May 4, 2010
There was once a large family who adopted a boy. He looked different from the members of his adoptive family, being as he was taller and thinner than most of them, and having ears that figured prominently on either side of his head. The boy’s skin was chocolaty brown, and he arrived into the family amid the rumor that his father had come from darkest Africa and worshipped a different God. It was even whispered by some that the boy himself practiced this faith, and that was both strange and frightening to the family. But they chose him because he was well spoken, and because he possessed a heartening quality that made them feel less embarrassed about their past and very hopeful about the future. They named him Miracle.
The day they brought him to live in his new home, which was a large white house built in the middle of a swamp, his adoptive brother stepped forward and said, “We love you so much, Miracle. We know you’ll be better than the last boy we adopted. We regret very much now that we ever chose that stupid child. But we have sent him away to spend the rest of his days on a dry and distant ranch. You are the boy we always dreamed of.”
Father put his hand on the boy’s head. “We picked you over all the others, Miracle. We chose you over the strident, mannish girl because she scared us with her fierce ways. We chose you over the much older boy because his disjointed mumblings struck us as unwholesome. We chose you over both of them because you are shiny and new and are sure to assuage our worries and solve all our problems.”
Then they walked Miracle up the steps to the front door of his new home.
“Here, let us help you,” they all said together.
Brother put his shoulder to the door and pushed as hard as he could. Uncle came to help him, and they were finally able to open it. Miracle could see that the house was piled floor to ceiling with garbage, old toys, picture books, mounds of dirty clothes, stacks of papers, broken bicycles and overturned furniture. Sludge and sewage were smeared across the walls and all the bulbs were burnt out. It smelled terrible.
The family pushed him firmly into the entry hall and crowded in the doorway.
Mother said, “It is a little messy, but we know you will soon put it in order, and that we can all sleep here comfortably in our beds tonight.” Miracle saw that rats were scurrying in and around the mountains of trash that lined the hallways and spilled out from other rooms.
The family stepped back. Sister kissed him and said, “Miracle, we have faith that you are the one, so we leave this in your hands. We’ll be back in an hour.” Hugging him each in turn, the family returned to their cars and went out for lunch.
When they returned they found the front door wide open. Trash bags were piled outside amid debris scattered far and wide. They heard the banging of a hammer and the scraping of a shovel coming from inside. At that moment, a cascade of broken toys tumbled out the door, almost hitting Grandmother and two Second Cousins.
“But these are all perfectly good!” cried Uncle snatching up a Tonka truck with no wheels and examining a shattered hand mirror. Waving a headless doll in his fist, he said, “There ain’t nothing here a little glue couldn’t fix! What does Miracle think he’s doing?”
Auntie picked up a bent aluminum tennis racket. “Does he suppose we will give him enough allowance to buy new things? In gratitude to our family for adopting him he should spend his money on gifts for us!”
A jackhammer drowned out all other conversation.
With growing unease, they waited until Miracle’s hour was up. Then they peeked into the entryway.
All the doors were open, and a fresh breeze had begun to clear the stale air from the house. Miracle was bent over in the middle, sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime on his face and clothes. Smiling, he straightened up, arms thrown wide to his new family. He had cleared a pathway through the worst of the wreckage, and sunlight streamed in, showing the full extent of the chaos and filth still within. The family gasped and, as one, took a step back.
“This is awful! What have you been doing?” Cousin demanded. “The house is uninhabitable! You have not made any difference at all!”
“This is unacceptable!” said Sister. “We did not adopt you to have you stand there and do nothing! I can’t believe I kissed you! You promised us everything would be better!”
Said Mother, “We are so disappointed in you that we have decided to tie your hands behind your back as punishment.”
Said Father, “Yes, perhaps that will teach you not to shirk your responsibilities. This is a terrible betrayal of our faith in you.”
“Tie his hands! Tie his hands!” the others cried.
Uncle strode in, using the path that Miracle had made through the mess. With a length of rope from his pocket he tied the boys’ hands together at the wrists. He made the knot very tight indeed, to be sure the boy couldn’t wriggle free. Auntie knocked Miracle off his feet, rolled him onto his back and then kicked him for good measure.
Miracle stared up at his adoptive family, his eyes filled with confusion.
“Because we love you,” Mother sighed, “we must provide consequences when you don’t do as we say. We are beginning to think we might have made a mistake in adopting you. If you want us to love you, you’ll find a way to get this chore done.”
Brother bent down low and hissed into Miracle’s ear, “You have made us very tired, Brother. When we return from getting coffee, we expect to see the house in perfect order. Don’t make fools of us.
The family turned and walked away from the boy, who was struggling with all his might to get up from the floor. They slammed the front door and marched down the steps. Second Cousin collected money from everyone and went around the corner to the coffee shop.
After a few minutes of staring at the house, Uncle asked, “What do you think is going on in there?”
“I hear thumping,” said Father. “Perhaps he is playing with his toys.”
“That would be just like him!” cried Auntie. “He always was a selfish, lazy boy.”
Others said, “Perhaps we should have adopted that older boy after all. He was repellant and fickle, but at least he was no Miracle.”
All nodded. They continued listening to the diminishing sounds from inside the house.
“Well,” sighed Uncle, checking his watch, “Let’s go see if he has finished. I certainly ain’t feeling too optimistic.”
Grumbling, they marched back up the steps.