Title: Please fill your pyx

Author: Elizabeth Smither

In: Sport 23: Spring 1999

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1999

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 23: Spring 1999

Elizabeth Smither — Please fill your pyx

page 146

Elizabeth Smither

Please fill your pyx

The little wallets—the sort nobody would hand in if found on the street—lay like sliced gingerbread in their basket at the back of the church. Mary's lay next to Edmund's who was a pillar of the church and whose back each year seemed to grow straighter. Edmund was even thanked from the pulpit when the priest arrived in a fluster and couldn't find the keys to the sacristy or how to put on a lapel mike. Edmund lived next door to the church and was on the Finance and Planning committee. Mary sometimes fantasised that Edmund had married his exotic but sad and somehow sluttish-looking wife very young and was reverting to type. Then she recollected how, years ago, she had been told off by a priest for referring to someone as ‘fat’. It was before words such as ‘vertically challenged’ or ‘visually impaired’ became fashionable. Her thought about Edmund was hardly worthy when in less than an hour—how much less depending on who the celebrant was—she would be standing next to him receiving her wallet back like a commissioned soldier.

It was Father Damon who appeared in the doorway and Mary heaved a sigh of relief. Father Damon was what you might call a fresh priest, solemn and fastidious, faintly humorous but at least he had the wisdom to give short sermons. Lapel mike securely in place he would advance down the aisle until he stood level with the fourth or fifth pew and address the congregation as if he was standing in a drawing room and someone had persuaded him to say a few words. Usually he began with an anecdote or something drawn from his own childhood. The congregation was pleasantly alert as if they knew the end was coming.

When, at the conclusion of the Mass, Father Damon summoned the Eucharistic Ministers to come forward and each took back from the little wicker basket their wallet containing the pyx with the consecrated hosts inside, he looked directly into their eyes as if trying page 147 to pass on a secret. Mary had seen the same expression on a parent warning a child in company. Or a child warning another that the person being spoken of was standing right behind.

They filed back to their pews and the last hymn began with Father Damon exiting on the last verse. His cope swirled behind him, green for hope. Mary stowed her pyx in her handbag, genuflected, and prepared to face Tom Tallis and Monica Gribinski.

Tom Tallis, one of Mary's communicants and always the first she visited, occupied a small pretty chalet adjacent to a large resthome. The chalets, close together but determinedly individual in their small gardens and foreshortened paths, lined both sides of an artificial street which even had STOP and GO SLOW signs. Mr T's garden was pressed against a hedge through which could be seen the home's vast dining room, its tables decorated with plastic flowers. If he felt disinclined to cook in his doll's kitchen, Mr T could simply enter through a side door. But normally, he told Mary, he opened a can of soup and made two slices of toast, cut into fingers, in memory of soldiers and soft-boiled eggs. Mr T might have been an old cleric: his face, refined and diminished by advancing years, retained a gaunt nobility. He marshalled his memory each time he opened the door to Mary, saying, ‘Oh, it's you.’ Mary knew her visit to him could not be rushed. There was the layout of the chalet to be admired, or a new photograph on the dresser; an African violet had opened. The main room, with its bed at one end, was the inner sanctum. Mary barely glanced at the bed, tightly made, and the beside table with its collection of medicines.

But Mr T seemed in a strange mood. He hardly commented on the muffins Mary had brought and he seemed to be looking askance at the bible she carried. Mary cast around for some more small talk: the frilly begonias she could see on their shelves in the little conservatory, the ubiquitous weather.

‘What is it, Mr T?’ she said finally. ‘You seem out of sorts.’

‘I think I am losing my faith,’ Mr T said, lowering his gaze towards his slippers.

‘That's not like you,’ Mary said. One didn't expect a crisis of faith at eighty-two, but elderly marriages were known to break, like old page 148 trees blasted by lightning. Mr T had been a widower for four years: perhaps he was having a delayed crisis.

‘It's the apatosaurus.’

‘The apatosaurus?’ Mary asked, puzzled.

‘The one that's 21 metres long, with a neck and tail to match. That dines on the tops of trees.’

‘And where did you meet this apatosaurus?’ Mary asked.

‘You don't imagine it poked its head through the window,’ Mr T said, angrily. ‘You needn't think I'm gaga.’

‘I could never think that, Mr T. Haven't we had all those talks about the Romans and the Greeks?’ She knew Mr T preferred the Romans because they built aqueducts and baths.

‘I don't see how I can believe in a God who would create such a hideous creature,’ Mr T said. ‘Even if it was some kind of accident. No child with a Meccano set could put such a thing together. What kind of God do we have, Mary?’

‘Shall we have communion first and then you can tell me about these dinosaurs, these apatosauri?’ She was opening her wallet and setting out the white cloth, actually one of her grandmother's embroidered handkerchiefs, on a small table.

