Monday, July 18, 2011

ELEVEN: Curiouser

            The phone book listed the mailing address of Saint Cecilia Parish Rectory as a post office box number (all this happened before the phone book had become a casualty of human communications technology). There was no phone number.
            Diana called directory assistance.
            The operator said the number for the Saint Cecilia Parish Rectory was unlisted.
            Diana asked if that didn’t strike the operator as weird.
            The operator had no opinion, ma’am.
            During her lunch break Diana searched bank records and found that the Saint Cecilia Parish Rectory was located on Old Harbour Road, a two-lane macadam road that wound out from the northeast side of town. After work Diana drove along Old Harbour Road where for several miles there were old farmhouses that had been there for decades and newer houses where old farmhouses had once stood. Beyond them was the state park that claimed thousands of acres of old growth forest. Saint Cecilia’s Rectory had to be somewhere along the first two or three miles out of town before the state park land began.
             When she got to the state park, she turned around. On the way back she passed a graveled turn-off road hedged by overgrown trees and bushes. About ten yards in on either side of the road stood two old stone pillars that between them supported an old iron gate.
              Was Saint Cecilia’s rectory on the old Pedersen estate? She parked the car at the gate and got out.
  Sometime in the 1960s the Pedersen Mansion had been turned into a convent for discalced Carmelite nuns. What had been a private estate for more than a century became a private cloistered Church property. No one ever met or had talked to the nuns who lived there. No one knew how many nuns there were, though when Diana was in junior high there were jokes that mostly assumed an even number. The age range of the nuns also was a matter of speculation, though Diana remembered jokes about that too. The nuns remained hidden from their occasional visitors, communicating only through a “turn”, which was a barrel-shaped revolving wooden cabinet in the wall near the front door, used since the Middle Ages to pass goods into monasteries without violating the cloister. “Turns” mostly disappeared as a result of the Vatican reforms of the 1960's. But not in Falkes Hollow.
             It was known among the children of Falkes Hollow that you didn’t trespass on the mansion grounds, especially after their conversion to convent grounds. The property was far enough out of town and the gravel drive went far enough onto the property that when it also involved God and the Church, everyone pretty much left it alone.
            Except for once.
As Diana now pulled the gate open wide enough to slip herself through and walk up the gravel roadway, she felt like the prepubescent interloper who had once ventured onto the grounds. When she was ten or eleven, she had been exploring the banks of the Schuylhanna River outside town where it was more creek than river. She saw a car stop in the middle of the Schuylhanna Bridge and a man got out, walked to the railing, dropped a burlap bag into the water, and got back into the car and drove off.
Diana watched the bag float toward her until she realized that two kittens had clawed out of it and were sitting on top mewling and shaking. Diana scrambled along the bank with a stick in her hand until she could walk out onto some rocks into the water. At a turn in the river-creek she rescued the kittens.
            There was no way her mother would allow her to keep them and since she wanted to take them somewhere where she knew they would be cared for, she put them into the bag and put the bag into the basket on her handlebars and she biked out of town along the Old Harbour Road. She left her bike in the bushes outside the iron convent gate and she took the kittens with her up the gravel drive. When the mansion came into sight, it looked like a stone castle with a big round turret at the corner closest to her. In front of it, the gravel drive ended in a paved brick cul de sac. She knew she should go back, but she had to do something for the kittens.
            She saw the “turn” but she had no idea what it was. She put the bag on the front stoop and she rang the bell and then she ran across the brick circle to hide in the flowerbed on the other side. The door opened and a wimpled head looked out, saw the bag, looked up and around, then took the bag inside. Diana ran back to where she had hidden her bike and she raced it all the way home.
            That was fifteen or sixteen years ago. Some years later she thought she had heard that the nuns had since left the mansion, but she wasn’t sure. Of course, how could they still be there if Father John lived there? And if they weren’t there and Father John was, that would mean that Saint Cecilia’s Parish Rectory was not much more than a decade old and that Father John Nepomucine had not been in Falkes Hollow for longer than that. She was going to find out.
