Girlhood catechism and her father’s tyranny taught Vivian to genuflect, to bend her opinion to a greater will. She buckled. She deferred. She called it “making nice.” The isolated, middling life Harmon set them down in didn’t needle her. He’d taken her at seventeen from a father who haggled like a street vendor over their marriage, an after-the-fact that wasn’t going to change no matter what his objection.
“An impulse you’ll regret,” he’d warned, sizing up Harmon anew. Then, in a half-choked chuckle: “I’m beat out by a Carrot-head?” His mean streak curdled everything, and this was just skim off the top.
Unjust, Vivian thought, the way the world’s spinning shook from its mantle what she needed most, an ally. A bad infection robbed her mother of one kidney, and that stress enlarged her heart, but it didn’t keep Vivian’s father from hammering at them both. His words cut and cuffed and derided, and he had a way of eyeing Vivian so she felt his thoughts were dragging her through dirt. She wouldn’t dare to speak of his meanness to the school nuns or even to Father at Saturday evening confession. As a girl, in the church’s embrace of stained glass saints and martyrs, Vivian had felt lifted and doused in grace, a mighty antidote to her father’s gaze. And while he didn’t attend Mass, neither would he refute church and so, especially after her mother’s death, the excuse of sacraments offered her safe haven.
Maybe parents of would-be friends thought Vivian’s house was dangerous or dirty or too low-class because it sat near the railroad tracks, and few children ventured up the lopsided steps to their front porch. Playing didn’t figure much in her plans anyway. By the time her mother’s heart flagged for good, Vivian, at fifteen, had long been at the sweeping, the washing up, the laundering and changing of linens. Lonely, though she wouldn’t have seen it that way because she was just too busy to evaluate, there was school and then ministering to her ailing mother. The house needed her care too, of which her father was part and parcel. After her mother died, Vivian put up with him and cooked for him and sidestepped whenever she felt his breath draw too near her neck.
She dreamt of flight but hesitated because what might tomorrow offer and then back out on? Yet something stammered and stomped and shook its wooly shoulders, an elephant pulse she thought surely everyone could hear thundering through, the day she stood behind
Harmon Marker in line at the store as she waited to pay for dish soap, ammonia, and white vinegar. Harmon took his time choosing cigarettes and a dollar’s worth of penny candy -- little bits of chocolate, sour balls, chewing gum, and black licorice. Vivian sighed and shifted the bottles in her arms. Her father knew where she’d gone off, knew how long the trip took, and what she’d been after. She didn’t feel like a grilling when she got home just because this copper-headed man was bent on satisfying his sweet tooth.
He paid and she paid, he left. When she stepped outside she bumped right into him standing there chewing a rope of licorice, half of it hanging from his pursed lips as he used both hands to tear open a pack of Winston’s, crushing the small paper bag of candy held in his armpit. Then he grinned at her, fished matches from the hip pocket of his jeans, withdrew a cigarette from the pack as he inched the licorice into his mouth, all the while chewing. He stuffed the cigarettes where the matches had been, a tighter fit. The last of the black rope slipped into his mouth, his jaws working, his throat swallowing, as he struck a match, put the filter to his lips and lit the Winston, sucked in deep, blew out smoke and smiled broadly at her, kept the matchbook between two fingers as he withdrew the bag of candy. He gave it to her, crumpled in spots and warm. It couldn’t even have been a whole minute she’d stood there, as much flabbergasted at him blocking her path as at the passle of things he’d managed to do at one time.
“Want company for your walk home?” he said.
He was the first man she ever looked in the eye and the candy was sweet, even the lemon balls.
Harmon was a good six years older and that’s why she didn’t know him, only knew of him. He’d moved to New Gideon just as her mother’s health declined and as Vivian was taking on more of the household burden. Like her mother, she was becoming a shut in – nothing but school outside the house. Oh, she maybe knew as well as anyone of newcomers and those who up and left, but she didn’t get caught in speculation and daydreaming that most girls at sixteen giggled over. Boys at school were beyond her, with their pranks and athletics and tease. Grown men reminded Vivian too much of her father for her to sit calmly in their presence.
There were things one should run away from, hard and fast; it seemed she’d needed Harmon to tell her this before she could shock free. And because this awakening twined so thoroughly with the fact of Harmon’s interest in her, this stranger suddenly familiar, his hand steady at her elbow, she hungered for his company and the whiff of escape he brought with him.
