Evening Prayer by Abigail Wyatt

May 21, 2012 Comments Off on Evening Prayer by Abigail Wyatt

Judith screws her eyes tight shut and tries to empty her mind. Hers was not a religious home, so she never really learned how to pray. Even if she’d had, it wouldn’t be easy with so many distractions: hushed whispers, moans and sighs, all that restless fidgeting. Too many people crowded in too close.

Two seats away to Judith’s right, a flame-haired infant is grizzling. He isn’t crying properly yet, but he will be soon. The child’s mother, awkward and flustered, shushes and tries to soothe him but his monkey face grows red and crumples as his whimpering rises to a squall.

To her right hand side, an ashen-faced man coughs and splutters and wheezes. The phlegm rattles in his chest, and he seems to gulp at the air. He smells of tobacco, aftershave, ancient sweat, and peppermint. The stink of him invades Judith’s nostrils, but Judith is aware that Father Andrew is seated just three rows in front of her. She tries to breathe deeply, allowing herself to drift on the current of his voice. For a time, his words are smooth and comforting, but then something snags on her consciousness. It gnaws away at her peace of mind till she is forced to open her eyes.

As though in slow motion, she sees the face of Father Andrew: the old priest’s lips are mouthing words, but his eyes are stark and wide. His hollow cheeks are deathly pale as he stares past the whole congregation. Judith feels her heart lurch up into her mouth as she follows the line of his gaze. Fixed on a point fifty feet away, there is no mistaking it: two dark fins are bearing down towards their starboard side.

Judith turns in silent appeal to the frozen figure of the cleric — a gust of wind whipping at his skirts and tugging at the roots of her hair as the swell of a wave picks up the orange inflatable.

Judith swallows hard and closes her eyes.

© 2012 Abigail Wyatt

Abigail Wyatt lives in Redruth in Cornwall. She publishes poetry and short fiction and read regularly at The Melting Pot, Krowji, The Unplugged Chameleon, St Ives, and The Bespoken Word, Penzance.

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