            She crossed the brick circle and went to the front door with some of the same dread and excitement of that young girl years ago with the bag of rescued kittens. The “turn” had been converted to a planter. She rang the doorbell. Her heart was pounding. No one answered. She tried again. Then she walked to the side of the house and peered into windows. There was old furniture in every room. Nothing, however, that definitively said rectory.
            "This is private property.”
            Diana shrieked and turned. At the corner of the house stood an old man dressed in dirty overalls and holding what must have been a long-handled garden implement, though it was shaped like no garden implement she had ever seen. He stared at her from the shadows of a crumpled brown felt hat.
           “I came to see Father Nepomucine,” she said. Did her voice sound as thin to him as it did to her?
            He looked at her as if he hadn’t understood what she said. She thought she smelt sulphur. Finally he said, “He’s not here.”
            That means this is Saint Cecilia’s!
            “When can I see him?” she said.
            “He doesn’t see people.”
            Directory assistance doesn’t find it weird that the parish rectory has an unlisted phone number and the rectory gardener doesn’t find it weird that the parish pastor doesn’t see people. Diana was considering asking him if he knew the Mad Hatter--or more probably Leatherface--when he said, “Best go now, miss.” He held the rake-hoe-pruner-eviscerator as if he were modeling for American Gothic II and he watched until she turned and walked down the gravel drive.
            She wasn't conscious of a moment of the drive home. Her mind was racing.
            When she pulled up, she saw Les sitting on the front stairs. They hadn’t made dinner plans, had they? He didn’t look annoyed, but he did seem troubled. His eyes were sad.
           “I brought dinner,” he said lifting a bag of groceries. “Mind if I come up?”
She decided not to tell him of Diana's Adventures in Slasherland.
            They went upstairs. The kitchen was too small for both of them to work so he sat at the little breakfast table and she made dinner.              
“Where are you staying?” she said.
            She got a four-quart pot from the cupboard. “Where are you staying? Not in West Tilton, right?”
            She filled the pot with water and set it on the stove. “You’re sleeping in your office, aren’t you?”
            “Right again.”
            “Well, Jiminy fucking Christmas,” she said. Then: “Stay here.”
            “Okay, not forever, but we’ll make it work.”
            “This is way too small a place.”
            “Les—" She was at the sink washing cherry tomatoes and romaine lettuce.
“It’s okay," he said, “I understand. I’ll work something out.” He stood and reached over her to the cupboard and took out plates, then he went to the silverware drawer. “I may take Lydia up on her offer to sleep in the downstairs study for a while. At least Patti and Derek would have some sense of normal family life.”
             “The underpass on the toll road would be safer and more welcoming,” she said and he looked at the stab wound on his left hand. “Even with majorly pissing off the troll that lives there.”
 He nearly laughed.
 “You can’t live in your office.” She tore the lettuce and arranged it on plates.
 “I wanted to call you this afternoon, but I had no idea where to call.”
 “I wanted to talk to you, too,” and when she made a concerned face, he said, “Not about my living situation.”
 “About what?”
 “About despair.”
  It was her turn to say, “Huh?” She stopped dribbling olive oil on the salads and she looked at him hard.
              “About getting your Mellon Bank family to pay for you to take my acting class this summer.”
  She plunked the bottle onto the table. “I repeat: Huh?” She sat dramatically. “And I raise you a What? Why?"
  He smiled. “Same reason I wanted you to come to rehearsals this spring. I’m in despair.” A beat and he sat at the table. “I’m being torn apart. Teacher me, Husband me, Father me, Lover me. That’s a lot of major me’s to keep going all at once. Husband me and Father me are pretty close to becoming bleeding corpses and you won’t argue that Lover me ain’t been so hot this last week or so, so I was hoping you would maybe help me out before Lover and Teacher me go the way of the Husband and the Father."
