No Cure for Blessed Hearts
by Amy Hunter
Childhood Sundays once meant home-cooked meals, dresses stitched by my mother’s loving hands, and a spiritual cup overflowing with faith. Doubt had no place in my life. I didn’t worry about mental disorders, because I was a “child of God.” He loved everyone—even temperamental little shits like me.
At seven, I was an eavesdropping ninja, but sometimes, my high-strung parents made my job easy. Their whispers carried throughout the house, ricocheting off walls, like stray bullets. The foam kind.
“June Bug’s teacher sent this home. The assignment was to draw the future, so she drew a grave.”
I heard the paper crinkle and imagined my mother handing it to my father.
She sighed, defeated. “She’s sick, Billy. We need a second opinion.”
My face burned. I didn’t understand why they were so upset. From my limited knowledge, lots of people died. I probably would too one day, so I’d need a grave. And my name was Juniper, not June Bug.
My father—a man who had bashed mailboxes with a baseball bat as a teen—tried to hide his temper, but flicking his Zippo lighter gave him away. “I won’t trust some scientist to tell me what’s wrong with my daughter. I damn sure won’t drug her.”
I exhaled to release the steam building within my chest. Anger was more helpful than shame, even with the side-effects of blindness and stupidity. Sure, throwing tantrums and destroying property was naughty—I had broken dishes, written on walls with a permanent marker, and painted my mom’s laptop screen with nail polish—but my parents were acting like I was irredeemable.
I curled into the fetal position with Moo, the stuffed cow I’d won the previous year at the state fair. He was a good friend, not at all subscribed to my mom and dad’s brands of judgement and condemnation.
I love you too, Moo.
They woke me by hovering over my bed. Their mouths moved soundlessly, but their eyes screamed. That’s when my heart rumbled, competing only with the ripples shaking me from the inside.
My entire head was an exposed nerve. I disregarded the throbbing and licked my lips, tasting copper. I had bitten my tongue.
The world flooded back, as if I were a diver reemerging from the deep. Hysterical, I clawed blood from my father. Without a second thought, he backhanded me, stunning me into submission.
“Stay down,” he said.
Mom pinned my shoulder to the mattress. “Billy, she needs a doctor.”
“Bullshit. We need Brother Kinsley,” my father said, clutching his arm where I’d torn into him. “He’ll get this beast out of her.”
When we entered New Life Bapticostal Church, the congregation was on its feet praising the Lord—maybe because their baseball team had won a game; maybe because they had demonstrated restraint toward chocolate cake. Most of the group was phony.
I apologized again for hurting my father, but both of my parents were silent. We sat, and before I knew what had hit me, the circus was over. The Sinners’ Prayer was said, the last song was sung, and the Bibles were closed.
Brother Kinsley approached the pulpit. “Brothers and sisters, before you go, the Lord has a favor to ask of you: Brother Scott is having a family crisis. Would any of you be willing to stay and help?”
Mom and Dad each grabbed my arms, jerking me toward the altar to face the twenty people who had remained. I dragged my patent-leather shoes to no avail. I dropped to the carpet, but my father wasted no time scooping me up and throwing me over his shoulder. I was too weak to kick. They could have me.
Brother Kinsley removed a vial of clear liquid from his jacket, dabbed his brow with a monogrammed handkerchief, and examined the microphone connection on his shirt.
“Keep its hands behind its back, Billy,” Brother Kinsley said, loosening container’s lid.
Like a witch burning at the stake, I glared holes into people until they recoiled; their fear was almost worth my trouble.
“Jesus wants everyone here to cast out this demon and redeem His daughter!” He flung the water on me, vertically and horizontally. “In Jesus’ name! Out, demon!”
Brother Kinsley shoved my forehead until I fell against my father, but he dropped me, as if to say, You’re not my child anymore. I lay sprawled on the red carpet, my wet Sunday dress, with its lace shredded from fighting.
I reached for someone—anyone. I was hyperventilating, but no one could free their hands of applause long enough to comfort me.
In that house of God, His people couldn’t be found.