Retreat at Abby-Path
 
Sossity Chandler pulled in the parking lot of Saint Ambrose Abby.  Geri was there to greet her.  They embraced and kissed.  Sossity immediately noticed the difference in Geri’s appearance.

“Geri, you look so good,” she said.

“You too,” Geri beamed.  “How were your gigs?”  Sossity smiled.  It was always fun to hear her friend’s charming British accent.

“You know all about gigs.”

Geri laughed.

“Amen to that,” she said. 

Sossity got her suitcase out of the back seat.  The last time she had seen Geri she was recovering from drug addiction and bulimia.  Sossity remembered her—emaciated, ill, hardly able to carry on a conversation.  She had gone into the monastery’s recovery program and seemed a world better for it.

“I can’t get over how good you look,” Sossity said again.  They started toward the monastery’s guest house where she would be staying. 

“Thanks.  But remember:  rule of silence.  We can talk when we get inside.”

They walked across the parking lot to the guest house and went inside.

“Can we talk now?”  Sossity asked.

Her friend nodded.

“Great,” she said.  “How’s the Christian music scene?”

“Okay, I guess,” Geri said.  “Sometimes it isn’t much different from the rock scene we used to do.  “Some hassles.  But—well, you know.”

Geri Muir had made her way from a bruising career as a pop singer into the contemporary Christian music world.  Short, pretty, with blue eyes and blond hair and cherubic face, she made it big with a hit produced by one of pop music’s top producer/performers.  She put out a second song that did not do as well and went on tour.  Two years later she landed in drug rehab.  Her career flattened out and, because she failed to follow up her early hits with news song, she faded from the public’s memory.

“How’s Jason?” she asked.

Geri beamed with happiness.  Sossity had opened for her on a tour five years ago when Geri was at the height of her fame.  During that time, Geri met Jason Carston and it was love at first sight.  Sossity remembered the initial stages of it.  She also remembered being asked to leave the hotel room so, as Geri put it then, she and Jason could have some “privacy.”  She went to an all-night coffee bar, fended off half a dozen men who tried to pick her up, and returned at 5am to find Jason and Geri lying in bed, sated from a good screw but also stoned on methamphetamines.

“He’s fine,” Geri answered.  “He’s playing for the brothers but he’ll be back after nine.”
Geri’s drug addiction came to an end when Jason converted to an odd phase of the Christian religion and brought Geri with him into the fold.

“You still live here?”  Sossity asked as she put her suitcase on the bed in her room.
“Still do.  And I still love it.”

Sossity did not answer. 

“You’ll have to meet some of the other people in our fellowship,” Geri said.

“I’d like that, I think.”

“You think?”

“You know I’m big on religion.”

In their London days, Sossity had gone on some particularly bitter rants against religion.  Those were the days when one of her brothers was hired at a mega-church in Houston and wrote a long e-mail denouncing Sossity for her lack of religious zeal and the absence a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” in her life.

“I know you are.”  Geri always got a little nervous remembering those days.  “But you know how much good it did me, Sossity.  I was at the end of my rope.”

Sossity regarded her.

“I’ll say one thing.  Religion sure didn’t make you any less pretty.”

Geri’s whole face lit up with a smile.  Sossity loved to see her old friend smile.  It was at least good, she reflected, that Geri had something to smile about—even if it was a form of religion Sossity found disconcerting.

She and Geri talked more and made plans to walk the grounds later on.  Sossity began to unpack.

“So how’s your end of the music industry going?” Geri asked her.

“Not real well, to tell you the God-honest truth.  I can’t get a recording contract to save my soul.  I play bars, state fairs, weddings, Ramada Inns, but I can’t seem to break into the mainstream.”

“I’m sorry, Sos.  It can be discouraging, I know.”

“I’ve got an agent now.”  She put a wad of underwear in a drawer.  “That’s at least a start.  She does know how to book jobs and I’m getting a lot of them—not the ones I really want but jobs.  I’ve done four shows per week for the last two months.  She’s trying to use her old connections to get me a recording contract.”

“Well, I wish her the best.  You still dating David?”

“Yes and no.”

“That’s a riddle.  Either you are or you aren’t.”

“He wants to marry me.”

She stood up and glanced down at Geri, who did not know if she should smile.  Her face rested somewhere between looks.

“And?”

“I don’t know, Geri.”

“I always thought David was a good man,” she said cautiously.  “I mean, I’ve only been around him two or three times but I really liked him.”

“He’s a fabulous guy.  I’m just not sure I want to marry him—or anyone else.  I’ve got my career to think about.”

