December 1, 2015 by The Citron Review
by Ben East
They all keep secrets and wait for normal to rub off on them.
Timothy Farrell’s secret climbs his arms beneath long sleeves, and Lee Malkin wears a trench coat even in summer. Tammy Heard wears men’s cologne and Todd Lundgren wants to be a rock star, but not for the music: for the tights. Kathy Gilmour’s failing Geometry. Mary Cross is burdened in the womb. Teresa Meyers, she’s been disowned.
Mrs. Dever sees their faces but can’t remember what to call them. They all look alike. They all look bored. They all look drugged. They all look through the Bible for the names of Saints and prophets they’ll take when done with her course and confirmed by the Bishop as members of the Catholic Church. Mrs. Dever lights up during class in the church basement.
Darren Ford has lice. Harry Brooks got dropped from swimming and everybody knows the swim team takes anyone. Vera Davis is dying to visit her brother at college and doesn’t understand why. Rhonda Watts hopes she’s a nympho, because there’s lots of money in porn and she’s sick of being a poor small-town girl.
Mary Magdalene. Was she a saint?
Can I use my given name?
Does it have to be a saint?
Why don’t we hear more about the prophet Malachi?
Was Jeremiah a saint?
Jeremiah was a bullfrog.
What about Jesus? Was He a saint?
Beyond correcting verb tense Mrs. Dever can’t answer their questions. The parish didn’t train her for this. But she’s grateful for the work. She needs the money. She’s pulled five of her eight children out of St. Barnabas School, the death of her husband leaving her penniless. Now her kids sit with the dregs from the public school in the CCD program she coordinates for the parish.
Can I use St. Germaine?
St. Dominic of Sano?
If they appear in the Holy Bible, and you can recite their story by heart, you can use their name.
Trevor Gross sits outside smoking pot with Bennie McCann and blasting Violent Femmes on the Blaupunkt. Valerie Wheat plays with fire for the thrills and Jimmy Matola plays baseball for the codpiece cups. Sandra Lu, poor thing, plays the flute despite crude jokes. Perry Fine feels like an unwanted guest wherever he goes. Wilma Rogers hates her parents and Delia Simpson hates her name. Ashley Peters has lost her way and Sarah Whitman Todd can’t find her keys.
Some of the parents hope the normal kids will rub off on their own. Some of the parents don’t care either way. Some of the parents think these are the normal kids. Some of the parents thought they were the normal kids themselves. The parents sit home nursing their own deficiencies with Scotch or wine or drugs or sex. Television. Some dial 1-900 and others call the therapist for a refill.
Rhonda Watts says St. Germaine was the patron saint of girls from rural areas. Rhonda Watts can’t wait to get to the big city.
Todd Rundgren says St. Julian was the patron saint of wandering musicians, clowns, and carnies, and Lee Malkin adds murderers to the list.
St. Dominic of Sano, Trevor and Bennie say slowly, was the patron St. of juvenile delinquents.
Is, Mrs. Dever says, exhaling cigarette smoke. Is.
Valerie Wheat tells the class St. Barbara was the patron saint of fireworks and things that go Boom. She snaps her gum and twirls her hair with blistered fingers, telling them that St. Barbara’s father was struck by lightning after he chopped off her head for turning Christian.
Father Mroz introduces them one-by-one to the Bishop, who looks mighty in his Mitre. Father Mroz says, “I introduce __.” Father Mroz’ stomach churns and the Bishop rolls his eyes.
Ahab. Ishmael. Judas.
The Bishop rolls his eyes. Fr. Mroz has loose bowels. Mrs. Dever’s Jonesing for a cigarette. The parents, they are waiting for normal to rub off.
Ben East writes satire and crime fiction. His stories and reviews have appeared in The Foreign Service Journal, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. His novel-length manuscript about cocaine, espionage, and cyber-fraud in West Africa was shortlisted in 2014 for the Dundee International Book Prize and the Leapfrog Press Fiction Prize. He’s at work on a novel satirizing congress, gun clubs, and the federal employee bowling league, and linked stories about church life, including Confirmation. www.benonbooks.wordpress.com