Sunday, July 24, 2011


Bern and I had Morgan, Emma and Tegan overnight on Friday. They were great. At 3 the deck was in shade. Bern had all these containers of water--a big tub and smaller things--and the sand box in the top of an old Weber Grill, plus lots of containers and implements. Sand and water are magnets for kids that age. When the shade got to the back yard, we hooked up the sprinkler. While Emma and Morgan looked for bugs and worms, Tegan ran through the spray. It was 6 when we came in for a much needed bath, dinner, some TV and bed. Bern slept in the room with them and all was well. Tegan slept until 8 a.m.!

The girls got to sing happy birthday to their auntie Mimi when we called her. We didn't see enough of Cathy and Josh, but what we saw of them was wondrous.

There's about a 2 1/2 to 1 ration with the grandchildren. For every day with them we need 2 1/2 days to relax. That's why you have children when you're young instead of in your 60's!!!

next chapter of Murder on the Block follows....


Saturday, October 25—6:45 a.m.

Richard woke just past his normal time and lay still for a long moment, listening to the hundreds of birds outside for their morning feasting on the autumn-slowed insects and the seeds and berries on all the low scrub brush. He savored the time, trying to remember when he started loving waking up again. For month’s after Susan’s death, he would wake from sleep confused and with a dull ache in the back of his confusion. It would take a minute or two for him to ‘come to himself’ and remember why sleep was so blessed and to be coveted.

He could smell breakfast things from down the hall—coffee and bacon…no, sausage—and the sweet breeze through the opened window smelling of grass and ocean and morning and coming warmth. As he laid there, he thought of the term ‘come to himself’, dredging up from his memory of the study of scripture that those words were exactly the right English translation of the Greek verb at the dénouement of Luke’s gospel story of the Prodigal Son. The young Jewish boy, having squandered a fortune and fallen on the hardest of time, was sitting among the pigs, longing to be a servant in his father’s house. Then, according to Luke, at least, the boy ‘comes to himself’. The rest becomes clear. The path is obvious. The road home is straight.

Richard luxuriated in his musings and his senses. He pulled the pillow from the other side of the bed under his cheek and felt the night cool of the cotton still lingering. He breathed deeply, seeking every order he could inhale. Rolling on his stomach, above the sounds of the birds, he heard distant voices. Two people were talking on the front deck, laughing together. Mara and Miriam, he realized, since both voices, though low pitched, were female. And the sometimes vegetarian Miriam had a soft spot in her taste buds for sausage. That explained why he could smell it so distinctly.

Just about to fall back into that state of “almost sleep” that is so longed for by those who love to sleep, he realized that Cecelia wasn’t in the bed with him. She must be outside with the women, chasing the scents of morning, leaping stone walls, running wildly through the dew-wet grass. Lord, he thought to himself, I’m loving my senses this morning. He was about to think, thank God, when he remembered he no longer prayed.

Richard climbed out of bed, swearing to himself that he would take Cecelia on a long, long walk, up past the bluffs and overland down to the town as soon as Miriam and Mara left to be detectives. He knew the plans the two women had made the night before—trying to find out who might have bought the fishing gear Cecelia discovered on the rocks and Officer Alt found further north. As he had read and pondered about the gospel of Bartimaeus, he had worried about Miriam’s role in all this…and worried about Mara too.

He and the dog needed a long walk. In the pandemonium since Wednesday, the crowded rectory, the ‘investigation’ had kept him from his routine. And though Richard never noticed it before, thinking himself the champion of flexibility, there were certain routines in his life that he had relied on to keep him firmly in the ‘now’ in the time of life without Susan. But before that much needed walk, he would perform the three S’s, have eggs and sausage and several cups of coffee and meet the day with Miriam and Mara.

“Your parents,” Mara was asking as Richard turned on the shower, “from all I know, must have been wonderful for you.”

Miriam, holding one hand like a salute to keep the morning sun out of her face and holding a cup of coffee in the other, looked out of the corner of her eyes at Mara.

“Are you being a detective now?”

Mara smiled and glanced at her. Miriam had already seen the multitude of gays in the policewoman’s eyes. This morning they were the gray of mourning doves—soft and inviting.

“No, not really, just curious.”

“Curious like a cat,” Miriam asked, “or like a woman?”

“You’re still wondering about your father and me, aren’t you?”

Miriam sipped her coffee, growing cool, to give herself time to think. “A little,” she replied, “like ‘curious’…but not nearly so much as when I first saw you with him—you sitting where Mom sat for all those summers and you looking so god-damned beautiful.”

Mara turned to interrupt but Miriam waved her sun-blocking hand at her and continued. “It was a marriage,” she said, growing serious, “that I used to think my brothers and I had, in some way, interrupted. But who knows what they would have been like without us? I think my father actually tells people in pre-marriage counseling that having children with ruin their marriage.” She paused and winked at Mara, who had a look of horror on her face. “But he tells them to consider it anyway, at least I hope he does. But it was true for my parents. You have this relationship where you know most of the rules and then kids come along and it’s almost guaranteed that at many places during those endless years of raising children that you will come to hate the person you sleep with.”

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“Hate,” Mara asked at last, “isn’t that a little strong?”

Miriam turned to her and smiled, the hint of dimples forming on both her cheeks, “it’s obvious to me, Sergeant, that you’ve never had children.”

After a while, during which they both thought they should get more coffee, Miriam spoke again. “But nothing bad, nothing traumatic, no beatings or sexual assault, no screaming fights between them…just normal stuff from two reasonably good people who loved us fiercely. The only tragedy was my mother’s death and it did to daddy.”

Mara arched her eyebrows to indicate “what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. He went on a trip but forgot to leave. Nothing much has mattered to him since then. But, besides that, I guess you’re right—I was blessed to have such parents. I’m sure you’ve seen enough of the other options in your job.”

“More than enough,” Mara said, “for several lifetimes.”

Then Richard opened the door from the living room to the deck. He wished both Miriam and Mara ‘good morning’ and asked, “who’s fixing me some breakfast?”

The two women—dark and light, short and tall, daughter and…well, none of the three of them were sure about Mara’s ‘role’ in Richard’s life—looked at each other and said, as if one: “you!”

Humbled, Richard fried sausage and eggs, downing coffee as quickly as he could, toasting some raisin bread someone must have brought as comfort food and slathering it with butter. While he was eating ravenously, still indulging his senses, Miriam showered, Mara called Dante on his cell phone and the two of them eventually joined him at the kitchen table.

“We’ll be walking into town, Miriam and I,” Mara informed him, “in just a bit, so we can be there when the stores begin to open. We’re going to see if any of the owners remember selling the stuff from the beach and the brush to anyone in particular. We have pictures.”