Geri took a step closer to her.

“Well, Sossity, you know what I would say about hat.  If you find a man who really loves you, you should get married.  That’s God’s way.”

“I like the first part about a man who really loves you.  We can leave God out of it, I think.”

“Sossity, that’s not true.  If you don’t build your marriage on God, it won’t go anywhere.”

Sossity thought of a sarcastic quip but decided against giving it voice. 

“I know you think that, Geri, and I guess it’s good, but I’ve had some bad experiences with religion.”

Geri did not reply.  She knew about Sossity’s mother’s conversion to fundamentalist Christianity.  It had happened when Sossity was fourteen and severely strained her family’s life.  She stepped close to Geri and put her arms around her.

“Let’s not argue about religion,” Sossity said.  “I love you too much for that.  Thanks for inviting me here.  It’s so quiet.  I love it already.”

Geri, a very sensitive girl, had tears in her eyes.  Sossity held her, remembering their friendship, a friendship they had somehow maintained through years of going separate paths and hardly seeing one another.

“So what’s on the agenda?  I hear they really schedule things around here.”

“It’s all posted downstairs by the front door.  Next thing is Vespers.  After that maybe we can go for a walk before supper.”

“That sounds good.”  Sossity glanced at her watch.  “I think I’ll take a nap.”

Geri said she’d come and get her friend so they would not be late for Matins (one of the two required services for visitors at the monastery) and left.  Sossity lay down.

She thought of the oddities surrounding Saint Ambrose Abby.  It was Episcopal.  Sossity had been raised in that religion and had not even known the Episcopal church maintained religious orders (she found out when her roommate in London, Heather Simmons, told her she planned to be an Anglican nun).  The abbot, Cooper Barnsfeld, however, was a convert to Roman Catholicism.  Many of the people like Geri who lived on or near the abbey and actively participated in its ministries were Protestants (Geri and Jason were Baptist).  The charismatic dynamic of speaking in tongues and healing—a thing Sossity found the most dubious phase of contemporary Christianity—seemed to be the leveling belief that held this denominational and theological menagerie together.

And the ministry was well-known.  It maintained a drug rehabilitation center, of which Geri and Jason were graduates.  The abbey operated a homeless shelter in Chicago and one in Detroit and distributed food in several locations across northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

They were big in the Christian music industry too, Sossity reflected.  Cooper Barnsfield had belonged to a highly successful rock group in the sixties.  After he converted to Catholicism and joined a religious order, he began releasing albums that mixed folk and light rock with liturgical styles, chant, and ancient praise music.  His contemplative easy-listening sound caught on with Catholics and evangelical Protestants alike and sold in the millions.  Geri, also a former pop star with a conversion story, joined his label and put out cuts of her own.  She had enjoyed similar success.  Several lesser lights recorded on the Abbey-Path label, making it a formidable force in the contemporary Christian music.

As sleep started to claim her, she smiled, remembering the days when Geri was even more irreligious than she.  Once they had done a blasphemous skit at a London poetry slam.  Four of them—Sossity in a very short mini-dress, Geri in a long, lacy frock, and two young men whose names she could not remember—sat in chairs up front, smiling syrupy smiles and talking in pious, pleasant voices while evangelical hymns played in the background.  They talked about their show, “North London Love Church.”  Someone put a basketful of bread on the edge of the platform-stage and announced that the TV show had begun a ministry to the poor.  An actor dressed as a homeless man crawled up and crammed a roll into his mouth.  Sossity and one of the young men leaped up, grabbed him, shoved into a chair, tied him up, and began hitting him with rubber hose-lengths, all the while demanding he confess belief in Jesus.  After a substantial beating, he confessed, saying he had asked Jesus into his heart.  Sossity and her co-actor resumed their placid manners, smiled sat down, and talked about how blessed it was to make a new convert.  Sossity got up, yanked the half-eaten roll from their prisoner’s mouth and tossed it back in the basket.

It got worse, she remembered, smiling even more. 

“And now our dear Sister Geraldine,” she had said, “will give a talk on the subject of Christian safe sex.”

Geri stood up.

“Brothers and sister,” she said piously, “sex is the Devil’s heat.” 

She announced a new method of Christian contraception, took out a silver cross, unrolled a condom, inverted the cross, and fitted the condom over the end of it.

“Now,” she said in a lilting voice, “does anyone want to experience this wonderful, blessed state of spiritual communion with no danger of unwanted pregnancy?”

