Vestments by John Reimringer

from Chapter One

Saturday morning in Saint Paul, church bells ringing the hour. I was in the dining room of my mother’s house, celebrating Mass, when we heard my father arrive—the rattle of a rusted exhaust, the backfire of a badly tuned engine. He’d come to drop off his alimony. For a moment I lost my place in the small sacramentary that lay open on the dining-room table. “It’s just the old man,” I said, then put a forefinger on the words of the Eucharistic Prayer and went on. Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body, which will be given up for you. My mother’s eyes rose with the Host. My Lord and my God, she mouthed.

At breakfast, she’d asked me to say Mass: “It’s your first weekend home, let’s make it special,” and we left it at that. I stood at the dining-room table—its scarred walnut top cleared this morning of Mom’s fabric patterns and sewing machine—with my mother in her bathrobe for a congregation and the neighbor’s teenage son out front on his skateboard. The back-and-forth rumble of the wheels and the clatter of the board when the boy tried a jump kept interrupting the introductory rites and the readings, but with the consecration of bread and wine the sounds outside faded. I set the chalice back on the corporal—In memory of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you—and at that moment I could have been back on the altar at Saint Hieronymus.

Of course, I wasn’t, and now my father was getting out of his old Buick and coming up the walk. He stopped to make a gruff joke to the neighbor boy, and I turned a page and intoned: Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Amen.” Mom bowed her head for the Lord’s Prayer, and in the middle of it, we heard Dad’s heavy steps in his work shoes cross the front porch. Then he barged through the open screen door without knocking and came to a stop in the living room, taking in Mom and me facing each other across the dinner table.

The skateboard rumbled down the sidewalk. Dad glanced over his shoulder. “Goddamn, Maura, don’t you ever get tired of that fucking noise?”

Mom shook her head. “He’s not out there much these days,” she said. “He’s got a car and a girlfriend now.”

The old man frowned. “Hell, I’d’ve known that was all it took, I’d’ve bought him a whore down on University about four years ago.”

“Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day,” I said, raising my voice to remind Mom we hadn’t finished. Dad started, then came and leaned in the dining room archway, burly forearms crossed, pale eyes following my every gesture.

From Vestments by John Reimringer. Copyright © 2010 by John Reimringer. Excerpted with permission of Milkweed Editions.