Miriam added, “I’m taking Mara to Filbert Collins’ hardware store first, so she can interrogate him….”

“Interrogate Filbert…?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I’m getting into this, Daddy. It’s like being on Law and Order, except on Block Island, not New York…or like tagging along with V. I. Warshawski. You of all people know how great that would be. And what was found sounds like the hardware store to me….”

“Is she in any danger?” Richard said quickly to Mara.

She shrugged. “We’re all ‘in danger’, as you put it, all the time. Does nosing around about fishing gear mean she’ll be ‘knocked off’ by the mob? I don’t think so. Besides,” she added, repressing a smile, “as you know, I have a gun and am trained to kill anyone who would hurt your baby girl….”

“Plus, Daddy,” Miriam’s voice had a bit of adolescent pleading in it, like asking to borrow the car, “people on the island know me. I’ve been around here for years. I’ll make them feel at ease while Mara grills them.”

The two women looked at each other in a conspiratorial way.

“Besides all that,” Miriam said, suddenly looking to Richard like an eight year old who would jump off a bridge just because she was standing on it, “Mara’s got a really big gun!”

To the surprise of Richard’s left-wing, gun-hating heart, Mara having a Glock suddenly became something positive and comforting.

As Richard and Cecelia set off on their long walk while Mara and Miriam strolled down to town, planning to drink more coffee somewhere along the way, the eyes that had been watching St. Anne’s knew it was safe to come and look for the note. Finding none, much to his surprise, he went home and found ‘the note’ neatly folded and pushed under the kitchen door.

Rounding the bend and circling the small harbor where Dante had been fishing and the droves of black birds lived, Mara asked Miriam about the stone walls.

“One of the stories is that the slaves built them,” Miriam responded.

“The slaves?”

“It was either runaway slaves whose underground railroad ended on Block Island, heaven knows why, or slaves that the old families brought to the island.” They had started up the steep hill beside the Spring House but Mara’s pace didn’t slacken. Got to get to the gym more, Miriam thought, finding it difficult to keep talking. “So, which ever it was, they were suddenly slaves again. Only, instead of picking cotton or whatever, they were stacking rocks.”

When they reached the top of the hill, Miriam and Mara, with time to spare before businesses opened, went over to the ‘zoo’ that was part of the Spring House. Emus and peacocks and goats and llamas and a Braham bull and several other exotic creatures were wandering around in a large field. The two women watched the animals watching them for a while. For the most part the field was lined with more rock walls.

“You’re from the Midwest, right?” Miriam asked.

“How’d you know?”

“You have one of those ‘no accent’ accents. You could be a news anchor.” After a while she continued the stone wall conversation. “You don’t have rocks like these in the Midwest, not in the South either. The slaves were told, how I’ve heard it anyway, that when the rocks were all stacked they’d be given some land and a house and be truly free.”

“And they agreed?” Mara questioned, reaching out with a handful of animal food available in buckets attached to the fence, offering it to a goat with ridiculously long ears that had wandered near.

“South Carolina doesn’t have rocks like these. They didn’t understand that the whole island is essentially rocks. No matter how many they harvested and stacked into walls, there were always more and more. They could never finish.”

“So they stayed slaves?” Mara asked as they walked away from the farm. A peacock screamed good-bye to them.

“Something like that,” Miriam replied.

“And this is true?”

“The way I’ve heard it, it’s true. Of course, there are a couple of other tales about the rock walls.”

“Island people have lots of time to make shit up….”

“Precisely,” Miriam said, trying out her Dante imitation.

They had coffee at the first open shop they found and shared a newspaper as they sipped and waited for the Hardware Store to open. Neither of them read very carefully. They were both thinking about the other, mentally sizing each other up. As confused as Mara was about her feelings for Richard, she knew for certain that she liked his daughter. Miriam, still cautious about her father’s vulnerability, decided the detective could ‘wake up’ most any man.

On the last leg of their journey, knowing Filbert Collins would have opened his store, Miriam resumed the conversation. Mara knew she was still talking about the stone walls and the slaves.

“Reminds me of Daddy in a way.”

“How’s that?”

“He’s harvesting rocks—rocks of pain and grief and probably guilt and God knows what else. He imagines if he gets them stacked and organized, everything will be alright again.”

“And it won’t be?”

“Not so long as he keeps digging….”

“There are always more rocks?” Mara asked.

“Now you’ve got it.”

Mara wondered if she ‘got it’, even a little bit. But she realized she had fields of rocks of her own. Maybe at some point, she thought, you just have to leave some buried and walk away to something new.

“My job—the one my brothers have given me,” Miriam said, almost echoing Mara’s thoughts, “is to convince Daddy to agree to come the Jeremy’s in St. Louis for Christmas. That would get him away from his rocks for a while, be something new….I just hope all this won’t prevent that.”

“I don’t see how it could,” Mara said, “if we tripped over the killer and he confessed to us this minute, the wheels of justice never move fast. It’d be a year before anything came to a trial, if there was one. Nothing happens without lots of wrangling and hand wringing.”

“Sounds a lot like Daddy’s description of the Episcopal Church.”

By then, they’d come to Collins’ Hardware, just past the only real grocery store on the island, well beyond the cutesy shops and hotels and Block Island memorabilia stores, most of which had pared back or shut down by late October. Filbert’s store was a ‘year rounder’—always open. And Filbert himself was predictable.

“Mr. Collins is a real ‘letch’,” Miriam told the detective. “He’ll be staring at your breasts and your crotch non-stop. He’s been doing it to me since I was 13. But I’m used to it. Let me start the conversation and you can then…you know…be ‘bad cop’. OK?”

Mara stopped on the steps to the store. “You’re just like your father,” she said, “too many TV shows and murder mystery novels. All cops are good cops.”

“Not with Filbert, you’ll see….”

A bell above the door signaled their arrival and a man in his 60’s, dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, needing a shave, with a deeply sun-tanned head where hair might once have grown, turned toward them from behind the counter. Just as Miriam had predicted, he feasted his eyes on Mara’s breasts.

“Miriam Lucas,” he said, obviously too happy to see her, “I haven’t seen you for two years. So sorry about your mother and about Fr. Lucas’ recent unpleasant experiences….” His eyes, both women noticed, had lingered on Mara as he spoke. Miriam had long experience with Filbert and could almost read his thoughts.

“Filbert,” Miriam said, moving her body subtly so when he hugged her, as she knew he would, he pressed her side and not her breasts against him. “This is Sgt. Coles of the Rhode Island State Police. She’s helping figure out what happened to those folks my Daddy found. She has some questions for you.”