Two people planted in the audience agreed.  Geri led them to a room just to the right side of the stage.  Sossity and the male actor began talking about their ministry in sanctimonious voices but were soon drowned out by groans and cries of pained ecstasy coming form the room where Geri had taken the couple.  Sossity said goodnight and God bless to the audience and added, “We also want all your money.  Don’t give your money to the Lord, give it to us!”  Then she and her co-actor hurried into the room where Geri had gone.  After a moment, they added their voices to the loud sexual groaning.

Things had changed, she thought, as she saw the sign for the entrance to the abbey through the window of the small guest room.  Geri had sent her a pamphlet on it.  You were not to speak except in the guest house.  Meals were eaten in silence.  You did not carry on conversations while walking from place to place.  You had to attend two religious services a day.  This fostered a calm, placid atmosphere, the brochure said, that encouraged meditation and made prayer natural.

Sossity drifted off to sleep.
 
She woke when a gust of wind buffeted the building.  She got up, walked to the window, and looked toward the back acreage of the abbey.  A red clay road ran through a wide meadow back into thick, dense woods.  The abbey operated a logging business.  Patients in the latter phrases of the drug rehab program worked there to regain their physical stamina.

As she watched, a line of mule deer crossed the meadow.  Dubious as she was about the salutary nature of religion, she had to admit it had probably saved Geri’s life.

She looked at her watch.  Five minutes until meal time.  She hurried over to the dining hall.  Geri was not there.

Remembering the rule of silence, she took a place at one of the long tables.  The monks sat at a table on the other side of the room, the guests at a table opposite.  She glanced around:  two men and nine women.  All the women were dressed in blue blouses and long tan skirts just like the one Geri wore.  Sossity realized this was a uniform of sorts, not just a plain outfit Geri had chosen, as she had originally thought.  All nine of the women at the guest table were members of the “fellowship,” as she called it.  The men at the table wore blue shirts and khaki trousers.  Both men had beards.

One of the monks prayed.  Everyone sat and began eating.   Geri had told her the food would be vegetarian since it was the Lenten season.  But the squash-fennel soup was quite good.  Bread and fruit sat on the table as well and there was milk, orange juice, coffee and tea available at the sideboard.  She ate, smiling at the woman across from her.  The woman returned her smile but Sossity thought she looked harried and wondered if she were undergoing some taxing regimen of prayers and vigils, as the haggard look on her face suggested.  Glancing at the other women, she noticed a similar look of fatigue and blandness on all their faces as they mechanically shoved soup and bread into their mouths.

A monk sitting at a lectern read from the Bible.  Though she seldom read it herself, and even then not for devotional purposes, Sossity knew the Bible well from her teenage years when her mother would read to her every morning and also insisted the two of them do a “Bible study” together.  In three years they studied the entire New Testament.  The passage the monk read was one of the letters of Paul?  Corinthians? she wondered.  She could not quite remember:

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.  Mine answer to them that do examine me is this:  Have we not power to eat and to drink?  Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
 
She listened, wondering if Geri would show up.  The meal continued, silent but for the reading.  Sossity finished her soup, spread a piece of sourdough bread with blackberry jam, ate that and drank her milk and took her dishes over to the dutiful monk collecting them on a metal restaurant cart.  He smiled at her, though the smile seemed more like a leer.  She went into the foyer and then outside, telling herself not to be so judgmental.

A mist blew through the air.  Clouds scudded overhead, so close to the ground she felt she might touch them.   Trees shook in the wind.  As she walked the path back to the guest house, she saw Geri’s car pull up.  She hurried along and came up beside her as she got out and opened the trunk.

“You missed supper.”

Geri gasped and started.  She turned to face Sossity.

“Sorry,” Sossity laughed.  “I didn’t mean to scare you.

“I didn’t hear you walk up,” her friend answered grumpily.

Sossity glanced into the trunk.  Six jugs of milk, two bags of apples and a ream of eight brown loaves of bread, and a huge jar of peanut butter filled the small space beside the spare tire and jumper cables.

“We’re low on food,” Geri explained, “because some brothers from another monastery are visiting.  I had to pick up some supplies.”

Sossity noticed something.  She picked up a plastic bag of multi-colored individually wrapped condoms.   Smiling merrily, she held it high.

“Are these for the monks too?”

Geri reddened.  “No.  Put those down.  They’re Jason’s and mine!”

Sossity threw the bag into the trunk.

“Well, I’m encouraged that you use so many.  You guys must really get it on a lot.”

“We buy them in bulk through the mail.  That’s a whole year’s supply.”

