STORYGLOSSIA    Issue 6    January 2004

   by G. L. Griffith

hammer-Thing lies buried beneath pumpkin-colored sand, next to Yucca baccata, or Spanish Dagger, as the seventeenth century priests so aptly named it, because of the hundred or so spires that project every which way out of its fierce little head.
     Picture this: a stalk projects unbearably up from its center; four feet above everything else; delicate flowers—bell-shaped, yellow stained with purple, heads bowed in submission—cling to either side. Savage little warrior that it is, Yucca baccata grips the earth resolutely, its long root penetrates deeply to pockets of moisture that it will share with none other than Perognathus penicillatus, or Pocket Mouse.
     Perognathus penicillatus gladly shares its burrow with hammer-Thing—it has become another routine part of the desert environment, of no more significance than the sandstone boulders spewed about like exaggerated crumbs.
     One can do worse than to share space with hammer-Thing.
Once things weren't so cozy; nor were they quite so nice. Once hammer-Thing had potential; opportunity had availed; many hands had seized its handle for labor. There had been one thin hand in particular, one thin hand that was motivated by other causes disordered, the night hammer-Thing arrived, amidst the alien sounds of screams, execrations, and pleas for mercy. Pocket Mouse had followed the prompting of his utmost primal instincts and sat still as a statute, ears upright, whiskers taunt; as Willie-Boy's 4x4 approached, creeping, revving and muscling its way through the desert like some lunar probe, headlights bouncing up and down.
     Even Pocket Mouse's little pinprick of a brain registered the sound of death approaching.
First, there was the thick, dull sound, hidden mostly by the crooning voice coming over the airwaves from the all night radio station in Oklahoma City.

               Cause I'll be
               I'll be your baby
               Your baby tonight

     Then came the cerebral explosion, causing Poor George to bring his little hands up to his head, the same sort of concentrated gesture he'd made when pondering his next move over the chess board or when he suddenly had one of those migraines, both hands like a vice on either side of his face, pressing in. The disk of pain thinly divided the light much like Uncle Glen's circular saw used to divide the plank, when he was just a small lad back in Yorkshire; the way the angry edge would suddenly would fall so clean, with a high pitched whine across the square bulk. Now, in this moment, he saw himself as he had been back then, grimacing and watching on those dry cold Saturday mornings, as the blade made it complaint against the action and the heavy blocks fell dumbly to the cold cement floor.
     Next came that same sort of insulated heaviness as the bad colds he used to suffer during those damp English winters, as though his head were stuffed with cotton and the world was three layers thick. Then the dull sound came again, and again, and again. Each time he felt it less and less.
     Then nothing.
     Poor George was gone.
Now Willie-Boy resembles one of those hunter dogs, a lab or spaniel, on all fours, nose buried to the earth, scent of something, digging frantically; only this is in reverse: to bury, not unearth; the sand flies behind him and against him; slashed by Yucca buccata, his arms stinging, the blood trailing; his hands are two rotating scoops that gouge the cold earth, chafing his delicate fingers; fingers that once played the piano so beautifully for Poor George; fingers than once formed him and caressed him like wet clay on the wheel; fingers that now claw the strange earth; sweat that stains his upper lip and drips into his eyes, burning sweat that he swabs away with the tongue's cold swipe; the taste of salt mixed with lead; the taste of love, the fluids of life and death; now the job is finished and the weapon buried, but not Poor George, no never would he return him to the cold earth; him he would wrap in mother's blanket, the same pink, picky blanket that had kept him secure during those dark years; him he would hold in the truck and push the rude shock of hair away from his eyes; they would drive around half the night together and then would return to his apartment and tiptoe up the stairs, taking the greatest care not to wake the others, the sleeping seminarians; he must get the butcher's knife to finish the job. Then and only then would he stop in front of the rectory, where Father Frank's solitary light still burned.
     Lo, that man doesn't have the simple instinct of a Pocket Mouse!