Filbert turned toward Mara, as if he expected a hug from her as well, but she instinctively stepped back and subtly pulled her leather jacket open so he could see part of her shoulder holster. Filbert’s small eyes widened and he nodded.

“Sgt. Coles,” he said, “how can I help you?”

Nothing like a gun, Miriam thought, to discourage sexual harassment.

But she was wrong. Filbert resumed assaulting Mara with his eyes as she showed him photos of the fishing gear. He examined the pictures, glancing up as often as possible to look at the detective’s chest. But he did identify it as part of his stock.

“Cheap stuff—the cheapest I have,” he told Mara, licking his lips as he spoke. “I sell lots of cheap stuff this time of year. People who find themselves on the island and think they simply have to try fishing but don’t want any good equipment. They’re just ‘fooling around’, you know.”

Miriam knew Mara had heard the words ‘fooling around’ in the lascivious tone Filbert had used. But Mara gave not notice to it at all.

“Do you remember who you might have sold these items to this week?”

“Several people, like I said.” He paused, pretending to try to remember, though Miriam imagined what his true thoughts were. “But I do recall selling some to one of the Jamaican boys,” he said, “Monday or Tuesday, don’t remember which exactly.”

“A Jamaican?” Mara asked.

“One of those who come up to work the season in the hotels and restaurants.”

“That’s a common thing, help from Jamaica?”

“Too common for me,” he said, distastefully, “all their reggae and dope and Rastafarian hair. I don’t see why more American college kids don’t come over for the summer—make some money and ‘have some fun’. Always lots of ‘fun’ on the island.

Mara considered showing him what eight years of martial arts training could inflict on an aging white man. But she took a deep breath, feeling this was important, somehow vital to the case, and asked, calmly, “so how many Jamaicans are on the island?”

Filbert scratched his head, his eyes roving down Mara’s body and then over at Miriam’s. “Dozen or so, I suppose. Probably 50 during the season. But only a few stay around this late—staying to clean up and help shut things down for the winter…things like that.”

A large woman, her hair in curlers, wearing a bathrobe and pink slippers along with a yellow slicker, came through the door, causing the bell to tingle.

“Help you, Martha?” Filbert called.

“Don’t trouble yourself,” she replied, eyeing Mara and Miriam. “I think I can find light bulbs….Keep on talkin’ to the police and the pastor’s daughter.”

Martha moved toward the light bulbs, pretending to be searching for something in particular, but obviously wanting to listen in on the conversation.

Mara muttered to Miriam under her breath, “do they fucking know everything?”

“Pretty much,” Miriam whispered back, “but I’m betting they don’t know the names of the Jamaican ‘boys’.”

“What was the name of the Jamaican who bought this cheap fishing gear?” Mara asked sharply.

“Don’t remember…not personal friends with them,” he said, “Paid cash. Done deal.”

“Anything else you can tell me, Mr. Collins,” Mara continued, “about this particular Jamaican who paid cash?”

Filbert’s eyes were lingering on Mara’s chest again. She reached out with her finger and raised his chin so he had to look in her eyes—swirling and stormy gray, like what you see before your boat goes under in a north Atlantic gale.

Her action momentarily stunned him. “He…uh…the boy who brought these things, he might be one of the pair that live her most year round,” Filbert said in a monotone, transfixed by Mara’s gaze.

“You know where he lives?”

He shook his head.

“His description?”

“Hard to say,” he began, unable to disengage from Mara’s stare.

“Let me guess,” she said, “they tend to look alike….”

“Mostly,” Filbert said, finally able to drop his eyes back to the curves beneath Mara’s sweater, “though some are big and others are smaller….”

“Just like women’s breasts,” Miriam said quickly, smiling coldly at him. “Thank you, Filbert, for all your attention.”

As they turned to leave, Mara noticed the customer in hair-curlers had edged near them. She smiled and winked as they passed.

The bell was still vibrating above the door when Mara burst into laughter on the front porch.

“Jesus, Miriam,” she said, trying to compose herself, “you know how to end an interview with a bang!”

Banging is all that asshole thinks about,” Miriam replied, renewing Mara’s laughter.

The two of them walked down to Corn Neck Road and the public beach. They walked the beach and watched the waves.

“So,” Mara said, kicking aside a bit of driftwood, “we might be looking for one of the summer help—someone from a very different island than this. We just need a name and an address.”

“Good luck to us,” Miriam answered, the expert on Island people.

Sure enough, though they talked to waiters and shop keepers and island taxi drivers and people down by the ferry landing, no one could give them any helpful information. The insatiable curiosity of Block Islanders did not seem to extend to the Jamaicans whose toil made the island work during the tourist season. Several of those they interviewed seemed genuinely surprised at the suggestion that there might be Jamaicans who stayed on the island after October. Like ‘good help’, black folks seemed to be invisible. No names, no descriptions, no addresses.

The two of them had a lunch of seafood salad at one of the open restaurants. The wait staff was all white and middle aged. They stopped for a cone of ice cream from one of the island’s landmarks—cherry for Miriam and rum raisin for Mara—to eat as they walked back toward St. Anne’s.

“We didn’t accomplish much,” Miriam said, licking her ice cream and walking fast to keep up with Mara.

“Don’t think that,” the detective answered, “we found out a key piece. We need to question some Jamaican and see if he still has his fishing gear. We just don’t know which one or if he went home in the past few days. But, on an island as ‘white’ as this, that really is something helpful.”

They finished their cones sitting on the barrier overlooking the cove where Dante had been fishing the day before. There were no seals to be seen on the rocks but there were lots of cormorants, holding their wings out to dry in the breeze.

“It is beautiful here,” Miriam said, watching the blackbirds circle above her head. “I forget how beautiful when I’m in Boston.”

“But the slaves are still here,” Mara said, “only now they’re from the Caribbean. They clean up, change the sheets, serve the food, bring the boats to dry dock. It’s still like stacking rocks. No matter how many beds you change and rooms you clean….”

“There’s always more,” Miriam finished.

“There’s always more,” Mara echoed.

They sat for a while in companionable silence. Then they started back to the church. When they got there Richard was making coffee and offered them some. Dante came by around 4 o’clock. Celia was sleeping in the sun on the deck where the humans were on their second cups of Richard’s strong brew. Mara and Miriam told the men about the Jamaican angle and asked Dante what to do.

“It could be something,” he said, “though I wasn’t thinking it could be summer help.”

“More coffee?” Richard asked, starting inside with his empty cup.

“I’m shaking from coffee,” Miriam answered, and the others shook their heads. While Richard was inside, she added, “some of them aren’t strictly ‘summer’ help. That’s what a couple of people said.”

