Doubts creep in and I wonder if it was really was you in my vision, maybe it was a whisper from somewhere asking me to wrap a rope around my neck and hang from the rafters of a dark attic. Wonder if you’re really who I want or if you’re not some psycho who’s destroyed my life.
Hyper alert to the universe, everything is a sign that I will manifest you/us. My brain boils and my bones sizzle, you can’t be more than the sum of all things but that’s what you weigh when I breathe in what I knew about you/us.
When Michael’s wagon returns, I can tell it’s him by the squeaks and groans of the steel and wood he’s letting two old nags pull, the pace of their hooves matching the sound of the wagon. So, I can tell what he’s brining back and the size of the load—peat sounds different than potatoes or wheat—and I can tell if he’s got a passenger. So, I had to peek out our kitchen window when it was evident he had someone sitting next to him. It was our Father.
There were lunch dishes that I hadn’t attended to, beds unmade. It had been a busy morning with the boy and just took time for myself for thinking about my circumstances. Just thinking and never praying. Prayer had never worked for me and I’d prayed a lot. Nothing ever came of it. And I couldn’t pray away the mess that Father and Michael were about to walk into.
I closed the door behind me to meet Michael on the steps. “What’s this surprise yer bringin?”
Michael pushed past me and opened the door. “What have ye done all day, woman? I can’t bring Father in here!”
“Then don’t. I wasn’t expectin company, much less royalty.”
Father had hobbled up the steps and startled me as he coughed out, “Been missin you at mass, Rosie. You and your son.”
In a nook beneath the stairs to our bedroom, Stephen looked out at the three of us standing in our stoop, his eyes registered with diffidence, his pupils rolling in a way that told me that things weren’t right. I turned from him and pointed my pinched my face at my husband. “Why’s Father here, Michael? Whaddya’ been sayin’?”
Before Michael could answer, Father threw up his hands then coughed again, spitting into a handkerchief before he spoke. “Stephen’s been baptized but hasn’t been to mass since he was an infant. Nearly two years, Rosie. I’m here to check on his soul.”
“Well, his father can tell you he ain’t capable of sin. As you can see, he ain’t capable of nothin’.”
Stephen still watched us but glanced out the glass whenever he caught my eye. His lips quivered with the unfamiliarity of the moment. Turning from my son, I stoked the stove for our kettle. “We’ll have some tea before you see to my son’s soul, Father. The bread is fresh but I’m afraid the stew is a bit thin at the moment.”
Father licked his lips and rubbed his meaty hands together. “That sounds grand. We can talk about Stephen before I start my examination.”
The silence of between the steaming kettle and leaves steeping in the pot felt like ages. Michael finally broke our meditations, “Father might do what we ain’t been able to do. God’s lips to our son’s ears.”
Father pulled a sugar cube from beneath his coat and dropped it into his cup. “I’d not be hangin me hopes on anything I do, Michael.” He lifted his cup to cover a giggle. “If there’s a miracle here today, witness it for me beatification.”
Once we’d finished our tea, Father walked over to Stephen, placed his hands on him, then bowed his head in silent prayer. After that moment, he scooped up holy oil on his thumb then rubbed a cross on Stephen’s forehead, kissed his cross, then stepping back and kneeling to him, whispered a few words into his ear.
“Can I ask what yer tellin him, Father?”
“I remined him that God made him in his image,” Father sat back at our table to finish his tea.
“And what is that supposed to mean? Is he possessed? Because that’s what I hear them others whisperin… is that the reason he’s like he is?”
Father grabbed the arm that held my fist, pushed it to my chest. “He is what God made him. I won’t second guess what the Lord does.” He let go of my arm, grabbed his hat, then walked out our house in silence, paced back and forth in front of the wagon.
Michael followed Father out the door shouting, “And that’s all there is to it? Father?” After Michael made Father help him unload a ton of sod, he took the Lord’s shepherd back to town. I knew I wouldn’t see my husband until well past midnight.
When he returned, he smelled of beer and whiskey but not of another woman. After crawling into bed, he pulled me close and asked if we could try for another.
“As soon as we can figure out what to do with the one we got,” my eyes burning with tears. “I know ye dunna want him to go, Michael, but I think we need to think of the sisters up in Armagh, they have a place for children like him and they are kind and patient.”
“No!” He protested then turned from me, taking the blanket with him. “We’re not dumping him with the sisters. I tot Father woulda helped me son but I shoulda known he and his god was a sham. Your gran might know what can be done.”
Staring into the blue glow through the windows below our loft, I thought about my gran, her trinkets and fetishes, runes and gizzards. “Me gran thinks the old ways are superior to what Christ gives us. If you ask me, it’s all superstitious rubbish. Father’s right, Stephen is what he is.”
Michael turned back over, covered me with our blanket, pulled me close once again. “ Next time I’m in town, I’ll knock on yer great-aunt Brigid’s door, letter know we wanna have yer gran down to visit.”
I rolled over to face him. “So, we’ll have me gran down. And you’ll pay for her travel?”
“I will. We have some coin for that.”
My finger was forceful as I poked his chest. “You promise, swear, that if me gran can’t do nuthin for Stephen, we take him to the sisters.”
“Then yer welcome to try and make another one. But you swear?”
“I do,” he whispered as he turned me to mount and enter.