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Drowning Baby Prayer

It rains. Rains and rains and rains. We sit in uncomfortable chairs in a Quaker room walled in Quaker pamphlets. We sit in expectant silence.

Over the rain and the silence comes the sound of construction — a band-saw and an angle grinder. It’s really raining. Things are coming out of the drains. I nearly run over a rat and someone tells me they can’t stop using methamphetamine. I tell them, I think that’s the idea with methamphetamine. It could be a palm sander. I joke about he’s building an ark. I say it a couple of times in my head until it’s good enough to say out loud then I say it out loud and add ‘I hope so,’ because we’re all convinced friends here.

On the way home — before I see the rat, the giant rat, the rat that could have been a cat if it wanted — we talk about Catholicism. How it has everything we’re looking for.

‘When I was young,’ I say, ‘I watched The Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn in it.’

Someone says, ‘Wasn’t that Julie Andrews?’ and we all say, ‘Nooo — that’s The Sound of Music.’

‘She got her hair cut,’ I say, ‘It was a great haircut.’

Someone says, ‘She’s wearing nail polish.’

I say, ‘Nuns don’t wear nail polish.’

And they say, ‘I know. But when she’s taking off her wedding ring at the end she’s wearing nail polish.’

We chatter like this after the Quaker meetings, like we’re on fire with making noise. I try to remember the prayer that saves a child from drowning. I was given it on one side of a small piece of cardboard with a prayer for getting people out of purgatory on the other.

I have no idea where the rat thinks it’s going. It just runs out of the drain and onto the street. Then I nearly run it over. Then it runs back toward the drain. When I get home it’s still raining. No more water is going down the drains. Water’s just rushing over the top and trying to force more down them at the same time. Like a metaphor for some sort of Freudian thing that explains why people can’t stop being evil.

The next day it’s still raining. My father rings and says he’s lost a gate and two palings from the fence. I ask him what a band-saw is and he tells me what I probably mean is a bench-saw and I say, ‘No, I think I want a band-saw.’ I find the drowning baby prayer folded to a tiny nub and squashed into a book about the Dalai Lama — like it’s waiting to hatch. Evidence that at one point I believed it would hatch. Some of the hill across the road falls down and a fire engine comes. I watch the light turn, red in all the grey and rain.

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