They tried to play, but couldn’t get the hang of it. Some of them
managed to go down to the creek to wash the clothes, their only form of
communication with the world of the living. But the children couldn’t
accomplish the work of washing clothes in the creek because they couldn’t use
their hands to scrub the clothes after getting them wet, so they played on
the rocks. In all, it was a few hours of the children learning to play together,
but no longer a time of life to cherish. When the children went to bed that
night one of them thought there was no end in sight to the sadness of life
with the Bishop.
Another morning, at the conclusion of the Bishop’s prayer, they walked to
where they could see the light from their porthole. It was a Sunday, the
children had just come from church, and they had heard the Bishop’s prayer.
They did not understand. They didn’t know what to think or feel, and yet
they were afraid that the Bishop would scold them again.
When the Bishop was in town, sometimes he did scold them, but he only did it
when the children were playing badly. Once he scolded them for playing at
church, and they didn’t know what to think. They had never known that the
Bishop would scold them at all. It was the Bishop who took them to church
when they were sick. The Bishop who made sure the water was clean in the
bathroom. The Bishop who held the spoon and brush when the water splashed on
to the floor, and the children who got splashed, so the Bishop said that they
couldn’t have clean water to wash their feet with.
The children were so afraid of scolding that even when they could play well
they felt guilty, and when they could not play well they felt guilty, even
though they were supposed to feel good and comfortable, playing in the creek
with clean clothes. The Bishop told them that they were very lucky not to
really be sick, and to go to church to be forgiven, but that the guilt was
incapable of being wiped away with God’s forgiveness. The children heard the
Bishop talk about the way the world is, and they believed him, because he
held such a grand view of the world.
And so they waited till their mother would come home from the hospital, then
they would go and play in the creek and clean their clothes and, as always,
for some reason, they would be punished.
But it was a Sunday, and their mother was not going to come home that
afternoon; they could hear the church bells calling them to service. The
children watched the light in their porthole for a while, then they went back
to the rocks.
They tried to listen to the hymns in the choir, because they had not heard
them yet. They tried to concentrate on the story on the rosary beads that they
were holding, because they had not finished it yet. They tried to remember
the words of the songs that their mother sang in church, because they needed to
know them. But it was impossible to concentrate on anything except the light
in the porthole.
They climbed back up onto the rocks and the song they had heard that morning
suddenly stopped. They were no longer afraid of the Bishop; they had heard
what he meant when he scolded them. But the song didn’t resume. They had
become anxious and they climbed back up on the rocks. From somewhere they
heard the sound of the children’s mother calling for them, demanding that they
be found, so that she could punish them.
When her voice was barely audible in the silence of the water they began to
climb down the rocks. They began to run. They ran as fast as they could
across the creek. They ran so hard that when they reached the water they
couldn’t swim. They tried and tried and then they reached the other side,
just in time to see the light of the porthole disappear behind them, to
witness the water closing over their heads.
They were terrified as they struggled with the heavy body of water that
closed over them, making it impossible for them to breathe. Finally they
managed to push the water away from their faces. They looked over the
bank, and through the water they saw the Bishop on the far side of the creek,
shouting at them. They had never seen him like that, shouting at them.
The children were covered in mud and dirt. They could feel his breath on
their faces, and they were terrified as they held tight to one another,
screaming in terror. They screamed for help. They didn’t know what to do.
The children didn’t know what to do. They were just children. They were
just children, but they were frightened. They were just children.
The children were frightened and they screamed, and the Bishop began to chase
them, shouting. He was so angry that he had his hands on their foreheads
and was shaking them. The children could hardly move.
The Bishop didn’t know how long he was supposed to yell at the children, so
he shouted at them again. He shouted at them until he became breathless. The
children screamed and he continued shouting, but he was unable to control his
voice, and so in order to stop the children from screaming, he shouted at them
more and more loudly until he was finally unable to shout at them anymore.
Then they heard the church bells from the other side of the creek begin to
ring, and their mother started to run towards the waterfall, which was a
short distance away. They ran behind her. The children ran behind her and
when the waterfall started to fall they couldn’t go to the bottom of the
waterfall, and when their mother stepped onto the muddy bank she stood there for
a minute, and then she jumped into the water and began to swim, pulling the
children behind her.
When they reached higher ground they saw their mother swimming, pulling them
in. The children did not know how to swim, so that is when they realized that
this was what they were trying to do. They looked at the water and the sky.
They looked at the sky, and then they looked at their mother.