“We could round up all the black people on the island,” Dante suggested in a mock serious voice. “Put them in a line up—shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Yeal,” Mara said, chuckling in her foggy tone, “I can see the Providence paper’s headline about that. Let the Homeland Security boys do that piece.”

Dante was lighting a cigarette, his sergeant turned toward him, “wonder what happened to Crosby and Nash anyway?”

“Ah, fair one,” Dante said, exhaling smoke and looking suspiciously up at the gull on the roof of the house next door that was squawking fitfully, “that’s where yours truly has been.”

“I thought you were ‘fishing’,” Miriam said. Both the police officers looked at her to see if she was being ironic. “No, really,” she said, reacting to their quizzical stares, “that’s what you said you were going to do.”

Mara and Dante had a laugh about Miriam’s innocence. Richard came back with more coffee and said, looking at the two laughers and his blushing daughter, “did I miss something?”

Dante waved his cigarette hand, making little streams of dancing smoke in the calm air of early afternoon. “Nothing, Padre, but you’re expertise is needed. Isn’t there something in the Good Book about fishing, about being a fisher of men…or at least of H.S. agents?”

They all laughed and the gull screamed back at them. “Albert doesn’t like good jovial fun,” Dante said, looking up at the bird.

“How’d you know his name was Albert?” Richard asked.

Mara and Miriam glanced at each other, smiled knowing, and said, in chorus: “he’s a detective!” This time the laughter drove the bird into flight and he soared down toward the ocean.

“Crosby and Nash don’t seem very interested in the murder at all,” Dante said. “I’ve been following them around and they aren’t interviewing people about that. They’re asking folks, mostly folks who work near the water if they’ve noticed any unusual boat traffic. I shamble along behind them and ask the good citizens they talk to what the suits wanted and they are almost beholden to me for asking.

“Plus, when I was having lunch at the bar near their table at that place across from the ferry landing,” he continued, lighting up without pausing, “I heard them mention needing to call their friends at the DEA….”

“So they think this is about drugs?” Richard asked.

“So does our esteemed friend, Flash Gordon,” Dante responded. “He and our not so well dressed Homeland Security colleagues both think our murder victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and most especially, in the wrong car.”

“So we’re ruling terrorism out?” Richard asked, remembering Dante’s earlier thinking.

“Well,” he said, “I seem to remember the U.S. of A. thought this rock might be the jumping off place for a German invasion of the mainland….” Richard smiled, wondering if Dante had a photographic memory of the book he scanned about the history of Block Island. “But I don’t see any sign of wild-eyed suicide bombers on the island, so it must be ‘drugs and money’, though I’m not sure how just yet.”

They sat in silence until Albert returned, fussing. “It doesn’t have the feel of any really ‘bad guys’—no self-respecting mobster would have botched those murders that way.”

Richard was wondering how ‘mobsters’ could be involved when Dante continued. “The name that has popped up several times when the two of them are talking together is a little surprising—Milo Miano.”

“Imagine that,” Mara said.

“Who’s that?” Miriam asked.

“Biggest mob family in Rhode Island,” Mara answered, “though connecting Milo to actual criminal activity has been impossible, not that Flash and the FBI haven’t been trying. He has a staff of high powered lawyers and keeps mostly to quite legitimate businesses, like competing with Dante and Leo.” She noticed Richard and Miriam seemed confused, though there was nothing new about that, so she explained. “Milo has two restaurants, just like the Caggiano brothers. Very respectable and up scale….”

“Their veal is cheap,” Dante interjected.

“Be that as it may, this is exactly the kind of messy and unprofessional thing that could cast a wider net, maybe even as wide as the Miano family.” Mara stood up as she spoke. “I just remembered, Richard, do you have a key to that box in the sacristy?”

He shook his head. “The hired help isn’t trusted with such a thing,” he responded, “why?”

“I thought Dante should see the porcelain, he’s such a fan.”

“What porcelain?” Dante said, eyes brightening.

“A cup and plate. I saw it when they were searching the church.” Looking at Richard, “so Stevenson has the only key?”

“Far as I know.”

Dante stood, “let’s have a look at the box, anyway.”

The four of them were crowded in the sacristy and Cecelia had come in to resume her nap in the middle of the church’s aisle. Dante toyed with picking or forcing the lock but decided against it. “Out of respect for holy objects,” he told Richard. “Funny though,” he continued, hefting the box, “seems a bit light.”

“I think Stevenson keeps them at home,” Richard offered, “I was surprised they were here when the search was done.”

Dante shrugged and carefully replaced the box under the sink.

“Time for more fishing,” he said, to no one in particular.

“Aren’t you afraid they’ll recognize you?” Miriam asked.

“They don’t know me. Besides I’m not really here, I’m in Mexico and I have Leo’s ID to prove it.” He stepped out on the deck and looked at the sky, “But I meant ‘real fishing’ this time, down on the rocks. Crosby and Nash were into their third pitcher when I left them. They won’t be doing much investigating this afternoon.”

He looked at Miriam, “want to join me?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied. “Let me change clothes.”

While Dante and Mara went fishing, Cecelia following along after them, Mara and Richard sat on the deck, almost dozing in the sun, feeling the breeze picking up a bit. After a long silence, Richard finally said, “want to drive down to the North Light?”

Mara roused herself, wondering if he was nervous being alone with her at the house, if he needed activity to distract him—all of which was true.

They drove the familiar Spring Street route down into the little town. There were lots of people milling around and even more of the shops were open than that morning. Richard explained they were “day trippers” or people looking for one last weekend before the water became choppy and the ferry trips further apart. Some people waved at them as they passed and Mara smiled, imagining the tongue wagging of the year-rounders over the priest and the cop out on a joy ride.

“I’ve never been here in the winter,” Richard related. “I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it.”

“Couldn’t you go home?”

“I have no ‘home’,” he spoke softly, reflectively. “My leave from the church in Worthington isn’t up until April. I’d be in the way back at the parish—everything is designed to work without me until then. And the house isn’t anywhere I want to be either.”


He smiled at her sadly. “Yeah,” he said after a moment, “one ghost.”

She wondered if he wanted to talk about his dead wife and wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it right then, so she asked, “So, why did you become a priest? I told you about why I’m a cop, it’s your turn.”

“It’s hard to say,” he answered after a quarter of a mile. They were on the stretch of Cornneck where Stevenson’s house dominated the view on the left. They both glanced over at it, but neither mentioned it.

She thought he wasn’t going to answer when he finally said, “I’m not very ‘religious’, you know.” It struck her as similar to Dante’s refusal to be a “conventional” police Lieutenant. Two men that were not quite comfortable or satisfied being what their jobs entailed.