Her father wasn’t stupid; he probably saw this. “Don’t you forget who keeps a roof over your head,” he said.
As if the old man had any claim now that the back of her neck and her backbone took strength from the breadth of Harmon’s chest.
“Sir,” Harmon said, dipping his head as he stepped forward to offer his hand.
The old man waved him off with his half-filled glass; four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and he was already deep in the whiskey. He made the first of many carrot-top remarks and muttered about ingratitude. She saw Harmon’s eyes glaze to a more opaque blue. Her father had the power to turn a person to stone. It was one of his best tricks, calling up the freeze in her veins.
Vivian quickly stored the cleaning supplies, then returned to the room where Harmon still stood, respectful, near the doormat’s edge. He hadn’t advanced a foot further inside and her father blatantly ignored them both as he dealt a hand of solitaire to himself at the painted kitchen table. The cards looked dog-eared and soiled against the white that Vivian did her best to keep clean.
“Harmon’s taking me to Confession,” she said.
A card paused in mid air. “Is that so? Got things to confess now, have you?”
Vivian blushed. Any answer would have only riled him more. “We’ll stop and bring you a sandwich back afterwards, Daddy.”
She confessed all right, but it was to Harmon, not to any priest.
Plenty more led up to their being wed, but once they leapt into marriage they left New Gideon behind. She thought of it like the flight into Egypt, under night’s cover, before anyone could put a stop to it. For all kinds of reasons, she vowed she wouldn’t waste more thought on the old man. Instead, every element of her being leaned towards her young husband, who loomed large in their doorway as he stepped through at the end of the day, hungry for supper. With the sun setting behind him it looked like he carried dusk in on his shoulders just for her, the glow of sundown burnishing his hair and heightening the red. Their new house darkened when he entered. Harmon took up space, ate up air, soaked up light, then offered it all back to her in bed, where ghosts did not interfere.
Vivian played the radio news as she fried their morning eggs. Harmon lumbered down to his pre-dawn breakfast and, as he passed the Philco heating up the windowsill with its tubes, he clicked it off.
He said, “A farmer needs to know about the next cold front threatening, not the Cold War.”
He did whatever he liked and Vivian didn’t cross him. She never wasted time even thinking about it. He peered out the window and she saw his long underwear cuff out from the hem of his jeans as he gave up on defining the dark outside and turned to her, lifting the long loose hair from her shoulders and touching where it had hidden her throat. Dried, jagged skin on his cuticle tickled her. Outdoor work had roughed up his body and Vivian countered with smoothness when she could. She felt calluses on the hands that grasped her. With that same palm he babied animal hooves drawn up lame with stones and took hold of the tractor’s fat steering wheel to trench rows in the field.
She followed him into the living room. Her life seemed to be spooling out before her and she followed wherever it led, like a girl who’d been directing a hoop ahead of her with a stick and then found herself skipping to catch up with the thing gathering speed. Yes, she’d seen Harmon as her one best chance, but more than that, she loved him.
As they passed by the stove, Vivian turned down the gas flame until the blue wavered and threatened to blow out. While on the sofa with Harmon, she could still hear the grease spitting around the egg whites in the skillet. Another minute and the yolks would cook solid. She managed to wrap her mind around two things, all done without words.
Vivian rarely heard Harmon say “love” in any context; he dismissed her yearning, said their world had no time for sweet talk. Because her father had been a blow-hard, she was glad for the peace. She’d made worse concessions than holding her tongue or stoppering her heart. She wouldn’t beg Harmon for words he couldn’t give, or anything else for that matter; she was through with begging.
He left for the fields while she watched herself in the mirror, dressing and braiding her black hair. After love, her few freckles appeared more prominent in her pale face. She looked for change throughout her body as she reviewed her reflection and ran her hand along her lost waistline.
She kept thinking things couldn’t last – comfort, solvency, health -- but their daughter, Lindy, arrived in September without complication. They brought in a baby and a bumper crop of tobacco, hay, and apples. Harmon winterized the house in time for the first frost, an early one that year, two weeks before Halloween.
“She’ll need a quilt,” Vivian said, and Harmon, continuing to surprise her with his sentimental nature, brought her home fabric. With the baby napping upstairs, Vivian was cutting squares from the cloth spread out on the living room floor when Father Grey pulled up in his tank-like Cadillac, scattering gravel in the drive alongside the house.
