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Lasting effects

Aunt Mattie was chewing a gumball when she saw Jesus.  When he touched her on the forehead behind the Costco, and told her that there was nothing in this world she could do to keep her from being loved.

She believed him.  It was the first time she’d ever believed anything a man said about love.

She’d just bought a case of bourbon.  She went home and poured it all down the sink.  She gave up smoking, even though it helped her keep her figure.  She gave up dating, although she also stopped telling me that men never tell the truth.  She even gave up sweets … although I could never get the justification behind that, since it’s not anywhere in the Bible.  But she kept the remains of the gumball.  Put it in a ring box and kept it on the shelf above her bed.  It was in her mouth when Jesus touched her head, and that meant something.

My family had always laughed at Aunt Mattie, so she didn’t take offense to us laughing at her for a whole different reason.  But the truth is I think she was happier.  She was the most loudly dysfunctional member of my family, but I know for a fact you can be quietly miserable.

She died a month before my wedding.  She’d always said the only people who’d attend her funeral would be ex-husbands, but there were two churches and an old-folks home there to send her off.

When the diamond fell out of its setting there wasn’t time to get it fixed.  I grabbed it, ran to the box of Mattie’s effects, and got out her ring box.  Somehow the gumball was still fresh and wet.  I stuck it in the setting and pushed the stone in after it, praying that it would stick.

Don’t laugh, don’t make fun of me:  but it’s still there.  It’s held all this time.  I feel blessed, although I don’t feel like it was intended for me.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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