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How We Can Be Saved

Story by Max Ruback (Read author interview) June 16, 2005

In the field behind the church is the haunted house. We laugh at the caskets stacked in the yard, the fake howling wind sounds coming from speakers. We laugh at the paper skeletons hanging from the trees and the cardboard gravestones with mannequin arms and legs sticking out of the ground. We hear girls screaming. A woman in a bloody dress points her only arm inside the darkness beyond the door. Her face is painted white. A knife sticks out of her chest. Beware, she says, staring. We laugh. Her eyes get wide. We go inside.

We walk through a narrow hallway trying to keep our balance because there’s a mattress on the floor. We bang into the walls. We go through the maze of mirrors, finding our strobe light reflection. Zombies get in our way, touching our shoulders. Behind bars, two bloody prisoners rattle chains and tell us to find the key to let them out. Their black and white striped uniforms are torn. Keep going, I say. I’m going, he says. Go, I say. We hear girls screaming behind us and ahead of us.

We make our way through a room filled with fake smoke. Behind a black curtain arms reach for us. I push him into the arms. They grab him, but he gets away. He calls me an asshole. Fake smoke rises. A mental patient chained to the wall tries to chase us, but the chain tightens before he can reach us. We trip over each other. A buzzsaw revs. We hear girls screaming. We are out of breath.

When we make it out alive, we talk about what it was like. Did you see that man with his head chopped off holding his head? Did you see the rats in the cage eating the skull? That almost looked like real blood, I say. I know, he says.

We catch our breath. A teenage girl in a pink half shirt asks us if we had fun. She smiles, sways her hip from side to side. We say we did. She’s beautiful and we’re shy in her presence. She asks us if we’d like a cold soda. We say yes, please. Follow me, she says, smiling. We stare at the possibilities of her ripped jean shorts. She tells us to sit down at the picnic tables, she’ll be right back. She brings us Cokes, sits down across from us. She wants if we know anything about Jesus. We’re Jewish, I say. Jesus was Jewish, she says. I bet you didn’t know that? We sip our sodas. She assures us she’s going to Heaven. She tells us her name and we tell her ours.

We glance at people coming out of the haunted house. We glance at the people walking into the trailer where they convert you into a Christian. We look back at her. Feel better with a cold soda in your system? she says, standing up. She reaches in her back pocket, and hands us each a pamphlet. One for you and one for you, she says. We thank her like she’s a grown up. Read them, she says. And come back and talk to me tomorrow. We say we will, but we won’t. She smiles at us, tells us we’re cute as can be. Then she says goodbye, but says we better come back. We say we will. We watch her walk away.

We read the pamphlets on the way home. A cartoon Jesus tells us how our sins can be forgiven so we can go to Heaven. In a cartoon bubble he tells us how he suffered and died for our sins. He tells us how we can be saved. He is nailed to a wooden cross that reaches the sky. Sunbeams shoot from the clouds.

We get quiet like we are being followed.

About the Author

Max Ruback’s fiction may be found in Descant(Canada), Zing Magazine, Zone 3, Hobart, Rainbow Curve, Crab Creek Review, Illuminations, Quick Fiction, OysterBoy Review, elsewhere. Nonfiction/Reviews in Thought, The Writer, Turnrow, Carolina Quarterly, and Main Street Rag. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida and can be reached at MaxRuback@aol.com.

This story appeared in Issue Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Nine

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