Michelle Reale

She knocked on the door, one, two, three times, and kicked for good measure. Rap, rap on the window. The Father honks the horn five, six, seven times. Father O'Malley won't wait Mass for the Grandmother. The Father throws half a cigarette onto the sidewalk and forgets to exhale the smoke. "C'mon, we'll be late!" She takes the two steps off the wooden porch and glances behind her. Impatience will get you everywhere. It will get you to the church on time. Her Grandmother waits for this ride, every Sunday morning, pre-Vatican missal, for all its worth, resting on swollen knees. She whispers her own incantations, with eyes closed, while everyone else wriggles, daydreams and attempt to scratch niggling itches that never goes away.
Afterwards, there was no after-Mass twisted crullers with brown sugar from the German bakery. There was no strong brewed coffee, percolating, stovetop, with cinnamon in the grounds. There was no ash tray offered to the father, the smoker. No pasta sauce bubbling on the stove. No invitations to a plate of pasta at 2 pm. No sign of the Grandfather, still asleep, though the body had been removed, the fingernails said to be as blue as denim jeans. The Granddaughter will love to tell how they had to pry the pre-Vatican missal out of her cold, stiff hands.
The Grandfather lives in a dream. "She said goodbye before she left, I remember," he tells the room, but no one is listening. The Father stands outside on the pavement, waving people inside the house, smoking one cigarette after another. The Grandfather sits on the Grandmother's chair and nods to one and all, occasionally rubbing the soft-silver stubble on his face.
The Granddaughter thinks how the Grandfather hasn't a prayer now; he'll die of a broken heart. The Father smokes and sighs. The sun dips in and out of dark, gathering clouds. The Daughter looks up and sees the neighborhood women coming towards her, their arms linked, an army of benevolence.
She hears sounds as though the words are uttered under water and their faces are closed to hers. They could be saying anything, singing songs, uttering prayers, or cursing all that is holy. It doesn't matter. The Grandmother is gone, but the others, women strong and patient, have come in her place. The Granddaughter takes the steps two at a time, dutifully, following behind them.