Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘chapel’

Lockdown

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

“We ask for forgiveness, hope and redemption,” John prayed, as Marcus walked in. “Make us a vessel of your peace,” John continued, his brawny hands turned toward the heavens.

Marcus joined the circle of two and closed his blue eyes to the surrounding maroon drapery, scented candles and large marble cross crucified to the wall.

“Our plan is your plan,” Alan interjected, his blond hair and wire-rim glasses both askew. “You are the source of all we do; you are the light that guides our way.”

“Amen,” John concluded, his booming voice matching his six foot seven inch frame.

“Sorry I’m late,” Marcus said, looking up at John.

“No problem,” John replied, his full red beard stirring with each syllable.

“It was Lois,” Marcus explained. “You know how she gets.”

“Yeah,” John said aloud; then whispered to him self, “I know how she gets.”

“She gets scared,” Marcus went on, “whenever we make this trip.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Alan replied, putting his hand on Marcus’s shoulder. “It’s safer than walking the streets downtown,” he insisted, getting his lunch and coat from the red velvet coach and turning back to Marcus. “Statistically speaking, it’s even more dangerous at home.”

“That’s true,” John affirmed.

“You don’t have to convince me,” Marcus replied, clutching the Corrigan sweater in his pale sweaty palm. “It’s Lois who’s all worked up about it.”

They left the prayer room and walked towards the Volvo in the church parking lot. “Oh yeah, Lois sends her love,” Marcus said to John, “and she said she’s sorry for everything.” John cleared his throat, but didn’t reply. “I guess she finally got tired of blaming you for taking me on these trips,” Marcus grinned knowingly.

“Why couldn’t it be closer?” Alan mused from the back seat. “Six hours round trip is a long way to save a few souls.”

“It’s nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us,” Marcus replied solemnly, as he looked out the window at the dusty farm land of the central valley.

“Amen,” John and Alan agreed, as the car cut through the murderously dry heat. The men unbuttoned the top of their collars and rolled up the white sleeves of their dress shirts. It wasn’t long until they closed the windows and turned the air conditioning on high.

“If you want a break, just holler,” Marcus offered.

“Nah,” John replied, “You know I prefer driving . . . gives me something to focus on.”

“Focus on God,” Marcus exalted.

“Of course,” John’s lips curled into a half grin. “I do.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t,” Marcus corrected. “I just meant . . . you know . . . thinking of others . . . letting go and letting God.”

“Yeah,” John replied. “I got it. I think about some folks all the time Marcus,” his grip tightening on the wheel, “some more than others.”

“Yes, yes,” Marcus replied. “You’re a saint.”

“It’s all God’s work,” Alan surmised.

“There you go, “John grinned, the tension drained from his shoulders as quickly as it had arrived. “It’s all God’s work.”

“Why don’t I read a few passages from Luke?” Marcus suggested, pulling out his gold-leafed bible.

“Read it loud, so I can hear,” Alan insisted.

“No problem,” Marcus replied joyfully. “Here we go. I’ll start with the fifth chapter, twelfth verse.”

It didn’t take long to arrive, only forever.

“I’m beat,” Alan said, as they ate lunch in the garage designated for visitors.

“We just got here,” Marcus mumbled, his mouth full of an avocado sandwich Lois had made, “and you’re already tired?”

“I know,” Alan replied, wiping mayonnaise off his chin, “but that’s a long time to sit on your rear end.”

They finished up lunch, locked the car up tight and joined in prayer.

“Help us to help them to see the truth,” Marcus pleaded. “Let your truth bathe them with your glory. May they be cleansed of sin? Amen.”

“Amen,” Alan chimed.

“Amen,” John added, his eyes wide open, staring at his baby brother’s seemingly blissful and serene profile.

After the meticulous searches, sign-ins and checkpoints, the officers escorted the men from God’s House Church past the towers with guards holding binoculars and high-powered rifles, to the D Block chapel, which stood alone in the center of the state penitentiary built for 1200 men, but holding 1700 plus. It was their fourth visit of the year.

The guard, named Jim, but better known as Big Preacher, due to his size and professed faith, allowed the inmates with passes to enter single file.