‘No, I'll show you first and then you can try your white magic on it.’

So Mary left the gold-chased, hexagonal-shaped pyx with its delicately etched design of a Tudor rose on the lid and its fastening which often caused her to fumble, in the centre of its white linen field.

‘Here it is,’ said Mr T, triumphantly, padding back from his bedroom recess. And together, side by side on the sofa, they bent over an illustration in a book that seemed designed for secondary level. ‘Sauropods,’ Mr T pointed. ‘That's the name for the type. Sauropodomorphs.’

The illustration was stronger on design than realism, Mary guessed. Bands of light stippled tall trees the creatures with their swaying necks were feeding from; light glowed down their vertebrae like tape measures illuminated. This is a group of medium-sized sauropods Omeisaurus tianfuensis moving through a late Jurassic forest Mary read. Then, since page 149 there was nothing she could say, she lightly laid her palm over Mr T's mottled and scaly hand.

Driving to her second communicant, the difficult Monica Gribinski, Mary thought angrily of dinosaurs, Darwin and evolution. ‘I suppose I'll give it a try, not that I expect it will do any good,’ Mr T had agreed after the book had been set down and the covers closed over the munching sauropods. He had taken the host as if seeing it for the first time: a paper-thin sliver of flour and water produced by nuns on ancient machinery. Next week, Mary thought, they must talk about Darwin, about the great but homely scientist sending his children into the garden with lanterns to count the number of worm mounds left on the lawn. How he had proved that worms were pulling Stonehenge under, triumphantly but infinitesimally slowly. One day the line of tourists behind ropes would see a flat field.

‘I'll see you next week,’ Mary had called and Mr T had merely nodded. Normally she relied on Mr T to cheer her before the maelstrom that was Monica Gribinski. At least with Mr T she could follow and adapt the form of service, abbreviating it if he seemed tired, making jokes about the morning's sermon: Father Todd too long and rambling; Father Stainslaus condescending as if he saw himself in a cardinal's biretta; Father Damon mercifully short but somewhat childish. At least Mr T did not knock over the table with the pyx and laugh wildly; he did not prefer muffins or chocolate to the host; he did not mistake Mary for one of the nurses or, once, her long lost mother.

Mary lifted the bag of bran and raisin muffins off the front seat and took her handbag in the other. A sigh filled her chest, like damp air pressing on a stone. Then her face assumed what she hoped was a cheerful expression, buoyed by existentialism. Each day was fresh, she told herself. That, of all human problems, was one of the worst. She pulled her body up straight and the stone dislodged and sank lower. Days are where we live, she said to herself, remembering Larkin. Where was the crucial word.

Where is Monica, Mary wondered, ringing the bell for the third time. She stepped into the little flower bed and peered through the page 150 net drapes. There was no outline of a body lying on the carpet.

Just then a nurse aide came bustling round the corner.

‘If you're looking for Monica some of her relatives came and took her out for the day. It's her last weekend before she moves into the hospital wing.’

‘I bought these muffins for her,’ Mary said, weakly.

‘You keep them, dear. She doesn't need them.’

Mary sat in her car for a few minutes. She opened the wallet, spread the white handkerchief on the passenger seat and opened the pyx. She took out Monica's communion wafter, made the sign of the cross, and placed it on her own tongue. When the wafer broke up and dissolved she turned on the ignition and drove off. She thought for a second of Mr T and the dinosaurs and whether a second host would have helped.

‘What if your communicant is comatose or suffering from Alzheimer's?’ Edmund had asked at the training for Eucharistic Ministers. ‘What happens if the host is dropped or spilled?’

‘There are cases,’ Father Todd had explained, ‘where a whole host may not be able to be consumed—a constriction of the throat, an involuntary reflex—in which case administer a portion. The remainder, as in the Mass, is consumed by the Minister.’

‘And the communion service?’ Mary had asked, wondering it if should be committed to memory. ‘If someone has a short attention span or is too ill to pay attention?’ Already she was half-regretting volunteering. What if she got an overweight gaga person who spat the host or fell out of bed?

‘As Eucharistic Ministers you are responsible for the decisions you make. Generally just use your common sense. Make it a personal service, talk a little beforehand, even during. When it doesn't seem appropriate to use the full form, abbreviate it.’

After the questions had died away, the housekeeper had made tea and produced a plate of little hard rock buns.

‘At least the host should be easier,’ Sylvia, a new acquaintance, whispered to Mary.

They went out into the winter chill, carrying their wallets. Mary page 151 found herself thinking of the Roman dogs who carried denarii in purses around their necks, who swam rivers with their legions and whose toes were webbed.

Monica Gribinski had moved into the hospital wing but she still expected to see Mary. And she still expected two freshly-baked muffins and a bunch of flowers from Mary's garden, a tussie-mussie, a lovingly-picked sampler.