“Taking your acting class?”
“You want to get out of the bank, don’t you? Let Mellon pay for you to do that.”
“Acting class?”
“You take a business course that makes sense to Mellon suits and an acting class that satisfies distribution requirements for the BA you’re working toward as you move up in the Mellon Family Banking business. And they subsidize it. And we get to see each other and be together outside of class. You think I’m a pretty swell teacher anyway and that’s good for Majorly Fucked Up Ego me. Win-win-win all round.”
“Aw man, you Dickhead, I love you but you’re making me kick sand in your face twice in less than two weeks.” She put linguini into the pot of boiling water. “I just offered to compensate for throwing you out of my house and now you’re gonna make me shoot down your plan to elevate my mind and increase my career advancement prospects.” 
“Registration’s tomorrow.”
“Argh. They’ll never go for it, it’s too last minute.”
“Yeah they will. I called today. Talked with Whatsisname. He thinks it’s a great idea.”
“What!” She was trying to open the bottle of pasta sauce.
“Besides providing you with an individual self-improvement opportunity, the bank gets points for community outreach and employee advancement and blah blah blah…. Say yes and tell me why you wanted to talk to me today.”
“I went in search of Saint Cecilia’s Parish Rectory.”
            “And I’m going back tomorrow.” She grunted and the lid resisted.
            “Didn’t Father Nepomucine rattle your bones at the memorial?”
            “He’s a weird fuck priest, but he’s the kind of weird fuck priest Moira would love. Tell me you'll register for my acting class and save my despairing soul.”
            “I want to know what Moira’s connection with him was” --the lid was resisting mightily— “and what was his with her.”
           “She was Catholic. So is he. She was weird. So is he.”
           “If you come with me tomorrow, I’ll take your acting class.”
           “If you play a Hardy Boy with me, I’ll take your acting class.”
           “Did Nancy Drew know Joe Hardy?”
           “Fuck Nancy Drew.” She handed him the bottle. “You’re Joe and I’m Frank and together we’ll solve The Mystery of the Under-the-Radar Rectory. Do we have a deal?”
            He twisted the lid and it gave way with a pop.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

TEN: Granny and the Butterfly



            George and Caleb and Temple piled into George's Dodge Pacer (all this happened before the last of the Pacers motored to extinction) and drove to New York. George asked about the memorial service and Caleb told her about Father John Nepomucine. George said she disapproved of religion but that Martin Luther had been on to something. Temple was quiet, thoughtful, a little too pained, and Caleb was certain it had nothing to do with his nose. Most of the drive passed in silence.
            When they arrived in Bronxville, there was light in the sky still and Granny Burden came onto the porch in a white summer dress with lavender splashes and white shoes with heels. Her hair was white and simply coifed. She was smiling as the car pulled into the driveway. She waited for George to climb out of the car and come up to the porch. There was an embrace that both women felt deeply but which neither prolonged.
            Granny Burden was short, slight, sturdy. She had fierce blue eyes and a smile that sprayed wrinkles across her face. There were introductions and declarations of informality and welcome. They went inside and Caleb commented on the way the light came in through rows of tall windows. Granny approved. "My husband designed this house," she said. "He used to say light and flowers are as much a part of a house as is furniture. You will especially enjoy it in the morning."
There were flowers in every room. In the small upstairs bedroom that Caleb and Temple were to occupy, a vase of irises stood on the dresser in the corner and on the vanity a small bowl of roses. There were two single beds separated by a tiny nightstand.
While Temple was in the bathroom and Caleb was putting shirts on hangers, George appeared in the doorway. "I trust you approve of the sleeping arrangement," she said. Her smile suggested the unspeakable and therefore the amusing. Caleb regretted sharing with her the past months of his accelerating obsession with Temple.
"Granny's plan?" he said.
