My sister and I didn’t know exactly how Mom got possessed by the ghost of 18th Century Theologian Jonathan Edwards, but when she started yelling at the oven, we knew something was off.
“The Devil stands waiting for you!” she bellowed, “The Devil waits for you like the greedy, hungry lions!” Actually, I wasn’t sure if she was yelling at the oven or us.
The plates flew out from the cabinets and started swirling around her head in a supernatural tornado, making it tough for us to see her face. The linoleum at her feet had cracked, and out of the fissures came flames and sulfuric smoke, twisting around her house slippers like the souls of the damned reaching for redemption.
Mom’s voice was loud enough to rattle the kitchen windows. “That reason why thou sinners are not fallen already,” she howled, “is only that God’s appointed time is not come!” A spatula went flying from an open drawer, spearing a cabinet door, followed by a whisk and an egg timer that embedded in the side of the fridge. “God will not hold thou up in these slippery places any longer, but will let thou go, and thou shall fall into destruction!”
“What is she talking about?” My sister whispered. We were hiding behind the upturned dining room table. “You covered this in English class, right?”
“I think it’s some kind of pit metaphor,” I said. “Or maybe something about the oven mitts we got her for Christmas.”
My sister shook her head. “I knew we should’ve gotten her the kayak.”
At that moment, a dark tornado of otherworldly wind started to spin more violently. In the black air, faces leered back, twisted and screaming, and it wasn’t hard to put together that they were likely souls cast into lakes of fire or depths of something-or-other. Mom lifted her arms and all the cutlery leapt from the drawers. A few stray forks impaled the zucchini she’d been slicing before the ruckus began.
“What did you say to her anyway?” sis asked.
I shrugged. She’d just gotten home from work, and I’d just mentioned “maybe we could have real food instead of frozen pizza.”
“Oh, you didn’t. You know she’s been putting in all that overtime.”
I threw up my hands. “Frozen pizza gives me heartburn.”
Later, when the last smoldering embers of the kitchen had been snuffed out by the firemen, and Mom and had been coaxed down from the ceiling by Pastor Garfunkle (“Now, Mr. Edwards,” he’d said, “you know the Bow of God’s wrath is bent, and justice points the arrow to your heart.”), I got on Mom’s computer to order Chinese.
The browser Mom left up had a few tabs open, and I clicked through them–a recipe for veggie meatloaf, a book on whitewater rafting, a Buzzfeed article describing “One Cool Trick when You’re Too Tired to Cook: Summon the Ghost of a Dead Puritan to Admonish the Living into Much Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth.” At that point, I pretty much lost my appetite and started shopping for kayak gear.