The Crucifixion

By Irene Zion

Memoir

It happened when
she was five.
She went to a convent school
in Italy.  
Her teachers were nuns,
shrouded in black habits
with white wimples.

It must have been a holiday. 
Her brother was home 
from school in Switzerland. 
He was eight and a half. 
Her father was home too
and that was rare.

Her mother was there,
but she didn’t see her very much.
The little girl ate meals inside
and went to school,
but otherwise, she stayed in the yard
outside with her dog.
She was not allowed inside
during the day;

her mother was cleaning.

She was asleep when the

screaming awakened her.

Her daddy was yelling and
her brother was howling.
She opened her bedroom door
and crawled out to see
what was happening.
She had learned to keep down low
and be quiet
so she wouldn’t be noticed.

Her father was beating her brother.
Her brother was mewling
and trying to get away,
but he couldn’t.
Her daddy was extra strong
when he was angry.

She saw the figure of a cross
leaning against the wall
in the dark shadows.

Her daddy was going to crucify
her brother on the landing
of the staircase between
the ground floor and the next.

It only surprised her a little.
She expected such things.

She crawled back to her room
and slipped into bed. 
She never thought of going for help.
What happened, just happened.
There was nothing anyone could do
to change things. 
All things were predetermined,
inevitable.

She covered her head
with the sheet and the blanket
and she sang songs to herself
to muffle her brother’s screams
until she went to sleep.

She woke up in the morning
and remembered with a
jolt
that her brother was dead.

She went downstairs and saw
when she passed the landing
that the cross had been removed,
all evidence cleaned up.

She was an only child now.

She walked into the kitchen and saw
her dead brother sitting at the table.

She stared at him.
Her brother did not look at her,
nor did he speak to her.
He simply sat at the table.

He was a holy ghost.

She touched him,
and she could feel him
with the tips of her fingers.
She was surprised that
she could feel a holy ghost.

Sitting down at the table,
she studied her brother.

If he were a holy ghost,
that was one thing,
but
if he had come back from the dead,
that was
momentous.

Now she was thrilled.

She waited to discover
which it would turn out to be.

I’ve always been a slow reader. My mother, who took a speed reading course in college, always used to encourage me to take one of these courses, and of course I would protest, claiming that I liked to immerse myself in the language, take it slow, pay careful attention, etc. etc.

That’s all true, certainly, but I wonder if I wasn’t too hasty in my dismissal of a variety of techniques which, if artfully applied, might double or triple the number of books I’d be able to read. Because that would be a good thing, right? Some speed reading techniques I learned to apply pretty naturally, such as the elimination of subvocalization. Others, like the necessarily anti-musical chunking, I’ve shied away from.