As he talked, Mara watched the scenery. There was a huge housing development just beyond some fields full of cows. As she listened, she wondered, for no real reason, how much one of them would cost. Richard told her about his childhood in Roanoke, Virginia. His father had owned a small construction business—“really blue collar”, he observed—and his mother worked part-time in a bank. He’d grown up in the Episcopal church his parents joined because they wanted ‘more’ for their children and were secret social climbers. When she asked what they’d been before, he said “Presbyterian”. She thought it a lateral move at best, but with more pomp and circumstances. He’d been an acolyte and was washed out of the boy’s choir for being tone deaf.

“Brothers and sisters?” she asked.

“Just me.”

She thought for a moment. “But you said your parents wanted more for their ‘children’. I just thought….”

“Oh,” he said, something she’d never seen washing over his face—resignation? “I thought you meant now. I have…had…a sister, Caroline, who died before I was born. What we’d call SIDS today. But back then it was just a bottomless pit of despair. She was around a lot when I was going up. Sometimes dead children are more real than living ones. We didn’t actually ‘celebrate’ her birthday, but it was time of great emotion.”

Another ghost, Mara thought. Then she named the emotion she’d seen in his face. He was ‘haunted’.

He explained how he had been in college at the University of Virginia and called his mother on Caroline’s birthday, April 7. “We chatted about my classes and how everything was in Roanoke. The conversation was about to run out when I finally mentioned Caroline’s birthday.” He paused. They’d reached a dead end and he was pulling into a parking space in front of a large monument. “It was the first year she hadn’t spent the whole day in mourning. She’d actually forgotten. I brought all the pain back. She started crying and had to hang up.”

Not just ‘haunted’, Mara thought, so sensitive to pain that he can’t bear to inflict it. Her training in psychology made her wonder if Richard were damaged or enriched by how the pain of others became his own. She imagined she knew which he would say. She, herself, wasn’t sure.

They paused to read the monument at the north end of the island. It told part of the story of the wreck of the Princess Augusta in 1738. The half-starved survivors made it to shore and that group of Germans, looking for Philadelphia in their ocean voyage, added much to the life and future of Block Island.

As they walked away, heading down to a narrow beach with a light house at the far end, out where your eyes were drawn, Richard started talking.

“A ship wreck helped form this island. Something terrible and tragic turned out to make a contribution to the future.”

Mara walked over sand and rocks, avoiding his eyes until he continued to speak: “Something to reflect on. Something to remember. Out of tragedy comes new life.”

A dozen steps later, Mara asked, “Is that why you became a priest.”

He smiled. She didn’t see it because she was avoiding looking at him and gazing out, instead, at the ocean, its waves, its power, its depth. Never mind that she could see the mainland of Rhode Island—Charleston, most likely, and a coast line that covered the horizon—still, it was the ocean she was looking at, so broad and deep, so adept at burying secrets.

“No,” he said, not looking at her and not realizing she wasn’t looking at him. “I became a priest because my father died.”

He told her, neither of them looking at each other, how, when he was a junior in college her got a call from his mother on a chill February night. His father, just turned 56, had a massive heart attack while driving home from work. He’d pulled over, off the road so he wouldn’t endanger anyone else, and embraced death embracing him.

The EMT’s who had come to the scene had started life support in the ambulance that had been continued in the ER at Virginia Commonwealth’s hospital. His dad was technically ‘dead’, but his mother, because the machinery was in place, had the option about turning it off. She wanted Richard to come home and be with her. Now, that was what she needed and wanted—now.

Richard had lived his life with a dead sister, but a dead father was something he wasn’t ready for. Charlottesville wasn’t that far from Roanoke—two hours or so, more or less—but he wasn’t sure he could drive himself that distance, still dealing with what he didn’t know how to deal with—being half an orphan. He could see his mother’s drawn and bloodless face; he could even see her body, stooped and leaning over the bed of a man alive only academically, only because of machines that made it so.

“I called Father Roberts,” he said to Mara, neither of them looking at the other. “I didn’t know who to call. I told him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t drive to Roanoke over slippery roads. An ice storm had hit the evening my father died.”

Father Roberts, the Episcopal chaplain to the university, a man who had ruined his career track by being open and outraged about the war in Viet Nam, had been sent like a refugee into college chaplainry by his bishop. But, being a man who knew lemonade came from lemons, he had thrown himself into the life of the campus and welcomed all into his field of love. Richard had been one of them—reluctant at first to admit his attachment to the church, but gradually, by Fr. Roberts’ calm hospitality, he had become a part of a worshipping community.

“He said to meet him at the church,” Richard said. “He said to come in the chapel door and he’d be there. When I got there I found him in full Eucharistic vestments behind the little rail in the chapel. He gave me communion from the reserved sacrament…somehow that meant something to me, bread and wine blessed for someone else that was now mine. And then he anointed me….”

Richard’s voice broke and he stopped talking. He and Mara kept walking. Finally she said, “he ‘anointed’ you?”

“Like a child at baptism,” he said, his voice unsteady. “He made sure I knew that the oil he was using was ‘chrisom’, the oil of baptism and not the oil for healing. Different prayers were said over them, he told me and he thought what I needed was the oil of ‘new life’, not the oil of healing,” Richard shook his head. By this time Mara was watching him. “So he smeared this oil on my head…I could smell it…I can smell it now…and told me I could drive those icy roads and be with my father when he died. And I did. I drove home and held my mother in my arms as they turned off the machines.”

They had walked another 20 yards or so, avoiding the flotsam and jetsam on the beach—plastic grocery bags, soda cans, seaweed and God knows what else—when Richard started speaking again.

“Isn’t it amazing,” he asked Mara, looking resolutely into her eyes, sparkling gray, sunlit and beautiful to him, “how a machine can keep us technically alive? How like machines we are?”

It was a question she had never considered, yet she agreed, longing for him to keep talking. They were almost to the two-story light house across the dunes. There was a sprinkling of other people close enough to them to hear what they said. But she wanted him to keep talking. She wanted to hear his voice.

“Let’s go back,” he said. “Miriam and Dante will be wanting dinner.”

They were half-way back to the parking lot, a ten minute walk, before Richard started talking again.

“It was the oil that got me, the oil Fr. Roberts smeared on my forehead. It was that oil that made me change my plans and apply to the Episcopal seminary in Cambridge instead of going to graduate school in something important.”

“Being a priest isn’t ‘important’?” Mara asked, looking out again at cows in a field and expensive housing overlooking the sea. “What about the God-thing?”

Richard almost laughed as he drove. “Quite honestly, that hasn’t been working for me lately. I haven’t told anyone this, my therapist maybe, though I don’t remember, but I don’t, can’t, don’t want to pray.