She met the priest at the door, her mouth full of pins. It was All Saints Day, and she hadn’t been to church, so she braced for his scolding. The wavy glass door and Harmon’s sensible weatherproofing dulled her hearing. She tried to lip read. Once sound and sense caught up with words, Vivian cupped her hand to her chin to catch the pins.
Harmon rolled the tractor.
Right there on the porch step Father prayed, maybe invoking strength for Vivian and an everlasting peace for Harmon, but she couldn’t hear a thing. Father’s lips formed the words, the last of which she deciphered as “ghost” from his breath’s short-lived, frosty “O.” He stood and waited for some inkling that Vivian had heard and understood. On the other side of the storm door he fashioned the Sign of the Cross in mid-air, looking for all the world like a scarecrow tossing his arms to shoo away birds. She listened for the baby turning in her sleep, for the season turning to cold winter, for the earth turning on its axis.
Harmon’s loss cut her in half. She doubled down to her knees, and when her forehead absorbed cold from the door’s bottom pane of glass it set off a resounding ache. As she stood, the ache traveled through her from head to foot.
“Forgive me, Father,” she said. “I’m forgetting my manners.” She opened the door for him then.
He raised his hand and she closed her eyes to accept what she thought was a second blessing, but he was waving off her invitation to come in. “Don’t trouble yourself,” he said. Vivian had grown used to his fumbling. When she confessed to him, the priest sidled around the facts and relied on penance to exempt him from providing any real guidance.
Vivian let the door suck tightly closed. Harmon would be pleased to know the new hinge springs were doing the job. “There’s a chill coming on.” That, at least, she could acknowledge.
On the other side of the glass, Father nodded. He knew Vivian’s sins because she’d admitted them to him, repeatedly, hoping to receive a response that would flush clean her guilt. Forgiveness through the confession sacrament seemed too easy.
Harmon had scoffed at her piety. “You haven’t dreamt an evil thought in your whole life,” he said, “much less acted.”
She would raise her eyebrow to him then, a small nod to things they both avoided. Always his face would close down when she seemed about to insist on some discussion, but he needn’t have feared. In accepting his love, she also accepted the barricade Harmon set against their recent past. She was his partner in what they offered the world – vision of a happy, newly married couple. With whom would she share her secrets now?
She watched Father back away with uncertain footing into the gravel, then walk to his car. His driver side door closed, a muffled thud to Vivian inside her house, where she felt cushioned, protected against the elements.
No nickname for her husband. Superstition had kept her from ever calling out “Harm” to him across the field, as if she’d be laying out the welcome mat for some to come visit since trouble was what they’d run from. Vivian held her tongue, and still he’d rolled that tractor, found too late, pinned underneath and cut up.
Her life had always been stripped of extra, but with Harmon gone Vivian felt whittled, as if she were both the tool and the wood being shaped. She didn’t leave, she couldn’t even begin to consider how. She’d been homebound, bound to home before, with her father, but then Harmon had lifted the lid off things, indeed swept her away, and planted her in this new place. She felt some obligation to staying rooted and going it alone. It’s what he would have wanted, she thought.
Mothering kept her afloat. Vivian fastened her mind and her heart on her daughter and turned a blind eye to all else. Lindy was her life preserver. Days on the farm revolved around her freckled little girl, on the letters and numbers and words Vivian taught her, on songs and hugs and naps and housework. Isolated on the farm Harmon had bought to secure their future, her reduced life now included no one but Father Grey and the occasional visit from an encyclopedia salesman or the Fuller Brush man. Spare encounters with shopkeepers, the bank teller, and the butcher in town left openings in her days that Vivian thought, sometimes, she might fall right through. Because of her lonely youth, she hadn’t learned how to touch people beyond the veneer of politeness, and so she made friends with her chores instead, dividing herself among them. Always she could point to her household accomplishments if someone asked.
For six years she rented the acreage and got by on that payment, but then need reached beyond money and solitude. Lindy was growing up, radiant -- a hothouse quality about her-- with thick red hair that nothing but a strong rubberband could tame and freckles that burnished her pale skin. Vivian vowed she wouldn’t let the landscape hammer her daughter’s glow into the same flat light she’d seen in the face of Father Grey and, yes, sometimes even Harmon. She sold the land to the neighbor five miles down the road who’d been tilling it, and she and Lindy moved to another small Indiana town, Alsace, south of the Amish, where her daughter began first grade a year later than the rest her age.
