• Rita Sommers-Flanagan

After the Shooting

In the morning, I say “Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God,” and hold my hands on my heart and push inward.


But I am not praying. God is very busy helping people who are still alive find ways to stay that way for a while. To cope. I don’t want to interrupt. But suddenly, here she is, eating muffins, admiring my recent artwork.



“What in the world are you doing?” I ask. “Get back to the places you’re needed. I’m okay.”


“I know,” God said. “It’s the muffins. They’re delicious. And I love how you arranged those little rocks. I remember when that heart-shaped one surfaced eons ago. Good eyes.”

God settles into the outdated bent-wood rocking chair and helps herself to another muffin. I give her the last of my cold brew coffee, and sit. I’ve been a therapist long enough to know this is one of those times it’s better to wait.


Sure enough, the tears begin. I should’ve realized how bruised she’d be, and how drained. We throw a whole lot of shit at God. And we throw it hard and mean. I let her cry a while, offering my ugly collection of hankies, confessing my part in it all, and silently begging her to pull it together. After a bit, she lifts her head.


“I guess you’ve noticed some trends that don’t bode well for you all,” she says, sighing,

“Violence isn’t new, just deadlier. And ignorance has gotten so damn popular. Almost no one tries to think anymore. And vengeful hatred is all the rage.”


I let her cry a while, offering my ugly collection of hankies, confessing my part in it all, and silently begging her to pull it together.

I nod, miserable. God rocks rhythmically, sipping coffee, wiping her nose, staring out the window. The leaves have outdone themselves this year. Such brilliant declarations of transition and death. Soon, they’ll fall and become the elements they once were. Another generation will unfurl in the spring, lime green and innocent. This, of course, assumes intact roots. Food and water. Light. I close my eyes and imagine myself vivid magenta, gleaming gold, letting go. A transitory entity that prays and listens. A tattered shelter. A friend of God’s.


The chair is empty. The muffins, gone. And I cannot find the heart-shaped rock. I hope she took it with her.



Rita Sommers-Flanagan is a clinical psychologist, author, jogger, gardener, weed-puller, and aspiring mystic. She is woefully monolinguistic in human languages but has regular (sometimes unwilling) bilingual conversations with The Universe, who insists on co-authorship in certain practices. The translations required can be both exhausting and exhilarating. She hales from Montana and claims close relationships with locally famous people who are trying to save the earth and care for each other. She is both sad and happy, broken and whole, brilliant and dimwitted, old and young. She is alive in the moment and often claims that is enough.


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