Sossity laughed.  “Buy them in bulk!  Now that’s really cool—just like I buy almonds and gummy worms.  Do they have them in bins like all the other bulk items?  Do you get them out with a scoop and write the price code on the bag you put them in?”

Geri clenched her fists.

“Sos, I’m not in the mood for joking and this isn’t the time or the place for it.  And we’re not supposed to be talking out here.”  Then Geri burst into tears.

Sossity stared for a moment before concern kicked in and prompted action.  She put her arms around Geri, who laid her head on her friend’s shoulder and sobbed bitterly, her body shaking.  Sossity touched her hair and hugged her.  This made her cry harder.

On the one hand, Sossity felt concern for her friend;  on the other hand, she wondered what it was about this place made women look so haggard and made them cry.

As Geri sobbed, Sossity remembered their London days.  After the tour, Geri helped her get jobs at folk clubs and bars around town.  She and Sossity drank together and saw each other quite a bit.  One night, Sossity decided to let a German tourist she met take her to bed.  Since her religious roommate, Heather, was home at her apartment, she called Geri and asked her if she could borrow her bedroom.

“Well, Jason is coming over,” she giggled, “but bring your friend here and we’ll make it foursome.”

That night all four of them screwed in the same bed.  They did not swap partners but had simultaneous sex, one couple to a side, Geri and Jason and Sossity and her new-found friend, Jergen.

Though sexually active since high school, Sossity was generally conservative about matters of intimacy.  Double sex with Geri and two others was the kinkiest thing she had ever done and one of the few times she had pushed the limits that far.

Yet it was also one of the loveliest and sublime moments she had known.  Being next to Geri when she was in the throes of passion, hearing her moans and gasps she shared herself with the man she loved, being close enough that in the middle of it their arms and shoulders brushed and they could feel each other’s heat—all of that had riveted the event in Sossity’s mind as being particularly tender and sacred.  It had bonded her to Geri forever.  Afterward all four of them slept.  The men woke later and went into the kitchen to cook breakfast.  Sossity opened her eyes and saw Geri.  Geri woke and smiled.  Sossity gave her a kiss on the mouth.  She took Sossity’s fingers and kissed them.  After that they both dozed until Jergen and Jason announced breakfast.

Geri sobbed.

“Tell me what you want to tell, baby,” Sossity said to her.

Her friend tried to speak but could not.  Finally, she drew away from Sossity’s shoulder.

“Help me carry this stuff over to the dining hall,” she said, sniffing away her tears. 

Sossity felt the wind-driven mist cool her face and heard the branches of the trees shake.

“Okay.  Then will you talk to me?”

“One thing at a time,” Geri said, making a huge effort to stay in control of herself.

They picked up the food and carried it to the dining hall.  Rain began falling as they walked through the door.  The two women took the food into the kitchen and put it away.  A heavy shower droned on the roof.  Silence fell but for the thrum of the rain on the roof.  Sossity came close to Geri, who was looking out a window.

“So what is it?”

Geri did not speak for a long while.

“Jason had to go,” she finally said.

“Go?  Where?”

“They sent him to Chicago.”

“Why did they do that?”

“I don’t know.  Some kind of ministry up there needed staffing so he was sent on assignment.”

“How long will he be gone?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?  You’re his wife, for Christ’s sake!  You have a right to know where they send your husband!”

“Please don’t use the Lord’s name in vain,” Geri intoned piously.

“Don’t preach at me.  Look here!”  Geri turned and met her eyes.  Sossity noticed the same haggard, exhausted expression she had seen on the faces of the other women at the monastery.  “I try to be open-minded, Geri.  But when I see someone I love being ordered around by a religious group, I start thinking Jim Jones and Heaven’s Gate.  It’s easy for a religious group to turn into a cult.”

“You think that’s what’s happening here?” Geri shot back, her voice sharp and defensive.

“You tell me.  I see women here dressed identically and walking around like zombies.  I find out these people are sending your husband away from you and not even telling you why or for how long.   Pardon me, Geraldine Muir, but I do detect a whiff of cultism in all of that.  I care about you too much to let you fall into that kind of thing.  If I’m wrong I’ll admit it and I’ll apologize.  But I don’t like what I’m seeing and hearing.”

Geri pursed her lips.  She contemplated a moment then looked up at Sossity.  Her face softened.  The combative look melted away.

“Can we talk tonight?  I promise I’ll be honest, Sossity.  But now I need to think of something to do for the worship service.  I’m supposed to lead but with Jason gone I don’t have a guitar player.”