Dipping, for this and that little thing, would soon erode the farm dollars, Vivian knew. Nothing but a pittance left anyway once she made the down payment for their two bedroom cottage. Savings dwindled. She was as helpless as Lindy on Easter Sunday morning when the girl stole bites from the chocolate bunny that had appeared in the wicker basket she’d set out, hopeful, the night before. First she’d lop off the tall ears, chocolate marring her two front teeth when she smiled up at Vivian, caught. By lunchtime, and with no real appetite, Lindy’d be gnawing the bunny’s torso. He was a bunny destined to disappear. Life had a way of paring, too, with its teeth.
Vivian didn’t know how to do anything that was worth paying for except cleaning, and when she spotted the ad in the Sunday bulletin for housekeeper of the St. Sebastian rectory, she immediately made an appointment with the pastor, Father Joachim. No one to leave Lindy with, no one Vivan trusted, and so she brought the girl along to the interview, as if they were a mother-daughter team and could be had, two for the price of one.
The rectory’s front door opened into a brief foyer and then a parlor at right, where votive candles flickered upon a Mary statue and St. Sebastian with his bloody arrows. With outstretched arm, Father Joachim invited them in, through the hallway that led to the kitchen and the back door. A bullet could fly from front to back and never shatter a window or lodge in the dark wallpaper. The word “shotgun” coughed up from some leftover memory Vivian had of her father’s halting voice. A put-down she shuddered at. Midway through the hall, a door to the left must have led to the distinctively shut bedroom. She let her knuckles graze the wood panels of it as she propelled Lindy ahead of her into the kitchen, her eyes on Father Joachim’s white hair and his clerical collar. For once, Lindy kept a lid on her skipping, though she too buzzed her fingers along the door to Father’s inner sanctum.
They all three sat at the Formica table, a ghastly yellow made worse by the overhead light. Vivian was already planning a soft shade to house the humming bulb, imagined herself gathering pleats in a set of new curtains.
“Well,” Father began with a smile, then he jumped the track Vivian thought had been leading to the interview and he set about boiling water. She preferred coffee, but she nodded, yes, certainly she would love a cup of tea.
He was short, with a doddering walk, and when he peeked at her, gnome-like, over the open refrigerator door, the egg tray muffled his voice. Only his rheumy blue eyes, his white eyebrows awry with static, and the dozens of lines on his forehead were visible to
“Milk or lemon?” he asked.
“Oh, lemon, if you have it.” With her square-cut fingernail she chipped at dried egg on the Formica and wondered if the interview had begun and if what she chose to add to her tea would weigh in her favor.
He brought lemon slices on a saucer along with a creamer, and he shuttled the sugar bowl, as well as salt and pepper shakers and a basket of over-ripe bananas, to one end of the small table. A gnat rose up, then disappeared into the fruit. Lindy had clambered up onto the opposite chair, and that left the seat at her right for Father.
Seated for a moment, he smiled at them as they waited for the kettle. Vivian wished he would get on with this, her first ever interview.
“Would you like some cookies, young lady?” He cuddled Lindy with his voice.
“Oh, yes, please,” she said, all earnest eyes.
He scurried to the pantry, evidently delighted to do for her, and behind his back Vivian shot Lindy a look. Don’t overstep here.
“But he offered,” Lindy whispered, leaning with her whole body across the table so she was eye to eye with Vivian, before shrinking back all prim and proper into her chair.
Father served up a second saucer, piled high with vanilla wafers. He smiled as Lindy nibbled one, the girl mumbling thanks through her crumbs.
He poured two cups of boiling water over the same one teabag for him and for Vivian, then sat at last.
Lindy piped up. “I’d like tea with lemon, too.”
Father rose halfway out of his chair, but Vivian touched his arm. “Don’t indulge her, Father.”
He still worked to stand, apologetic.
Vivian again risked touching his age spotted hand that he was using as leverage on the tabletop to get to his feet. “Don’t let her have you running at her every whim.”
He nodded and lowered himself into his chair.
Vivian slid her drink in front of Lindy. “Here, share mine.” The tea sloshed onto the saucer with the force of her movement.
Despite Lindy’s seven year-old gangliness, Vivian would have picked her up and held her firmly on her lap to shush her quiet if she thought for one minute the girl wouldn’t have fought her, but better that Father didn’t see how little control she had over her own daughter, not when she maintained her confident ability in running his rectory.
“So,” Father said, “could you spiff this place up, do you think, Mrs. Marker?”
