Church Scenes

As in life, fictional places of worship can be both gathering places and settings for significant events. Here are church moments from each of the Sky Spinner books, with a bonus one from In the Land of the Dinosaur.

From Suite Harmonic, p. 472:
There was another part of him now that reminded John most of himself when he’d felt deeply religious. He’d spoken about some of those times—how at Easter Mass in Donegal Town when he was very young, he’d wandered forward toward the sound of the priest’s singing before his mother had caught him and held him in her arms so the sound seemed wrapped around them both—how once in Dublin he’d stood inside the door of Dean Swift’s St. Patrick’s and, Church of Ireland though it was, felt himself soaring upward and upward with the flying buttresses.

From Time Stamp, p. 187:
Maddie thought that the memorial service had gone as well as it could have. Or at the least, that it had seemed customary. The church had been crowded with people instead of flowers, which she’d kept to the absolute minimum. A chamber group her mother might have chosen had played folk-themed music quite beautifully with a lovely fiddle solo added into the mix. Maddie believed even her father would have approved, and that he certainly would have preferred the fiddle to an organ. She was relieved that the music had finally taken her away from the driving and ominous line of Beethoven’s Seventh, which had been running constantly through her head. Peter, tall and slim and still ridiculously handsome in a well-tailored suit and a dark tie her mother had given him many Christmases ago, offered the eulogy for the man he called his first mentor and second father. Maddie had been surprised at its subtlety, at the way it underlined her father’s strengths of intellect and industry but in a way that suggested his internal conflicts to an audience filled with both hawks and doves, a veritable flock of mismatched birds, yet all of them, from the chief justice her father had served with to the lunchroom worker whose son had died in Vietnam, gathered in one place to show their respect. She had spoken to many of them, trying to keep her composure in the black dress she’d kept in her mother’s closet because it had fit both of them like a glove.

From “In the Land of the Dinosaur” title story of In the Land of the Dinosaur: Ten Stories and a Novella, p. 12:
Lawrence does not sleep well again until the sermon at church. This time Pauline wakes him with a hand on his elbow. The church rustles with people. It is warm with their heat, with light glowing through stained glass.

Our church, Lawrence thinks. Our church.

He feels its years enclosing him. His parents’ funerals. His marriage to Pauline. Then Steve’s baptism, Pauline fussing to keep the gown free of wrinkles—to keep it just as her mother had done, the history of their care pristine in impeccable folds. It was his part to worry instead about a boy in a dress and to fear that the pastor, grown old and palsied, would drop Steve, would lose his footing and dash the soft spot of Steve’s head against the baptismal font.

From “A Marriage in the Life of Faith Davenport” in In the Land of the Dinosaur, p. 125:
The singer was in the middle of “O Beautiful Mother” and Faye thought the sound was floating right down from the top of the church to enclose her. She felt sleepy, and she clamped her mouth tight so she wouldn’t yawn. Then Father Kincaid was talking and J. B. had her hand and she could feel the soft curl of his hair where it grew below his knuckles. She held on tight, listening, trying to listen, and then it was her turn to talk and her voice came out wobbly and as high as Cindy’s.

“I will,” J. B. said, looking at her so she could feel it, and then she said she would, too, in a little squeak, and they were married, married just like that in a done thing with only the finishing, long blur of the Mass and the music still floating to surround her in the stained light of the windows.

From The Second Magician’s Tale, p. 120:
The church was silent. No murmuring prayer, but only the altar, the echoing arches, the plaster missing above doorways. A decaying and poor church, a refuge of a poor people.

Mireille squeezed Roland’s arm. “Should we pray?” she whispered, but he was silent. He had not thought that far. He had thought only to bring her here, to give her the basilica of her island on her wedding day. She knelt at the altar, and so he knelt beside her, and he did not think words but space. Air.

Mireille started beside him, pointing. “Puppies,” she whispered, and through the entrance to the sanctuary and the dim light, he saw a dog stretched out, her litter nursing, moving like small waves. Mireille stifled a giggle. She crossed herself and reached into his pocket, touching his leg. She took a coin. At the side altar, she lit a vigil candle. She bowed her head, and then placed her flowers for the Virgin. When she came back, she leaned against him, her hands on his shoulders.

“Let’s go,” she said. Roland walked with her back up the aisle. The door was unbolted, waiting for them, but Mireille turned aside to the stone inscription and read it aloud.

“1879. Dedicated on June 29th,” she said. “Almost a hundred years ago. This,” she said, “is for you, church.” She leaned over and spit on the floor.

Roland stepped back. “Mireille, what?”

She grinned and nudged him toward the doorway. “My grandfather—the quimboiseur—he taught me. The Jesuits’ church. They built it,” she said, and Roland threw his head back and laughed. Yes, her grandfather. The witch doctor.

From “Floating” in Watching Oksana, p. 162:
1952, Savannah
. Sunday morning in a great white church. While the bells ring, Laura walks down the steps, swings her patent leather purse that matches her shoes. She is wearing her white hat with the turned-up brim and her yellow dress that is her father’s favorite, though she doesn’t like yellow herself. But it reminds her of him. She misses his whiskers. He is the one who tells her to hold her skirt down if the wind blows and, when she kisses him good night, if she’s too impetuous he tells her he’d rather be kicked by a mule.

Jamie is already at the car. Their mother is at the top of the steps holding Chloe. She has fixed her hat with a new veil that she got from Aunt Cecily. The stain in her suit skirt is gone. Laura knows that the fabric pilled, but to see it, you have to look close. Uncle Peter and Aunt Cecily are standing next to her, talking to their friends. Uncle Peter is very handsome, and people look at Aunt Cecily. She is wearing a white dress with jet buttons and black lapels. She has on a black hat that Jamie says looks like a skinny, upside-down rowboat, but Laura knows that it’s very smart.

Laura waits at the bottom of the steps.

From “Sylvie” in Clare, Loving: A Novel in Three Novellas, p. 9:
Sylvie touched Clare’s sleeve. “It’s Roman Catholic?” she whispered, and Clare nodded. “And what are those pictures on the walls with the little roofs on top?”

“Stations. Stations of the Cross. They’re about episodes on the road of Jesus to be crucified. They’ve inspired a lot of art,” Clare said. Then she was quiet. For all the gaps in knowledge that a lapse of twenty years had meant for her, she knew it was nothing like the chasm she’d insisted on for her daughter.

She watched Sylvie walk down the aisle, looking at the statues and tabernacle, at the windows and ceiling. Then she came back and slipped into a pew and knelt as the other visitors in the church had done. She looked up at Clare. “I’m going to pray that my mother will stop treating me like a child,” she said. “So tell me how to pray, Mom.”

Country Church, Dunn County, Wisconsin
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe 
© Robert Meier


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