            "Granny leaves the business side of things to me." She came into the room and picked up a photograph from the vanity. "Me at fifteen," she said and put it down without showing it to Caleb. "By the way, Granny approves of you both." She smiled to herself and continued talking confidentially as if they were in a museum or an art gallery. "She said Temple is the best-looking man she has ever seen—even with the bandaged nose."
            "How old is Granny?"
            "My my. The best looking she has ever seen?"
            "She thinks he moves like a Greek god. But not at all effeminate, mind you, says my Granny."
George was walking about the room touching things with a familiarity that made Caleb feel like a voyeur. "It’s the dynamism of opposites that makes him so stunning," she said. She touched the stamens on each of the seven irises in the vase on the dresser. "He's tall and has a beautiful neck, but it’s his carriage that communicates. Spine straight, ribcage lifted, and yet a relaxed rolling pelvis, an easy stride. Hands small yet perfectly proportioned to his arms and his supple, powerful shoulders. And gloriously, a flawless inguinal ligament to move one’s finger along. Apollo’s belt."
Her tone, passionless yet sexual, was for Caleb more inappropriate than ever, perhaps because Temple was in the next room and they were standing in the bedroom that she knew intimately and that he would share soon with Temple.
She opened a lacquer box and touched whatever was inside it. "Granny once asked me how homosexuals have sex. Darling, I have nothing against them, but tell me, do you know what two men do together? I mean, it seems so limited."
            "Perhaps Granny should investigate gay porn."
            The door to the bathroom opened and Temple entered with a towel wrapped around his waist.
            "Dinner soon," George said and as she went, "I'll leave you two alone to work out the particulars."
There was a momentary silence.
            "Small beds," Temple said. He pulled on a powder blue t-shirt. "I better warn you. I've been waking up in the middle of the night screaming or something." He got a pair of jeans from his suitcase. "I haven't done that since I was little. I can't ever remember what I'm dreaming about, but anyway, just in case...." Caleb saw him hesitate a moment, then take underwear from his suitcase. Briefs. He blushed and went into the hall. "I'm not quite finished in the bathroom."

            Granny was proud of her New England ancestry. On one wall of the dining room hung four portraits in oil. "That one," she said, referring to a particularly dour face, "sat in the House of Burgesses with Tom Paine. And next to him is my great grandfather. He helped lose the second battle of Bull Run."
            She had spent her youth with live-in housekeepers and capable gardeners. She had grown up, she said, during a time when the only significant question to ask a new acquaintance was, Who are your family? Unlike today, she continued, when the crucial question is, What do you do for a living?
Years ago she and her friends had resented the intrusion into Bronxville of the Irish Roman Catholic Kennedys and they all sighed with relief when the Kennedys finally left.
She told family stories with ease and grace and humor. Caleb was enchanted. Temple blushed, spoke little. George came alive with love of her family. She relaxed, she smiled, color came into her cheeks, and there was even occasional laughter to tears at Granny’s stories. 
            After Granny went to bed, Temple and George went onto the porch to smoke a joint. Caleb demurred. He wanted to believe that he was maintaining student-teacher boundaries—though, Lord knew they were crumbling fast--but he didn’t want to take part in George’s potential stoned familiarities.
            He went upstairs.
            Nearly an hour later George knocked on the door and came in. He was sitting in the dark. He turned on the nightstand lamp. She was smiling and she was flushed.
“Enjoying the late-night toke?” he said.
She sat on Temple’s bed and folded her hands in her lap with not a hint of a smirk on her broad flat face. “The Golden Temple of Idolatry is in the downstairs bathroom. You are missing things.” She beamed. “He’s telling funny stories.” She giggled. “You should come down I think he has more marijuana I hope he does I’m overheated welcome to the Burden-Ekdahl world.”
            A few minutes after she left, Temple came in.
            “Bunky!” he said raising his arms. “You’re awake!”
