by J.W. Wang
"You throw a coin into the box," I explained, "then you clap, twice, bow, and make a prayer."
"Ah . . ." She nodded. A procession of people lumbered up the great stone steps, to the plain wooden box, threw coins, clapped, bowed, and prayed. They gathered, dispersed, congregated, scattered. They came and went, each replaced by a neverending flow of worshippers.
She stood still, eyes aglaze, and made no move to approach the box. Instead, she just watched. A man stood twenty feet off to the right, in a calm clearing by the wooden wall, on tiptoes to gain a better view of the shrine. I walked over to him.
"You throw a coin into the box," I explained, "and then you clap twice, and make a wish or prayer." I shrugged. "Prayer-wish. Something like that."
He looked at where the box should be, seeing only people, older, younger, men, women, people throwing coins, clapping, bowing, leaving, coming, throwing coins, clapping, bowing, leaving, coming.
"Are you going to pray?" he asked.
"Sure, okay," I said, though I wasn't thinking of doing so.
I entered the stream and counter-stream of prayers and would-be prayers from the side and followed up the steps, waited for someone to spill out, walked up more, waited, walked forward, waited, walked and suddenly found myself before the box. It was unadorned and unfinished, and sat at the head of the steps rather mutedly, stoically. A single white sheet hung across the open gate flapped and blew toward us, revealing with placid, undulating waves a serene courtyard and the grand shrine hibernating beyond. People coming and throwing and clapping and praying and wishing and bowing and going and coming next to me, behind me.
I reached into my pocket for a coin. It felt quarter-sized, though I wasn't certain, and threw it into the box. I clapped twice and closed my eyes, pulled them back, back, deep into the nests of my conscience and stared into the glaring darkness.
Everything, I thought, everything everything just please please everything yes the way everything everything. Just, everything.
About the author:
J.W. Wang lives out of the back of a moving truck, where he also writes and edits Juked. He's eating mostly white corn tortillas these days.