The Man In Suspenders

She steps into the dark mouth of the church, the only light coming from behind the cross through the thick mosaic glass, stained with grime and old age. The light streams of mote and fine dirt, reminding her of the deep lonely sea. She takes a seat on the farthest bench at the back watching the back of heads nodding to the stream of words, like bobble headed dolls, some with bonnets over their hair and some bald, the cold sweat glimmering in the dim light. The priest was only a dark silhouette in a long black robe, the white of his clerical collar glowing like a light house.

“… and so we confess our sins so that our Father in heaven may receive us at the end of days. Let’s pray.”

The heads bow, all but one, as the back of his head parallels to the cross, his narrow and taut shoulders stern and rigid, gripped by old black suspenders, the folds of his white collar stained with sin. The priest prays for their repentance, his voice rising into the heavens, his palms stretching like rays of sun.

“Now take this moment to collect your sins and to prepare them for the Lord. Throw them down at your feet so that He may forgive you.”

The chapel fills with tiny whispers like snakes hissing and shedding their skin at their feet. The man in suspenders continue to remain silent, his head still aimed at the cross. Something about him made her rise to her feet and step onto the weathered strip of carpet in the middle of the isle. With every step she can see more of him, his cauliflowered ears, and then another step, his lashes languid, his eyes almost translucent from the angle of light, and yet another step and she pauses. Through the faint amber glow she registers her father’s face. Her eyes scan over his distinct features, the lips turned south at the corners, those heavy eye lids. He sits hunched and broken on the hard wooden bench staring defiantly at the cross but does not see her, as if she wasn’t there, a mere ghost. She watches him feeling distant, wanting to run to him but feeling the rug at the feet like velcro. A single tear escapes from his translucent eyes and scores a single blade down his leather skin. The church hushes and voices seize and like a silent wave they all raise their heads to glower at her. All their faces wear her father’s mask, his leather skin stretched over their own, his lips on theirs, grave and silent, his eyes watching her, all except for the man in suspenders. The congregation reaches out for her, their long bony fingers like slithering snakes and as they inch towards her, her feet is still fastened to the floor.

She yells, “Father! Save me!”

She falls to the ground when she jolts back into her seat at the back of the church, the entire mass turning to look at her with their own strange faces. She had fallen slumber into a dream state and as she recalls the man in suspenders, he is no longer seated at the right hand of the cross. She searches the room as the priest crosses himself and says looking at her, “My daughter, you are now forgiven.”

She storms out of the church, the harsh afternoon beam hitting her blindly, a rude awakening that she could have just dreamt him sitting there. She regains vision and makes a round outside the church building for any signs of the man in suspenders, but there is no one there. The dry wind kicks up the dirt, miniature twisters dancing and skipping across the flat plains. And in the distance she hears a start of a car engine and the back of a man’s head inside an old grey truck. She gradually hastens toward it, a hundred feet away, but the truck rolls onto the paved road and slowly fades away into the mosaic sun.

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