“I like to keep house.” House was the one thing she’d been able to keep, while her husband and their dollars had slipped from her grasp.
He put his dry hand on her shoulder –she’d worn a sleeveless blouse—and used her to help himself stand. “It’s agreed then.” Already he was half turned from her and winking at Lindy across the table. “Now are you ready for seconds on that tea, young lady?”
Vivian developed a routine and a laundry schedule for the priest’s house as well as her own. Efficient, she grew prideful in her abilities, in this place she’d found to call home, and she loved old Father Joachim as if he were her father, since she’d bid a lasting farewell to the one she’d had by birth. No one came close to blistering that other solitude shellacked around her heart.
After piling up four good years of service in the rectory she thought she could relax, but then Father Joachim shared his reassignment news. God and His blessed whims awakened the resentment she’d felt over Harmon’s death and the way he’d been stolen from her.
Well, the interloper, this new priest, would just need to prove himself.
“He’s newly ordained, a serious sort I hear,” Father Joachim reported.
She was prepared to dislike him.
The day they were introduced she stood in the rectory kitchen, wiping her palms on her apron, pretending she’d been washing up. Father Joachim preceded the new priest through the door.
“This is Father Benedict,” the older man said, barely pausing as he whisked past her and through the kitchen to the living room, eager to warm up the television for Saturday college football.
Father Benedict tripped across the threshold and Vivian reached to him in spite of herself, but he wasn’t stumbling. His rolling walk fooled her. She hoped to make it look like she’d been about to pick up a pot or a pan from the stove, but Father Benedict’s palm touched her own, not a pot handle.
“I’m so happy to meet you, Vivian.”
Her name had never floated in Father Joachim’s mouth. Who had last called her “Vivian”? She was Lindy’s “Mommy.” Lindy’s friends’ fathers, business folk in town, and everyone else called her “Mrs. Marker.” Not since Harmon had she heard her name erupt so softly from a baritone throat.
He began moving to the sink, her hand still captured in his. Even as she walked with him, redirecting him to the table, she thought of them yoked together like partners in a three-legged race. Was he lame? Polio?
“Sit,” she said. “Let me get you a drink.”
“To tell you the truth, I’m famished, Vivian.”
He collapsed into a chair, angling back on his spine in an exhausted slump. He may have sported a limp, but just then Vivian could hardly think of him as “damaged,” the way he let his legs sprawl out in front of him, begging notice. He had the same Irish coloring she did -- dark, curly hair, complexion fairly white with just a smattering of freckles. He could have been her brother, if she had one.
Wiping her hands on her apron, she turned to him. She had never cared that the frills along the bib of her apron accentuated her breasts or that the bow drew attention to her backside, but taking it off now would be like stripping in front of Father Benedict.
He watched her, his head tilted to one side.
“What can I get you, Father?” She clasped her hands behind her back, willing herself to just keep still a minute. Did a blush rise to his cheeks? He blinked those long-lashed eyes. “I thought you were hungry,” she said.
“So I am,” he nodded, smiling. “Vivian, what have you prepared?”
Tuna salad sat in the refrigerator, made with chopped sweet pickles just as Father Joachim liked. She would make Father Benedict a sandwich then, and consider it his first test. If he had particular demands, she expected he’d start insisting on minced celery right off.
He watched her move from refrigerator to sink to table. She glanced at him once or twice, trying to conceal her assessment.
“Luggage?” She placed the full plate before him.
“A priest travels light.” He picked at a piece of bread to inspect the filling, sniffing, maybe hinting that the tuna salad had turned bad. “We have such a monochromatic wardrobe.” The downhill of his chuckle charmed her, despite herself. He took a hearty bite of the sandwich and held out the other half to her. “Join me?”
Except for her interview, which seemed so long ago, she and Father Joachim had never sat together.
“Let us break bread with one another,” Father Benedict invited. He extended his hand, offering her the very table she set, cleared, and wiped clean three times a day.
She narrowed her eyes, estimating the changes to come. Her table? Her kitchen? She may have liked to think so, but of course she knew her place. Father Benedict’s terms would be her new rules. She set the coffee brewing and sat, stirring her spoon in its empty cup. From the living room Father Joachim groused at the football players on television, and she wondered why he’d left her and Father Benedict alone like a couple of teenagers fumbling with their introductions.
When Father Benedict chewed, his temples crinkled. He smiled at her and she saw a lettuce shred caught in his teeth. “So, tell me about the parish,” he said.