Father Crawley had been working late that night, putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's lecture for the seminarians, when sleep unplugged him. His face fell to the desk knocking his wire rims ajar. The tip of the fountain pen was still intact on the paper's creamy surface, a puddle having spread out and dried, an indigo design, something elongated with a flagellum at its end, a leviathan swimming through a white sea toward a round island. The topic was the Logos. His words lined up in a clear, precise way, the signs of a man who thought things out before speaking. Although Augustine had noted in his Confessions that he had found equivalents to most Christian doctrines in the pagans, he had never found in such writings that The Word had become flesh. The Greek,Λογοσ, first was considered strictly as discourse, thinking, judgment, reason, and so on, but then Aristotle, borrowing from Plato added the dualist notion of that which is hidden, an early forerunner of phenomenology.
     He wasn't much of a dreamer. Slumber was the straight black line that crossed night onto day. That was how he preferred it. Dreams were annoying and troubling ventures, all of that Freudian mess and compromise, the sweat and embarrassment. Who needed it? Occasionally though, such as tonight, he would have a near-dream experience—a dream aftermath—in which he would awaken with a trace of events or a certain word still on his lips, usually accompanied with a distinct feeling. These were the most annoying of all.
     The dream feeling tonight was a revisit from an old one: that of wanting to escape from a pleasurable situation in which he felt vulnerable. It was the silliest thing. He said this in the dream, mouthed it in his sleep. How silly. This is really stupid. Usually this would be enough to settle him and get through it. Not tonight. There was tightness in his chest he couldn't shake, right where the ridge of the desk pressed into his sternum. He felt it in the dream as he went from one door to another, knocking to enter and knocking to leave. Each entry was at the same time a departure, hello-goodbye. It was the guests inside that made him feel uncomfortable. The details of each room were sketchy at best: a fireplace, an oil painting over a stone mantel, a slender neck, a penetrating gaze watching him. Each door was thick and wooden like the ancient monasteries he'd visited at Cluny. There were no handles of any kind, forcing him to pound away with the butt of his fists, until someone would finally open the door and he would process to the next room, where it would start over again.
     He awoke that night heaving for breath, his chest throbbing, but the knocking was still there, like in Macbeth; it was coming from downstairs. He reared his head up, his glasses flying. He cleared in throat and gulped in air. The digital clock branded its red numbers on his numb brain: 3:44. It came again, this time accompanied by the doorbell. He staggered out of his study and found his way downstairs. He switched on the outside light and sass-backed the curtains. There he was with his back to him, leaning against the wall, the night closing in, the porch light losing the battle. If only he'd remembered his glasses. The lighting was all wrong, the image too coarse and too grainy, a cheap reproduction at best: the way he rested his head against the wall. This was suffering.
     He cracked the door and the noise startled the visitor, causing him to roll along like a mummy unraveling. Something dark was left behind at mid-level, something smeared. Crawley reached down and put his finger against it. It was wet, pliable like fresh paint. When he smelled it, he knew.
     "Deinde dicit Thomae infer digitum tuum huc et vide." Then he said to Thomas: Put your finger here and see.
     Only one person could have said that. Crawley recognized that voice. Still leaning against the wall, his back to him, the visitor was losing ground fast, collapsing inch by inch, until he lay on the floor with just his shoulder up. A thick towel came out of the back of his pants, like a diaper. The end hung down a little. It had the same dark color as the smear on the wall.
     "Will?" He knew that face, even though it had only been a glimpse, the thin, sharp features, the shock of red hair parted high on the right, the wire-rim glasses, like Yeats during the younger years. Was this Will Durham the seminarian, his student?
     "I'm afraid I've gone and done it for sure this time, Father. There's no way out of hell for me this time."
The desert wind, persistent in its own way, has peeled the orange sand back, exposing the hickory handle of hammer-Thing, fourteen inches at 45 degrees, right at the base of Yucca buccata. Leptotyphlops humilis, or Blind Snake coils around the handle. Neither he nor Pocket Mouse seems to mind this new presence.
