Life on Hard Mode Pt.1 (The Wayward)

Life was played on hard mode without a phone.

Genevive stood in the angle of the walls of the bus stop, a paper route map and schedule unfolded in her hands. She, a finger marked the spot, and the church was here so - second-declension ablative nouns are easier than this. The correct bus arrived, departed, and came again before she deciphered the table of schedules. If she’d had a phone the app, handily advertised and QR coded on the bench, would have taken just a moment to accomplish what took Genevive a quarter of an hour. Much easier.

But better? While she was figuring it out Genevive listened to the ramblings of a homeless man who was clearly suffering from some sort of schizoaffective disorder and asked a sweet old lady about the neighborhood and listened to how well her grandson was doing in the Army. None of which she would have been graced with if she’d had a phone and had been tap tap tapping away at it, servant to the distractions of the instant world instead of the perfect plan of the world around her; God’s world. Still, she’d have been there by now.

The bells had just finished ringing Terces when the church came into view. It was nothing special, a very small parish church that served an aging and dwindling congregation, sprinkled here and there with what Genevive always called oddities. People who didn’t seem to immediately fit into the congregation when viewed as a whole. Herself for example, a young white woman in the midst of these Hispanic parishioners two, sometimes three generations beyond her. Genevive smiled whenever one looked her way but went about the ritual of entering the church and then joined the short line for Confession.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been four days since my last Confession…”

The penance was short, scarcely longer than the Act of Contrition before she was absolved and dismissed with a blessing. Genevive lingered in the church, sitting at a pew about midway down, Bible open in her lap but eyes not seeing the words. Was he the one? How exactly would she know? When her voice, young and feminine and unfamiliar, had reached his ears Genevive had heard the priest stir a bit in his seat, imagined him turning towards the screen dividing them and looking either from a man’s innate nature or from curiosity about the stranger in the midst of his flock. Both were normal, unremarkable, but how would she know the difference between that and one who was not what they seemed? It wasn’t like -

“Welcome, my child. I am Father Andrew.” The priest smoothed his robes much like a girl might her skirts and sat near her on the pew. “This is your first time in our church.”

“It is, but not the last,” she answered, turning her head and giving the pleasant smile society and manners bid she wore as a young woman. “My name is Genevive, Father.” She slid her right hand further under the Bible, hiding her ring.

“What words speak to you today?” his head inclined towards her Bible, pages heavily annotated over many years. “It’s clear you spend some time with them.”

“Jeremiah. At the bus stop today there was a man, clearly suffering in his head and his soul. Homeless, talking to himself as if he was several people. I know God would never do anything that is ultimately not for his own good, all of ours, but it is hard to imagine what that is sometimes. The Mystery,” she answered.

Half an hour passed, Genevive didn’t wear a watch and time inside the church was a suggestion at best. Father Andrew gave her some guidance, drawing on his experience with the word of God as applied to a much greater group of people than Genevive had known. He also drew out her knowledge, testing here and there to see if she’d fallen for any of the obvious fallacies. When she left, filled with the peace that always came to her, Genevive was convinced that while Father Andrew was probably bored with the undemanding nature of his parishioner’s acceptance without question of his interpretation of scripture he wasn’t what she’d been sent to look out for.

A rumble in her tummy was settled with the water fountain in the park. She was hungry but it wasn’t anything to fret about. The body must never, ever, be the master. For the third time today she settled on a bench, this one in the park, and glanced through her Bible. There, hidden in a cunning code among all the other notations, was the location of a place called The Wayward, a place other than the church where she could find - well not exactly sanctuary but the vulgar interpretation of it. Yes, she’d check in there lacking any other specific task this day.

Excessively sensible shoes turned towards The Wayward.


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