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.