112 A Man May Smile and Smile

“That’s all sorted then.” Mrs. James was rewinding the last errant ball. “What a muddle yarn can get into, left to its own devices.” She’d brought it all downstairs to work on while she had that catch-up talk with Gervase.

“I didn’t introduce you to Mr. Thuss. I offered to but he said you’d met, though he hadn’t recognized you, at first.” She laughed.

“I suppose he was concerned some deranged bag lady had wandered in. Just this once, I’ll overlook the slight.”

“Still, once he did know who you were…” She finished his thought. Chapter 112 A Man May Smile

“Yes, he could have acknowledged me, waved at least. Though I’d just as soon he didn’t, the way he was pointing around those scissors.” She grabbed a pair of hers out of her work bag, holding them with the blades down – in the approved manner – handles up toward him and ready to be transferred, relay race style.

“That’s the way I was taught, too.” She sat down and put away the scissors. “I have something else to tell you about Mr. Thuss. Last Sunday, an old friend whisked me off to a west side church for services there. I was at loose ends that day, with everyone busy or away for the holiday so I said I’d go along just for something different.” Gervase wasn’t familiar with her normal Sunday routines; it was a regular day off for him. They’d not yet resumed their initial conversation, over a week ago now, about religion and faith. He assumed that was now on tap.

“And was it different?”

“We ended up in one of those mega-type churches, with auditorium and stage.”

“I’ve seen those on TV.” This new, arena fashion of church amazed him. Gervase had been raised in a close-knit, countryside Roman Catholic parish, Quebecois style.

“Turns out our Mr. Thuss was the star speaker, in the stem winder tradition, as opposed to yarn winder.” Here she patted down the contents of her work bag. “His style was charming almost, with lots of wedding picture size smiles. But I don’t go to church to be charmed.”

“What! Him?” Gervase turned toward ‘Little Susie’. “So he can turn it on and off, like a faucet.”

“Very much so. I listened but I didn’t agree with his interpretation of scripture.”

“Are you allowed to disagree, much? Being Episcopalian, as you said?”

“Born to it, Gervase. Having a think’s what made Henry the Eighth infamous!” Gervase chuckled at a comparison between the English monarch and Mrs. James. He privately considered that more people than not prefer to be told what to think, religious-wise, at least. “For instance, there was a passage for today about a prophet who prayed and stretched out on a boy three times. What would you make of that?” Gervase didn’t like to say. “Strange, isn’t it? Open to unfortunate interpretations. For me, that’s an invitation to figure it out. First, he was trying to heal the boy, to give back life, not hurt him. Second, it didn’t work the first time so he had to try more than once, or he would have stopped. He persisted. Third, we often repeat prayers, don’t we?”

“It’s been known to happen.” Gervase flash-backed to his weekly, rosary at the ready, boyhood escape from the enforced confessional box.

“It’s reputed to be the first resurrection event in scripture and it happened for a widow. I suppose you pay more attention to things after they happen to you personally.”

“I know I do. Older I get, for sure.”

“But Mr. Thuss just skimmed the surface, didn’t dig for truth. I didn’t care for his ‘Be Happy’ message.”

“And you don’t believe that you have to believe what he says, as a man of the cloth?”

“Rubbish. Because he wears suits, in his case rather expensively cut for a man of the cloth?Ā  I expect to be encouraged to reflect, find my own meaning. But Gervase, I still haven’t told you.”

“Told me what?”

“Who else I saw there, on stage with him. Want to guess?” It really wasn’t fair of her to do this, she knew. “Sorry, I blame Poppy and Pansy for that digression. You’ll never guess in a million tries, so I’ll tell you. Kitty Doyle.” And she sat back in her chair for full effect, and waited for him to take it in.

“Kitty Doyle?” Disbelief often led directly to repetition.

“In the flesh, though not the name.”

“Name?” Gervase struggled.

“She’s been re-christened, for lack of a better term. Kathy – with a K – Doyle.”

“But what did she do, exactly?”

“Well, she paraded devoutly onstage with the rest of the church leaders unseasonably robed, let me add, in purple and gold, warbled songs of praise and coerced us to contribute.” Her mind snapped back to that awful morning at the side of the pool, the TV blaring hymns. So that’s where she’d heard that tune played before. Something about fettering. How grotesque, seeing again the body weighted down, and with her own bottles, too. An instrument designed for play, to hold one up, instead holding another down.

“It must have been such a shock to see her. I’m shocked, just you telling me. What does it mean?”

“I’ve had some time to run by several possibilities. I suppose it means that she’s hooked up with that church and whether it’s with Mr. Thuss, we don’t know. It must be for profit or self-promotion, mustn’t it?”

“Just when there was a chance she’d be gone away for good, too.”

Just to the west of downton there are four unit buildings with a common entrance - but no lobby - and some offer open, landscaped space.

Just to the west of downtown, four unit buildings with a common entrance – but no lobby – are more prevalent. Some offer open, landscaped common areas.

“Good riddance. Still, we can live in hope. There’s only one of her, isn’t there? If she stays away to the west, how can it affect us?” The dreadful mobility of the Wicked Witch of the West broom-sticked its way into a corner of her mind, angling for attention.

“Other than knowing that fraud is alive and well, you mean.”

“We know that exists in any case, though you’d prefer it not be at church, or in a preacher living in our midst. I know my own mind but certainly have no wish to offend what others profess to be true, or desirable.”

“But you can’t accuse Kitty Doyle of respect for anyone, can you?” It beggared the imagination of Gervase to reconstruct this creature as a preacher. He laughed at his unintended rhyme and repeated it for Mrs. James.

“The creature as the preacher – ha.”

“Yes, that’s the trick. Laugh at her, not her church. That’s very good, Gervase.”

“It would be terrible if she’d converted, or something, wouldn’t it?”

“Reformed? In that case, then, all might be well. She’d behave in a better way. Not that we’d ever trust her, mind you, but there’s at least a chance she’d be less awful. It would be worse if she were just the same and still living here, pretending to be good.”

“And I’d have to be nice to her.”

“You’re condemned to be nice to everybody, Gervase. At least here at work. Not sure what I’d do faced with her again, at her sanctimonious best. Rely on my instincts, as well as my manners, I guess. Hope I never have to find out. I hope the girls never do, either.”

“Have you told anyone else?”

“Not even Hans.”

“I feel a bit like your prophet. I’ll need to stretch myself thin to cover everyone who lives here, especially the little girls.”