The Bishop

Mary scanned the crowd milling about the parish hall.  She’d arrived late and had just enough time to grab a cup of coffee and speak to a couple of friends.

She was wending her way toward the pastry table when a lone figure in the corner caught her attention.  He stood there taking in his surroundings with a placid expression.  He must have wandered in off the street, she thought.  Best to find him something to eat and send him on his way. 

As she moved in his direction, he turned and made eye contact.  There was something about his confident smile that unnerved her.  You never know what these people will do.

She was just about to speak to him when someone from behind called her name.  It was an old friend who’d moved away more than a year ago.  By the time Mary looked back the homeless man was gone.

Slowly the crowd made its way to the sanctuary, each to his customary pew.  As the organist began the opening song, Mary clutched her hymnal, stood and faced the procession.  She’d forgotten that today the new bishop was visiting and would deliver the sermon. 

Younger and trimmer than most bishops she’d known, he looked elegant in his miter and robe.  Again, they made eye contact as he passed, again the confident smile.

Eunice

She’d driven through this neighborhood once… in the daytime… with her doors locked.  She’d taken the wrong exit from the expressway.  Here she was now, standing alone on a darkened corner.

The man said to meet him at nine PM.  It was nine-thirty.  She pulled her sweater tight against the chill and tried to merge into the shadow of the telephone pole.  She reminded herself that she had no alternative.  This was, after all, an illegal transaction.

A late model Cadillac pulled over to the curb.  The tinted rear window slid down without a sound.  She found herself staring into the face of a large man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and fur coat.

“Are you Monty?” she asked.

He nodded slowly.  “You Eunice?”

“Y… yes”

“You got the cash?”

She fumbled in her purse and pulled out the envelope of twenties.  As she passed it, he gave her an appraising look.

The package she received in exchange was heavier than she expected.  She fingered the corner of the wrapping.

“Don’t open that here,” he hissed.  “You got what you wanted.”

She hefted the grip in her left hand and caressed the barrel with her right.  God help me! she thought, But I’ll never again be a victim for anyone.

His voice softened.  “You know how to use that thing?”

“I’ll learn.”

Dark and Stormy

It was September, and the rains came early, gray curtains sweeping the dappled white sand.  Across the horizon, the leaden sky and the dark rolling seas were as one.

The beachside bar’s lone customer sat on a stool just outside the reach of the spray and nursed his drink, appropriately a Dark and Stormy.  His long, gray hair and beard, streaked in white, matched the scene outside.  

He turned and gave the slender waitress an appraising look.  He put her age at maybe thirty.  As she turned, he adjusted that estimate to a very young-looking fifty.

She smiled back.  She’d lost count of the years she’d spent waiting for the man who told her that someday he’d return.  She could no longer recall the contours of his face or the sound of his voice.  Why she’d stayed here she couldn’t say.  Lean months were coming, and she’d be damned if she’d spend another dreary winter living off unemployment.

“How you coming with that drink?” she asked.

“I could use another.  How about you?  What are you having?”

Taken aback, she glanced at the bartender, who gave a shrug and returned to cleaning glasses.

“Get this man another round, Sammy, and make mine the same.”

The customer turned out to be a writer in his late seventies, though she’d never have guessed.  He explained that he and his dog had been travelling for nearly a year now.  The dog was waiting for him back at his RV.

“Where are you going from here?” she asked.

“I thought I’d run down to Gainesville.  I haven’t been there since I graduated more than fifty years ago.  How about you?  Do you plan to stay here all winter?”

Again, she glanced at the bartender.  He shook his head and never looked up.

“I can collect my paycheck and have my stuff ready by seven,” she smiled.

“I’ll be here.”  As he paid for his drinks and started to leave, he said, “By the way, what’s your name?”

“Brandy.”

“Like the song.’

 “Like the song.’