She held her hands in her lap to keep from taking a napkin to his mouth. In some ways he seemed like a nervy young man, flirting and trying to butter her up so she wouldn’t suspect him when she swept the cigarette butts she’d find tossed behind the garage. If caught in such a crime, his charm would deflect responsibility, a ridiculous thing to say about a priest, for wasn’t all of it, the whole kit and kaboodle of salvation, his daily labor? If a priest flinched from responsibility, then who could you count on?
She suddenly found herself indeed hungry and so she ate half his sandwich.
He watched her chew, a pleased expression on his face, as if he’d made the lunch, as if he’d been the one to hook and land the tuna himself. Vivian had the feeling he was taking care of her, instead of the other way around. He struck her as the type of man who’d been raised in a houseful of sisters who had doted on him, maybe the only boy in a family of girls headed by a strict, loving mother. Vivian considered herself such a mother to Lindy, and because she was her daughter’s one blood relative, she’d indulged the girl to a fault. Vivian, too, had been the sole offspring of a one parent family. Maybe they were cursed, each generation doomed to have a parent stolen away early. And if that was so, then once Lindy had children would it be her husband, or dear God, Lindy herself, that vanished from the lopsided family tree? Juggling all these kinds of fears, Vivian had grown used to giving in to her daughter, had acquired a sacrificial way of living, of denying herself, as if she didn’t deserve the small comforts of her own life. Lindy, almost eleven and testing out a newfound sarcasm, called her a martyr.
Vivian regarded Father Benedict. If the priest were to side with her when Lindy dove into her tantrums, he might command the authority Vivian seemed unable to muster. She swallowed. “I have a daughter.”
Father Benedict’s smile was like grace. “So Father’s told me. When can I meet her?”
“I’ll bring her around tomorrow. She helps me with the laundry, the folding of it. She’s a capable girl.”
“I’m sure she is.” Father said, nodding. With his fingertip he stabbed at the crusts on his plate, crushing them into crumbs. He sighed, then stood. “I should get my belongings out of the car.”
Vivian held the door open so his sleeve brushed her arm as he descended the steps, his plate still in his hands, his rolling gait fooling her into thinking he’d step left when he veered right. She’d have to stay sharp or she’d be bumping into him all the time.
And where was he going with her dish? She called, “Can I help?”
He lifted the plate the way a man might pitch a horseshoe, so the bread crumbs scattered onto the gravel drive, but of course he never let the dish go. The way he leaned into the back seat of the car, she thought he’d lose his balance and tip all the way in, but he suddenly stood up and waved her off.
That day she didn’t ask him about his limp. It would have been too forward of her, and afterwards, this quirk simply faded into the Father Benedict landscape. A first-time observer might speculate about the limp, but then, over time everyone took it for granted so that if the priest had sported a normal gait there’d have been reason for talk.
After offering the early weekday Mass, Father Bendict sat at the table by eight o’clock sharp. Vivian cooked and he insisted that she sit and share his eggs. He had a way of dipping toast in his coffee that hinted of the Consecration, but Vivian’s thoughts ran more along the physical than mystical. When the eggs sputtered in the pan, with the butter crisping the edges of the whites, she couldn’t help but be cast back to her desire for Harmon and her old kitchen, their early morning affection, its stunning loss. In Father’s presence, she was aware of the soft weight of her hair on her shoulders. A blush and a smile played over her face, whether she wished for her pleasure to show or not. The kitchen was so warm she had to throw open the window above the sink, and the curtains she’d sewn when she’d been first hired by Father Joachim fluttered, as did her usual steady pulse.
And Father Benedict? He sat in his chair and reached his hand to Vivian where she stood at the drainboard, motioning her to sit. “Shall we give thanks?”
Clearly he was hungry and ready to swallow the good things she’d cooked up for him. They held hands as he spoke the blessing. Her words murmured under his, a softer music that might embolden, given any small encouragement. Vivian’s thanks gushed beyond the food on the table; it lapped over everything in the rectory kitchen, everything within her sight, including the breeze from the outside coming in and messing Father Benedict’s dark hair.
Donna D. Vitucci is a grant writer and development associate. Her fiction has appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, Southern Indiana Review, Faultline, Natural Bridge, Hawaii Review, The Mochila Review, Zone 3, The Kennesaw Review online, Main Street Rag, Meridian, and others. “Indulgence” is part of a larger project .
Copyright 2004, Donna Vitucci. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.