     Even Canis latrans, or Coyote, the most suspicious of all, who earlier passed this way with an even, fast paced stride, gray tail down between his legs, while russet colored dawn streaked the eastern sky—even coyote accepted it, but not without some trepidation. His sensitive nostrils registered a faint something, a trace from the other side. However, he quickly lost interest. Wishing to leave his mark, he raised his leg and pissed on the handle, before smelling it once again, whining and trotting off.
It was a presaging moment for Father Crawley; one in which he knew all at once what was, what is, and what shall be. In seminary, he had been known for his brilliant and at times vitriolic apologetics, especially against the Gnostics, those who claim to have secret knowledge, the cults and sects. He had thoroughly studied the early church heresies, especially Mani, "the heresy that lives on to this day." Yet, at that moment, watching through the glass, seeing how the young man's eyes rolled up in his head and the spittle had dried on his beard, he knew. He saw clearly into the situation and what would lie ahead. He remembered the unfinished confession those few short weeks ago, the unfinished confession that he would carry with him always. He saw his own name in the headlines and legal challenges to his immunity as a confessor, the pending law suites, the scandal.
     In the name of The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit. May the Lord help you to make a good confession.
     Forgive me Father, for I have sinned, the most grievous and horrible type of sin, a sin against the Holy Spirit, a sin against the very foundation of Christ's Church.

     The same distinct voice, warbling with conviction, a hint of sorrow. A thin veil of tapestry separated them. The confessional had recently been redone, brightened up and painted, though still dim enough that he could only see the outline of him in his peripheral, bird-like in his appearance, hunched over the stool, wringing his hands and piercing the beads with his sorrowful looks.
     He had voted against him for admittance into the seminary, but Father Wheatley and Father Fox had overruled him. This Wheatley was a rare find, a priest under forty, tall and handsome with thick black hair. He was a mover, on his way up in the church, talented in so many ways, but full of strange ideas. He could sing the mass. The consecration always brought people to tears. On the night he was betrayed, he took bread and gave it to his friends. Take this each of you and eat it. This is my body. It will be given up for you. Already they were flying him all over the country, trying to pump up vocations. Young people were flocking to him. Father Crawley was considered "old school," ordained in the Vatican I era, still fluent in the old Latin and still able to say the Tridentine mass, if he wanted to, and sometimes he did.
     "I am concerned about his psychological eval," he told them. Father Wheatley had invited both him and Father Fox over for dinner. He was a gourmet cook and was serving some kind of exotic Lebanese dish that had lamb and noodles along with shepherd's bread. He was doing his best at getting it down.
     "Why is that?"
     "He's too isolated and withdrawn."
     "That will change in time," Father Fox said. He was more toward Crawley's age, a renegade Jesuit, shaven head, large Bismarckian skull, a gentle brute. Crawley could tell that the two of them already had their minds made up. Vocations were down, but there were other reasons too. He must have liked what he saw in the rest of the file, his responses to key questions regarding doctrine—the power of the laity, key issues of authority, women's ordination—the whole agenda.
     Father Wheatley was finishing off the last of some Lebanese soup, a garlicy mix of bouillon, potatoes, artichokes, coriander, and God knows what else.
     "In fact, Father," Wheatley said, as he tipped the heavy porcelain bowl forward to get the last of the broth, "I was thinking that you would make the perfect spiritual advisor for young, William." He gave Father Fox a look that was somewhere between wry and serious. "What do you think?"
     The other priest swirled the last of the amber liquid in his snifter. "I think it would create a certain sense of balance to the situation."
      No sin is too grievous for the Lord. He is the fountain of Mercy.
There was an awkward moment of struggle, as Crawley tried to wrestle him to his feet, hands hooked beneath armpits, tugging up on the sagging weight of humanity that always wanted to pull him down, lifting all wrong, the muscle spasms reigniting in his back; he nearly lost his balance, but managed to get him to his feet, putting his shoulder into him, holding him up against the wall while his own heart tightened to a new dimension and filled his chest; he gulped in the thick, revitalizing air.
