he had many times overs suffered its teeth while in search for its tongue

April 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

R. never corrected any of them about the name. As was customary, especially in small churches like this, he had been asked by the board, probably Phil Elkin, if he was married. (“Two for the price of one,” was the cynical joke inside seminaries and requirement outside them.)

—Young, handsome man like yourself, you have to have a young lady on your arm, right?

—I suppose you’d say . . . it’s complicated.

—Oh, it always is, son, somebody said, to mostly faked laughs.

—Sure. Yeah, I know that. Boy, do I ever. I guess the short answer is, No, I’m not married.

—Don’t stop there on account of us. We got time for the long answer, too.

—Oh, yeah, sure. It’s just that, well, we grew up together. And, I suppose you’d say . . . time’s got a way of sedimenting . . .

—My gramma, bless her soul . . .

—Somebody’d need to bless that old coot’s soul, Wallace. The laughter shook the table like a small tremor, scattering further the words R. was looking for.

—No, but seriously, my gramma told me that when I was baby and I was crying, Katey Mae, who she also babysat, why she’d put her finger on my lips, like so, Wallace Jenner demonstrated, and why I’d stop crying then and there.

—And she still does that today, don’t she? The table shook again.

—Thirty years of marriage gives a man lots to cry ’bout, so what can I say, it’s good she’s around.

Die Wunde schliesst der Speer nur, der sie schlug.

—Beg your pardon?

—Only the spear that struck it can cure the wound. Heard it in an opera once, and never forgot it.

—We don’t get too many operas down here. That’s not gonna be a problem, is it?

—Oh, no, of course . . .

—So what’s your complicated lady’s name, Reverend?

—not. Huh? Oh, it’s Mar . . . R. suddenly felt self-conscious about his sweaty forehead and dizzied by the peculiarly sweet smell of the room. In order to buy him some time, he faked a cough, which was followed by a real one, and then another. Concerned that they thought he was choking, he sputtered mid-cough, —Mary-Ann Porter.

—Miriam Porter,  you say? Why, now that’s a pretty name, isn’t it?

—You okay, Reverend?

For her part, Mary-Ann took the misunderstanding in stride. From, —Why would you not correct them? she quickly transitioned to general acceptance, —Well, you certainly can’t correct them now, can you? and even quicker to enthusiastic embrace, —I like this new name of mine. This sort of progression typified much of what endeared her to R., as well as what set her at such a great distance. She regularly opened herself—to new experiences, yes, but more importantly to their descriptions, on the pages she wrote and from the lips she spoke—to the point of creating a gulf between her form, which always seemed to be kept waiting, tapping its fingers on the dining room table like an inconvenienced shadow, and her substance, always somehow late to the party, drinks and entree served before the first guest has even been good evening’d. The yawning expanse that divided Mary-Ann from Miriam, though, was neither formless nor empty. R. in fact, felt he had many times over suffered its teeth while in search for its tongue. —Her water never formed to mind or voice, he quoted to himself often when he puzzled over her correspondence, —whose mimic motion made constant cry, caused constantly a cry.

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