The Chapel

repentInspired by recent events in my community, I wrote this story for Friday’s 2-Minutes-Go. Please stop by JD Mader’s blog, Unemployed Imagination, if you’d like to see what we were up to this week. Maybe one Friday, you’ll come by and write with us. Or visit and read some amazing work.

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In better days, she’d walked the twisting roads of the monastery campus, up and down the rolling hills between the highway and the river, and she’d never really noticed the small chapel before. Of course it was there, all this time, standing sentry over the water and the federalist mansions lining the opposite bank, but maybe it was like cars or babies—suddenly, when you’re in the market, they’re everywhere. Lately she’d seen crosses in the rock cliffs, haloes around streetlamps, beatific smiles on the people she passed in the supermarket. The secrets pulsed behind her eyes, in her chest, stomping their way up her throat and whining for release, and each kindly vision or reminder of potential forgiveness that magicked itself before her threatened to yank the words from her body.

I shouldn’t be here, she thought, even as she was pulling the door open. She’d never been inside a church before, didn’t feel herself worthy, didn’t feel she belonged. She almost expected alarms to go off. Intruder alert, intruder alert, unbeliever, unbeliever…

Nothing. The door echoed as it seated itself back into the frame. Her footsteps made no noise as she padded up the aisle, row upon row of wooden benches, avoiding eye contact with the series of carvings on the walls, an increasingly tortured Jesus Christ, culminating in a full-on crucifixion scene over the plain, square pulpit. Making herself as small as possible as if still anticipating a scolding nun swooping down to put her in her place, she scuttled into the third pew from the front, right side, and buried her face in her hands.

And then it occurred to her that something bigger than her own squirrel-like thoughts had driven her here, something that wanted her to speak with the man of the house, although she didn’t know what to say. How to start. Prayer was something she read about in books, saw on television—to her, in the past, they were empty words people threw at each other when awful things happened. Sending prayers. Praying for you. But she didn’t know how to pray for herself.

It could have been minutes. It could have been hours. But there she sat, curved in on herself, testing the words in her mind, but they only crackled like so much static. Then she heard a click, the groan of the door swinging open, felt the shaft of light through her eyelids.

“Oh, excuse me,” an old man’s voice said. “I didn’t realize…”

She blinked, and blinked again. He was bent, and worn, and held a cap clutched in his oak-tree hands. But his smile was kind, and it matched his eyes. Her lower lip quivered and fingers shook as she reached into her pocket and held out the syringe she’d filled and loaded into a plastic baggie, held it out to him.

“Get this away from me,” she said. “Please.”

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