     "You're hurt." It wasn't a very priestly thing to say, stupidly obvious and hardly comforting, but he'd intended the words more for himself, a stabilizing factor to steady his heart and gather his courage, lest he collapse right there on the spot.
     "It's worse than you can imagine, Father."
     A wave of reserve energy, secret strength, came over the wounded man and he began half-walking, half-stumbling down the steps, taking the priest with him. "We've got to get you to the emergency room," Crawley said, himself now being the one helped along. He pulled the priest along the short driveway to where he had parked his truck, half hidden beneath the tall willow that had begun to sway in a slow nighttime rhythm.
     The reserve was soon depleted. Will began to lose form and once again do his drunken death dance, but not before he finally broke away and moved around the truck into the shadows. He held the knife up. The blood looked oddly green beneath the streetlight, phosphorescent like one of those lichens that glowed in the dark; a few clean spots in the long blade reflected the cold light.
     "I fixed the problem, though," Will said, "but now I've got to pay the price."
     Crawley's eyes began to adjust and he saw him standing closer than expected, only a few feet in front of him now. He was holding a little fur ball of a kitten that was buzzing away in one bony hand, the knife in the other. He kept clearing his voice and talking as he approached. "That's a good kitty. See I wouldn't hurt a soul on purpose." He held the kitten up close to his cheek, but looked directly at Crawley as he spoke. "You were the only one I could think of seeing tonight."
     Crawley felt the old exhaustion come over him, the sense of being overwhelmed by humanity. The night air grew chill. He drew the collar of his robe up against the soft folds of his throat. "I'm glad you came."
     Will put the kitten down, and the little creature began to walk around his boot, rubbing up against his leg and sniffing. He began to tremble. "I'm afraid there's little hope for me in this world, Father." The Devil is a powerful source and he seems to be winning the war." His teeth were rattling away like shakers. His pants were soaked in blood.
     "Come on Will. We've got to get you to the hospital."
     "Like I said, I've fixed the problem."
     He hobbled around to the side of the truck and pulled back an old tarp that was spread out over the bed. He did this gently and with all the concern of a parent uncovering a sleeping child.
     "He's in there."
     Again that wave of prophecy that Crawley so much hated came over him. He knew what he was going to see before he saw it, but he leaned over the side of the truck anyway, putting his face down close to the other face; so he could see how the nose, the eyes, and the forehead all had become one, like a hunk of wet clay waiting to be formed.
     "What's it going to be like in hell, Father?"
Jailhouse sounds echoed. Metal disengaging, heavy doors slamming, jangle of keys. Suspended from the ceiling, the light cast a cold pyramid down on the prisoner.
     A hometown boy, Rudy Perez was about to begin the second round of questioning. On really big ones, like this case, he always got a little ahead of himself and stammered. He was a short man, early thirties, balding a little on the crown with the rest dark and curly.
     Large and imposing, Frank Campbell stood by the door. He was another hometown boy by way of Iowa. Star lineman on the high school football team, athletic scholarship recipient at the state university, Frank had come back home at the early age of twenty-one and joined the local police force.
     Rudy wore black glasses, and he was always pushing them up against his nose and rolling his eyes up in his head, trying to get the next words out right. "Okay, Willie-Boy, you ready to talk? We want you to keep talking, just like you been doing. Just keep telling us how it happened."
     The prisoner showed no emotion and even appeared relaxed, slouched down in the metal chair like that, arms folded, legs fully extended. The orange jumpsuit complimented his carrot-cropped hair and gave him a waxy look. To the untrained eye, he could have been lounging, frittering away the hours, had it not been for that dry cough that kept racking him. Finally he asked for a glass of water. A paper cup was placed before him, and he drank it straight down and asked for a refill. It took three tries before he finally got it right.
