Hannah Delaney sat in the garden of sound, thinking of how wonderful and cruel life could be.
The pleasure was wonderful. Hannah was odd but not so odd to think the garden had been made just for her. Even though it was one of the few pleasures she had in her days, the cruelty it took to create the garden could only come from God.
The Delaneys were big on God. On Sundays her parents took her to the big gym outside of town, almost twenty minutes away. She listened to the tall, thin, white haired preacher talk about God and life and television and family, his timbre smooth, his tones bright. He sounded like a commercial himself, a Voice You Could Trust stumping for a Life You Should Lead. Every talk ended with the flock bowing their heads. The preacher talked to God hard. He invited people to raise their hands if they wanted to be saved. Yes, I see that hand, the preacher would murmur in a tone like thick honey. Yes, I see that hand. Praise God. Yes, I see that hand...
Hannah never opened her eyes to see if people were really raising their hands, but she was always curious. The idea of raising her own hand built over several months of Sundays until she realized she'd never have the nerve. She gave up, and kept her head bowed and her eyes closed. A few weeks later, when the preacher asked anyone who wanted God to enter his heart to raise his hand, Hannah's arm shot up at if pulled by invisible strings.
"Yes, I see that hand," he murmured, sending a flush of pleasure from the pit of her stomach through her entire body. She would have liked to sit with that feeling for a time, but he'd already moved on to the next person longing for salvation. Yes, I see that hand...
The moment came suddenly, and ended just as fast. Bookending her as usual, her parents must have felt her movement. They'd never remarked on it.
God ate breakfast and dinner with the Delaneys. God was invoked when her aunt caught the cancer, or her cousin was born deaf. God was invoked when the radiation treatments worked, or an uncle's business thrived. God could send a station wagon to kill a beloved pet, God could eased psoriasis, God could inspire good people to do great works.
When she turned thirteen, Hannah attended youth group on Tuesday nights. Youth group took place in the chapel instead of the gym. The chapel was so beautiful Hannah wished the church had never outgrown the building. It was round, built entirely of wood so dark it was nearly black. The spire on top was all glass, saving the space from gloom. The podium was raised, the stage small, the cross simple gold. She knew growth was a good thing, that sooner or later there'd be enough Christians to save the world, but she never felt as close to God in the gym as she felt in the old chapel.
There were so many great churches downtown, miniature versions of the old churches of Europe, hulking in stone, swallowing city blocks, stained glass windows, copper roofs turning green, doors painted gleaming red. She didn't know what kept the Delaneys from
They didn't finish construction on the new chapel before she was exiled, so she never knew if the new, huge chapel was as warm and beautiful as the old one.
It's written in a different voice. I've never used "stump" or "timbre" in my life. It's a promising beginning, more polished than some first drafts usually are, with a character I knew and a situation I wanted to explore. Sure, I'd lose the first two paragraphs, but still; good stuff.
I must have been affected by all those churches I saw in central New York on vacation. Growing up there, I never noticed how many of them there are. And Garden of Sound is the phrase I think of when I hear one of Becky's favorite songs, Regina Spektor's Consequence of Sound. I also remember that preacher from when I was born again. That's where my knowledge of this piece runs out.
She didn't know what kept the Delaneys from- what? What's the Garden of Sound? And why was she exiled? The water was flowing and I didn't get to the pump before it dried up, so I have no better answers than you. I let the holidays or reviews or blogs came before Hannah Delaney, and she died.
I only knew her for a moment, on Monday December 20th, 2010, but I mourn her passing.