~ the raven chronicles ~ 23

23 Feb

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES)

Fr. Michael Leavell, OP.
Sacred Heart Church
Raven, Ohio

November 20, 1932

Someplace warm and dry turned out to be the Wallace kitchen; and a dram turned out to be 3 or 4. We did not drink for intoxication, our minds were already in that state due to our experiences at Echo Lake; the whisky and our conversation each merely spurred the other onward.

On the big plank kitchen table, we spread open every volume from William’s bookshelves that contained even a mention of anubisScotland’s founding myth. Nowhere among those thousands of words did reside anything about the jackal-headed wand. It seemed that we were to be caught between legends and parables and what we had heard and seen with our own eyes; yet, on close examination, the element of our personal experiences amounts to no more than dreams, waking flights of fancy; what a court of inquiry would consider the reading of tea leaves.

Hard proof and sound reasoning will be necessary to solve the riddles currently enveloping both Sterns-Carson and the Echo Lake Spiritualist Camp, but concrete evidence, so far, remains elusive.

The wand is disappeared.
All the witnesses to the relevant events of that Halloween seance are dead.
Save one.
And that one is confined to a mental hospital.
All but catatonic and unapproachable.

Yes, she is the only commonality; but is Mrs. Sinclair a victim or a perpetrator, a lunatic or a demoness. I know not enough about her to make that judgment; and in order for me to take action, I must be certain.

I believe William would have us enter Sterns-Carson and finish the business, sooner rather than later. He has not spoken it aloud, but I can see the idea stalking his thoughts.

There is one idea that repeatedly intrudes on my ruminations; An idea that I have so far left unsaid to Wallace; Mary could play a vital role in our investigation. She has daily access to Mrs. Sinclair and must, simply by the fact of familiar proximity, know more about her at this point than anyone else.

I doubt if Agnostica has spent much time probing Mrs. Sinclair’s psyche; he does not strike me as a particularly curious man, given to endeavoring to understand the world around him. I believe he is more of a bureaucrat than a scientist. Still, cultivating a friendship with the Doctor could be beneficial, also.

So we passed the end of the day, and the rest of the evening in front of the fire in Wallace’s kitchen. He brought out cheese and crusty bread and we made a meal of it. My last waking recollection was of sitting quietly in a high-backed wooden chair as I gazed into the flames dancing on the hearth.

I opened my eyes sometime later, surprised to discover that I still sat in that wooden chair, upright but with my head lolled to one side; covered with a blanket and one of the dogs curled up by my feet.

Wallace stood with his back to me, stirring the fire to resurrection. Before he turned round, my mind quickly catalogued the dream interrupted.

I was inside the rectory, reading a book before the fire, pitch black night outside, when I heard a pathetic call of distress beyond my window. I put my book down, arose and peered out, but could see naught.

The cry arose again, feeble and pleading. I strode to the rectory door and opened it onto a bright moon-filled landscape. I heard the cry once more, originating beyond my field of vision.

I went down the rectory steps and around to the side of the church, where I had judged the origin of the vociferation.

The side yard lay hidden from moonlight, and there, in the shadows of Sacred Heart Church, a pillar of mist rose out of the snow; and out of that mist, the shape of a woman materialized. She walked purposefully toward me, and as she did so, I discerned her identity; Sadie Faire.

I stood there, dumfounded and mesmerized.

Sadie stopped a short distance from me, opened her mouth, and out came the pathetic cry of distress that had called me out into the frigid night. Then a playful smile crossed her lips and we just stared on one another while a vibrant expectation flowed between us.

I wondered why in God’s creation she would be out in the snow, barefoot and dressed only in a flimsy long peignoir that would give no more protection from the cold than it could disguise the shape of her body beneath it.

My wonderment seemed to be a catalyst for what she did next.

Her hands went to the neck of the garment and slowly unfastened the braided clasp. After a brief pause and a knowing look, she shrugged the robe from her shoulders, let it fall to the ground, and stood unashamedly naked before me.

Then she raised her arms toward me and spoke; and just like at the hotel when I’d had my back to her and she beckoned, the voice that came from her parted lips, was that of my beloved, Katy.

Oh, Michael, I want you so. Come to me, Darling. Come to me, now.

I hastened towards her; I cannot deny my desire to be in her arms, but twas not mere lust that drove me; I had a genuine concern that she could suffer from her state of undress in the biting cold.

A few paces from that embrace was when Wallace disturbed me with his rustlings.

Aye, you’re awake, he said after turning from the fire. I’ve got a bit of breakfast on, some oats and bacon.