     Rudy walked around behind him and gave the nod to big Frank, who was more than ready to take his turn at him. Frank came around to the end of the table, cracking his knuckles loudly, one at a time. "Why'd you kill him Bull?" That's what they had called him ever since they were kids at Kane Elementary. Bull. Everybody in town knew about William "Bull" Durham. Big Frank made sure it was a matter of public record. He had been one of the boys at scout camp who caught Will in the act up in Colorado. They'd come up on him unexpected in the woods. Saw him through a clearing where the leaves parted like a shimmering curtain. There he was out in the pasture standing up on a milk pail, drawers down to his knees, his skinny ass facing the breeze; he had the tail of the cow lifted with one hand while the other was guiding his own silvery Hindenburg in. They had all stood there, too mesmerized to say anything at first. That was in eighth grade, and they never let him forget it. Watch out for Bull Durham. The biggest joke around town was that old Bull was now studying to be a priest.
He knew that it was wrong to let his mind wander when hearing confession. Yet he couldn't help thinking, as he listened to the agony in this young man's voice, if his studies hadn't shown a certain proclivity to the extremes.
     In many ways Will had been a brilliant student. He studied Latin and the ancient texts. He read voraciously and had a great interest in the early Church Fathers and eschatology, as well as other religions: the Koran, the Dali Lama, and Hinduism. Early on he had shown a great fondness for the writings of Origen and often mentioned Matthew 19:6, the verse that he had taken too literally and as a result had emasculated himself at the age of 19 in 202 AD at Alexandria. He relished the De Principia, the work that had eventually led Origen into error and excommunication.
     It is a sin of the flesh, Father, a boy, a child really. He's only eleven-years-old, a child right here at our school. I'm afraid I've become entangled. I don't see any way out.
     And how long has this been going on?
     Several months now. We have a sense about these things, you know. We can pick each other out in a crowd. I tried to fight it, God knows I tried.
     How far has it gone?
     Far enough, but not too far. That's why I'm here.
     How far? You must bring it all before the Lord.
     You know what really scares me?
     What's that?
     The violence I'm feeling.
     Father looked up, but too late. The confessional was empty, the tapestry still swaying from his departure.

"Damn, Bull, I thought you was going to save us a whole bunch of time and effort and bleed to death after you cut your balls off. Probably the one smart thing you did, but you fucked up with that too, didn't you. Them doctors had to pull you through. One of the miracles of modern medicine, I'd say, wouldn't you?"
     "I've got to go to the bathroom."
     "Not till we hear your confession, Bull. Why'd you kill him? Where's the murder weapon? Tell us that, then you can go pee-pee."
     He looked up at his interrogators and for the first time a little color came into his blanched cheeks. "Please, let me go and then we can talk." He swallowed and his Adam's apple moved down.
     Big Frank's fist was pink and freckled. It seemed to swell with his pent up rage. He rubbed the knuckles into his left palm.
     "I want to talk to Father Crawley, first. Let me talk to him and then I'll sign anything you want."
     Big Frank looked at Rudy and hmphed "Figures. One queer to another."
     It was the priest who had taken him to the hospital. Otherwise the son-of-a-bitch might have bled to death. But bleeding to death would have been too good for him.
     He walked over and pulled him back by the hair of the head. "But you can't do too much queerin' now, can you Bull. You gone and fixed that didn't you. Took that rusty old knife and fixed it didn't you. But you didn't do anything about that mouth of yours though, did you. We can fix that though." He doubled up his fist. "We can get rid of all those pretty teeth for starters."
     He let him go and fished out a cigarette from his breast pocket and snap-lit his Zippo. He blew out a plume of silver smoke that settled like a low cloud above the prisoner's head.
     "Go on," he said to Perez. "Call the cocksucking priest."
