He likes to come here to sit because here he can’t see the driver’s faces. The parade of cars in the interim between masses is full of drab colors – muted reds, tans, whites, grays – all of which are self-driving. From the bench where he sits, the horizontal wooden slats of the fence hit at precisely the level of the driver. No one stops here so no one ever gets out or gets in. Just an endless parade of remote controlled vehicles.
The air smells of incense, the kind of his youth, the rich, heavy, oppressive kind that only exists in Roman Catholic churches. Do they buy it in bulk? There must be church supply warehouses out there. The Catholics in America aren’t anything if they aren’t capitalists. He wonders how this place got along for so many years – hundreds, in fact – without bulk incense. No doubt cheaper that way and it was comforting to know baptisms, marriages and funerals would always carry with them the same distinct scent.
He shifts his feet over the bricks that have been worn smooth by thousands of pious parishioners over more than two centuries, not to mention the indigenous converts who contributed most to the wear, dragging their feet as they were wont to do. Errant notes from the human-powered pipe organ float past. He used to be in there, where his mother was now, but today he dropped her off like a child at daycare.
The mission was Spanish, of course, and the first in the state – perhaps in the country? No, there must have been others before it. Situated on a hill, eyes of the faithful looked out from here and saw God, in the fields and the trees and the mountains. Now, from this bench, he sees generic apartment complexes, miles of asphalt, those sedate cars, miniature million dollar homes in the distance. But there are still trees, massive ones towering the apartments and the cars, and the mountains, with plenty of green space that no builder has yet figured out how to develop. There was still a god, some sort of one, out there and in his head, and it was in those green leaves waving in the wind, and it was in those pristine hills, and in those worn bricks; the majority of whom had ever touched them, and all of those who laid them, long returned to the earth.
Trails of clouds in the sky stretched out like long emaciated fingers as the bell tower rang out. Mass was over. His mother would be returning soon.
About the author-
Gregory T. Janetka is a writer from Chicago who currently lives in the outskirts of San Diego. His work has previously been published in Foliate Oak, Flyover County Review, Gambling the Aisle, The Flash Fiction Press and The Journal of Microliterature. He is terribly good at jigsaw puzzles and drinks a great deal of tea. More of his writings can be found at gregorytjanetka.com.
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Garima Mahajan is our proofreader who lives in a yellow spaceship that’s drifting in a wormhole. When she’s not reading, you can find her taking pictures of windows, or planning world domination.