The Brighter Light
I was chasing my little brother through the park at dusk. The whole park was filled with restless families waiting for the fireworks to start. My brother halted in his grass-stained diaper. “God lives there!” he said, pointing to the church across the street. But, really, he was pointing to the tent city in the parking lot of the church across the street, which was wrapped in sagging Christmas lights. Then my brother was off and running again. Before I knew it, he was ten blankets away with somebody’s firefly jar. He reached in and got hold of one and squeezed until its bulb went out. A change came over him. He sat with the jar and cried tears from a deep black well. People stared. Two fathers talked louder. A girl with popcorn in her hair cartwheeled by. A homeless man with hay in his hair ambled into the moment, conducting an imaginary orchestra to a few scattered laughs. When the man lifted pretend coattails and bowed very low, my little brother handed him the jar. The man straightened up and turned red. “Nobody’s light goes out all the way if you know how to wait. I ain’t learned yet, so my wife is still dead.” He plucked the dead firefly from the jar and placed it in his dirty palm. The firefly flickered to life and took to the air, and before anyone could say anything about it, the miracle was announced by a sky full of rockets.