3 Replies to “7.6.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. Santino Teta was a serious young man as he had been a serious boy and all his words were church words and all his thoughts church thoughts. And so it had seemed obvious and a place was found for him in the seminary and soon enough he was spoken of behind closed doors and in higher places, and he carried the hopes of his family and of Father Peruzzi and of his school teacher, Castellani.

    But when he was called on to do good deeds in the city, then was he tested and by such testing are men of the cloth made or broken. Her name was Eloisa and she was sixteen and her father had lost patience with her. He asked Santino Teta if he could speak with the girl, as a priest would, and if he could turn the girl’s thoughts to what her father wished for her.

    They were given time together and a room in the back of the house and the windows thrown open. The sounds of the gardener at work hung in the air and birds in breathless song and the humming of bees and small flies. In that room was gathered the softness of shadow and a thickness in the air and a dryness. On a small table was a jug of water and two glasses.

    And there was Eloisa. She sat stiff in a high-backed chair, her hands making a balled nest in her lap, and she fixed Santino Teta with the blue of her eyes. She smiled for she recognized the young man. His picture was on the wall in her classroom and once Santino had spoken to the whole school, something about the word of God and something about love.

    ‘Your father is displeased,’ said Santino.

    Eloisa unfolded her hands and brushed a whisper of hair back from her face. She did not speak and she did not avert her eyes from the young man in black who sat opposite her.

    ‘He has asked me to speak to you, to see if I might have some influence over your thoughts.’

    Eloisa cleared her throat as if she might say something, but she did not. Instead she began singing and it was not a church song, but something old, something that Santino thought he had heard before, but he was not sure. He was patient and waited till she had finished before speaking again.

    ‘Your father says you are wayward and you do not show him the respect a father deserves and you will not do as he commands.’

    Eloisa spoke then. Her voice so soft and so much in shadow that Santino Teta had to lean in close to hear what she said.

    ‘My father tells me I should not love,’ said Eloisa, ‘but when you came to the school you said I should.’

    Santino did not understand.

    Eloisa reached one hand out and she took Santino’s hand in hers and held it as though he was not a stranger to her, and she smiled.

    ‘My father says I should shut up my heart and be as stone or marble.’

    Santino Teta’s thoughts were bird thoughts then, all flap and flutter, and his words were all lost. Not even prayer words could be found, for not just his words were far from him, and it was the first time that he had ever been lost and he did not think he ever wanted to be found again.

    When Santino left the house the sun was still high enough in the sky that he was a little dazed by the light and he did not at first know which way to go. Then he did know, and it was not back towards the seminary, for he understood then that the seminary was where faith was but he knew now that love was somewhere else and something greater than faith and no less of a devotion.

  2. Easier than he thought, this unraveling, then sudden failure of faith. He knew it had happened over the eons but didn’t want to think it could happen to him. But when Madeleine left that morning and did not return, he was taken by the throat and hurtled into an unkind, unwise dimension of pain and ceaseless consternation. She was found floating in the river in a few days. Barely thirteen, a child, a child waiting for adulthood with all its glories and troubles. She was his daughter first and last; her mother came and went like streetcars. They had spoken only that morning when she had left for school. Her hair, pink on the ends, had lifted in the breeze and covered her face a moment and when her fingers brushed it away, she was smiling at him. Or so he had thought. Had he imagined it? Was she grimacing? The year had been tough.

    Ray Hartford was the son of a minister and a gospel singer, so he knew what to do: pray for healing, commune with God morning ’til night in one way or another, reach for support in the community. Sing a good hymn or tow. But it didn’t help , not enough.

    He called his brother in Maine, the one who knew how to deal with everything. Not always the most moral or reasonable way but the most swift and efficient way.

    “I can’t find it in me to pray anymore,” he said. “I can’t sleep. The night buzzes away in my head.”

    “There’s no sense to this. It has to be hell. Are they working on this? Let’s find him ourselves, Ray–string him up.”

    Ray stifled the urge to hang up. He bit his lip until it hurt. “We don’t know who, if anyone, it was. She might have fallen. She might have jumped.” He felt tears rise up like darkness.

    Tom breathed hard on the other end. He loved Maddy, but hadn’t seen her for a year. What did he know about young girls? He had no kids, only a car parts business and two dogs. “I’ll come out. We need to just hang out, talk or not talk. I can pray for you, Ray.”

    But that was the last thing Ray wanted. He just wanted out. He wanted to leave his no-longer-safe desk and throw away the phone and walk though Oak Street without a backward glance. Walking was the only thing that helped since the funeral. His breath had been taken by the wind, his eyes drawn to the treetops where he wanted to believe she hovered, watching them. But no. She was just gone.

    He said good-bye to Tom.

    He packed a backpack and took a jacket and hat in case the heat dispelled, or the rains came early. He stopped at the liquor store and bought a bottle of Chablis and then he sat on the church steps, the ones he had walked down with his father and mother countless times. People saw him there, stopped in the street and spoke among themselves. The came up to him but he waved them off. What could they know of it? They whispered, Dreadful to witness, a man like that, good man and sweet girl and now she is gone and he is ruined. No one knew what to do; it had been a month and still he could not find his way to accept the worst, to find solace enough.

    Night came and he finished the wine off. He stood slowly, wavering between church door and steps, then it came to him like a directive. He descended and began to walk. He would walk until he found a way back to what made sense. And he was counting on God meeting him along the way and giving an accounting of what it meant, this grief, and show him how to believe again. He would walk until grace and glory rescued what was left of his life. He had that much faith left: he would not let go.

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