Evangeline Witherstead pauses just
outside St. Christopher's Catholic Church and turns her attention to
the daffodils struggling their way out of the thick layer of mulch
suffocating the flowers. Evangeline scowls. Frank Difazio always
applies too much mulch to the church's flowerbeds. In fact, Frank
does everything generously: Lavishly bowing at the children whenever
they drop a quarter in the collection basket. Accidentally kicking
over the kneeler behind him in the middle of the Consecration.
Laughing too loudly at Father's jokes, occasionally even going so far
as to append a loud clap when something really tickles his funny
bone. Honestly, Evangeline thinks now. The man is a doofus.
"Aren't they beautiful,
"I beg your pardon?"
Evangeline turns to see Deidre Jacoby smiling inanely.
"The flowers." Deidre points.
"Oh. Well. Yes," Evangeline
says. "Just lovely." Truth be told, Evangeline hasn't
stopped to admire the flowers. She's stopped to hike up her pantyhose
before heading into the church. Her daughter accused her of buying
cheap hose, recommended she invest in some good nylons if she didn't
want to walk around with droopy elephant legs. But Evangeline isn't going to throw away her hard-earned money on department store nylons
when the dollar store brand will do just fine.
"Shall we go in?" Deidre
beams and offers her elbow which Evangeline doesn't take: Hells bell,
Deidre is just as old as Evangeline and with those tottering old
sticks she calls legs, it's a wonder Deidre hadn't fallen and injured
herself. Evangeline squints. It's also a wonder that Deidre's nylons
can maintain a grip on those thin legs. She steps forward and into
the church, hoping Deidre doesn't notice her nylons.
Frank hands Deidre a palm, then passes
one to Evangeline. She takes it and folds it over, follows Deidre to
a seat near the front. The church smells of Murphy Oil Soap and
hushed expectations. Evangeline rubs her hand along the pew,
"Looks good," Deidre observes
and Evangeline nods. Of course it looks good. For the past
thirty-two years, Evangeline has led a group of volunteer cleaners,
older women mainly, but occasionally the high school student in need
of service hours. The day before Palm Sunday, they clean and buff and
scrub the church new.
As it gets closer to seven-thirty,
Harold and Emma Jackson stream in with their nine boys.
"Look how sweet," Deidre
says. "Each of them neat as a pin."
Becky Fister doesn't bother to kneel
before she enters the pew, Evangeline notices. And Phillip Lewis
fails to remove his sunglasses before he sits. Evangeline sighs.
"Phil looks good," Deidre
"Can't see the man's eyes,"
Evangeline replies, pulling her rosary beads from her purse and
fingering a bead.
"Do you think he'll..."
Deidre blushes. "Marry again?"
Evangeline crosses herself. "Rose
has been dead a year and you're already...already..." She
pauses, floundering for the right words.
"Deidre’s making the moves on
Evangeline turns to her right. Frank is
standing there laughing loudly. Smiling too broadly.
"Is this seat taken?" He
"Scoot over, Evangeline."
Deidre has already done so, leaving a small space between them.
Evangeline sighs and moves over as
well, crossing her wrinkled nylon legs beneath the pew.
Zoe Cardash sits at the piano, pulls in
the bench, and punches in a number which is immediately lit up in
neon in the corner of the church. Evangeline slides a missal from the
back of the pew and opens it to the proper page. She clears her
throat in preparation.
The cantor unscrews the lid on her
plastic water bottle and takes a long pull before arranging the
microphone just so. She turns towards Zoe, whose hands hover over the
keyboard, looking to the back of the church, eyebrows raised. As she
settles into a chord, the congregation stands.
Evangeline takes a deep breath and
begins to sing. But the cantor must be nervous: She barely touches on
note before charging on to the next, rushing about like she's late
for something. Evangeline frowns. Sings louder in the hopes of
setting the cantor back on course. It's no use. Evangeline can't slow
the cantor down, nor can she keep up with her. Neither can Zoe, who
gamely pushes forward, leaning into the music, plowing her hands
along the keyboard as fast as she can, dropping notes like stitches
in order to catch up.
"I think Zoe's broken out into a
sweat," Deidre says.
"Who is that singer?"
"Vera Loving's daughter. Isn't she
"She sings like she's running in
the Kentucky Derby."
Frank lets loose a loud guffaw just as
Father passes their pew.
Evangeline feels herself redden.
The music stops. The congregation sits.
Evangeline begins thinking about her nylons. In fact, Evangeline is
so wrapped up in her nylons, she misses the first and second
readings. Only when they stand for the reading of the Passion does
Evangeline realize she hasn't been paying attention. Listen up,
Evangeline, she tells herself.
You're starting to slip, old woman. She
pinches her upper arm and reads along in the missal. When it's the
congregation's turn to read, Frank's voice booms. Evangeline pretends
to turn down her hearing aid. Frank doesn't appear to notice.
Jesus," the reader says and Evangeline stiffens. Lament!
she thinks. Lament! She
waits for the reader to go back; to correct himself; but he rushes
forward like Zoe trying to keep up with the beautiful yet tone death
Beside her, Frank
is shaking with laughter. "Did you hear that?" His whisper
is loud. "Laminate Jesus?"
yourself, Frank." Evangeline fishes a lavender scented
handkerchief from her purse and hands it to Frank. "Wipe your
Frank shakes out
handkerchief and mops his face, heaving laughter through lavender. On
her left, Deidre starts giggling. "This is a fine mess,"
Evangeline hisses. "The budget director and the groundskeeper
making fools of themselves in the middle of church. Where is your
nylons up, Evangeline," Deidre says and Frank takes Evangeline's
hand and gives it a squeeze. "I love you, Evangeline," he
says, smiling. "You old fuddy-duddy stick in the mud. Why don't
you and me get hitched tomorrow afternoon?"
her heart thump. A warm surge courses through her veins. She tries to
return her attention to the Mass but finds she cannot.
When the Gospel is
finished, the congregation sits. The people arrange themselves in
their pews, crossing legs, shushing children, folding palms into
crosses before settling in to listen. Evangeline takes this
opportunity to pull up her nylons. She glances at Frank and smiles.
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael Webb gave me this prompt: We gain no wisdom by imposing our way on others --James Lee Burke.
I gave Kirsten this prompt: Your main character is moving. Where? Why? When?
Kelly Garriott Waite on Google+
Labels: flash fiction, scriptic.org