Obra Ganadora: En lo profundo del corazón — Moramay Alva

Read the English translation here.

En lo profundo del corazón

Moramay Alva

¿Qué determina el que quieras a alguien? ¿Cuánto tiempo debe pasar para que lo llegues a amar? ¿Depende del tiempo que convivieron? ¿O los momentos que vivieron juntos? Por experiencia he descubierto que no se necesita conocer por mucho tiempo a una persona para llegar a quererla. Algunas conexiones son casi instantáneas y se introducen en lo profundo del corazón.

Me encanta la historia familiar porque me permite conocer a muchos parientes, así que estaba muy emocionada cuando supe de la reunión familiar de los Márquez, la familia de mi padre. Había estado buscando información sobre mi bisabuelo, Julio Márquez, y esta era la oportunidad perfecta para saber más sobre él. El día de la reunión no tenía mucho tiempo y solo pude saludar a algunos familiares. Fue la primera vez que vi a Mayel, pero apenas hablamos. Le di la investigación que llevaba, me dio las gracias y me fui.

Unos meses después me envió un mensaje. Había revisado mi investigación, la misma que le di cuando lo conocí y quería mi ayuda. Su esposa había muerto hacía unos meses y no se sentía muy bien para organizar todo para la próxima reunión. No podía creer que a alguien le gustaran las reuniones familiares como a mi o tal vez más y yo estaba sumamente feliz de ser parte de esto, así que acepté con gusto.

La próxima vez que vi a Mayel me sorprendió. Solo nos habíamos visto una vez y me saludó con tanta familiaridad, como si nos conociéramos de toda la vida. Ejerció una especie de fascinación en mí y no podía dejar de mirarlo. Tenía casi cincuenta años y una sonrisa sincera; su cabello negro estaba cubierto de canas, con unas densas cejas negras. Tenía una forma peculiar de hablarme, con una familiaridad que nunca había sentido, ni siquiera con mi familia cercana. Él amaba la historia familiar tanto como yo, pero había hecho algo más. Organizó la reunión familiar más grande que jamás haya visto. Con su entusiasmo característico, Mayel había logrado reunir a más de cuatrocientos familiares, venidos de diferentes ciudades, y la nombró «Marquezada». Su trato con todos era peculiar, hablaba con tanta familiaridad y cariño, como si tuvieran años de amistad, aun cuando tenía dos minutos de haberlos conocido. Se mostraba tan amable que sobrecogía, pero con su calidez era fácil sentir su sinceridad. Para él no importaba cómo te veías, de dónde venías o a qué te dedicabas; lo importante es que eras familia y eso bastaba para él.

El día de la reunión, en agosto del 2017, llegué temprano para ayudar con los últimos detalles. Mayel portaba su sombrero característico, que le daba un toque de sofisticación. Mientras hablábamos sobre la reunión, una de mis primas mencionó a su hijo que recientemente había regresado de la misión en Brasil. Mayel inesperadamente dijo: «yo era mormón». Al principio creí que bromeaba, pero luego habló sobre su obispo y la razón por la que dejó la iglesia. «Fue una tontería», dijo. No podía creerlo, pero me sentí muy feliz. Ahora todo tenía sentido: ¡esa era la razón por la que buscaba a la familia! Y empecé a soñar: tal vez él podría regresar a la iglesia, yo podría ayudarlo, necesitaba hacerlo. Después de algunas horas, la reunión terminó. Cuando estaba por subirme al auto, Mayel vino a preguntarme algo y me abrazó. Olía a alcohol, un aroma que no tolero, pero por alguna razón esta vez no me molestó. Fue la última vez que lo vi.

Meses después abrí mi página de Facebook. Uno de sus hijos publicó un estado pidiendo oraciones por su padre, y es cuando lo supe: Mayel había tenido un accidente y estaba en terapia intensiva luchando por su vida.

Los días pasaron con pocas novedades. No se brindaba mucha información sobre la condición médica de Mayel y yo confiaba en que todo saldría bien. Un domingo por la mañana, recordé la plática que habíamos tenido sobre la Iglesia, y después de pensarlo un poco me armé de valor y le pedí a su hijo que permitiera que algún poseedor del sacerdocio le diera una bendición, después de todo él era miembro de la Iglesia y yo estaba segura de que eso podría ayudar. Su hijo solo contestó con un «no». Por alguna razón sentí una gran tristeza, como si hubieran rechazado la última opción de salvarlo. No podía hacer nada al respecto, solo orar y pedir que esto se convirtiera en un mal recuerdo.

