THE LAST WORD
by Kim Clarke
In a flurry of sticky fingers, we drop our change in the box and nod to the man with the moustache. He says hello, or thank you, or you need six more euro, but we don’t understand because neither of us bothered to read the conversation guide, and Anne’s first year-Italian proved to be useless before we even got off the plane. So we nod back and walk into the church anyway. Anne squares her shoulders as we pass over the threshold. I watch as she clenches her fists against the impulse to cross herself. The boys leave us and fly down the centre aisle, immediately drawn to the depictions of saints in positions of torment. I’m not surprised, but I can tell Anne is. She told me once that she can still admire the beauty that comes from religious suffering, even though she herself has been released from it. She does not, however, understand that same admiration from outsiders like our sons. Outsiders like me.
The boys run up and down the side walls, past members of the congregation intent on real prayer. An old woman wearing a fanny-pack printed with maple-leaves smiles at our sons, but most of the other patrons of the cathedral ignore them. The saints look down, silent.
Anne has her arms crossed over her chest, as if against a chill. A crucified Jesus hangs suspended over the end of the aisle. Anne keeps her gaze low. She doesn’t have to look to see what I see, so familiar is this image to her. We stop before a painting of a tranquil looking woman holding children on her lap. Each face bears a smile, and light engulfs the scene from every angle. The children in the picture have their arms and legs up in the air, as if they’re struggling to free themselves. The woman smiles on.
New Book by Longbridge
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