Hope & Uncertainty

September: it was the most beautiful of words, he'd always felt,
evoking orange-flowers,
swallows, and regret.
Alexander Theroux Darconville's Cat 1981

For the third time this month, he'd come home after work to find red ribbons - the narrow, satin kind that little girls used to wear tied around their pigtails when their mothers dressed them up for a party - laying in swirling loops across the front porch of his small, frame house. They trailed down the steps and wandered curiously over the lawn. The first time he found them he assumed they'd blown onto his property from some gift unwrapped at one of his neighbors. He gave up that idea after he found the same ribbons waiting for him on subsequent Thursdays. James Elliot had seen them as a nuisance, like the leaves separating from his maple tree now that September was nearly over.

This afternoon he felt something else. A tinge of sweet regret, perhaps - a keepsake from spring shoved into a drawer and found accidentally on a raw winter day. He left the ribbons where they were, opened his front door and walked to his living room window. He leaned against the frame and looked out on his lawn for a very long time.


Short swallow-flights of song, that dip
Their wings in tears, and skim away.
Arthur Tennyson In Memoriam 1850

There were never more than a dozen people scattered around the cathedral waiting for the noontime mass to begin. May
preferred a church nearly empty: it emphasized the secret supplication that was the point to her attendance.
She entered through the side, liking the casualness of it - akin to letting oneself in through a friend's side porch and hearing the screen shut with a comforting slap. May sat up close where the priest could recognize one of his regulars and took from her purse the folded piece of paper she kept in it. The printed proof of her great failure. What was. And then was not.

May only half heard the mass, although her intentions for it were powerful. She preferred the priest's prayers as mere backdrop to her own, unorthodox sacrament - ink on paper transfigured and sent swirling over the city as acceptance and forgiveness. May was not concerned with heresy - the suffering figure she focused on would be pleased both by her invention and her understanding of the incalculable price of imperfection.

What was. And then was not. May intended to live with both.