Ese domingo, durante la escuela dominical me sentía más inquieta de lo habitual. La respuesta que había recibido del hijo de Mayel realmente me había dolido y no dejaba de pensar en lo mucho que la bendición podría ayudarle. Estaba absorta en mis pensamientos, tratando de poner atención a lo que se decía en la clase, cuando vibró mi celular. Leí el mensaje; como pude me levanté y salí casi corriendo del salón. Era como si el mundo se hubiera apagado. No escuchaba nada. Sentí un dolor en el pecho y comencé a llorar. Encontré a mi esposo en el pasillo, al ver mi rostro, me preguntó que me pasaba. Solo pude decir: «Mayel está muerto».

Los días siguientes estuvieron llenos de mensajes en los que se cambiaba constantemente la hora y lugar de los servicios funerarios. Yo no salía del shock; no podía creerlo. Después de algunos días por fin se determinó el día y lugar de la misa de cuerpo presente. Hice los arreglos necesarios y con el corazón pesado viajamos hacia allá. Llegamos a la misa cuando estaba por terminar. Empecé a comprender que había perdido más que a Mayel. Perdí la conexión familiar que sentía. Noté por primera vez que ese sentimiento de tanta familiaridad solo lo tenía con él. Yo era una extraña para cualquier otra persona, aun para sus hijos, incluso cuando tenemos la misma sangre. Ahora, los mismos rostros felices que había visto en la reunión familiar estaban conmovidos por el dolor, y aunque los había visto más de una vez, me parecieron desconocidos.

Llegamos al panteón, ese panteón en particular que no me gusta. El aire olía a flores, las flores que anuncian la muerte, una combinación de dulce perfume y agua estancada. Ese lugar siempre me ha dado una sensación extraña, y aunque disfruto ir a los cementerios por mis investigaciones genealógicas, más de una vez he querido salir corriendo de ahí. Las tumbas están tan juntas que parecen estar una encima de la otra, y aun cuando algunas de ellas tienen flores, lucen abandonadas, con ese peculiar color gris que toman las lápidas después de los años. El panteón se veía más triste que nunca.

Finalmente llegamos al lugar; era pequeño, rodeado de otras tumbas y detrás de una capilla diminuta. Era el espacio justo para poner el ataúd. Quería acercarme, pero no era su familia cercana, así que me paré detrás y esperé a que terminara. No podía creer cómo era posible que una persona tan importante para mí estuviera en ese pequeño espacio rodeado de tierra fría. ¿Cómo era posible que mis esperanzas fueran enterradas bajo esa tierra gris que huele a flor de muerto? El sol brillaba y hacía calor, pero mi corazón se sentía frío y vacío. Me senté detrás de todos y fingí estar bien. Nadie podía entender mis sentimientos, incluso yo. No podía entender cómo era que mi corazón estaba roto. ¿Cómo era posible que la muerte de alguien a quien apenas conocí me afectara de esta manera? ¿Cómo explicar que había llorado más por su muerte que por la de mamá? Me sentía culpable. Casi no lo conocía. No tenía derecho a sentir esto. No era lógico. Pero era real.

Ha habido otras «Marquezadas» después de la partida de Mayel. Otros se han encargado de organizar la comida, el salón y el baile, pero nadie ha conseguido que se sienta la calidez de antes. He conocido a otros familiares, descubierto nuevos rostros, pero no logro encontrar a nadie como él. Todavía lloro cuando lo recuerdo y me pregunto por qué su memoria se introdujo tan profundamente dentro de mí. Siento amor y dolor por alguien que apenas conocí, pero la conexión entre nosotros era más profunda de lo que jamás imaginé. Extraño la sinceridad en su voz, su calidez al hablarme. Extraño el cómo me sentía a su lado. He comprendido lo difícil que es conectar con alguien de esa manera, que algunos jamás lo logran. Y lo mucho que debemos atesorarlo cuando sucede.

2020 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners: Audience Choice and Judge’s Choice

This year’s contest will stand out in our memories. The year when the Church marked the 200th anniversary of the First Vision has turned out to be one where we also wrestle more than usual with the weight of mortality. By the time the call for entries went up, we were well into a pandemic with a high death toll and no end in sight. Between the writing and the contest itself, racist violence in the United States drew sustained international attention to the cause of racial justice. There was a lot for readers to reflect on as they read the finalists.

And this year, many of the finalists in the contest spoke to the things we were thinking about: sickness and death, closed temples and quiet moments, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, Black experience and our call to discipleship across difference.

Thanks to support from our patrons, we’ll be awarding two prizes this year. There will be a $100 prize for the 1st place winner of the Audience Choice Award, and an additional $100 prize for the winner of the Judge’s Choice Award.

