In Ordinary Time

Sharon Mesmer

It was after Mass, and we were at Goldblatts: dad, like always, in Automotive, ma in Notions (looking for clothespins), and Marie in the artificial flower aisle. In Records, the elderly stockboy with the scrunched-up arm interrupted my reading of the liner notes for the new album by Maggie’s Farm with an annoying aphorism, muttered (as was his custom) seemingly off-handedly:  

     “‘Light reading dissipates the spirit, sullies faith, and makes the sacred wraith-like’.” As I moved away I heard him say, “What, you never heard o’ the sayings of St. Brave of the Champs-Elysées?”

     “Today’s his feast day,” I sneered, remembering Father Nowak’s homily. But I knew I shouldn’t have answered, because he started after me:

     “Hey, wait—you and your little sister still fightin’ over which group is better, Chicago or Bread?”

     “Nah,” I said. “We settled.”

      He wanted to know on what, but I was already out of earshot, halfway up a flight of stairs and pausing to observe how the late afternoon sun through the dusty landing window seemed like a presentiment of something, although of what I couldn’t be certain. It felt like a glimpse of eternity, but I didn’t want to indulge that fantasy, especially after what Father Nowak had said in his homily.
I thought I’d find Marie under the spectacular artificial flower arch, twirling with her head thrown back, but she wasn’t there. I looked in Junior’s, by the culottes, in Men’s, by the lumberjack hats, in Toys, in Shoes, even inside the storage bins under the displays in Children’s (to the chagrin of the management, three of whom quickly descended upon me in admonishment). But something told me tragedy had happened: they were all gone. I rushed to find the store detective, but then remembered: wasn’t that presentiment of eternity I’d had on the landing a kind of preparation? I’d been given quite a gift; I couldn’t ask much more of heaven than that. Especially after Father Nowak’s homily.

     From today, things are forever changed, I told myself as I walked out of Goldblatts into the mass of Sunday shoppers, pushcart touts, and promenaders. Today—the feast day of St. Brave, the first Sunday in ordinary time, as Father Nowak said.  I felt like ma felt that time Marie fell in the sewer and got carried off to Bubbly Creek:

     “Well, at least I won’t have to get up in the morning. It’s like I could be dead.”


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