Sunday, June 19, 2011

Short story: Miracle Shirt (part v)

Father Michael felt a sick nausea of fear rising from his stomach. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. But he fought to keep a calm authority in his voice. Reaching out to the shirt, he traced his long finger over the brow, the nose line, the shadow of lips – desperately praying that the others would see what he did.

When he heard the first murmur of ‘I see it,’ he nearly shouted with relief. He knew his credibility had been dangling like the shirt. Aware he still had but a small window to convince the whole congregation, he declared in what he hoped was an assured and generous tone that they could file past and see for themselves this image of their Lord.

Hesitant but curious, the congregation rose and came forward. One by one, they stood before the hanging shirt, squinting and tipping their heads until they were satisfied enough to move on. Upon resuming their seats, they immediately began whispering with their neighbours. Mureille did her best to ignore them. When it was her turn in front of the shirt, she paused as if considering the miracle. Really she was regretting that she hadn't finished ironing the front before burning the back.

When it was Betty Miller’s turn, she studied the shirt for a few minutes then exclaimed out loud, “Why that’s John Lundstrom’s shirt! I ordered it for him myself.” Betty Miller worked at the Sears outlet and took all the catalogue orders.

Betty’s declaration spread along the line of viewers and into the pews. All eyes turned to Murielle and John.

Murielle’s face flushed a deep red. She had told the priest she preferred not to be mentioned in connection to the shirt. Though she had been coming to church each Sunday for the five years she’d been married to John, she would never be Catholic born and bred and she had never felt fully accepted here. She did not think this miracle would be her ticket in. Unlike Father Michael, she had fully expected that the congregation would need some convincing - and if it was judged false, she didn’t want anyone to think this had been her idea.

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