Audience Choice Award

We had over 300 people vote in the contest. Every single finalist had many voters choose it as their first, second, third, fourth place choices. With some help from Excel, we’ve tabulated people’s preferences.

The four audience favorite finalists this year were:

4th place: “Perfection is a Fullness” by Jeanine Bee

3rd place: “Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand

2nd place: “In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young

 

and for 1st place, an essay from Cape Verde:

O Nosso Cão Stromberg” (“Our Dog Stromberg“) by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Spotlight on César:

César Augusto Medina Fortes was born in the city of Mindelo, on São Vicente island in Cape Verde. He graduated as a teacher with a degree in comprehensive basic education from the Pedagogical Institute of Mindelo, and a degree in educational sciences and praxis from Jean Piaget de Mindelo University; he did postgraduate work in youth and adult education at the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil; he also holds a Masters in Pedagogical Supervision and Evaluation from the University of Cape Verde (UNICV).

He was a primary school teacher for nine years, taught secondary education for seven years, and since 2017 he had been a coordinator for social action for the Ministry of Education in São Vicente. He has enjoyed writing since high school, and one of his favorite hobbies is writing the stories of his family.

The bio in Portuguese:

César Augusto Medina Fortes Natural da cidade de Mindelo, ilha de São Vicente, Cabo Verde. Formado como professor de Educação Básica Integral pelo Instituto Pedagógico de Mindelo, Licenciado em Ciências da Educação e Práxis Educativa pela Universalidade Jean Piaget de Mindelo; pós-graduado em Educação de Jovens e Adultos pela Universidade Federal de Paraíba, Brasil; mestrando em Supervisão Pedagógica e Avaliação pela Universidade de Cabo Verde (UNICV). Foi professor do Ensino Primário durante nove anos, lecionou por sete anos no Ensino Secundário e desde 2017 é coordenador de ação social na delegação do Ministério de Educação em São Vicente. Gosta de escrever desde o tempo que andaandava no liceu. Um dos meus passatempos preferido é escrever a história da nossa família.

Judge’s Choice Award

This year, we invited Katherine Cowley to select the recipient of the Judge’s Choice award. Katherine Cowley is a past winner of the Mormon Lit Blitz and of Segullah’s annual writing contest. She is currently leading the team creating an anthology of the first five years of finalists in the Mormon Lit Blitz. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, will be released in Spring 2021.

The Judge’s Choice Award goes to:

Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand

The following is a brief citation that Katherine Cowley provided for the award:

Madison Beckstrand’s poem, “Part Heaven,” is both brilliantly written and timely. The poem takes a simple moment–a black woman having her hair done by her mother–and uses this moment to expand our understanding of history, culture, race, family, sacred ordinances, and the very nature of God. The poem does not shy from struggle, and addresses the black pain not just experienced in broader society, but in our religious communities (“Divine wrath smells like chemical straighteners–stings like compliments from strangers”). Intrinsic in this experience is the weight of memory, and “the many that bled…for the future.” The imagery of blood has extra significance in light of the current worldwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and the treatment of blacks in the United States and worldwide. The poem also explores the importance of physical moments: touch is used to minister to others as the Savior did, to perform sacred ordinances, to give blessings, and to style hair. The final stanza paints a beautiful picture of divinity, and the way that the act of having a mother do your hair can be a window to understanding the nature of God.

Spotlight on Madison Beckstrand:

Madison Beckstrand is a writer and university student majoring in English Education. She loves writing, sewing, creating, and uses her talents to connect with her family and community. Madison is involved with her local chapter of Black Lives Matter, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Genesis group, and the Humanity Sews project. She plans to write much more and is only encouraged by everyone’s support.

 

Please join us in congratulating César Augusto Medina Fortes and Madison Beckstrand on their awards in this year’s contest.

We hope you’ll join us in August to read the top three finalists in the Spanish-language “Palabras de Mormon” contest, co-sponsored by the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas and the Mormon Lit Lab. And stayed tuned for updates on our forthcoming anthology and future publishing projects.

-Nicole and James Goldberg, Editors

2020 Mormon Lit Blitz Voting

Voting Instructions

Time to vote in the 2020 Mormon Lit Blitz!

To vote, take a look at each of the twelve (very short) finalists and rank your top four in the form below by the end of the day on Saturday, June 26th. You must enter four ranked favorites in order to submit a vote. We’ll announce the winner on Monday, June 29th.

