J. Matthew Gottwig
J. Matthew Gottwig

First appeared in Cutbank 89 (Winner 2018 Montana Fiction Prize)

When the rattlesnake bites Jack, his mother prays, Please Lord Jesus, draw the venom from my boy; bring the color of life back into his skin; keep him breathing, Lord Jesus, keep my boy alive!

But she doesn’t cry.

No, that woman is strong as stone, but her boyfriend cries. Yes, William cries the whole sixty miles to the clinic, because he loves that boy more than he loves himself, and he cries because Katie’s prayers make him think of that rattler’s schc-schc-schc-schc. “We’ve got to be strong for him, Katie,” William says, but when the doctors and nurses cover that boy (so still and ocean blue), they weep quietly for the mom who can’t let go. William places a hand on his girlfriend’s shoulder and whispers, “Jack loved you, Katie,” which is all he can think to say.

But Katie is having none of this and pulls those linens back!

This she prays as her boy’s spirit rises from his body, No, Lord Jesus, I will not relent, Lord, because you are all powerful, and this she prays as that boy’s spirit ascends into the rafters, You can do anything Lord Jesus, I know you can. I believe it in my heart of hearts, and Katie’s prayers are powerful prayers that call like eagles cry. Even as her Lord sings to Jack, prepares a place, a golden throne just Jack’s size, her prayers keep that boy tethered to the earth.

But there Jack is, reaching for the sky.

Full text available at: