The Passion of Mrs. C.
Now, I unlatched the gate that opened onto the garden, still dormant, and walked up a few concrete steps. I rang the bell.
Like a Kennedy, Father Adaire breathed new life into the stodgy old parish as if it were Camelot. Parishioners knew that he officiated at the 9:30 folk mass in the high school auditorium, as well as the 11:00 service preferred by traditionalists and held in “The Big Church.” That limestone monolith dated from 1911 and employed an organist who pounded away at body-penetrating renditions of “Come Holy Ghost,” never mind that we now referred to that entity as a “spirit.”
Father Adaire’s masses became so crowded that the altar boys had to turn on the tall fans that flanked the altar. And it was only March. A satellite of doting teenage girls from the high school followed the new priest and giggled at his every remark. Father “A,” as some dared to call him, proved so hip that even the brooding boys wanted to chat with him, not about God but about the Yankees. Suddenly, even the scowling rectory servants with brogues looked rejuvenated just by being in his orbit.
All of this was lost on Father A. He had no idea of the effect he had on people. Of course, this only added to his allure.
After I knocked, Pat’s mother answered the door. I had never seen her up close, only at school when she picked up Pat the one time my friend had gotten sick at lunchtime. She had the same dark hair as Pat, only hers was thick, coarse, and brushed back into a loose semblance of a hairdo. She was the tallest woman I had ever met. I felt small and silly as she peered down at me from above.
My Brownie Troop is looking for egg cartons because we’re turning them into wreaths for old people in nursing homes.
Mrs. Cardullo released a slow smile.
Oh, you sweet, darling child. Come in and sit down.
A stranger had never spoken to me like this. It felt good, yet weird. I entered the kitchen, sat down on a wire chair, and saw Pat lying on her stomach on the living room carpet, doing homework. She lifted her head to say hi but did not join me. Also strange.