Eucharist

Eucharist

1920 1200 Melissa Gardner

Harrisville, West Virginia

1973

Sunday mornings
while my mother sleeps
I walk up the street
to the neighbor’s house.

He is a deacon,
she teaches Sunday school.

When we moved into
the neighborhood,
they took it upon
themselves
to save my little
heathen soul.

I wear an aqua-green
dress, pink knee-high
socks and saddle shoes.

As I walk, my socks
slip and bunch up
inside my shoes.
I stop to pull up my socks.
Walk, stop, pull
over and over until
the heels of my socks
stand out like
dorsal fins on my calves.

She opens the door,
lets me in,
tells me how pretty
I am while she smoothes
my hair with her plump
dimpled hands.

In the station wagon
we listen to bluegrass
gospel until we pull
into the grass and gravel
parking lot of the church.

She presses a nickel
into my hand, leads
me to Sunday school.
I learn of David
and Bathsheba,
the wages of sin,
of cleansing blood.
I put my nickel
in the plate.

When the service
is over I watch
the deacon
place a Saltine
a bottle of grape juice
and a tiny clear cup
into a case.

We drive
to the house
of a very old woman
who gives me
pastel mint candies
wrapped in a paper napkin.

I sit on the couch,
wait,
while the deacon
and his wife talk
to the wrinkled woman.
He reads from his
black Bible.

It is time to bow
our heads and pray.

After amen,
he opens the case
breaks the cracker
lays the pieces
on a black velvet cloth,
pours grape juice
into the cup.
The old lady’s hands
tremble as she places
the cracker in her mouth.
The deacon’s wife
steadies the woman’s arm
as the deacon offers
the cup.

And when the woman
has drunk, I am asked
if I could be
a good girl
and put up
the elements.

They close their eyes
lay hands on the old woman,
pray in eager, urgent words.

I go to the table,
look over my shoulder.
I slip a piece of cracker
into my mouth,
bring the cup to my lips
and drain the last
sweet red drops onto
my tongue.

Melissa Gardner

Melissa Gardner received her MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Seattle Pacific University. She is currently working on a collection of re-visioned fairy tales and a novel. Originally from Pennsylvania, she now lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, three cats, a Corgi, and two domesticated rats.

All posts by Melissa Gardner

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