Monday, June 20, 2011

Short story: Miracle Shirt (part vi)

Whether or not the congregation believed Father Michael’s less than convincing presentation of the miracle shirt, curiosity proved to be as good as faith for improving a church attendance. People who hadn’t darkened a church door in years began attending services in the following weeks. Word of the miracle had spread like wildfire. Business was booming at the Sears outlet and Murielle had never done so much entertaining in her life.

Friends and distance acquaintances were suddenly making excuses to drop by the Lundstrom farmhouse for visits at all hours of the day. While she served coffee in her musty living room, Murielle could see her guests peering around the house, as if expecting Jesus or a saint to suddenly appear. With all this close examination, she became very conscientious about her house cleaning. The baseboards have never been cleaner. The curtains never before pressed.

Murielle also had to make three pots of coffee each day and at first spent a good deal of time baking squares or cookies so she would have something to offer. But many ladies came bearing plates of home baking, so soon she no longer had to make anything herself. She offered up one lady’s home baking to the next, cleared space in her freezer and began regularly taking leftovers to the old folks’ home on Preston Street.

She and John had agreed that they would say the shirt was discovered with its strange marking when Murielle brought it in off the clothesline. But neither of them was very good at lying, so the story came out a little different each time. Still, their fumbled retelling only served to turn the story into a myth and overtime everyone had their own version to believe in.

Two weeks after the shirt had been on display at church, Murielle went into her backyard to take the clothes off the line and found a woman rifling through her laundry. The woman was shamefaced but also defiant. She admitted she was looking for another image of Jesus. “Or maybe of Mary,” she said wistfully. “I would really love to see Mary.”

When Murielle was folding the laundry later, she noticed a sock was missing.

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