Saturday, May 05, 2007

GBA(s)FC (Growth) Entry #6

St. Ignatius of the Garden
by Brigid O'Sullivan

For several years she’d spent every spare minute in the garden of the church, digging, weeding and planting the seeds and cuttings from her own up the road. In the centre of it, Saint Ignatius would keep her company, floating above her on his marble pedestal. She'd go on about the loneliness of her life with the kids grown and gone and her husband dead, God rest him. Ignatius had special understanding powers, he interceded for her.

She bought those expensive Italian creams once Father Ryan had told her the big news a week ago. The silver bottle was for the eyes, it took away the wrinkles. The gold bottle was for around the mouth. She'd heard it removed accordion lips.

Frequently, Father Ryan would come down from the church and join her on the bench beneath the statue, taking one of her cigarettes, telling her that although he’d quit, the odd one couldn’t hurt. They’d look out over the garden together, Ignatius flying above them. The years of her dedication had seen phenomenal growth in the banks of rhododendrons, hollyhocks and climbing roses she’d dug in as cuttings. Spectacular, Father Ryan had said of her efforts in the spring, two months ago.

A month ago, when the calla lilies were flaming against the hedge and the colours of the clemantines tumbled over the rockery, he'd said she’d the hands of an artist, an artist of God, and he leaned over to touch one of the trellised rose buds between his fingers, and smiled at her in that special way.

When he’d gone back to the church to hear confessions she'd looked up at Ignatius and said it was great to be appreciated.

A week ago Father Ryan had come down the steps and said he'd something to tell her, it might be a shock. He took her elbow and sat beside her on the bench.

I'm leaving the priesthood Maggie, he said, I can't fulfill my vows anymore.

She closed her eyes briefly, silently thanking Ignatius.

Why Father? And she puffed nervously on her cigarette, conscious of her heart beat, mentally framing her words of response.

The sins of the flesh Maggie my dear, I'll have to say goodbye now. You're a good woman, a very good woman.

And he immersed her hand in both of his, then blessed her and hurried away in a bustle of cassock.

You'll be in touch? she asked his vanishing back. But he didn't hear her.

Of course he would be. That would go without saying.

She weeded the lily of the valley circle which was nestled under the yellow and purple of the sweet pea.

So Ignatius, she sat on her haunches and looked upward, you'll take all that to Himself, right? You'll do the interceding for me up there? It's been a week and he hasn't phoned me yet. It must take a while to leave the priesthood and get your affairs in order. Sure, I'll be waiting right here.


Beth said...

As a lover of Maeve Binchy and sweet, unraunchy tales, I cannot tell you how much I adored this. Adored doesn't quite describe it. Loved and adored!

Joni said...

This reminds me of The Mermaid Chair for some reason.

I feel for Maggie. There is something very accessable about this. Nice writing.

Beth said...

Just wanted the author to know, this secured one of my votes. There's just not many comments going on with this contest, which is a bummer, so I wanted to pass that along.

Anonymous said...

Very poignant. I can feel her waiting there. As much as I don't want to believe it, I think he hasn't chosen her. Very painful.

Very well done!

S. Kearney said...

This was lovely. Comic yet sad.

Anonymous said...

This was interesting. Nice job of describing the world inside her head. Made me wonder more of who these people were, what they were thinking, what they were feeling.

Very nice.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Unrequited love is one of the saddest ways to hurt. A fine story.

I met Father Daniel Berrigan once, and can understand how a woman could fall in love with a priest.

The Moon Topples said...

The Jury says...

"...writing flows, good structuring that flowed through to a wry ending. The speech parts need seeing to but apart from that this was good, solid writing that made every word mean something."

Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks to all for commenting on my story, very helpful.
I am impressed with the level of writing entered. Wonderful, wonderful stories.