The finalists are:

Resurrection by Easter 2020” by Selina Forsyth
Perfection is a Fullness” by Jeanine Bee
Orpheus Sings to Mary and Martha” by Emily Harris Adams
Family Tree” by Merrijane Rice
Three Generations of Sonder” by Chanel Earl
Airplanes that Crashed: A Book of Mormon Coloring Book” by Jared Forsyth
Final Report” by Mattathias Westwood
Portal Friends” by Annaliese Lemmon
Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand
O Nosso Cão Stromberg” (“Our Dog Stromberg“) by César Augusto Medina Fortes
In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young
Brother and Sister” by Scott Hales

 

While you’re here, you might be interested in some updates:

Palabras de Mormon Contest Winners

This year, we also supported the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas in running a Spanish-language contest for Mormon Literature. Winners will appear in the July issue of their periodical, El Pregonero de Deseret. English translations of the top three pieces will be published on this website in August.

Mormon Lit Blitz Anthology

Thanks to encouragement from our patrons, we’ve also been working on a print and ebook anthology of finalists from the Mormon Lit Blitz and related contests (Four Centuries of Mormon Stories, Meeting of the Myths) from the contest’s first five years. We anticipate launching a Kickstarter later this summer as we prepare for print. Stay tuned for details.

New Program for Alumni

Finally, we’ve been working on a program to support past Mormon Lit Blitz finalist writers who are interested in developing a book-length work for publication. Details are forthcoming, but if you’ve been a finalist in any of our contests, this is advance notice that we’ll be inviting people to submit book proposals this fall.


Congratulations once again to all this year’s finalists. If you’re interested in additional updates, you can follow us on Facebook or sign up for our email list.

“In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young

First, in goes the coat
and her oldest’s failure to get a job.
With the black shoes go
her husband’s sarcasm this morning;
with her scarf goes her own.
The blouse carries the lesson
she hasn’t prepared,
the dirty bathroom tile,
and the dying tree in the backyard.
Her teenager’s refusal to get up
and all of those tardies
hang from her skirt like tassels.
Insidious,
gathered in the folds of her half-slip
with tentacles like clammy drier lint:
all the ways she is a terrible mother.

Her white stockings, hope
that there is another page,
another day, a horizon somewhere,
stay on her calves, enduring.

She stands a moment, shivering.

Then,
silky slip washing down her
like good enough.
Dress of standing straight
and facing forward.
Slippers of small things,
little graces, daily manna
that can’t be hoarded
but can be found
unlooked for,
just in time.
She takes up her packet of
God’s daughter
and steps out into the light.

“O Nosso Cão Stromberg” by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Read the English translation here.

“O Nosso Cão Stromberg”

by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Eu desde sempre gostei de cães. Em 1983, meu tio João Miranda chegou em casa com um cão da raça “Dogue Alemão”. Um cão alto, forte, bonito mas muito desajeitado. Era preciso arranjá-lo um nome. Foi aí que o tio Miranda, um grande adepto do Benfica, se lembrou de colocá-lo o nome de “Stromberg” em homenagem ao grande jogador sueco, o Glenn Stromberg, que tinha acabado de chegar ao Benfica F.C. e que tinha dado muitas alegrias ao clube naquela época. Stromberg, o jogador, também era forte, loiro e alto, daí o nome cair como uma luva ao cão. O cão, Stromberg, também dava muita alegria para mim e para o meu primo Sílvio, filho de tio Miranda e da minha tia Rosa.

Lembro-me que o tio Miranda certo dia nos disse:

– “Stromberg só fica aqui em casa se vocês se comprometerem a cuidar dele, de dá-lo de comer, de beber e limpar o terraço, quando ele fizer as suas necessidades.”

É claro que ele ouviu um duplo “sim” da nossa parte. Até acrescentamos mais:

– “Comprometemos em dá-lo banho na praia da Laginha todos os domingos, não se preocupe”. E isso, já na nossa esperteza de irmos para o mar a cada domingo sem ser fiscalizados pelos adultos.

Íamos com o cão para todos os sítios. Stromberg era o nosso fiel companheiro e guarda. Ninguém ousava meter-se connosco porque estalávamos o cão para cima dele. Sentíamos seguros ao lado do Stromberg. Quem via o cão grande e forte a ladrar, fugia logo de medo. Só não sabiam, que por trás daquele cão enorme e forte, existia uma alma doce, gentil e brincalhão. Não me lembro se alguma vez, o Stromberg tenha mordido alguém. E assim Stromberg foi crescendo connosco.

