The sky over Bancroft Parkway was drinkable. October saints, Maggie said to herself. Francis of Assisi on the fourth, Teresa of Avila on the fifteenth, Ambrose on the sixteenth. As she walked along the sidewalk in front of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Maggie thought about dogs blessed by Francis, pagans converted by Ambrose and the heart of Teresa on fire.
She brushed her fingers along the black iron gate that enclosed the church’s rectory garden. She turned the corner where the gate and garden continued down the narrow side-street. Behind the gate, oak trees disturbed the ground with their gnarled roots and held up the sky with their golden canopies. Maggie noticed that the trees had been shedding their leaves, and wondered what would happen to the sky once the branches were bare. The gingerbread-colored leaves scattered in the dirt resembled faces, faces wrinkled with worry, and their blades looked like hands reaching out for other hands. Maggie knelt, extended her arm through the gate and picked up a leaf. When she pulled her arm back through the gate, the leaf became dust in her palm. Maggie stared at the dust in her hand and touched her chest with her other hand, groping for the crucifix around her neck. When she found it, she glanced at the marginless sky, her breath quick.
Maggie wiped her dirty hand on her school uniform skirt, took a deep breath and carried on walking. In the distance she saw houses with trees in their yards, trees of many colors, trees dropping their leaves. The sky shimmering above them. Luke is on the eighteenth, she said, her eyes attempting to stay focused on the sidewalk ahead of her. Poor Ursula is on the twenty-first, and, of course, Jude Thaddeus on the twenty-eighth.
The next Great Flood was expected at any moment. The clouds that had gathered over Sycamore Avenue were charcoal and plum.
The boy sat on the curb in front of his house playing a game whose rules were loosely constructed. When one of the rules demanded he put his face near the gutter, he saw an ant. The ant was alone and moving closer to the dark hole in the street.
He extended his right pointer finger to the ant, and the ant slowly made its way onto his fingertip. He lifted his finger and peered at the ant: It was shinier than the boy expected. He carried the ant to the maple tree trembling in his front yard and let it go in the soil beneath it.
The boy watched intently as the ant clambered over the hunks and dips of the cultivated earth. But then thunder startled him, and he swiveled his head upward to watch a lightning flash illuminate the clouds. Another peal of thunder followed. The boy looked down at the soil and searched for the ant, but it was lost to him. He got up from the ground and hurried into the house.
Through the window he saw another lightning bolt, and remembered how the ant gleamed on his finger.
That night, as raindrops beat against his bedroom, he dreamed he was crawling in the dirt.
Last night I had a dream in which I met a star that wore a coat and hat, asking for directions in the middle of the street. But all I could respond with was to ask it if it knew you. This morning I walked to the edge of the sidewalk and looked in both directions, wondering which church, or cafe, maybe, the star needed to get to.
An hour later I met you at the park that was close to neither of us. Your hair was loose around your shoulders instead of tied behind your head. I felt the late September sun on me like a magnifying glass. You handed me a pair of my jeans, folded, and the Rilke books I lent you. You asked me how I was; I had a thought to tell you about my dream, but instead said something forgettable.
The sky was a hard, real blue. Before you turned to go back to your car, you said, Your necklace is pretty. I like it.
Your mother gave it to me. I wear it every Tuesday.
Lindsey Warren is a graduate of Cornell University’s MFA program. She has been published in Rabid Oak, Josephine Quarterly, American Literary Review and Hobart, among others. Lindsey has been a finalist for the Delaware Literary Connection Prize and the Joy Harjo Prize.