            Temple responded with exaggerated astonishment. Didn’t Caleb ever go to summer camp? Didn’t he ever have a bunkmate? Well, now he was Temple’s bunky, he said, swinging a pillow and nearly losing his balance. Caleb had never seen him laugh so hard nor so freely.
            “Hey, Bunky!” Temple said, “Tell me a story.”
            “Well, Jocko, what story do you want?”
            “Chanticleer, I want Chanticleer, tell me Chanticleer.” And before Caleb could say a word, Temple began telling the story of Chanticleer. And as he told the story, he undressed. Up over his head went the powder blue t-shirt. Then he sat on his bed and with his back to Caleb he leaned forward to untie his shoes. Then he rolled backwards and took off shoes and socks. Then, still on his back, he grunted and struggled and squirmed as he pulled off first his jeans and then his briefs. Finally he rolled forward again and stood up naked on the other side of the bed.
With his back still to Caleb he said, “Where are my pajamas?” And then with joy: “In my suitcase!” He bent forward to open the suitcase and he pulled out blue hospital scrub pants. Holding them high he shrieked, “I found them!” He did not turn around until the pants were on and the ties were tied. And when, bare-chested, he did turn around, he lifted his arms and sang out, “Very like a king!” The pants rode low on his hips and Caleb tried not to watch the blue bulge bouncing just below Apollo’s flawless inguinal ligament.
Temple climbed into bed. “Good night, Bunky.” He reached his hand to Caleb and Caleb held it for a moment. “Thanks for the Chanticleer story,” he said and he withdrew his hand and turned his back and pulled the coverlet up.
Caleb turned off the nightstand lamp and sat for a minute on the edge of his bed in the dark.
            The next morning, he got up before everyone else and dressed in shorts and t-shirt and flip flops. He got a beach towel and from the library a copy of Lolita—at least, he told himself, it wasn’t Death in Venice--and he went outside. The lawn was lush; sprinklers sputtered at the peripheries. He chose a corner of the back yard just out of the shadows of a tall elm tree and the underbrush that grew beyond it.
He had not slept well. Temple had shifted and lurched the entire night. He talked in his sleep, though not coherently. At one point he muttered Desdemona over and over as they lay facing each other with barely two and a half feet of infinity between them. And once Caleb awoke suddenly to Temple sitting up groaning before he fell back and clasped a pillow to his chest.
            Granny’s ancient gardener, Mr. Church, was puttering along one side of the house. A child's voice called beyond the garage where the gables of a neighboring house lifted into the sky. There were birds and the hum of bees and summer garden smells. Caleb lay on his back and closed his eyes against the morning sun.
The irregular sounds of ancient Mr. Church pretending to keep up with Granny's gardens eventually found a rhythm in his ears. He sensed, too, the presence of awakened people in Granny's house, the possibility of intrusion at any moment. George could come out with cups of coffee in her hands to stand over him and stare at his body and say something about it or Temple or both. Or Temple could come, though not simply and effortlessly, for what would he actually do? How would he make his entrance? What excuse could he articulate beyond the joy of lying in the sun with Caleb?
            Caleb turned onto his stomach, opened the book, rested his chin on his folded hands and for several minutes he watched the house. A butterfly bobbed about. It came close and weaved out of his vision, then returned. At last it alighted on his forearm, scrambled in the hairs, then settled. Slowly the wings opened and closed.
            The screen door burst open. Moving only his eyes, Caleb looked up past the book, and between the gentle pulses of the butterfly wings he saw Temple coming down the stairs wearing blue running shorts and running shoes without socks. A towel was hanging around his neck. His hair was wet and combed back and one curl had sprung forward onto his forehead. He walked toward the rose bushes growing near the garage against a trellis heavy with cascading blooms. He touched petals with his fingertips. He looked up to the eaves of the garage roof. A swarm of wasps moved tightly in the half-shadow. Through the slow throbs of the butterfly's wings, Caleb watched as Temple disappeared behind the garage and a few moments later appeared on the other side.