Mas os anos foram passando e o Stromberg envelheceu. E num triste dia, o tio Miranda deu-nos uma notícia que não queríamos ouvir. Ele nos comunicou que iria mandar abater o Stromberg porque já não queria vê-lo a sofrer até a morte, e se ele tivesse que morrer que fosse longe de casa. Além do mais ele andava a comer algumas galinhas que ele criava no terraço. Nós imploramos, choramos muito para que ele não fizesse tamanha maldade ao Stromberg, mas ele foi irredutível. Numa sexta-feira de manhã, ele mandou chamar o Leandro, que era um senhor, que quando alguém tinha um serviço sujo para fazer, ele estava sempre disposto á fazê-lo em troca de 50$00 ou de um copo de “grogue”. Ele era conhecido como “Leandro matá-cahorro”.

O nome já dizia para o que ele vinha. E assim foi. Meu tio pagou-lhe antecipadamente e ele lá levou o Stromberg, com uma corda ao pescoço, arrastando o coitado do cão para o corredor da morte.

Ele saiu e nós as crianças chorando, fomos atrás dele, pedindo que por favor não matasse o cão, mas ele não nos deu ouvidos. Ficamos nos degraus junto ao portão, vendo o Stromberg sendo levado pelo Leandro que iria enforcá-lo, lá pelos lados da Ribeira de Julião, certamente numa acácia espinheira.

Quando dobraram a última esquina de Ilha de Madeira em direção á ribeira, desconsolados, entramos para casa. Nós, as crianças, ainda com um nó na garganta dissemos para o tio Miranda:

– “Bossê é mau!” E fugimos para o terraço para chorar o nosso cão.

Naquela tarde, eu e o Sílvio fomos para a escola tristes.

A noite, quando cheguei em casa, jantei e fui dormir cedo. Durante a noite eu tive um sonho. No meu sonho, vi Stromberg a caminhar sem energia, vindo na mesma rua que o vimos pela última vez, só que desta vez, ele estava voltando para casa. Parecia cansado, fraco, com fome e com sede e ainda com uma corda ao pescoço. Quando acordei de manhã, contei o sonho para o meu fiel amigo e primo, Sílvio.

No sábado de manhã, ficamos a ver para o fim da rua de “Nhá Tanha d’aga doce”(uma senhora que tinha uma fonte e vendia água), na esperança que o meu sonho se concretizasse mas, nada de Stromberg. No domingo, levantamos bem cedo e mais uma vez, antes de irmos á igreja, fomos para a porta, esperando ver o Stromberg. Nós tínhamos esta esperança porque sabíamos que o Stromberg era forte o suficiente para fazer aquilo. Estava um lindo dia e o sol começou a lançar os seus primeiros raios.

Um domingo ideal para ir à praia da Laginha mas, sem o nosso cão, já não seria a mesma coisa. Mas tal foi o nosso espanto, quando vimos o Stromberg aparecendo exatamente na esquina que o vi, no meu sonho. Vinha cansado, sujo, magro e com a corda com que o Leandro o tinha enforcado. Certamente, o Leandro o içou numa árvore, mas não o esperou morrer. Stromberg mordeu a corda e fugiu. Corremos ao encontro do nosso querido cão que tinha escapado da morte. Ele já sem forças, perto de nós, lambeu-nos a face e caiu de cansaço e de felicidade. Carreguei-o no colo até ao terraço da casa da minha tia Rosa. Demos-lhe comida e água e ele foi dormir como um guerreiro que depois de ter lutado pela vida, durante três dias de caminhada, desde da Ribeira de Julião, conseguiu chegar ao seu castelo, em Ribeira Bote, rua 10, onde nós, os seus queridos amigos, o recebemos com muita pompa, pois ele merecia.

A nossa alegria maior, foi quando o tio Miranda chegou em casa e viu o Stromberg e logo disse:

-“ Caramba pá, o Leandro não serve nem para matar um cão. Mas já que ele conseguiu escapar da morte e andar durante três dias até encontrar o caminho de casa, é um sinal de Deus, portanto, o stromberg fica aqui até o fim dos seus dias.” Nós explodimos de alegria, gritando: “Stromberg, Stromberg, Stromberg”. E assim, Stromberg continuou connosco por muitos e felizes anos de vida.

O cão sem dúvida, é um dos melhores amigos das crianças.

“Our Dog, Stromberg” by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Read the original Portuguese version here.

“Our Dog, Stromberg”

by César Augusto Medina Fortes
translated by Katherine Cowley

I have always loved dogs. In 1983, my uncle João Miranda came home with a Great Dane. He was a tall dog, strong and handsome, but very clumsy. For this reason Uncle Miranda, who was a big fan of the football team Benfica, gave the dog the name “Stromberg” in memory of one of the great Swedish players, Glenn Stromberg, who had come to play for S.L. Benfica and brought much happiness to the club at that time. Stromberg, the player, was also strong, blond, and tall, and thus his name fit the dog like a glove. The dog, Stromberg, also gave much happiness to me and to my cousin Sílvio, who was the son of Uncle Miranda and my aunt Rosa.

