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Notes from the Small Pond: Knock-Knock? Who's There? Don't Ask.

When the cops knock on your door at the stroke of midnight, it usually isn't to say you've won the lottery. It's typically bad news.

It was.

The worst news.

The well-intentioned young officer and his no-speaking-part partner did what they could, which was mostly stand there and say, "I'm so sorry" as I fell to my knees and wailed, clutching at the partner's cop collar, trying to drag him to the ground with me, working toward someone else's injury.

Misery loves company, and creates it if it can't find it.

Then my wife was there and cooing like a dove. In the midst of her thunderstruck agony, her instinct was to soothe.

"Thank you very much," she said, and invited them in. And in they came and continued their role as Message Deliverers. I grabbed up framed photographs from the walls.

"Look at him! He's beautiful!"

"I know; we know him. He was - I mean is - I mean was - I mean ... very good-looking young man ... I'm so sorry."

"He wasn't just very good-looking. He was beautiful. And, you knew of my son - you knew he was tough to catch. You knew he was an addict, smarter than hell and that he had a warrant. He was a name in your database. You did not know him. I knew my son. You did not. And whatever the records say at the courthouse, his addiction was the rogue sliver on an otherwise perfectly planed table."

And then a week sizzled by - a mountain of God Blessed hotdishes and flowers and cards and well-wishes and weepy hugs and deep looks into watery eyes and attempts at humor and stories and not knowing what to say and saying it anyway.

And then another week.

And another.

And another.

And it got quieter. Everywhere.

What had been an excruciating psycho-emotional volcanic disaster, evolved to manifest as physical pain and utter exhaustion. Asleep at 6 p.m. Or lying in bed trying to be.

I've been lying in bed next to my wife for a thousand years. Most of them ecstatic. Some of them utterly terrible. A lot of them sleepless. All of them better because she was there.

None of them like now.

Lying back-to-back, staring into space in opposite directions, listening to each other blink, watching dust motes twist and drift in the sunlight coming through the window, bouncing away from each exhale, each breath like a microscopic prayer for hope, knowing there is none to be had, but praying anyway, like every prayer ever whispered - the prayer becoming the object, leaving the subject - hope - starved and abandoned like someone's child, living under the bridge, chewing his heart out with sorrow and shame, demanding more numbness, like those praying, demanding same.

"Is there some meaning to all this?"

"If there is, I don't know what it is."

"Then lie to me."

"OK. Then pray."

"Not interested in Forever After or meeting up again someday in paradise - I want to see him now."

"You told me to lie to you."

"OK, keep lying."

"OK. Keep praying."

Like birth, or any given moment thereafter, one's death is not the defining occurrence of one's life.

And one's prayer is not the defining lie.

And, unlike one's death, when it comes to one's lies, there's plenty more where prayer came from.

Cloquet's Parnell Thill is a previous "Columnist of the Year" winner in Minnesota and author of "Killing the Devil and Other Excellent Tricks," available online. His opinions are his own .Contact him c/o [email protected].

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