“It’s not a ‘big deal’. We Episcopalians have lots of ritual and sacraments to hang our hat on. I can read the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. I can do that. And it seems to be enough.”

They were almost back to the town when Mara said, “is it enough? How’s that working out?”

“Better than anyone might imagine,” he said, sounding invigorated, watching the road. “I pretend to pray. And someone said, some writer I think, ‘be careful who you pretend to be because you might just become who you pretend to be.’ Something like that.”

They walked for a good while, half-way back up the beach toward Richard’s car, both of them lossed in their thoughts.

“Vonnegut,” Mara finally said, “Kurt Vonnegut said that.”

“I think you’re right,” Richard answered, a few steps later.

And after a few more steps, Mara responded: “do you think he’s right?” And when Richard didn’t answer, she continued: “It’s a lot like being a detective. As soon as a crime happens you ‘pretend’ to know the answer to the whole thing. Then you find out, several times over, that you’re original ‘pretend answer’ is totally wrong, so you invent a new ‘pretend answer’ and live out of that for a while until something else shows up and you have to pretend all over again.”

“It’s a lot like that,” Richard answered, “though the problem is that people want a ‘real answer’, like right away—something to hold onto and depend on and those answers don’t exist.”

“Tell me about it,” Mara said, smiling. They were back at the car and she climbed in. Richard pushed in a cassette since his car was too old to have a CD player. It was a Bob Dylan album.

Blood on the tracks,” Mara observed.

They drove for a long time, listening to Tangled up in Blue and then Simple Twist of Fate, Dylan croaking as only he could.

“Lots of blood on the tracks,” Richard finally said, accelerating up hill out of town on Spring Street.

Mara couldn’t disagree.

As he was pulling off Spring Street onto the dirt road where the Lexus had been over turned, Mara asked, “What happens next for you? Where are you going after your time here?”

He said, “well, that’s the question, isn’t it?” His voice was so soft and sad that she wished she had on her shoulder holster so she could lift her shirt and show it to him again. And this time, she’d know why.

Unbeknownst to Mara, Richard was thinking about how taunt her stomach was when she showed it to him, about the perfect oval of her navel, about the fine down of blonde hair on the bottom of her stomach, about the hint of roundness of the bottom of her breast. He hated himself for wondering, but he wondered about that all the same.

While all that was happening, Dante and Miriam were on the rocks to the west of the rectory and church, fishing. Miriam was much more adroit at casting, but she let him struggle with it, knowing he wanted no advice. They would catch no fish; however, they would talk—the two of them were incapable of silence.

“So why don’t you go interview the Jamaicans?” she asked as they walked. Cecelia ran ahead rousting a rabbit and then a pheasant from the brush.

“What would we accuse them of? Buying stuff they then threw away? I’m not sure the fishing equipment has anything to do with the murders—that’s Mara’s theory.

She thought for a while. “You could charge them with littering a public beach and then sweat them.”

Dante chuckled. “Sweat them! You mean bright lights and rubber hoses?”

“Sure,” Miriam said. Dante didn’t yet know her well enough to tell if she was serious or just playing. “Or have Mara seduce them with her womanly wiles.”

Now he understood where she was going. By God, I am a detective, after all, he thought. Then he said, “I’m not going to be the one to suggest that. After a moment, just to check his theory, he added, “besides, Mara only works one ‘seduction’ at a time.”

Miriam’s head jerked toward him as he thought it would. “Do you think,” she said, like a whisper, a secret, “Sgt. Coles…Mara and Daddy….”

“When you call him ‘daddy’ it all seems too tawdry.”

“Is it tawdry?” she asked, reaching over to touch Dante’s arm. Her eyes were wide and shining green in the sun, “do you think something’s going on between them?”

Dante smiled at her excitement. “I have no idea, my dear. And I certainly have no intention of asking either of them such questions. They are, after all, consenting adults.”

“I never thought I’d say this,” she began, looking around for the dog, seeing her tail above the grass, “but daddy could actually do with some consenting….

To get to the rocks they had to walk down a steep path through wild rosehips and bayberry bushes. Cecelia was waiting patiently at the bottom for permission to go into the water. Miriam rubbed the dog’s head and said, “go on girl.” Cecelia yelped with delight as she ran into the chill ocean.

The surf was light and the tide low. They stood on a rock about a foot above the water and Dante skewered a shrimp and began to cast. Miriam could tell he hadn’t fished much, but he had a natural grace that allowed him to master the rod quickly. She was much better at surf fishing than he, but she let him play with the rod without comment.

After a few minutes, keeping one eye on Cecelia’s whereabouts, Miriam spoke: “so, where’d you get your name? Were your parents literary sorts?” She thought he might have hooked something, but again she didn’t try to coach him. She knew most men hated help from women barely 5 feet tall.

“Shit, something just got away,” he said. He paused in reeling back the hook and sinker long enough to light a cigarette. The wind was picking up and Miriam thought he’d never get the cigarette to burn. However, he had an index finger sized lighter that put out a flame like a butane torch. Finally smoking and reeling, he responded.

“Mom was educated, but not my old man. He was a cook—not a ‘chef’, not at first, just a cook. He started with one of those silver carts selling sausage and pepper hoagies in front of the state house in Providence. He was barely 20 and just off the boat, probably stole the cart, couldn’t speak much English and was confused by making change for American money. But he had an eye for the ladies and the ‘Caggiano charm’,” Dante winked at her.

“My mother was a Smyth—with a ‘y’—imagine that, more WASPY than the queen and a looker. She was a freshman at Brown doing an internship with whatever crooked administration was in office at the time. She started eating lunch every day at my dad’s cart, helping him make change while he wooed her. The Smyth’s were from Long Island. They knew some ‘I-talians’—one cooked for them and one mowed their grass and took care of the roses.”

“A little culture shock when she brought your daddy home, I’d imagine.”

Dante grinned and then laughed out loud. He speared shrimp on all three hooks this time and handed the rod to Miriam. He watched her cast and was impressed that she hadn’t tried to school him.

“She was as blond and lovely as Mara,” he continued, “and on the field hockey team, for God’s sake. But she started taking Italian the next semester and taught my father passing English. Her Italian was always hysterical—a language made for poetry spoken with one of those tight-lipped, lock-jawed WASP mouths.”

“So the Italian genes won out,” she said, looking him up and down.”

“With a vengeance.”

“Their names?” she asked, maneuvering the line, waiting for the first tiny tug that might be a hungry fish.

“Margaret Anne, with an ‘e’ of course, and Benito,” he told her. “And you have to credit my Smyth grandparents—they rolled with the punch and welcomed my old man into the family. Mom convinced them to pay for Papa’s tuition at culinary school and then to buy the first restaurant for him. He paid them back and more. ‘Maria’s’ and ‘Maria’s Too” are cash cows—just got the fifth star last year.”

