The minister is at the Days of Jesus before the girl arrives. He is in his office, waiting. His sermon is written and placed on the pulpit and he waits for the girl to arrive as he has all summer. She comes in the side door and takes the stairs to the basement practice room where she says she is working on her scales. The minister’s office has a large glass wall facing the basement. The girl looks up. The minister is standing at the bank of windows. She mounts the stairs to the minister’s office as she has all summer on early Sunday mornings. She takes grown-up oranges out of her beginner’s bra. The girl and the minister greedily bite, suck out pulp, shuck clothes.

*

He wakes Sunday morning his hands clasped. Next to him his wife Od stirs, small sounds escaping her throat like the sounds she makes when they make love. They attend the Days of Jesus, are teachers in the elementary school and high school respectively in their town of Sycamore where on the square the Days of Jesus stands next to Saint Paul’s Episcopalian and the Holy Catholic Church. On the square there are fountains and playgrounds and easy-going streets branch off to the cafes and coffee shops, clothing stores, olive oil shops and bookstores of Sycamore.

Od smiles at her husband as they stir awake knowing he’s proud of their daughter. She has been bestowed with being old enough finally and good enough finally to sing in the adult church choir. All summer she has been going to the church proper early Sunday mornings to practice her scales and had done so this morning. He kisses Od, then rolls up in bed. I’m meeting two other deacons early and we’re walking to church, he says as Od’s fingers trail across his back. He sips coffee Od makes, her still sleepy-eyed and bundled in a robe. He is a tall man with sandy hair, blue eyes and is dressed for church service. His suit jacket is slung over one shoulder.

*

The three deacons meet on a street corner. The girl’s father is eager to hear his daughter’s sweet young innocent voice practicing scales at Days of Jesus but when the men arrive at the church and tip-tap personably down the basement steps to their meeting room what the girl’s father does instead is drop his suit jacket at the sight. His hands appear to the two other deacons to be trying to catch something sweet and melodious in the air but can grasp nothing. There is nothing to grasp. The girl and the minister see her father and as if defying truth itself, they stand full-frontal at the glass window, looking down, cannibalized bright and blazing oranges held tight and certain in their outstretched hands.

 
 

AJ Atwater

ATWATER's fiction is forthcoming or published in Fiction Southeast, PANK, Vestal Review, Nanoism, Literary Orphans, The Gravity of the Thing, Cowboy Jamboree and others.

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