Grace y los Naguales

This is my from favorite chapter from Awakening, my most emotional book. I won’t explain the context of the scene; you’ll have to read the book. I promise you’ll like it if you do.

Grace crouched in her seat, still peering at Charlie, then, ever-so-slowly, rose up, her knees against the seat back and leaned forward. Instinctively, Charlie himself leaned forward as Grace did, both kids moving at the speed of a drowsy slug. As they grew closer, now almost nose-to-nose, Charlie’s forced smile became genuine, and his dimples deepened to their full depths. Grace, for the first time, burst out in a rapturous smile of her own, and stuck one index finger in each dimple.

Robin laughed out loud, then immediately clapped her hand to her mouth. No one had heard her but Grace, who looked at her with a huge grin. “I do that all the time,” Robin said to Grace.

Grace just nodded and said. “Holes.” She then tilted her head to the right, and touched the long, red line from the chupacabra’s final swipe to Charlie’s left cheek. “Yuck,” she said, as he winced from the pain of her not-so-gentle probing.

Just then, the lights dimmed, and a video announcing the church’s upcoming events began playing on the overhead media system. Grace’s mother, who was seated beside her, pulled her gently around to face the front of the church. “Honey, we can’t stare at the people in the back. The people on stage like you to look at them, though.”

Charlie frowned, and said to Robin, “This isn’t right. I don’t know if Grace is awake or asleep, but I don’t think this is what she sees.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”.

“It’s just too … normal.”

“Well that’s why I thought it wasn’t a dream. Plus, no one else can see us, like we’re not really here.” Robin watched the row of people sitting in front of her. “But you’re right, something doesn’t feel right about this.”

Charlie said, “I keep thinking what G’pa Joe said that time, that you see things in here the way they should be. It’s like you’re fixing the world for her. I’m going to try something.”

Without waiting for a response, he leaned over to Grace and whispered in her ear. The pastor had resumed the stage at that point, and was teaching a lesson on God’s favor, one which Charlie remembered hearing from his grandmother. Grace nodded, and closed her eyes. The lights in the church wavered, then went out, and restarted, all in the span of three seconds.

The details in the church stayed virtually the same, except each chair was numbered, and all of the congregation had changed seats, except for Grace, her family, Charlie, and Robin. Grace’s mother sat next to her on one end, then Grace, a huge teddy bear seated next to her, followed by her sister and a brother, and finally, an olive-complected man next to them. Still crowded, the church was now standing room only, as no one except Charlie and Robin were seated within twenty feet of Grace’s family.

Charlie and Robin scanned the church and were startled to notice that the same faces were still there, but had been seated in sections based on the color of their shirts, or dresses if not wearing a shirt. All of the reds, greens, whites, and other colors were seated in groups, lined neatly in rows from shortest to tallest. The balcony was filled with nothing but people wearing blue, as apparently Grace did not like the color blue, and wanted them furthest away.

“Do you think this is what she sees??” Robin asked.

“No, I think we’re seeing what she feels.”

The pastor was still speaking, uninterrupted, but his words had become gibberish. “Thrill farms, I plotted with the Lamb to take him some hay to foment. But hay said to me, ‘My Grace is suffering for ewes, so Muppets are perfect for weekends.’”

“What the heck is he talking about?” Robin asked. “What did you say to her?”

Charlie said, “I just told her it’s okay to dream now, and I’m here to take care of her.” He looked around the church at the people, who now were randomly changing into different people, and at times, dogs, donkeys, and a turkey or two in the blue section. The entire orange section, small though it was, comprised nothing but clowns. “Look, the people are all shape-shifters.”

Looking around, Robin said, “Well I agree with her about the orange. Who wears that?”

“Please focus, Mercedes.”

“Sorry. Ohmigod,” Robin gasped, “that’s why he makes no sense. It’s like she understands, but it’s still different somehow. But that’s not how Autism works – this is confusing.”

“See the big teddy bear?” Charlie indicated the bear occupying the front row seat. “That’s her oldest brother. She must really like him.” He pointed to the Church program, which he had secreted in his pocket. It had not changed. “Look, he was reading 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. I don’t know that, but it’s the Bible. We’re in her head now.”

“I wish Jannet were here. She could probably quote us the Scripture.”

Grace at that point turned and said, “It’s a little rude to talk while the man is talking. She looked oddly at Robin and asked, “Are you a nagual too?”

“No baby, I’m not,” Robin said. I’m your friend.”

“I don’t have any friends,” Grace said, and abruptly turned toward Charlie. “Except the one with the holes. I like him.”

Charlie was sitting wide-eyed the whole time, and shaking his head. Robin gave him a inquisitive look, then poked him and whispered, “Tell her you like her back.” Charlie did as he was told, and Grace brightened visibly.

“Are those your parents?” Robin asked pointing to the adults who were separated by four seats.

“Yes,” Grace said.

“Do you like them to sit so far apart?” Robin asked gently.

“Yes,” the little girl answered. “Okay, I have to go play now.” Grace stood and walked up the steps to the stage. The pastor helped her up, while the congregation sat in hushed silence.

“How were you doing that?” Charlie whispered to Robin.

“Doing what?”

“Talking in music with her. She was speaking in music, and you understood her. All I heard was piano music coming from her mouth.”

Robin looked at him, searching his face for an indication of trickery. “I didn’t hear any music,” she said. “We were just talking.”

From the stage, Grace began to play a hymn of her own composition. As she played, the heavens opened, and music became the language of angels. Her notes sang the sorrow of martyrs, it bled from crosses, and was punctured at the hands of tormentors. Her hymn danced a funereal dance over the tomb of the fallen, peaceful, loving dead. It rose in tears, and fell in a crescendo of forgiveness. As the congregation wept, strung upon the cross as they were by Grace’s tearful melody, the final passage arose from the depths of her soul, through the piano, and into the sanctuary.

The angelic host no longer wept, but rejoiced with the rebirth of their spirit. Grace played their song, and the congregation, hands uplifted, and drenched in tearful rapture, bounced to the rhythmic hymn that Grace played. Her eyes were open, and she stared in the air above her audience. Only she, Robin, and Charlie could see the angels who held up her sheet music, and clapped to her rythmn, singing the words her piano knew.

And, at the end, there was no applause, no thunderous ovation, for Grace needed it not. The congregation merely wept, and they all said, “Amen.” When the pastor regained control of himself, he led Grace by her small hand back down to the first row. Grace tried to tell her mother how excited she was at playing for the people, but only a somber, two-note tune left her lips. She then tried to ask her siblings if she had done well, and if they were proud of her, but all they could hear was the squeal of an out-of-tune trumpet.

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