…In the communion line, four college students from the band that leads the hymns cut in front an elderly couple and the bassists are brandishing their massive instruments like shields. There is an announcement about some parishioners in prison, how we should send them a letter or a paperback and let them know they’re not forgotten. “Those interested should talk to Father Sloan to get their K numbers.” This reminds me of a distant cousin who did some time for tax evasion. After he came out, he quit drinking, started taking pilgrimages to places where miracles were said to have occurred and generally was much more subdued at parties. You found yourself wishing for what went away with the criminal in him. A guy in one of the back rows keeps whispering names into a cell phone, while fellow members of the congregation shoot daggers into him with their peripheral vision. A man in a florid shirt standing next to me sings with such gusto that I feel I have wandered into an opera. At one point he doesn’t know the words and just hums the rest.
Some of these distractions may partly explain why I manage to toss a fairly torrid love note from Audrey into the collection basket. I watch it falling, as in a dream, impossibly intertwined with a hoard of feathery bills, slightly above the rim. It is on peach colored stationery with illustrated borders, and Audrey’s incredibly minute penmanship one nearly needs a microscope to decipher. The missive has been folded into a tight square but once free of its captivity, releases into a larger more oblong shape, like a parachute opening to the air, floating away. I hesitate, not wanting to appear that I’m trying to get change as in a base transaction for socks or toothpaste, and the plate moves swiftly, cresting with envelopes and crumpled cash. I try to search the reactions of my fellow worshipers as it moves one to the other, back to where the usher is waiting to take it to the sacristy. Their backs are mostly to me and the most I can discern is an unusual pause, some enigmatic look in profile. Perhaps they imagine it is one of those vanity checks with the background of a waterfall or rustic town which can be used for a tax write-off…
~ published in the Pangolin Papers
December 20, 2017
The editing and proofreading and thousand other things that go into putting a book together are thankfully finished and my story collection Home and Castle is at last coming out in early January. (see www.snakenationpress.org for the Editor’s statement and further details). Most of the stories in it were originally published in literary journals such (…read more)
THOMAS BENZ graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. He recently won the 2017 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for a short story collection called “Home and Castle.” The book is to be published by Snake Nation Press in the fall. In the last several years, he has had fifteen stories (…read more)