by Timothy Miller
Josiah picked his way over the mossy rock trail, mindful of the sharp protrusions of rough stone poking out of the cliff face like grey teeth. The light was fading, the yellow sun turning a sad indigo as it sank low on the horizon.
A stiff gust rocked him, flapping his scarf wildly about his head and drawing his eyes to the pounding green surf so far below. A thrill of fear twisted his stomach. Hugging the blanket tight, he looked up from the waves and pushed on, following the bloody footprints higher up the cliff.
Minutes later, he reached a flat lip stone jutting out from the cliff like the prow of a ship. At the edge of the lip, a small girl sat with her bloody feet hanging out over the drop as the wind sent her long, sun-bleached hair twisting, covering her head in a gossamer veil.
Relief washed over Josiah.
“Here, Father,” answered the girl without turning.
Josiah blinked. Rachael, normally a happy child, sounded heartbroken. What could have affected her so?
“Are you well, Child?” he asked carefully. “The priest said you ran from the launder and would not answer his calls.”
Rachael looked down at something she clutched in her small, white hands. “I do not . . . I found something in the charity gifts,” she said, holding out her hand so he could see what she held. “Have you seen its like, Father?”
Josiah nearly recoiled, but caught himself. Still, he had to clear his throat twice before answering. “Aye, child,” he said roughly. “Your mother had one before we came here.”
Rachael nodded. “I did not mean to run, Father. I only . . . It showed me . . .”
She started to cry.
Moving to the ledge, Josiah sat beside her. He did not speak or try to comfort her. Instead, he closed his eyes, losing himself in the salty taste of the ocean and the crash of the waves. Times like this he missed Sarah terribly. She would have known just what to say, but he was lost. Mute and helpless, he prayed for wisdom as the sun disappeared into the ocean.
In time, Rachael’s weeping eased.
“I am here.”
Rachael lifted the small shaving mirror in her hand.
“Is it truth?”
Josiah breathed a long sigh, the sound full of sorrow and regret.
“It is simply a thing, daughter. And it is a curse to all who live upon Molokai, the Leper Island.” Gently, he took the mirror from her small hands and, not quite daring to look at it himself, tossed it from the cliff. “It is a truth of sorts, but only a small truth.”
Rachael watched the mirror’s sparkling descent to the waves.
“A small truth?”
“It is a fleeting thing, what you saw,” he explained. “A reflection is a passing shadow, a ripple in the water. A truth that fades can never be more than a small truth.”
“What then is a large truth, father?”
Josiah smiled. “Love, my daughter. Love is eternal, and so it is a lasting truth.”
“The mirror was something I could hold in my hand, father,” Rachael said, lowering her eyes. “I cannot see love.”
Spreading his blanket around his daughter, Josiah placed a kiss upon her head.
“Let me show you, my daughter.”
Holding his daughter against him, Josiah the leper watched the moon rise over the ocean and thought of truths great and small.
Timothy Miller has worked at a farm, a meatpacking plant, a pickle factory, a casino, and a rowdy nightclub as a bouncer. Currently employed as a repair technician for a large telephone company, he writes in his spare time and has several short stories published in print and on the web. His biggest fans, his family, spend many frigid Wisconsin nights in their home, listening to his stories and encouraging him, despite the nightmares.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
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'The Final Time'