He wears greasy overalls and paces his day through the background of other people's passing. In his wake he leaves the smell of vinegar and the fleeting absence of mess. With a key to every door, he could hold party to secrets of which none other could even dream. He does not.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.

Each night he returns home by unwalked ways. At times the wind-rustled trees begin to speak to him. It is so distracting. He keeps his head low and his posture stunted, lest he lose his concentration. Between 1:17 and 1:24, always, he stops before the backlit display of a department store window. The clothes he couldn't care for at all, they change and exchange without his notice. It's the forms that attract him. The poses in their plastic rigidity keep his attention locked silently for minutes on end. He memorizes curves, angles, shapes and shades. When he moves again, the trees scream their vitriol with a new sense of urgency and the darkness curls itself around him in grotesque tendrils. Each night he sobs as he fumbles for the keys to his lock.

adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra.

He dips two fingers into the holy water, blesses himself, genuflects beside a pew in the back and sits with his hands to his face every Sunday. There is never another in his row. Through the benediction, the reading, the sermon, the procession forward he keeps his eyes hidden. When receiving communion, he never looks up from the floor. He remembers a time when none of this would be necessary. He forgets many other things.

Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,

In a small corner of his room there is a window. He spends much of his time sitting at a desk beside it, staring beyond his own world. Through fragmented glass he sees a land of virgin maidens, he sees the piety of their nude forms. In each facet he sees them raped, tortured, and murdered by a horde of bestial forms rising from the West. It is a war this man witnesses, a battle for the kingdom of God on earth ruled by the four sister queens, all dressed in white. He records everything, frantically, a spill of words flowing over page after page. There is so much that must be known, and the man so often forgets. When words are not enough he will grab for a tray of old paints and try to capture what new horror has gripped his perfect world of devotion. At dawn the light filters across his window and makes things hard to see. He puts away his paints, his ink, the sheafs of paper, he stores them in a battered grey-green chest. It once held a hundred and more letters of passion and misery from his grandfather to his grandmother. He does not know this. He cannot remember.

et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.

Moving on from the display window at 1:28, the screaming is worse than usual. He cannot hear save for the twisted stabbing voices. A disturbance of the flowing darkness, sending ripples out in all directions brings the quick steps of a woman. Leather jacket, one-piece black dress drawn to a close several inches above the knee, smooth legs like dripping sap, clump clump thick boots. And now he can see through that window again, through all facets. He can see the beastly hordes and the lone sister of the kingdom, trapped and alone beneath a moonlit sky. He watches from his window in terror at their gathering force, her fruitless flight into darker, murkier places and the writhing of her body beneath their unbearable ghastly weight. He begs for her to pray, for God hears all prayers, the Father will extend his hand across unfathomed distance and shelter her tenderly; but she only weeps in hysteria and his pleads can't be heard above the screaming. He tries to turn away from the window, but it is everywhere.

et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a malo.

He lies flat in a white room counting away each hour in exact time. There are no windows here, nor doors. A man in greasy overalls curses the weight of a battered grey-green chest as he carries it over his back to the dumpster. As it lands the padlock breaks and a swirl of crinkled paper spills out among the refuse. No one sees this, nor ever will.

Amen.


Nodeshell rescue, inspired by the snippet of a newscast on NPR, a few years ago.

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