Everything celebrates spring. Opuntia polyacantha, or Prickly-pear cactus displays its pageantry, its oblong lobes tipped in magenta. See the bunch grass: Oryzopsis hymenoides, or Indian Ricegrass; Agropyron spicatum, or Bluebunch Wheatgrass; and Ephedra, or Mormon Tea. They spot the land with their bushy do's. Erioneuron pulchellum, or Fluffgrass, fills the spaces between. A symphony of color, subtle, transcending shades blending one onto the other: green to yellow to silver to turquoise to blue; freckled with wildflowers, the royal purples and bold reds.
     The horizon claims all. It stretches. It pulls. The slow winding river-form of once-was lava flows, brilliantly orange, until framed at last by the boundaries of the canyon lands, those ancient civilizations, those Greek coliseums and Roman senates baked brown and red by time that stands at the end things: The alpha, the omega: that which bleeds the daylight and turns the air pink, now domed beneath the blue-bowl sky and occasioned by those singular clouds with their peculiar, frothy effect.
     This is the setting. Utterly devoid of possibility, unimaginably complete of which hammer-Thing has become a part. The infinite fills the air, a deadpan weight, a perfect unity of being, the unobtainable, save for the specter of tire tracks that once passed in the night.
     But what is this? Another intruder? Have we some new possibilities developing? Yes! In the distance, car doors slam. Laughter faintly trails through the air, a man, a wife, and their baby daughter.
     In a twinkling everything changes to images, mere possibilities. A hawk circles slowly in the sky. Is there no place safe?
A foretaste of summer, the March sun has bite; it plays on Sal's arm pleasantly as he unloads the car. The skin goes tight, and the sandy-colored hairs stand up and take notice: This is not Brooklyn! He teaches guitar at the local high school. Hired over the phone, he is eight months now gone West. His wife, Diane, stays home in their doublewide and tends the little one, Summer, an only child, a daughter not quite two years old, who has no memory of her New York origins.
     It is Saturday and they have decided to take an outing, partially out of disbelief that such is possible, when all of their relatives are still freezing back in Brooklyn. A sudden wave of reckless abandon had caused him to turn off the paved highway and blaze a trail out into the desert, sending up a trail of orange dust that made the stones ping off the fenders. It was quite out of character for him and was enough to send Diane into a tizzy. She already had a low threshold for anxiety and didn't need any of this. She gripped the dash and as usual expected the worst. "I can't believe you're doing this, Salvador." She checked little Summer, who was having the time of her life, gurgling and cooing away, safe and secure in the special car seat that Sal's mother had specially shipped out for them.
     Sal wears an olive-colored tee shirt, a military issue bought at the surplus store. They fit comfortably into his brown corduroys. That and his socked sandals give him the squishy look and feel of a rosin bag. He keeps hiking up the cords but they slip comfortably back down to his soft pasta midsection. Diane is an excellent cook and has the back hatch of the Toyota open, ready to begin handing him picnic items, but he is busy stoking his Sherlock pipe, a curl-stemmed rig that curves down his bearded chin. His bulgy, fish-eyed face concentrates on the flame. His lungs are wheezy from the high pollen count, but he manages to draw the flame downward, until a sweet cloud of tobacco surrounds him. It permeates everything, both past and present: his clothes, his car, his home, even the soft baby curls of his Taliban beard.
     Once he's finally had his fill, he says to her, "Honey wait here until I secure the area." He is serious. He goes to the backseat and gets the .22-rifle his mother bought for him and insisted that he take to that godforsaken rattlesnake-infested area called Arizona. Today, it is mountain lions, not rattlesnakes that concern him. They are parked at the foot of a rocky incline before chalky colored cliffs, the kind that jut out over things, a place for Indian scouts to appear or smoke signals.
     The .22 is a bolt-action six-shot. He checks the load and ventures out in a long looping circle to secure the area. He takes short, deliberate steps, puffing on his pipe and stepping over rocks. He walks down into a small nearby canyon, a short distance from the car. He selects a spot that is in the open and away from all ledges and rocks. "Stay away from the rocks and ledges," his mother had warned over the phone from her Brooklyn apartment. "That's where all the snakes and mountain lions are." He cannot help succumbing to the natural beauty and quietude of the area, the rusty colored sandstone, the soft pastels of the other rocks, and the pleasing silvers of the grass, growing in little tuffs.
