Let’s play Lazarus. Libby was the pastor’s daughter. She was two or three or four years older than me and always wore pink hair barrettes. She had a tight, prissy face, and I did not like her much. All the grownups were inside the church drinking coffee and talking. We were looking for ways to entertain ourselves on the church playground.

How do you play Lazarus?

You’re Martha and I’m Mary. She pointed to her brother. Jamie’s Lazarus. And Mary, she said to my little sister, you have to be Jesus. You’re too little to be anything else. Mary started to complain that she didn’t want to be a boy, but Libby glared her into silence.

We took off the little white cardigans we all wore over our Sunday dresses and tied them around Jamie’s chest and arms. Dead Lazarus, we’d learned in Sunday school, was all wrapped up like a mummy. Then we considered the snap-together Fisher Price playground. It was made up of a series of primary-colored interlocking panels and slides that could be reconfigured, or, more accurately, disassembled by children who then lacked the strength to reattach the pieces securely. We pulled and pulled and the big yellow tube-shaped slide popped loose.

This is your tomb. Get in.

The tomb was a little muddy inside. Black leaves were stuck to it. Jamie hesitated. Libby gave him a little shove. He kicked at the tube, looked at his sister, and then obediently wiggled inside.

Now we have to roll the tomb. C’mon.

I bent down over the slide and next to Libby. Rolling the tomb made sense somehow. All the pictures in our Bible storybooks showed tombs shaped just like our big yellow slide. And there was something about something rolling away, wasn’t there, something to do with tombs.

Our brother’s dead. We’re really, really sad.


We started to push the slide uphill and chant our brother’s dead and we are sad boohoo boohoo. Jamie was too heavy and the hill was too steep. So Libby ordered my little sister, who’d been standing off to the side being Jesus, to help us push. Jamie laughed as he tumbled around like clothes in the dryer.

What are you doing? My mother was standing at the playground fence.

Oh. We’re rolling a dead body. I thought it was an obvious explanation. Of course three small girls would tie up a boy and roll him across the playground inside a slide and tell everyone he was a dead body. Of course.

You’re what? Mom looked shocked and disgusted. I knew I’d said the wrong thing then, that rolling Lazarus up the hill was one of those inexplicable things that must be kept secret from adults. You kids need to come inside. Right. Now. She turned and clipclopped back inside in her shiny black high heels.

We stopped pushing, and Jamie wiggled out of the slide still tied up in our sweaters. He stood there, tied up in sweaters, and grinned dizzily at us all. Jamie was freckled and brown haired and a year older than me. Sometimes I chased him around the church yard and tried to kiss him. Once or twice I caught him and he smelled like Juicy Fruit and soap and mud. He took a step or two and then fell down laughing.

What is Jesus supposed to say?

Shut up. Libby rolled her eyes.

Don’t tell her to shut up.

You shut up. Mary reached out her hand, and I took it. We walked through the gate and down the sidewalk toward the church. I looked back at our Lazarus, still tied up in our sweaters and still laying on the ground laughing up at the wide blue sky of fall.