What time is it, I asked.

Nearly 5:00, Wallace replied. I’ve got to be at the chores before long, so roust yourself.

I pulled off the blanket, considered my dream, and for some reason, I inquired after Mary.

Wallace gave me a cold look. She didn’t come home again last night, he said. I’ve been at her about spending so many nights at Sterns-Carson, but she’s got her own mind. Says there’s a feral child there without a mother who needs her constant attention if he’s to have a hope of ever becoming normal. Whatever the hell normal means.

William returned to his preparations; I did not pursue the topic, even though I knew the feral child of whom he spoke was Zeke.

Wallace and Mary are childless, but not for lack of desiring a family. I knew they were frustrated and disappointed and that Mary’s dedication to her work and her newfound allegiance to that wild foundling were all slices of the same cake.

We sat together at the table and ate our breakfast with hardly a word between us, despite the hours of conversation the previous night. I suppose we were spent as far as the topic of the yellow house and the burnt-out church and Rhea Sinclair; all talk and no action usually results in frustration; and frustration was all over Wallace like a bad suit.

Before I’d finished a single cup of coffee, Wallace pushed away his dish, arose and said, I’m off to chores; Stay as long as you like; Just pull the door to when you leave.

I abruptly stood also and said that I would be leaving straight away, I had affairs to attend to at the church.

Wallace didn’t hesitate or stand on ceremony; he put on his canvas coat and wool cap, called the dogs to him, went out the door and closed it firmly behind.

*****

The results of a lack of sleep became evident on my long, cold drive from the Wallace farm back to Sacred Heart Church.

And once alone in my automobile, the aspect of the dream I’d had before the fire coursed through my mind.

Why would I dream of Miss Faire as my Katy; why did I hear Katy’s voice at the hotel when it had been Sadie speaking?

I am neither a saint nor so self-delusional as to deny that Miss Faire stirred me as a comely woman stirs a man; though she is practiced at the art of seduction, she possesses a singular, natural magnetism that could not be feigned.

Not a day goes by that I don’t entertain regrets about Katy, I’ve never lied to myself about that.

If I am fully aware of these things, why would my mind contrive a merging of the two women.

I went round and round about it until the prospect of further consideration of my emotional quandary seemed like Poe’s great swinging blade in the pit; I did my best to clear my mind and pay attention to the icy road lest I put the sedan in a ditch.

I succeeded in quelling my obsessive pondering to the point that as I pulled into the rectory driveway, I wondered how it was that I had gotten there so suddenly.

I climbed out of the automobile and carefully navigated across the slick concrete. Not until I grasped the back porch handrail, did I really notice the group of 4 or 5 men clustered on the stairs. I nodded to them as they stood aside and muttered embarrassed hellos to me as I climbed the steps to the rectory.

I entered the kitchen and discovered Mrs. Sullivan at the counter, a beef roast on a board and a loaf of bread at hand. Several lunch buckets and 2 small gunny sacks lay nearby.

Before she acknowledged my presence, she carved a generous portion of beef, placed it on a slice of bread slathered with mustard, then topped that with another slice of bread. Then she turned to me and spoke without the preamble of a hello.

I cook enough food here nearly everyday to feed two families, and a quantity goes uneaten; Those men outside are working men, thank the Lord that they even have jobs; And wouldn’t it be nice if they had a midday meal that didn’t take food out of the mouths of their children.

I nodded in agreement, before I replied, It’s a fine thing that you are doing, Mrs. Sullivan.

She gave me that look of hers, the pained one owned by a person who by necessity must accommodate idiots. She returned to constructing the sandwiches.

The roast was last night’s dinner missed for me. It looked so inviting that twas all I could do to refrain from pilfering one of those healthy slices; the specter of taking ‘food out of the mouths of children’, stayed my hand. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee diverted me, and I thought it best for the time being, to content myself with a cup from the big percolator.

As I poured, Mrs. Sullivan said, That’s very thoughtful of you Father, I’m sure the men outside in the cold will bless you for bringing them a hot drink.

At that moment, it dawned on me that Annie Sullivan had become the absolute dictator of all things domestic inside our little celibate household.

I spent the next half-hour serving my brethren outside on the cold steps, all the coffee they could manage to drink, until their lunch pails and gunny sacks had been filled by Mrs. Sullivan, and they trudged off to their labors.

©2012 j.edwardfitzgerald  all rights reserved

(photo: migratory agricultural laborers. March 1937. Photographer: Dorothea Lange.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: