DIVAS IN THE DESERT SING LOUDEST

ALLISON PINKERTON

My sister Evie said her week of rest was Biblical, pre-ordained, saintly. She’d gone diva after becoming a YouTube influencer famous for faith healing. Dealing with internet trolls for six months, she said, entitled her to a week of watching Buzzfeed Tasty videos on Instagram while wrapped in a fuzzy pink blanket.

I sat on her bed. We didn’t mention last Sunday, or the real reason for her hibernation. She’d failed to heal Grandma the Friday before, so on Sunday she’d raised her hands in fists when the praise band sang “I love you, Lord,” on repeat. Everyone else raised their palms. Open palms invite the Spirit to fill you. Watching strobe lights blink across her white knuckles and raised tendons, I wondered: Was she ready to fight God because He’d broken His promise to her? Was she protecting me from Him and His disappointments?

You didn’t create the world, I said. She’d been laying in bed for four days, demanding I respond to her followers, do her AP Lit homework, read out loud from the Gospels so she could find flaws.

Evie looked at me like I was lying: She had created the world. She had. Hardened black mascara flecks crusted the inside corners of her eyes. She picked at them with long fingernails and pinkies painted teal, for luck. But—a broken talisman, a misguided superstition, another lie, a supplication pulled up from its knees. Today in the nursing home, Grandma’s dementia still held our names just out of her reach. When she’d always been the first actor off-book at the community theatre.

I looked away. Evie hadn’t asked, but I was disappointed, too. Guilty. Angry. Heat like camera flashes lit my cheeks. I scrolled through Twitter, absently tapping hearts.

You can’t heal everyone, I said.

She sighed, and I half-expected her to put the back of her hand to her forehead. I imagined twisting the meat of her fleshy palm until she yelped. She wasn’t alone in her hurt. Grandma had been having a lucid day, and Evie had left her in pain. But, I hadn’t stopped it. We’d both disappointed her when she knew what we were capable of.

I’d known the healing would fail when Evie attempted it solo, without asking God into the room before she began. I could have pulled Evie’s hands from Grandma’s face, talked over her whispered prayers. The plot of the latest Riverdale would have distracted Grandma. Instead, I’d watched. Was Evie arrogant enough to believe she alone lost sleep over this?

I was tired of her pride. Her expectations.

She rolled away from me, cocooning herself in the pink fuzzy blanket. The Lord’s prayer wafted from her sour mouth. She hadn’t yet showered during her week of rest. I whispered back the lyrics to “Nightswimming”—my prayer. The words muddled, beseeching.
Our Father, I thought I knew you.
Who art in Heaven, I thought you knew me.

ALLISON PINKERTON’s work is forthcoming from The Normal School, and has appeared in Passages North, Image, and elsewhere. In 2019, she received a “Distinguished Story” mention from Best American Short Stories. She was awarded the 2017 Kathy Fish fellowship from SmokeLong Quarterly.