Several heads turned to Marian; some, she thought with strange, sympathetic glances like winks of acknowledgement. Marian smiled and pretended to fuss with her children. In fact in no time at all Katy was digging into her nose with a finger and Marian occupied herself by delivering yet another warning, quietly into her daughter’s ear. Several passages from the bible were read by the woman with the lisp—her rudimentary delivery, her fazed and jangled appearance, the passion and heritage that seemed to lie inside her words, speaking their own sermon comforted Marian, were an object of playful ridicule for her children sometimes around the house—“Esh a ah two-edged shword…”, but this morning she faltered, wept and was ushered away from the pulpit by one of her sons, shuddering and covering her face.
The deacon arose and adjusted his spectacles to deliver the sermon.
Kel found out from the television—he found out from the television at the same time as the call came through, though they implored his forgiveness—the lines were bad, they had tried earlier, there was a mix-up. Yet now, now there it was on the television. It was the CEO of the airline stating that the airplane—the one his mother and father had been on, were supposed to be off, in a hotel somewhere, organising luggage, complaining of airport-provided accomodation in the layover, trying but failing somehow to get through to him with news of their cancelled flight—this airplane was gone.
Kel had won a jackpot at a rodeo once, when he was twenty-three. It was called “Chase the Ace”; all one had to do was throw a dart at a wall covered with back-facing playing cards and hit the ace of spades. When the lady had pulled his card from the wall and showed that it was, indeed, the ace of spades, something for a moment stopped working for Kel—there was a very sudden, jarring suspension of reality for him, a shock like falling into a frigid pool. He remembered vividly everything that was happening around him, though it was years ago and nothing else was really remarkable about that day, and it was because he was suddenly plunged into the present moment. The normally unconscious flow of things, the structure of the world and of life suddenly imposed itself on him and he was experiencing what was around him and what was there rather than the resampled, Morphean picture show he understood as “life”, as “here” and “now”. It was this strange and lingering state that followed him around in the war, that woke him up night after night afterward, and reappeared now, in this moment. A discomfiting consciousness of the situation and of his own experiencing of it. The phone he destroyed—beating the receiver against the cradle until the guts of it hung out and he could no longer hear the man’s voice, then the kitchen wall above the stove was taken care of—he beat at the tiles until they were shattered and drooping and the skin of his knuckles was lacerated and bleeding, and he felt the punishment of broken bones, the punishment of broken tiles, the nonsense and foolishness of clattering pots and pans.