Sossity pointed to herself.

“You have me—the ultimate girl with guitar.”  She tried to joke to break the gloom of their conversation, which had been as grey and depressing as the weather outside.

“You probably don’t know the songs.”

But it turned out Sossity knew all of them.  They were standard evangelical praise choruses and she had played them repeatedly for Heather when she conducted Bible studies in their apartment in London.

“Okay.  That helps.  You can’t wear pants, though.  You have to wear a skirt.  I’m sorry, but those are the rules for anyone who is part of the worship team.”

“I have a skirt in my suitcase,” Sossity answered.  “It’s even tan like yours.  And I think I have a blue blouse too.”

“I know you don’t like restrictions, but if you could go along and not wear your jeans it would be better.”

She smiled.   “Blue blouse, tan skirt—I’ll look like I’m one of the team.”

Geri looked pained when Sossity said this.
 
Back in her room, Sossity opened a drawer and pulled out the tan skirt.  She would not call it a mini but it was short enough.  Over the years she had learned that performing in a short skirt got her better tips, especially if the audience was predominantly male, and so she had worn it at a gig in Crown Point, Indiana, last night.  She slipped into it, put on a camisole and a long-sleeved blue blouse, which she unbuttoned to the waist.  Geri would be pissed, but it was time to stop conforming and stop being nice.  If they thought her a reprobate, damn it, she would try to act like one.  She picked up her guitar case and hurried over to the chapel. 

She slipped into a seat by the choir loft and began to tune her guitar.  Geri came in and waved
at her as she took her place in front.  The room began to fill.  Several monks filed in and took their appointed positions in the chantry.  Several more (the visiting brothers, Sossity surmised) sat in another section of the chapel.  The visitors and the women and men in the “fellowship” filled the common pews at the end far end of the room.

She recognized Cooper Barnsfeld.  She remembered him from his early albums:  a handsome, dark-haired man with piercing eyes and a black beard in a serge monk’s robe.   Age had taken its toll on him:  his face was pudgy and he wore glasses;  his hair had thinned and he had developed a paunch.  She finished tuning her guitar.  Geri came front and center, standing a few yards away from the high colored glass windows and the rustic crucifix.  She smiled and welcomed everyone.  She introduced Sossity, still sitting behind the wooden wainscoting of the back choir.  She waved.

“Let me open in prayer and then we’ll begin with a worship chorus, ‘Seek Ye First.’”

While she prayed, Sossity stepped up behind her.  After the amen she began playing.  Geri did not look around the whole time she led singing.  Sossity enjoyed the wide-eyed looks she got.  The monks as well as the audience seemed mildly appalled at the way she was dressed.  Geri, caught up in song-leading did not notice the audience and still did not look back.  They sang “Be Glorified” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.”  Sossity sat down where she had been before and Geri joined the other women in the back pews.

The service proceeded.  It began as an evangelical service with singing and impromptu prayer but then segued into traditional Matins with chanting and readings.  She observed the monks and the women.  She could glean little from her observations.  Everyone’s faces looked placid and impenetrable.  People closed their eyes and raised their hands or chanted along with the monks, lost in the mournful happiness of worship.  A bad attitude had conquered her and she did not try to participate at all even though, as a cradle Episcopalian, she knew all the responses.  She sat and watched.  Something was not right. 

After a final prayer, the service ended.  The monks filed out.  The congregation got to its feet and started toward the doors.  Sossity saw Geri coming her way.  She stepped out from behind the choir loft.  Geri stopped in her tracks.  The smiled faded from her face.  Sossity raised her eyebrows.  Geri turned and hurried out of the chapel.

Sossity turned and knelt down to put her guitar away.  She became aware of people near her and turned to see two young bearded monks standing near-by.

“Great music.  You play very well,” one of them said.

Sossity snapped the fasteners on her case.  She stood up and set her case on end.

“Thanks.”

“Do you play here regularly?” the same monk asked.

The other sat down on the edge of a pew.  Sossity stood on a raised platform not far from the altar. 

“I’m a guest.  Just visiting.  I’m friends with Geri Muir.”

“Well, good job, sister” the other monk said.

She looked at him a long moment.  Their eyes met.  Realization dawned on her.  Now she saw it.  She picked up her guitar.

“I’m not your fucking sister,” she said.

She turned and left the chapel.
 
She went to Geri’s room and entered without knocking.  Geri stood looking at the window at the pouring rain.  It was dark now.  Thunder rumbled.  As soon as the door closed Geri spoke without looking around.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Sossity.”