CONTINUED

Saint Catherine’s Baby

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

The moist air, surrounding the 16th century creation planted its wet kisses upon the cold stone walls, which slid luxuriously down its weathered face. The creeping ivy, chlorophyll pulsing through its dark green leaves, caressed the soft hearty moss. New generations of recently born shoots sprouted from the elder ivy’s fingertips, seeking their lone paths in the cracks of St. Catherine’s monastery.

The religious encampment had been built on the storm infested Western coast of Ireland; its founders seemingly intent on locating the most masochistic environment possible to beat their souls into sublime submission.

The last residing nun, Sister Rose Marie, had died a blessedly sudden and peaceful death at two in the afternoon, on an unusually balmy Easter Sunday, in the year of Our Lord 1968. She and a faithful supporter, Mrs. Bernadette O’Brien, mother of Walter O’Brien, had been on their knees praying in the chapel when it appeared that the good sister had a heart attack and keeled over quietly onto the floor.

“Her hands was frozen in prayer, they was,” Mrs. O’Brien had religiously repeated for years thereafter. “She had the smile of an angel.”

***

Shawn and Marcy didn’t give a witch’s ass about the history of St. Catherine’s. They’d been driving randomly from county to county, looking frequently in their rear view mirror; expecting nothing but trouble.

They’d discovered St. Catherine’s while returning from an off-the-road farm, where a farmer had given them a couple gallons of petrol from his broken down tractor. While carrying the fuel back in a couple of plastic milk containers, they accidentally turned right, instead of left to their energy starved car.

“’Tis this way,” Shawn said with assurance.

“’Tis not,” Marcy insisted. “Was that way.”

Shawn frowned, shaking his head impatiently.

“Remember that rock, why don’t ya?!” Marcy pointed at a large chipped boulder to her left.

“I’m a going this way. You coming or not?” He started walking without waiting for her answer.

She trudged after him, complaining to the gravel below her feet, “An idiot, he is.”

When they rounded the bend that brought St. Catherine’s into sight, Marcy gasped.

“Jesus!” Shawn exclaimed,

“It must be ancient.” Marcy stumbled forward.

“Think they be any dragons?” Shawn teased.

They pushed hard upon a rusty-hinged, thick wooden door. It cracked open. The wind played with itself in the center of the courtyard, rising, turning, diving and suddenly taking flight. Calls of “Anyone home?” were absorbed into the stones like water in a dry sponge.

“Why’d they build such hideous things?” Marcy whispered, as they walked into a shadowy, stale room, her dirty black hair stranded on her shoulders.

“They must’ve been tilted.”

“A bunch of bloody lunatics!” Marcy scowled.

“Absolutely,” Shawn agreed, his bushy red hair, freckles and twice broken nose, nodding obediently.

Marcy had on a long coat to cover her thin, full-length skirt. She hated skirts, but couldn’t tolerate much else these days. “I can’t wait to get back into some jeans,” she said, looking down at her swollen belly. “Without this coat I’d have frozen my tits off by now.”

“Look at these windows!” Shawn said, “They’re small enough for dwarfs.”

Marcy pulled open a door to some side rooms that contained a single wooden platform for a bed in each small musty enclosure.

Shawn looked in over her shoulder. “What a dreary thing.”

“They was some awful poor brothers this lot.”

“Didn’t know there was anyone with less than we.”

“Och, but they chose it, didn’t they?”

After further investigation they returned to the trail and found their car. They parked close to the rocky path leading down to the sea’s edge and hauled their belongings back to the monastery, into the warmest, best protected room they’d found; the chapel.

They had enough food for a couple of weeks, groceries they’d picked up in County Clare, using a stolen credit card they’d lifted upon leaving Dublin. They could drive back when they needed, go to another store or town and use a different card. They thought about switching the car, but figured they had a little more time before it was reported missing.

As darkness fell, they zipped their sleeping bags together, put them on the torn carpet by the altar and tried to get some rest. It didn’t help that Marcy had to pee again and again. There was no indoor plumbing. It seemed as if she’d just snuggled in and gotten all warm and toasty like, when nature urgently called. The freezing wind coming off the Atlantic screamed over her head as she rushed to and from the outhouse. CONTINUED

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