I remember one day that my uncle Miranda told us, “Stromberg can only stay here in the house if you promise to care for him, feed him, give him water, and clean the terrace whenever he relieves himself.”

Of course, he heard a double “yes” from us. And then we committed to even more: “We promise to bathe him at Laginha Beach every single Sunday, don’t you worry.” This was a rather clever way for us to go to the sea every Sunday without adult supervision.

We went everywhere with our dog. Stromberg was our faithful companion and guard. No one dared to mess with us because we could set our dog on them. We always felt safe with Stromberg at our side. Whenever someone saw our big, strong dog barking, they ran away in fear. What they didn’t know was that inside our enormous, strong dog was a sweet soul, gentle and playful. I can’t remember a single time that Stromberg actually bit someone. And in this manner Stromberg grew up with us.

But the years went by and Stromberg grew old. It was a mournful day when Uncle Miranda gave us the news we didn’t wish to hear. He told us that it was time to have Stromberg put down, because he did not want to see him suffer until he died, and if he had to die, it was better if it were far from home. Besides, Stromberg kept eating the chickens that were kept on the terrace. We implored him, we cried endlessly that he could not do such a cruel thing to our dog Stromberg, but he was immovable. That Friday morning he called a gentleman named Leandro; if someone had a dirty job to do, he would do it for 50 escudos or a cup of “grogue,” an alcohol made from sugar cane. He was known as “Leandro the Dog Killer.”

The name itself said what he came to do. And so it was. My uncle paid him in advance and he took Stromberg, a rope tied round his neck, dragging the poor dog to death row.

He left and we children were crying, running after him and begging that he would not kill our dog, but he would not give us his ears. We stood on the steps by the gate, watching as Stromberg was taken by Leandro to be hung on the banks of the Ribeira de Julião—the Julião River—on a large, thorny acacia, a tree that can be blown with fierce winds and bend without breaking.

When they turned the last corner of our neighborhood, the Ilha de Madeira, and headed toward the river, we returned, disconsolate, to the house. We children still had lumps in our throats when we said to Uncle Miranda, “Sir, you are mean!” And we fled to the terrace to weep for our dog.

That afternoon, Sílvio and I went to school, sadly.

That night when I returned home, I ate and went to bed early. During the night I had a dream. In my dream I saw Stromberg walking with no strength, on the same road where we had seen him for the last time, only this time, he was returning to the house. He appeared tired, weak, consumed by hunger and thirst, and still wore the rope around his neck. When I woke in the morning, I told the dream to my faithful friend and cousin, Sílvio.

We spent that Saturday morning watching the road that we called “Missus Tanha of Sweet Water” (named after a lady with a fountain who sold water), full of hope that my dream would be realized, but we saw nothing of Stromberg. On Sunday, we woke very early and one more time, before going to church, we went to the gate, hoping to see Stromberg. We held onto this hope because we knew that Stromberg was strong enough to do this. It was a beautiful day and the sun had begun to cast its first rays.

It was the ideal sort of Sunday to go to Laginha Beach, but without our dog, it wouldn’t be the same. To our great astonishment, we saw Stromberg appear at the exactly the same corner where I had seen him in my dream. He was tired, dirty, thin, and the rope with which Leandro had hung him was still around his neck. Leandro had clearly hoisted him up on a tree, but he hadn’t waited for him to die. Stromberg had chewed through the rope and fled. We ran to meet our beloved dog who had escaped death. He had no strength left, and when we reached him, he licked our faces and then fell to the ground from fatigue and happiness. I carried him in my arms to the terrace of my aunt Rosa’s house. We nursed him with food and water and he slept like a warrior after the fight of his life: three days of walking, all the way from the Julião River until he reached his castle, in Ribeira Bote, 10th Street, where we, his dear friends, received him with much pomp, because he deserved it.

Our greatest joy was when Uncle Miranda arrived home and saw Stromberg and said, “Caramba! Leandro couldn’t even kill a dog. But since he managed to escape death and walk for three days until he found his way home, this is a sign of God. Stromberg can stay here until the end of his days.”

We burst with joy and shouted, “Stromberg! Stromberg! Stromberg!” And so it was that Stromberg stayed with us for many happy years.

Without a doubt, the dog was the best friend that children could have.

“Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand

Divinity flows through my fingertips,
practiced precepts slip from my lips,
I lean back into my mother’s grip
let heaven part my hair
feel the sun’s glare—
And breathe.