Is he pretending he doesn’t see me?
Then, looking up into the leaf layers of the elm tree where two squirrels were chattering at each other, spiraling around branches, leaping from limb to limb, Temple walked toward Caleb. And Caleb, not wanting to disturb the butterfly, was about to say, Don't come any closer, when the butterfly lifted off his arm and fluttered about for a few seconds. It traced a pattern around Temple, who was preoccupied with the squirrels, and then it bobbed away.
            "Hormones," Caleb said. "Chemicals."
            Temple frowned. "What is?"
            "The butterfly on my arm. Must have sensed my fear that you were getting close."
            "The squirrels aren’t concerned. No fear there."
            "Sit with me."
            Temple moved toward him still frowning and cast his shadow on Caleb and Caleb's book. "What are you reading?"
"Where are Granny and George?"
"Granny's still in her room. George took her a tray of something a while ago." He turned toward the sound of Mr. Church, who had come around the corner of the house dragging a small branch behind him.
"Granny's going to have to do something about Mr. Church," Caleb said. "One day they'll find his bones caught in the brambles or in the rose trellis. They'll have to check dental records to make sure it's him."
"I was full of crap last night," Temple said.
Caleb let only the slightest beat pass before he said, "George came into the room to talk, but she was so stoned she couldn't."
Temple was examining a spot on his forearm. "Yeah, we both got pretty stoned. I talked, she smiled."
"You both were funny."
There was a pause. 
Finally Caleb said, "Did I snore last night? I'm told I snore." He laughed. "I'm not at liberty to say who told me, but I wonder if that’s why at one point you woke me."
“I wonder if I talked in my sleep," Temple said. And then, "Temple Lubiak’s Secret Dream Life." He smiled humorlessly and shifted his weight to his right leg. For nearly a minute he puzzled over the spot on his forearm. Then he shifted to his left leg and, without warning, each of his hands grabbed an end of the towel and they held it above his head, twisting it tight. He spoke slowly. "I. Am. A. Man." He growled and pulled the twisted towel tauter. “I Am A Man.”
Caleb looked into his book. "And you'll spend the rest of your life proving it." 
Instantly he regretted the words. He could sense Temple blushing, though he didn't look up.
Temple turned to walk back to the house. "There are worse things I could do with it," he said.
Granny Burden appeared in the doorway. "Boys, come in. Georganne has been making waffles. And there are fresh blueberries."

Monday, July 4, 2011

NINE: Search and Encounter

            Diana’s apartment was small. It was on the third floor of a Queen Anne style house that had been converted to five apartments decades earlier. The original third-floor bedroom was now Diana’s living room; she kept her easel in the little turret space. The original dressing room was a tiny bathroom and kitchen. Diana’s bed was off the living room in an alcove with a curtain drawn across it. The ceilings slanted. Four and a half years ago she had moved in temporarily until she could find something she actually liked.
            When Les appeared at her door Monday night she took him to the basement to put his clothes in the communal washing machine. He walked naked and sexy back to her apartment. He told her about his fight with Lydia and she dressed his wounded hand. He showered and she made him a sandwich. She said he was welcome to stay a couple of nights and he said he wouldn’t stay long.
            The next day he went to his house when Lydia was at her tennis lesson and he got clothes and toiletries. He made an appearance at school. Olivia Troute came to his office to ask if everything was all right. He said that he was dealing with some time-consuming issues at home and was glad that he had no formal commitments at school this week. She said she would be glad to help if he needed help. He said nothing about his bandaged left hand and she didn't ask. He was certain she had ideas about what his time-consuming issues at home might be.
