times his height. He held the lion’s tail in his lap.
“And the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them,” John murmured to himself. Laughter seemed to fill the house, the bright unaffected laughter of young children. Every happy memory he had ever made in this house came flooding back to him.
Then, like ice in the pit of his stomach, another memory surfaced.
“John Myers, out in the hall please.”
He closed his eyes, but found the memory too vivid and opened them again. Trembling, he leaned against the wall. His teachers had not been unkind, but there was more than one way to tell a child that his mother had just been killed in a car accident.
John left the house.