A hot comb separates dawn and dusk
seven days before another change to the husk…
Divine wrath smells like chemical straighteners—
stings like compliments from strangers.

Hands placed upon a head.
Blessings prayed for the dead.
Remember the many that bled
for styles reborn for the future

God is a mother’s hand turning my head this way
and that way to braid my future so it frames my face right.

“Portal Friends” by Annaliese Lemmon

Emily pushed against the cool surface of her mother’s full-length mirror. The surface remained solid, as it had for months. It wasn’t fair. The portal to the Magic Wood was supposed remain open until she turned twelve in December. But last year, President Nelson had announced that youth would graduate from Primary on January 1, not on their birthdays. Ever since her first Beehive meeting, the portal had sealed shut.

Sure, the other Beehives were nice, but they weren’t friends. Not like those from the Magic Wood. The adventures she’d had with them made the real world dull in comparison.

Then this morning, President Ballard had introduced the Children and Youth program and the four areas for goal setting. For social growth, Mom had suggested she find someone to sit with at lunch, but Emily liked the example of serving others. And who better to serve than those who had assisted with her adventures in the Magic Wood? The thought wouldn’t leave her mind. Was that revelation?

Emily rested her forehead against the glass. “Please, let me serve.”

The glass warmed and gave way. She fell through, onto a dirt path strewn with red and yellow leaves. She stood, dusting off her pink dress. The trees of the Magic Wood stood bright with fall colors. Grinning, she raced down the path. “I’m baaaack!”

She ran straight to the small cabin of Ms. Crippen, the satyr. When Ms. Crippen opened the door, she wrapped Emily in her familiar, grandmotherly hug. “Oh, dear, it’s so good to see you again. Won’t you come in and have some cocoa?”

“Actually, I’m here to serve you!” Emily smiled. “Can I do your dishes? Or sweep the floor?”

Ms. Crippen glanced back at her kitchen. The floor was spotless, and only a single plate and cup sat by the sink. “I suppose you could wash the dishes, if you really want to.”

“No problem!” Emily skipped to the sink, telling Ms. Crippen everything that had happened since the portal closed. She had to start over multiple times as news spread of her presence — the talking squirrels, the fairies, and the river nymph all wanted to see her. Emily ached from the constant smiling, and the tight hugs. It was everything she had imagined while eating lunch alone at school.

Emily could no longer see the door through the crowded kitchen, but she recognized the soft grumble of the next visitor instantly. “Is Emily here?”

Emily dropped the cup into the now cold water and dried her hands on her dress. “Mother Tanrica.”

The creatures parted as Mother Tanrica, the Lioness, stepped into the kitchen. Her voice was soft with sadness. “You are too old to be here.”

Emily pouted. “I’m not even twelve yet!”

“But you are no longer a child.”

Really? Primary decided whether or not she was a child? “The mirror let me through!”

“I told it to, because we never said goodbye.”

It wasn’t because it liked her desire to serve? Emily glared at the wooden floor, blinking back tears. Why did growing up mean losing this place she loved?

“Come here,” Mother Tanrica said gently.

Emily trudged forward until she was in front of the Lioness. Mother Tanrica reached out a paw and pulled her against her chest. “It is time for you to make new friends and find new people to serve.”

“Why can’t I make new friends and keep my old ones?”

“It always hurts to leave those we love behind. But those on Earth need you more than we do. Take this.” Mother Tanrica breathed on Emily’s wrist. Green, brown, and gold cords appeared, braiding themselves into a bracelet. A silver heart charm tied itself to the middle. “That you may remember our love and faith in you.”

Tears spilled over Emily’s cheeks. She didn’t want a bracelet. But Mother Tanrica wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. She buried her face into Mother Tanrica’s neck.

When the sobs subsided, Mother Tanrica directed her to say good-bye to everyone, and then escorted her back to the portal. She took one last look at the Magic Wood, then stepped through to home. Tears blurred her vision again. She ran to her room, throwing the Children and Youth booklet under her bed. So much for revelation.

#

On Monday, Emily sulked in her chair in math class when Kamala sat down next to her, smiling in her hijab. “I like your bracelet,” Kamala said.

“Thanks.”

“You didn’t happen to get it from Mother Tanrica, did you?”

Emily sat up straight. She hadn’t ever told anyone about Mother Tanrica or the portal. “How did you know?”

Kamala held out her wrist. An identical braided cord bracelet wrapped around her wrist, but instead of a heart charm, she had a silver crescent moon. “I always wanted to meet someone else who had found a portal.”

Emily’s eyes widened. There were so many questions she wanted to ask, but the teacher was calling for attention. “Want to have lunch together?” Maybe they could become friends.

