Intermezzo by Katherine Swett
June 5, 2014 Comments Off on Intermezzo by Katherine Swett
As she sits down to dinner, the girl with her blue ribbon knows there are spirits restless in the electric wires. Up next to the curled tree that rocks in the wind, they shake the light inside the house. The girl sees them through the window, and places her ribbon in her lap. Earlier, at 5 o’clock, she asked Maria Bonacella why the spirits quake, but Maria never speaks of her own.
When Mother plates her rack of lamb, the girl asks Maria to tie her hair back for her, but Maria has disappeared again. The girl is disappointed. She only really wanted to tell her: Every night I dream that I’m at the church. It’s cold inside the sanctuary, and an old man is lying on the pew. I ask him who he is. Behemoth. I ignore him. He says his skin is too tight, and will I play for him. I first ask him if it is he who is always dancing on the wires, and could he please stay on the ground. He laughs. When I play Chopin, he falls asleep.
She knows the spirits that fly in and out of the cupboards. She watches them as they find all the hollow spaces in the house and fill them. Sometimes the girl looks down and sees that a great blackness is swirling inside of her, too. Is this my stomach? she wonders, all these things flowing in and out of her like smoke through a screen door. She worries she is something in-between. That she is the many gray things passing through herself. “Pace, bella, pace,” Maria whispers.
Father stretches the yellow tablecloth between his fingers. The girl wraps the ribbon around her pinkie finger, and watches as dark things flutter about his mouth. “We will pray,” Mother says to him, and they close their eyes. The girl carries her dishes to the sink, looking for Maria in the kitchen, but only finding herself as she wanders from room to room.
After dinner, the family gathers around the television. The girl, having dropped the blue ribbon between dining room and living room, tucks her feet into her body, and wants to tell her parents that she met St. Andrew last week: He was fishing from the roof of the church, and told me to come up. When he handed me the pole, I could see that the line was caught. I tried to reel it in, but the whole church split open, and the dark ground beneath it too. The crack spread all the way down Main St., past the old Courthouse, and straight up to the mountains, light pouring out the whole way. In the end, the line snapped, and the ground closed up, and we were left with nothing.
But the girl stays silent for the moment, listening to the television and to her mother, who is snoring gently on her shoulder.
© 2014 Katherine Swett
Katherine Swett graduated from George Mason’s MFA program in 2012. She is currently a Neuroscience research fellow at Vanderbilt University, where she studies language in the brain.