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Hope, like a hangover coiled, crawled from the bed. A pillow. Make-up streaked painter’s palette and the refracted light from the pond a half-mile away, some scurred and big-puffed clouds sadly tolling by. Bells chime for eight o’clock Mass, the morning fitness folk jig-jogging, bright shoes and brighter headphones to block the bounced sound from assailing their fragile heads. The couch she lies on now belches stuffing, an overfed beast in a broken home. Ladder to loft catches cobwebs in sun’s rays and the caked dirt of decades sits behind fresh splinters. Pity the pale skinned girl and the walk to come later, slip-on shoes hastily pulled on, the sparkled scarf wrapped tight about sleep-caked mouth. Foursquare the window divided, paint spots here and there, the lower panes cracked in several places. From the table, strewn beer bottles and filled ashtrays, couples’ voices ring-a-sing-song on the frosted air of the Holy day. Fraud committed the night before exits as the steady beat of guilt throbs temples dingdong, dingdong, the pain migrates downward to the chest and a ripple of nausea breaks from the far shore of regret. Beamed light breaks on the prone girl’s face, her Marian smile a dead giveaway to the non-events of the night before. She had a sudden regret on the stroke of a fifth Guinness and blackcurrant (half-pints mind you), and as the young moon sputtered and spat in the clouded night we set out across the empty fields for home, with many a wobble and misstep between us. When she gave her name the mooncloudedgrey gave way to bright night and the faint speculation of dawn in the east greeted the Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. By moonlight, by hedgerow, by scurrying foxes in fields, past stiles and crooked fence posts, her laugh a chant of morning, we bolstered each the other and made fair time for the small cottage I called home. In regret and to make amends the bacon sizzled in the skillet, crushed coffee beans in the mortar & pestle, and fat, sliced Idaho potatoes cut cubed in a bowl mixed with herbs and sorrow. Stir. An arm overhead, like Semiramis of old, her divine form becalmed on the shores of the city. After she stretched and sat we fed until long after the churchgoers returned from chapel. Two forgotten lives sipped coffee black and bitter, long pregnant silences filled with words unsaid. Today, I told her, I am joining the sodality to pour tea and trim bread of crusts and talk repentance and hope for the coming year, and in the dark of the confessional box I shall talk through my hat of sins sinned and not of last night and its loveliness. Simply, she smiled, knees drawn to her chest, pink toes turning white on the wooden chair. Sweet pickle, she said, without a stitch of clothing in sight, and kissed my stubbly cheek.