“Final Report” by Mattathias Westwood

Final Report of the Foreordination Committee of the Grand Council of Heaven, presented by Gabriel, presiding committee chair, to the Executive Council of the Heavenly Parents

The following typewritten manuscript was discovered in the archives of the Heavenly City:

With the Savior and Adversary already selected, and our prior reports having recommended spirits for foreordination as prophets for all the dispensations prior to the personal ministry of the Redeemer, the purpose of this report is to suggest names to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times in the last days of the earth. For convenience, all candidates suggested here are identified by the name by which they will be known throughout their mortal lives:

1. Mansur al-Hallaj
Mansur has distinguished himself here in the premortal existence for his total devotion to knowing the will of God, and doing it, no matter what opposition he may face or what doubts others express. Should Mansur be chosen to lead the Restoration, he will bring to the fore that absolute submission to divine will, in similitude of our Redeemer, and will help many in the last days experience unity with the divine even while in mortality, preparing them for greater joy at the day when the veil is removed and we all once again see eye to eye.

2. Hildegard of Bingen
While the Priesthood Committee has announced its preference for male prophets to open each dispensation, we still feel compelled to recommend Hildegard. Of all the spirits considered, she is most able to recognize divinity in material existence, and excels in attaining the glory of God through observation and study. The church, if restored by Hildegard, would excel in combining study and faith. Such a Restoration would glorify the Creation we are now undertaking.

3. Francesco d’Assissi
Francesco has demonstrated a profound humility and compassion, even in comparison to the other noble and great souls under consideration for this mighty burden. Should he be chosen, the Church he restores will certainly become renowned for its charity and good works. Of all those we list here, we believe that Francesco is the most likely to succeed in the task of implementing practical communal consecration. Our one concern is that his dislike of contention will make it difficult for Francesco to make the break with tradition that the Restoration will require of its initial prophet.

4. Nanak
Among spirits here, Nanak is known for his friendliness to all. He is also a natural mediator, who has resolved many disputes by seeing clearly the fundamental good driving differing parties, and helping them recognize their common goal. Should he be chosen, he will be able to separate truth and error without generating feuds or rancor among his disciples, and he will be particularly suited to drawing together the good from whatever traditions he encounters during his mortal journey. A Church led by Nanak will be both gentle to all and fierce in defense of the divine name and the oppressed people of the earth, in whom we are taught that name will be made manifest.

5. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
As he will be born among the children of Lehi and Sariah after the arrival of the Gentile nations as a scourge among them, Juan Diego, more than any other on this list, will be among those poor and destitute who suffer under the depredations of the proud. Like Francesco, he has already developed a humility far beyond that which is possessed by most spirits, and he is especially sensitive to the guidance of Our Mother. Any Church led by him will be deeply shaped by her Presence, which we know will be essential in the last days. Also, as the restoration of Lehi’s seed to a memory of the covenant is a crucial purpose of this final dispensation, who better to lead that work than one of their own number?

6. Israel ben Eliezer
Israel shares more than a passing resemblance of character to the first noble and great soul who will be given that name. While Jacob’s gift will be to recognize heaven’s gates in the world around him, Israel Ben Eliezer will be able to recognize heaven’s gate in every human soul. Even now, in the presence of our parents, many souls despair of the possibility of ever attaining the Glory which our Father has set before us, because of the great chasm between our own appearance and Theirs, but Israel is able to see the divine spark within himself and each spirit he encounters, and has encouraged many to hope by helping them recognize those seeds within them.

7. Tenskwatawa
Like Juan Diego, Tenskwatawa will be born among the seed of Lehi and Sariah during the days of their subjugation to the Gentiles. But the nature of a Restoration brought about by him would differ dramatically from the one that could be led by Juan Diego, because of his deep devotion to personal purification. Even now, he is given to deep introspection and recognition of his own faults, and he would be a profound influence in leading his disciples to seek redemption and to purge their lives of all the influences of their great Adversary.

8. Joseph Smith, Jr.
Of all those listed here, he is the furthest from the refinement of those sacred virtues which we must all develop to become like our Parents. He is still quick to anger, and given to jesting and playfulness that many not befit this heavy calling. Yet we still must recommend him, for Joseph has within himself a profound restlessness which may be the most important virtue for the completion of this task. While others we have listed may eventually find themselves satisfied with the amount of truth they are able to share and the community they are able to establish, we are confident that Joseph will never rest. He will continue to seek, to test, to dig, until the end of the time he is given. Should others imitate this restlessness, the Restoration will surely achieve its purpose.

The following handwritten note was found at the bottom of this document:
Looks good. Try them all.