Sossity walked closed to her and stood just by her shoulder.

“Yes I should have.  You said we were going to talk and you said you would be honest with me.  But you don’t have to be because I’ve figured it out.  I know now what’s happening.”

Geri said nothing.  She continued to stare out the window.

“How long has this been going on?” Sossity asked after a long pause.

Geri did not reply.  Sossity wondered if she would retreat to silence but then she heard her voice, oddly clear over the thrum of rain.

“Two years.”

“Do you just screw Cooper or the others too?”

Geri drew in a breath as if to compose herself or because she had a lot to say or knew what she was going to say would require a lot of energy.

“At first, it was only him.  Then some of the others.”

Lightning flashed.  Thunder rolled.

“I don’t see how a girl with your intelligence and your spirit could ever get caught up in something like this.”

“You don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t.  I don’t understand why you would let these men make you their whore.  You’ll have to enlighten me.”

“Because they saved my life.  If they hadn’t helped me, I’d be dead.  And you know that, Sossity.  You saw how far gone I was.  I felt like I’d already started to die, like I had began the journey toward death and nothing could reverse it.  Then they helped me.  He healed me and brought me there and made me strong again.  The same for Jason.  We were given our lives back.”

“And that gives him a right to sexually abuse you?”

“No,” she said in a very small voice.

Another silence came.  Sossity had to collect her thoughts.

“Does Jason know?”

“I’m not sure.  I think he suspects but . . . he hasn’t said anything.  Maybe he doesn’t want to know.”

“If he really loved you he would try to find out.  I’m taking you, Geri.  We’ll go to my apartment.  I don’t have very much room, but we’ll work something out.  I can’t let you stay here.  I’m taking you if I have to beat the shit out of you and stuff you in the trunk of my car.   I can’t let you stay here and be used.  I can’t.”

Geri finally turned and looked at her.

“I want to go home, Sossity.”

Sossity said nothing.

“I want to go home,” she repeated.  “I want to go to my house.  Jason and I still own it.  We haven’t signed it over yet.”

“Signed it over?  You mean they’re taking your property too?”

“To be a full member of the fellowship you have to relinquish all your possessions.  We have the paperwork drawn up to sign over our house and the rights and royalties to my music.  But we haven’t signed them.”

“And you’re not going to,” Sossity said, putting her hands on Geri’s shoulders and pushing her against the wall.  “You are not going to,” she articulated.  “Where’s your house?”

“In Battle Creek.”

“I’ll drive you there.  You’ll burn those papers.  I want to see you burn them.  And we’ll call Jason and tell him everything.”

“I don’t know how to contact him.”

“We’ll find out how to contact him.”

“I think I know where they sent him.”

“Then we’ll get the phone number.  If we can’t get him on the phone, we’ll drive to Chicago and drag his ass out of there.”

“Sossity, you’re hurting me.”

Sossity backed off.  Geri rubbed her shoulders where Sossity had gripped her.

“Get your stuff.  We’re leaving.” 

Geri loaded her things into three cloth carrying bags and she and Sossity went downstairs.

“You can follow me, Sos.  We’ll drive to my house together.  I’ll burn the papers and we’ll get hold of Jason.”

Sossity tossed her bag and guitar in the back seat of her Merkur.  She went over and helped Geri lift her things into her Toyota.  She noticed, lying on the back seat, the bag of condoms.

“The condoms.  Those were for the guys here, weren’t they?”

Geri nodded.  They finished loading her luggage when a man’s voice called her name.

“Geri!”

They turned and saw Cooper Barnsfeld.  He stood by the door to the guest house.  He wore his black clerical garment.  His black-rimmed glasses reflected the light above the door so they could not see his eyes. 

Geri stood a moment, then reached in the open door of her car, took out the plastic bag of condoms, and, with a roar that indicated both hatred and anguish, flung it at him.  The bag hit him in the face, knocking his glasses sideways;  the zip lock on it split open and the condoms spilled out, falling all about Barnsfield in a colorful shower of red, orange, green, purple and blue.  Geri climbed in her car.  Sossity flipped him and got in her own car.  She waited a second, saw the Toyota’s taillights come on, their red reflected in the streaking rain and the cloud of exhaust that gushed out of the tailpipe.  Sossity started her car and followed Geri down the long gravel drive that led out of the abbey to the newly paved public highway that would take them to Battle Creek.
 


© David Landrum

David has published lots of poetry and has published fiction in Amarillo Bay, Loch Raven Review, Potomac, and others.