Tales from St. Bart’s

A short short for today’s WordPress daily prompt. An earlier study in religious culture at St. Bart’s, Confirmation, was published in 2015 at Citron Review.


Love Thy Neighbor

The Alsups file in behind Dan Sloane. Sloane knows it from the smell of Carol Alsup’s perfume. The Mass passes for Sloane in a dreamy reverie of things he should later have to confess, but won’t.

He stands late and sits early just for a whiff Mrs. Alsup as she stands and sits and genuflects behind him.

When the time comes to wish peace upon others Sloane keeps busy shaking hands to his left and right. He eagerly greets those in the pew ahead of him, even that wretch Tom Sr. and his droop-lipped son Harvey.

Sloane goes so far as to reach past them to greet his fellow Knights of St. Barnabas, Bill Haverford and Mike Ellison. The subtle chagrin on the mouth and eyes of his brother Knights causes Sloane to doubt this desperate ruse to avoid looking Mrs. Alsup in the eye.

At his back he feels Joe Alsup’s hot glare. Or are those Carol’s eyes he feels? How he does covet his neighbor’s wife! He can’t face her!

Well, Sloane never did like giving peace to the people around him. Doesn’t like shaking hands under false pretense. Doesn’t like deciding whose cheek to put his cheek beside, whose shoulder he should pat, who gets a curt “Peace” and who deserves the extended “Peace, Harry.” He doesn’t like not remembering the names of people who remember his name and he doesn’t like the smell of heavy perfume on the older women. That stench can stay with him all day, through 18 holes at the country club he can’t really afford. In lots of ways that smell is worse than the Ben Gay and camphor coming off the old men or the booze coming off Tom Sr.

The only smell Sloane wants on him when he tees off after Mass is that of Mrs. Carol Alsup, who he’s 99% sure she knows he wants her. He’s even more sure she caught him gawking her through the window as she appeared in all her glory from the shower yesterday morning, the steam swirling around her like the very mists of heaven. Or was there another reason for her to jerk the towel before her swinging breasts and cower there in the steam?

Well, what of it? Sloane’s 90% sure she wants him, too, even if it means something quick and cheap in the back of his Caddy parked behind the country club. Or maybe out behind the other St. B’s church, the Episcopalian one on the other side of town. She’d pass the time with him just for the thrill of a little adventure and the lunch he’d treat her to afterwards. Might be nice for her to get out for a change, that poor Mike Alsup spending every dime on his four lovely daughters. Must cost the family a fortune in clothes and other pretty essentials.

Sloane wonders, as he feels Alsup’s eyes burning up his back, how he can get that second oldest daughter to date his son. Maybe then the somber teen would take Marilyn Alsup home and make love to her on the couch after Dan and Mrs. Sloane had gone to bed. Sloane could walk in on them and have a picture of that in his mind to wake up his wife with. Or barring that, he’d have it to think about the next time he didn’t feel like greeting his neighbors during peace.

Sloane lifts the kneeler and files out the pew for Communion. He runs the sign of the cross over his body and exits the church still chewing the Body of Christ, right on time to make tee-off.

 Full Story: Love Thy Neighbor


WordPress prompt word of the day: Confess

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