“All Who Pass By” (Short Story)

I have to carry myself in by overriding the will, by suppressing it. After the long stretch of hall behind me, behind the corner I just rounded, there are the church building’s offices and the entrance I usually come through. And then, the curious glass window, the length of a museum diorama, with a flower garden in the area below.

Crossing the last threshold before the volunteers handing out maniacally-printed bulletins, I stroll forward with hesitation like a man in line for lethal injection. Maybe if I walk slowly enough, the service will be over too soon. Maybe then, I won’t need to go any further.

“Go faster,” my mother chides. Inside, I moan.

But the moaning took longer than I’d meant it to, and now I’m extending my hand to take an Order of Service from the same man as last time. He acts just as cordial, seems just as insincere.

What does he even know of me? My mom? My dad was always far more involved here than her, and now he’s not even around. I guess he’s probably skipping church until the whole divorce thing finally blows over.

The carpet here is like a blanket of red iron ore, drenched with the stigmata tears of every son and daughter whose parents have drug them here. The carpet is just like the cushion on the pews as well, so the wood there won’t become too worn from soaking in bitter oils and resentful rages from the same old, lovely people.

Blessed Redeemer Christian Church and School! So, where’s the redeemer who can get me out of this once and for all?

One of the two bald-scalped pastors is reading from the Book of Lamentations, his arms and shoulders quivering from old age:

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.”

But what a relief. We came just late enough to miss a hymn or two. And even the pipe organ intro before that. Merely for my thinking this, God sends a shaft of colossal light down through one of the windows, a corner of gold-ochre-stained glass on my left side, turning fiery bright, blue, and white like hot embers—a brief flash to engage with while I trip over some large, undaunted family and stumble in to one of the last unseated pews. I knock their youngest child’s Bible off with the jutted-out bottom of my kneecap.

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