grew into rather than out of. Her face was thinner now than in the photo,high cheekbones more defined. I watched her lips move and reshape herface as she read to us from the book of Luke.
A man held his shriveled arm out to Jesus and he was healed. To thewomen, this meant we had to stop averting our eyes from the broken.God’s power was greatest when it was most transformative. Each of uscarried our own shriveled arms, in need of holy transformation.
I shifted in my seat, the rocking chair creaking as it propelled meforward.
“Did you have something to share, Laura?” Rosalind asked.
I shook my head. “It was the chair.”Their smiles wavered but held.
“Could I use your bathroom?” I clutched my purse like I had something important to do.
Rosalind pointed the way. I didn’t need the bathroom, actually, so Iwashed my hands and dried them on the mint-green towels. The mirrorreflected a framed picture of a mountain lion prowling on the wall behind me. Pete’s contribution, probably. It had no place against the coralwallpaper, opposite the arrangement of candles and potpourri and littlepastel soaps wrapped in plastic. A box of matches sat on top of the toilet,next to a collection of burned ones in a little glass jar. It was all too cleanto be the bathroom they actually used, but I looked behind the mirroranyway. Bottles of aspirin and ibuprofen, Band-Aids, hydrogen peroxide, a pink lotion made with all-natural beeswax! (exclamation pointfrom product label). Nothing in their house looked natural.
The women were still talking when I returned. I motioned to Rosalind that I was stepping outside. It didn’t feel right to smoke on theirlawn, so I walked to my car and sat against the hood. The sun was down,the sky still dappled with swathes of a violet so gentle it softened thebite of the October chill. They lived on one of the new streets. Sprawlingmultistory houses, combed lawns, well-placed topiaries. And in the distance, the cornfields, the woods, the old mill.
There had been a time, after the paper-mill explosion, when everyone was pushing to move away and those who found jobs or came intomoney did so. I was fourteen and Pete seventeen. Even then, I knew Ihad to get out. Later, drawn by the strange beauty of the sunsets or whatever else, a new group of residents flooded in, rebuilding the town so itwas almost an attraction. It offered some odd glamour missing from the