Night had not yet turned itself into morning. The darkness lay thick and quiet around him like smoke from a fire. He licked his lips and tasted lye. The mantel clock clucked like a faraway metronome. He stared up at the ceiling and turned all his thoughts to the serpent box. Above him hung the framed portrait of Jesus cloaked in a white robe. A golden nimbus of holy light radiated from his head. A large crimson heart hung from a gold chain around his neck. He held his porcelain right hand up in a gesture of faith, index finger crooked. He held his left hand over his bosom and no matter where in the room he stood, Jesus stared into his eyes. He felt that stare everywhere he went. He could not escape that pleading gaze. He lay small and scared beneath it. He often spoke to it in his time of need, he whispered to Jesus in the darkness, and often times from the depths of the night, Jesus spoke back.
"I'm not afraid of you," the boy said.
He felt his heart beating in his chest. He felt it would explode. Jesus stared down at him in the cold silence of the house and under his bed he heard the faint scuffle of the rattler. He knelt, and mattress springs popped beneath him. He stared into the soulful eyes of the painting. He turned it around so that it faced the wall. It hung there like a tombstone, a stained label glued to the back, curled at the edges and brown. It said, H. Rorcher and Sons, NY.
Jacob moved through the house like a ghost. He walked downstairs to the mantel clock and watched the brass pendulum pass through the vacuum of time. He moved like a cat to the kitchen, the icy tile beneath his feet. The kitchen faucet dripped water into a glass. He watched the ripples made by the dying droplets and listened to their hollow plunks. He took the glass and filled it with fresh water from the tap. He reached under the sink and found the poison jar. It bore the grinning face of a bright red cartoon Satan on the label. He unscrewed the cap and shook a large quantity of the powder into the glass. It fell through the water like a blizzard of flakes in a souvenir snow globe. He stirred it with a spoon and watched the frosty vortex swirl. He raised the glass to his lips and he closed his eyes.
"Lemonade," he said. "Lemonade."
He gulped down the poison in one large swallow and waited there at the table for God.
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