The second day he picked up Derek and Patti from school and they talked. Lydia had told them that Daddy was having some difficulties at his school that would keep him away a few days, but they knew that wasn’t true. He told them that sometimes adults have arguments just like kids do and if it’s bad enough, they sometimes stop speaking to each other just like kids sometimes do. But he assured them that he and Mommy were going to be grown up about their argument and they would talk it out real soon. Derek and Patti were quiet and they looked at their hands.
He and Diana hadn’t had sex the first night. At least not long enough for him to cum. She had kissed him and touched him and she had responded to his kisses and touches. But they each had too much to do, they were too tired, they both had to get up early in the morning. He awoke several times during the night; if she did as well, he didn't know.
In the morning, she used the bathroom first to get ready for work. During the day he checked out a possible apartment that turned out to be a room in the house where Temple Lubiak was living. When she got home from work he had set the table and had dinner waiting for her and she was truly surprised.
They made it through dessert but not to dish washing. She sang Bella Notte and he helped her off with her clothes. For the rest of the night they made long slow easy love. During one of the not so slow and easy periods, she rolled him onto his back and held the base of his erect penis and eased herself down onto it. And then she was lifting and squeezing and lowering and lifting and squeezing until he pushed up as deep as he could and he was cumming and she moaned and arched her back and then she leaned over and looked into his eyes and laughed. “Dinner and Dick,” she said. “I might get used to this.”
In the first weeks of their relationship, he had been tentative and unsure about how to have sex with her. She was different from other women—at least other women he had been with. She was demonstrative. She laughed. She talked. She liked to give directions. He said she should direct plays: try moving down left a little, ease up on the intensity here, relate more to your partner, hold for the laugh. It took a while for him to stop second-guessing himself and simply to let go. When she began trusting him and letting him share the lead-taking, it was pretty rambunctious, energetic, and altogether exhaustingly fun.
And in the process he fell in love.
He didn’t analyze the cause-and-effectness of falling in love with Diana and pulling away from Lydia. Life wasn’t a play. Plays you could analyze and understand. In plays you pinpoint the exact moments when lives change and why. Analyze life that way, he thought, and you’ll only delude yourself into believing that you understand.
They were lying together late in the evening of the third night of his stay and she was blowing the thinning reddish hair falling over his forehead and he was tracing the curve of her left ear with his right index finger when she said she wasn’t willing to share a living space with anyone. He wanted to keep playing with her ear to show that he wasn’t jolted by what she said, but he couldn’t. Even if/when she married, she said, still blowing, she was going to have at least a bedroom and a bath of her own and if possible a sitting room as well. “If I want to fuck him,” she said, “I know where his bed is, but I’m sleeping by myself.”
He said he understood. But he didn’t understand. He wanted to say something hurtful about her parents and her damaged childhood experience of marriage. He wanted to ask what the hell she meant by if/when she married. But he stayed quiet and listened and grunted to demonstrate that he was listening and understanding. If he could have done it without comment, he would have slept on the sofa.
The next day he drove to West Tilton six miles north of Falkes Hollow to find an apartment. The only thing he found was a little back house on a road outside of town owned—or at least managed—by an old woman who lived in the main house that wasn’t much bigger than the back house. She had a foul mouth and a yard full of junk and dogs and dog shit. That evening he told Diana he had found a place in West Tilton. She didn’t suggest he stay longer with her and she didn’t ask about his new place.
He didn’t go to West Tilton. He slept in his office and in the morning he showered in the men’s dressing room in the theatre. After he returned from the shower, Olivia came to his office to ask about the summer acting class. Registration was low, she said, and the administration was giving her grief about it. So far she had managed to convince them to retain the class, but she wanted him to know that it would be better if one or two more students enrolled. She gave no indication that she knew he was sleeping in his office.
His search for an apartment was going nowhere. He simply could not afford the kind of place he would live in even if such a place were available and the available places he might possibly afford he wouldn’t live in. And he couldn’t sustain many more nights in his office.