“Those are yours now?”

“Mine and Leo’s. He does all the work and I make half the money, a pretty sweet deal.”

Miriam made sure she could still see the dog, digging among the rocks down the beach, and reeled the line back in. “I thought the restaurants were named after your mother.”

“Oh, they are,” he said, chuckling and shaking his head. “Papa never learned to pronounce Margaret Anne without it sounding a bit risqué, so he called Mama ‘Maria’. She finally gave up and added it to her name, all very proper and legal….Besides,” he added, “how could you have an Italian restaurant named ‘Margaret Anne’s’?”

Having had no luck, Miriam handed the rod back to Dante. He added more shrimp. “Tell me what I’m doing wrong,” he said, before casting out beyond the breakers.

“A little more wrist,” she said, “and keep the rod more perpendicular, not so much to the side…but mostly, you’re doing fine.”

After he fished for a while, Cecelia came wandering over, panting and soaked.

“Speaking of names,” Dante said, “what about the dog’s?”

“Simon and Garfunkle”, she said, breaking into the first lines of the song: “you’re breakin’ my heart, you’re shakin’ my confidence daily….”

“Enough!” he said, above her song. “And here I thought your father was a sophisticated, reasonable man.”

“Not really,” she was smiling broadly, “the priest thing gives him that aura, but he loved Dylan and Joni Mitchell and the Stones.” She started an animated version of Beast of Burden, strutting like Mick Jaggar from rock to rock. Dante rolled his eyes and Cecelia began to bark and jump around.

“This is an amazing revelation—excuse the theological allusion—about the good Padre,” he was amused and captivated by the little woman’s energy.

“A good ‘Padre’ he is,” she said, still dancing a little. “The people at the church in Worthington just love him, absent minded and forgetful as he is.”

“And so do you….”

She laughed and punched his arm, hard enough that he almost dropped the fishing rod.

“That’s assault on an officer,” he said.

“Tough shit, Jose….”

“Ah,” Dante replied, barely containing his enjoyment of this woman, “that has ear-marks of an ethnic slur. You have the makings of a bigot, Ms. Lucas.”

Miriam hung her head and spoke softly. Dante could hear her because the tide was still out and the surf wasn’t noisy at all. “Daddy says we all are, bigots, I mean. He taught me that everybody ‘hates’—mostly out of fear of people who are different from themselves. People are afraid of what they don’t know and don’t understand. So, each in our own way—some subtle and some no so…--we’re all bigots.”

“What else did ‘daddy’ teach you, my dear,” Dante asked kindly, “about fear and hate and all?”

“You really want to know, don’t you?”

He nodded gravely.

“He says that it’s important to ‘pay attention’ whenever we hate someone or are afraid of something. He told me to ‘be aware’ of my fears and dislikes, to be on tiptoe with anticipation.”

“Why would he say that?” Dante asked, really not knowing.

She smiled, looking out at the ocean as if she could see the past there. “He’d say, ‘you’re about to learn something, Princess. Something you need to know.’ That’s why, Dante.

That ended the fishing. All thoughts of more casting without results were gone. Dante reeled in the line, then shouted with surprise and excitement at a tiny, less than six inch fish on the hook. Miriam gently removed it and threw it back out to sea. As they started up the steep bank, back through the rosehips and bayberries, the dog trailing behind them, he finally spoke again.

“Good advice, all in all,” he said, “but advice that, sadly, I’d never give. What I tend to learn from my fears and hatreds is to be cautious, be very cautious….”

“I know,” Miriam said, “me too.”

They sat on rocks at the top of the hill, Cecelia smelling of surf and dog, dozing beside them, exhausted. They stared out at the waters.

“What’s that buoy for?” He was pointing out about a hundred yards.

“Who knows,” she replied, “a lobster trap, a place to tie up a boat to fish or swim, a channel marker that’s drifted away. The water is lousy with buoys around this island. Haven’t you seen how many people just have piles and piles of them laying around?”

He had noticed that, but he still squinted through the smoke of a newly lit cigarette and the light haze of late afternoon. For reasons he couldn’t place, the buoy—blue and white—bobbing on the water interested him. He was about to ask her more about buoys when she raised the question people like the two of them eventually got to.

“So,” she said, inevitably, “what about the gay thing?”

Dante looked at her, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. “You’re one to talk, from what I understand.”

She twisted her mouth up at him and stuck out her tongue. “I love who I love. I’ve loved some men and I’ve loved some women. I think I like women better. Milagros, I think, is my ‘soul-mate’, if that isn’t too romantic to bear. We just happen to have the same plumbing—big deal. I love her. I hope this is forever….We want to have a baby, you know….”

“Good for you for loving women,” he said, “leaves more of the man for me.”

“But you’re a cop,” she observed, “and pretty outspoken about being gay. How do you deal with the assholes who fear and hate that? You must know lots of them.”

“They are legion,” he snuffed out his cigarette on the rock where they were sitting. “I don’t ‘deal with them’, as you put it. ‘Fuck them,’ I say, thought that thought would doubtless send them running to the hills.”

She smiled. “If I loved a man, Dante, he’d be a lot like you.”

“Gay?” he asked in a falsetto.

“Don’t joke.”

“Sorry, Kiddo,” he said in his natural voice, “same goes for me. If I loved a women—heaven forefend!—she’d have to be a lot like you.”

They both stared at the ocean until Miriam wondered, “want to give Milagros and me some sperm?”

He stared at her with a mixture of horror and curiosity. Then they both laughed.

“Guess we’ll just go to the bank and make a withdrawal,” she said.

“Interesting choice of metaphor….”

“Well, it wouldn’t be a ‘deposit’, would it?”

“Time to go, Kiddo,” he said. And they did.

Crossing the dirt road to the field they walked through, she said, “shouldn’t you be out detecting rather than fishing?”

He laughed. “There are times when not much is going on that looks like police work,” he told her. “That’s the one thing the TV shows and mystery novels leave out. There’s no such thing as constant action. Sometimes we just wait around for a clue to find us.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Au contraire,” he replied. It so happens that Flash Gordon is out doing some background, probably on a lap-top in a bar. I’m fishing. So I’m not kidding. You’d be surprised how much of detecting is waiting for someone to finish a report and then distracting yourself for a while. Otherwise you start thinking too much….But, if something doesn’t show up soon, maybe we will go round up Jamaicans.”

He wanted to walk through the weird little maze that had been created in the field out of brush. Cecelia plunged down a path without waiting for them. He was amazed by the maze—which must have taken some serious work each spring to keep the paths clear. He was about to ask Miriam if she knew who planted it when they were both distracted by the dog’s whining.

