A gray and impalpable world

by Criss Moody

Written for Kassie's Crayola challenge. Title gacked from 'The Dead' by James Joyce. Thanks to Miss Windy for the screencap help. Z whipped it into something worth showing the world. Any remaining goofs are mine.

Lex does not believe in ghosts. He does not believe in the eternal soul and he does not assume anything has a deeper meaning. His mother's tomb is a nondescript hunk of stone, carved into a crude female form, expressionless. Swirls of gray chase swirls of white through the mass of marble behind the statue.

Lex hates it. It's just a bunch of gray stone that Dad spent too much money on that evokes no memory of his mother. Symbols of fire and water are all very well but his memories of mother are drawn from other symbols. Other methods of giving meaning to life.

And death.


When the drugs first failed, Lilly Luthor turned to prayer. Lex heard the echo of his mother's voice in his head late at night, the words of the Franciscan Blessing interspersed with Hail Marys.

She used the humble Franciscan Blessing only when her husband left her side. Recited the words like a mantra for the son and husband she knew she would leave behind, slick gray rosary beads slipping through her fingers. Lex liked to watch his mother pray. She looked so beautiful, softer somehow, the repetitive action lulling her chemotherapy sharpened features.

//May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen.//

The only time Lex asked his mother what that meant, asked her to explain 'easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships', she smiled at her son and drew him onto her lap. As his quickly growing frame spread over her legs, she had told him to always love his father. But to always question what he said. To always trust his own instincts over anyone else's because no one can tell the truth all the time. And she told him to have faith.

She died two days later.

At the funeral, his mother's rosary beads, gray stones shot through with swirls of carnelian red and snow white, lay entwined in her stiff hands. For a brief moment, Lex touched her hand, her arm, and found her curiously warm. Room temperature. Her flesh was firm and didn't give to the press of his fingers. Torn between horror and curiosity, Lex, keeping an eye on the adults, carefully loosened the rosary from her fingers and pocketed it.

Later, much much later after sympathy, bad food, and the disturbing live stiffness of his father, Lex dug the rosary out of his pants and sat cross-legged on the floor of his room. Closing his eyes, he tried to mimic what he'd watched his mother do. Rubbing the beads, one by one they passed through his fingers as he recited what he remembered of prayers. Hail Mary, full of grace, May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Over and over again he whispered the words until he felt the rosary grow warm. Eyes still shut, he saw a sea of soft gray, red and white swirling through the mist as it enveloped him. His mother's words made some sense.

Trust had to be earned.

Lex opened his eyes. The strange disjointed state dissipated almost immediately. He looked at his room, full of everything any boy could ever want and he hated, with no emotion on his face. After a few minutes, he rose from the floor and stepped out to the balcony. He'd hurled the rosary as far as he could. Heard the stones hit the driveway. Carefully, he'd closed his balcony doors.


Kneeling at his mother's tomb, Lex digs another rosary out of his pants.

"Sorry this isn't quite the same, Mother. Apparently, your rosary was a one-of-a-kind. Oops."

He curls the light gray and pink rosary at the foot of the tomb, lets the crucified Christ cross fall under the stones.

"I think I know what you meant, Mother. Thank you. I promise to never accept an easy answer."

He smiles and rubs his hands over her name. She'd tried so hard to influence the better parts of the Luthor nature. He hates to disappoint her, even in death.

"I'm working on avoiding superficial relationships. I'll let you know how that works out."

Lex stands. Dusts off his pants.

"Bye, Mom."

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