Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Martha Maguire's Afternoon Stint

Terry Collett

Martha Maguire sat in the church; she sat staring at the crucifix above the altar with her legs crossed, her hands folded together resting on her knees. The crucified aged by time, dust and grime, hung with eyes closed as if he was trying to shut out the agonized pain of the world. She breathed in slowly, let her eyes scan over the wooden Christ, the battered old cross from which he hung. She sighed. She’d acquired a fascination with crucifixes in recent months; couldn’t explain why or precisely when it’d begun. She fidgeted, let her leg swing over the other so that her foot was rising and falling like a child at play. The church was empty; the silence was taunting; the smell of incense hung on the air. Her two friends Mary and Magdalene had gone off with two boys from the town that had absconded from school, like the girls themselves, and were probably doing things that Martha did not want to think about at that moment. Anyway, she’d no desire to play gooseberry or hang around like a pork chop at a Jewish wedding. The crucified was speechless; not a word escaped from his wooden lips. If only he’d say something, she mused, scrunching her hands together like one in desperate prayer. Just a slight movement from him, a small gesture of movement, she muttered. The mass had long ended, but the smell of it still hung about the church like alcohol on her da’s breath. There was a smell of damp wood and bodies; incense still clung to the air like a man hanging from a cliff edge. Was it true what Magdalene said about Sister Lucy Father Joseph? she mused, letting her eyes wander off from the crucifix and settle on the side chapel with its statute of the Virgin. The place full of flowers and plants that made it stink like a florist, with a combination of new and dying flowers; the smell of stake breath from whispered prayers, she thought, pushing away the idea of the nun and the priest and whatever Magdalene had rumoured. Are you listening? she’d asked the crucified in a whisper, turning her gaze back to the place above the altar. However, no reply came; just silence; just that dull silence. Sighed. Fidgeted. Breathed in deep. Sister Agnes had spoken of seeing angels, had caught her imagination like a fish on a hook, reeled her in, to the point that she sat there in the church wondering if the crucified was going to speak, or some angel come down and sit with her in the pews and speak things or just sit there and smile. None came. No smile or whispered words, certainly no movement from the crucified hanging there on his battered cross with his eyes closed, his lips sealed. She sighed, closed her eyes, wiggled her numb backside, uncrossed her legs, imagined it all instead, inside her fourteen years old head and brain, hoped that this time she’d not be disappointed as she often was by her da’s promises and drunken words that danced in her memory like taunting demons of the night.


Terry Collett has been writing since 1972. He has had two slim volumes of poems published in 1974 and 1978. Since that time he has had poems printed in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers.


© Terry Collett

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012