Cecelia was pulling at a blue tarp in the undergrowth beside the path. Miriam called her away with ‘leave it’ and she sat obediently a few feet from what she’d found.

Dante knelt down, pushing branches way and unrolled the tarp. He held up, in success for Miriam to see, two pairs of goggles, two wet suits and two pairs of flippers. She shook her head at him and he carefully replaced the swimming gear.

“What’s it mean?”

“Mara has been right as rain all along, though it pains me to admit it. Someone comes here and puts on this stuff and goes swimming. This is a big honking clue that just fell in our laps, or, more accurately, in the dog’s mouth.”

“What’s it a clue to?” she asked.

“That is yet to be seen, sweet Miriam. Yet to be seen.”

When they got back to the rectory, Dante praised Mara and told her and Richard about what Cecelia had unearthed. “The only real detective on this island has four legs,” Dante said. Somehow understanding he was talking about her, the dog came over and jumped up on him, trying to lick his face. “I don’t like dogs, dog,” Dante said, pushing her away.

“So you left them there?” Mara asked.

Dante grinned and nodded. “The best is yet to come, beloved,” he said to the other three. Cecelia leaped on him again and he rolled his eyes, giving in a bit to her affection.

It was just past 6 and darkness was beginning to wonder about gathering in a serious way. Dante declared the bar open and they picked through what was left of booze and wine people had brought to Richard on Wednesday. Two full bottles of scotch, a bottle of bourbon (“they remembered you were a southerner, Father,” Dante observed) and lots of wine. There was a mint plant that Miriam remembered from her summers on the island that was off on the south side of the house. It was dead, not even recognizable, but she grated ice in a blender and made them all mint juleps without mint to watch the stars with.

After a while, Dante and Miriam cooked, somehow creating a wondrous seafood Diablo from what was available to them and a salad of Boston lettuce, heart of palm and anchovies from a thin can they found in the back of a shelf. Dante and Miriam stayed with bourbon while Mara and Richard switched to wine and water respectively.

“I have to do church tomorrow,” he explained to the drinkers, who hooted and kidded him mercilessly.

Dante had a room at the Spring House under Leo’s name and Mara was still registered at the White House, but when dinner was over, no one made any move to leave. Mara took the third bedroom and Dante hunkered down on the couch, TV flipper in hand, running through the few channels. Miriam and Richard took Cecelia for a walk down Spring Street, though neither of them had much to say. Everyone was full and tired and a little high. When they came back, Dante was snoring lightly on the couch, the TV still on. Miriam found a blanket and covered him carefully. Richard and the dog went to the master bedroom. Somehow, having the police ‘sleeping over’ seemed natural and right to him now.

Within half an hour, everyone was asleep.

In a little three bedroom house on a rock of an island on a tiny planet lost in the wonderment of an already endless and still expanding universe, five sentient being slept. And they all dreamed.

Here is Dante’s dream, being the first of the night: he is holding a child, a baby that has curly hair and dark skin. He does not know who the child is or whose it, yet it seems familiar to him. He holds the child and rocks it in his arms, waiting, he knows but doesn’t know, that two lovely, small women are coming to join him. He is singing a lullaby in Italian, one his mother sang to him. He sings it though he doesn’t know the words, doesn’t remember them, but he sings them in perfect Italian and knows the words are all right. The child he holds smiles at him, gurgles and begins to sing along.

Mara’s dream is verging on a nightmare. She is alone in a strange and ill-defined landscape. She is alone and the edges of the horizon are closing in on her. She is alone and frightened, trying to scream as people often do in dreams, but having no ability to create noise. She is alone and she knows someone is near, even in the ever dwindling space. Someone is near and she is afraid. She is alone and she is afraid.

She wakes and shakes off that dream, which she will never remember, and falls back into sleep and a second dream. In this dream she is wrapped in some rubbery substance and swimming, swimming, swimming. She is not a good swimmer in life, but in her dream she swims effortlessly, with power, with and remarkable grace. She swims and swims and swims.

Miriam’s dreams that night are multitudinous and perplexing. She is walking a pleasant path with two women. She is standing on a rock, fishing. She is like an animal, picking her way through deep brush, sniffing. She is eating an ice-cream cone overlooking a pleasant bay. She is talking with her father and laughing and they talk and talk and laugh and laugh but she doesn’t hear any words—her dream is on ‘mute’. She is wrapped in someone’s arms, kissing them, touching them—first it is a Spanish woman and then a thin Italian man. And she is in love….

Richard dreams of a house he’s never seen, a house with many rooms. He wanders through the rooms, many of which have white cloths covering the furniture. He hears someone playing some reed instrument in the distance and tries to move toward it, but, as in dreams, he can hardly move.

And Cecelia dreams as well. While she dreams her legs move involuntarily back and forth. She is dreaming of running, chasing some creature she has no name for but can smell clearly. She runs, in her dream, tracking and chasing and running and running until she drops into a dark hole where there are no dreams, only sleep.

Richard has a second dream. In this dream he is blind and running toward something. He feels hands touch him and hold him up in his blindness. He is running toward that same sound—some reed instrument playing something beautiful and calm. And he is still blind and still running, supported by unseen hands.

Later Dante dreams of cutting onions, onion after onion with the sharpest knife he’s ever held. And weeping from the onions. Then someone comes and takes the knife from his hand and wipes away the tears from his face and holds him like a baby as he weeps.

Early in the morning, around 2:30 a.m., Richard wakes up and needs to pee. He staggers to the bathroom, noticing that Cecelia is whining and her legs are moving in her sleep. When he comes back to bed he falls immediately to sleep and dreams that Susan is responding to his fitful prayers and his attempts to revive her. She stirs and stands up, alive as alive can be and embraces him. He holds her near and weeps with joy. And at some point realizes his face is not buried in her hair but in some other hair, short and blonde almost to white.

Mara dreams she is standing on the precipice of the Mohegan Bluffs. The wind is tearing around her and the void beneath her is calling to her. She shuts her eyes and leaps, but someone’s arms pull her back.

Miriam dreams of Christmas, of being in St. Louis at her brother’s house. The tree is trimmed to perfection. She can smell food being cooked. She turns and sees her father and someone else she cannot recognize before her dream ends.

Just before he wakes, Dante dreams of holding a golden box in his hands, a box locked and sealed. But he opens it anyway and inside he finds….Then he wakes up.

Everyone and the dog in that house woke up within ten minutes of each other. Everyone and the dog, except for Richard, needed to pee. Time was spent doing that.

None of them, save Cecelia, remembered their dreams. Cecelia remembered running and running and running and running….

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.