The morning of Moira’s memorial Alexia Farrell called to ask if Diana would be at the service. Happily, the bank gave her the morning off after she explained with some pained solemnity that the service was for a student she had helped through a major drug overdose and consequent miscarriage. Diana said she would meet Alexia at her dorm and walk over with her. Les told Diana he was in his office and he would walk to the chapel from there.
Diana knew nothing about Saint Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church and its pastor Father John Nepomucine. She was as intrigued by his presence at the memorial as was everyone else. Even the college’s Catholic students had been ignorant of him. During New Student Week each year the pastor of Saint Vincent parish met with the Catholic students of the college and invited them to visit Saint Vincent’s and to make themselves part of the congregation. And most of them did just that. As far as anyone could recall, the pastor of Saint Cecilia’s had never appeared at the college.
Everyone later agreed that they had expected the priest to say something about God if not something specifically about Jesus Christ. Or at least something about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Something about Moira and heaven or perhaps Moira and purgatory. Something about mortal life on earth being the gateway to eternal life at the feet of God the Father or at least at the right hand of Jesus. And what was the Catholic Church’s stand on suicide anyway? Everyone agreed that Father John Nepomucine had been disconcerting.
Diana had been disconcerted because Father John Nepomucine had been sexier than Satan.

When Olivia Troute collapsed after Father Nepomucine’s exit, people gathered in alarm, but she convinced them that there was no need for an ambulance. Fatigue, she said, dehydration, the stress of the past several days. She asked Les to take her home. On the drive to her house, she told Les that in fact she did have a heart condition but it wasn’t general knowledge and she wanted to keep it that way. It was the first time she had revealed to him anything private about herself.

Diana had watched Les drive off with Miss Troute and Alexia had said, “Wanna grab something to eat?” Before Diana could think of a way to say no, Temple had come to them from the old observatory path. His nose was bandaged and the bruising that purpled his eye sockets had yellowed.
“Is Caleb all right?” Diana said, less from concern for Caleb than from wanting to distract Alexia.
“He’s fine. He went looking for the priest.”
“It’s getting better,” she said about his nose.
“Yeah,” Alexia said loudly, “Wrythe punched you out pretty hard.”
“I gotta go,” Temple said and he moved past them before breaking into a run.
“Wait up,” Alexia said and she scrambled after him.
Diana turned and Douglas Wrythe was standing directly in front of her. An inch or so taller than Diana, he had big hazel eyes with lashes so long they could flutter if he’d let them and hair buzz cut so close she couldn’t tell if it was blond or brownish and a neck and ears in perfect muscular alignment with his jaw.
“I wanted to thank you for coming today,” he said. “Moira liked you.”
“Why did you break Temple’s nose?” she said.
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t broken.” His left hand rubbed the contour of his skull. “Maybe bent out of shape a little.”
Was he smiling? It was possible that he wasn’t being a jerk, but Diana couldn’t tell. During rehearsals, when he was responding to a direction from Les or a clarification from Temple, she could never tell what he was thinking behind his direct gaze and his earnest face and the maybe smile that played at the corners of his mouth. She could tell, however, that he wanted everyone to know that he was indeed thinking.
            He seemed older than the other students. He was built and it looked like a body built by work rather than by workouts. When other students—she thought of Tammy DeBardeau—said something cynical or world-weary, they seemed to be trying on attitudes. Douglas seemed simply to have lived. It was something deep in his big hazel eyes that allowed them to look frankly and calmly at the world, something deeper in the muscles around his mouth that let a tangle of responses play subtly along the contours of his lips, something in his voice that came from deeper than it did with younger students.
Depth, Diana thought. She narrowed her eyes deliberately. “What’s your story?” she said.
            He had been looking past her. “It’s the only thing I’ve got that’s mine,” he said and there was that smile that made her think she might be imagining it.
            “You’ll want to be careful,” she said.
            “Of what?”
            “You’re close to being interesting. Don’t piss it away by being only clever.”
            This time as he walked away he was smiling unmistakably.