     Returning to the car he says to Diane, "I can't believe how frickin beautiful it is. It was like having a wet dream. I mean there are all of these rocks and things. It's beautiful. Let's go." He lifts Summer to the ground and she begins to toddle around. She is a quiet, pensive child with her father's dark eyes and hair.
     Diane has packed plenty of food: homemade lasagna, rolls, and chocolate cake. Sal has brought his guitar and a bottle of wine. Diane has a nice soprano's voice. They spread the blankets out and unload everything.
     For a few moments they have managed to forget about things and enjoy themselves. Summer seldom needs much supervision. However, on this particular day, a butterfly has landed on her shoe. "Pretty," she says, and bends over to touch, and it flutters off in a broken flight for a few feet and lands on the handle of hammer-Thing.
     It is bold moment for little Summer, taking the initiative like this, but she does. She follows the path of the butterfly.
     The butterfly flies off, but no matter, for now she spies the handle. The moment is at hand. This could have been the beginning of a Kubrick film, Thus Spake Zarathusa bubbling up from the orchestra's pit. She seizes hold of the handle and pulls it out of the orange sand. Potential has been realized.
     Back at the blanket, Diane's melodious laugher peels back the silence. Sal is tickling her. They are rolling around on the blanket. Diane's blouse has slipped up and her creamy navel is exposed. This could develop into something bigger, but she stops short. "Where's Summer!" Panic grips her throat, the swollen taste of despair. Then she sees her little girl not too far away, hammer in hand, walking back to the blanket.
     "What's she got, honey?"
     By now, Diane has seized hold of the hammer, too, and Summer gives it up, but not without a struggle, her first struggle with Mummy, but not her last. It feels strangely enticing to her. "No, no, Summer. This is dirty," and she spells out the word, "d-i-r-t-y, dirty."
     "Let me see, honey." Sal looks at the hammer. "Not too bad. I can use it." He looks closer at the head, and rubs it with his thumb. A stain of some kind, some of it comes off. "Must be rust." He throws it into his toolbox with the other equipment, where it lands with a loud clunk.
     "Almost looked like blood."
     Little Summer makes cooing sounds, like the pigeons in Central Park.
Tell me about the violence.
     Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum, Father. Isn't that what the mass teaches us to say? I thought if I came here I could find the peace, but it has only made things worse. Peace is unity. Violence is being set apart. I am destined to be set apart.
     Why did you kill him?
     I didn't kill him, I killed it or at least I tried to.
     Killed what?
     He didn't answer.
     Killed what? What did you kill?
     Now it was the priest's voice that sounded desperate.

Evening approaches. Along the road's edge, the nocturnal animals begin to come out. Crotalus atrox, or Western Diamondback, has just emerged from his hole, and slithers up onto the cool highway to relax for a short while before he begins his nighttime stalking of rodents. He has just coolly, comfortably, stretched his four foot length fully onto the highway, when he picks up the tremors of an oncoming automobile.
     In another few seconds, the headlights faintly light up the road, and begin to grow in intensity. The snake wisely slithers off to the safety of a nearby rock pile.
     The car is audibly gaining presence to the area now. The low whine of its approach increases. It passes in a rush of lights and noise, but as it does, a projectile from it flies off to the side of the road.
     "There, I'm glad the frickin thing's gone," Sal said.
     "I'm sure it was just a matter of time before she hurt herself or somebody else with it," said Diane.
     Sal lights his pipe while Diane momentarily takes the wheel. "Mmmm," Sal agrees. "Ya know, I was like always worried that she was going to hit somebody in the frickin head with it."
     hammer-Thing hits the side of the road and bounces to the rock pile where Crotalus atrox hides. Wisely, he stays there, as his sensitive tongue picks up the unmistakable stench of mankind.
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Copyright©2003 G. L. Griffith