She looks better, was Mary's thought as she approached the bed. And it was true: confined, pinned down, even the taut bedcover seemed to be acting like a benevolent straitjacket, Monica seemed more concentrated, alert. Her hands lay peacefully on the bedcover, a soft fleecy shawl was settled around her shoulders.

‘What day is it?’ she asked as Mary drew up a chair.

‘It's Sunday. The day I always come to see you.’

‘And why have you come?’

‘To bring you Holy Communion and to have a chat.’

‘I don't like this room. It's so bare. Where have all my things gone? Will you bring them to me?’

‘I suppose I could bring some of them,’ Mary replied. ‘We could ask the nurse.’

‘Why did you say you have come?’

So it was the abbreviated communion that Mary gave, making the sign of the cross, saying the Kyrie softly, forgoing the liturgy, leading the Lord's Prayer and making the response, Lord, I am not worthy to receive you … before putting the wafer on Monica's tongue. Luckily she opened her mouth without hesitation, thinking it was a pill.

‘Where is the glass of water?’ she asked. ‘To wash it down.’

A plastic beaker of lemon squash stood on the beside table and Mary filled a plastic tumbler and steadied it under Monica's chin.

‘I can manage. I'm not helpless.’

‘I've put the muffins in the top drawer,’ Mary said. ‘Next to the talcum powder and your toothbrush.’

‘That's a funny place but I suppose you mean well.’

page 152

Between senility and dinosaurs Mary drove home to confront teenage children still asleep and a husband loading golf clubs into the back of the station wagon.

‘See you,’ he called and she raised a hand in a stiff greeting, rather like the Pontiff might make in the Popemobile. She placed the pyx in her handkerchief drawer among her emptied perfume bottles: Poison, Paloma Picasso, L'Air du Temps. She lifted the stopperless phial of Poison to her nose to sniff and thought she detected a faint trace. St Teresa of Avila had emitted an overpowering scent of lilies, so pervasive her Carmelite sisters had felt compelled to exhume her. But nothing like this had happened to Mary's handkerchiefs or the one exotic bra and knicker set that resided at the back of the drawer. Though last summer, when she was wearing Paloma Picasso for the first time, a man standing beside her on a balcony had asked what flowering shrub was emitting such a scent below. Modesty had prevented her waving an upturned wrist under his nose.

Outside the dining-room window a few last leaves were twisting and turning on the copper beech. As she sat over a mug of tea with two heaped teaspoons of sugar, Mary watched one that seemed in anguish, twisting like a body on a gibbet. The breeze that rustled the whole tree spun it, but it seemed an interior force was added: an individual Rubicon, like the minds of her two communicants: one already unhinged, the other obsessed by fossils.

From the basement studio came faint sounds of Mary's daughter, Hannah, stirring. Hannah's live-in boyfriend, Sean, was absent for the weekend since it was his mother's birthday and he was paying a ritual visit to ‘the olds’. Sean had lived with Hannah's family for nine months, a gestation as painful for the family concerned as a pregnancy. But Mary and Peter had felt compelled to turn over the basement to their wayward daughter in the hopes of avoiding something worse. Sean was not the worst of her paramours, though he shared qualities of indolence, lack of hygiene and a language reduced to ciphers so neither Mary nor Peter could communicate with him. Mary suspected sex took the place of conversation, as it did for many young people: a strong emotion, even one that indicated dissolution, set them reaching page 153 for one another, ready with bites and scratches to obliterate whatever troubled. Certainly Hannah lay in very tousled sheets which she should strip from the bed and place in the washing hamper.

‘Do we have a book about dinosaurs?’ Mary asked, when Hannah surfaced.

‘I don't think so. There are Sean's parents.’

‘No, I'm serious. One of my communicants is worried …’

‘What's the point?’ said Hannah, sleepily, pouring herself a cup of coffee. ‘Who cares? They're dead, aren't they?’

‘They're dead but they were still large enough to frighten.’

‘Whistle a happy tune,’ said Hannah, spooning sugar in.

‘I suppose I could compare them to skyscrapers. They must have frightened once. The Empire State building …’

‘You usually get monsters and skyscrapers together,’ Hannah pointed out, helpfully. ‘I expect it helps to measure them. Like a sort of tape measure with lights instead of numbers.’

Then as Hannah padded from the room, coffee cupped in her hands like a chalice, Mary remembered an image she had never forgotten. It came from a radio play. Its setting was futuristic and it was a miracle she had not reached for the knob to switch it off. She hated science fiction with its easy access to old-fashioned moralities, its banalities hidden behind faces slashed with breathing gills, its terrifying wrinkled sages in designer gear. Nor had she heard the whole play. Just the image of a rattling New York commuter train as it passed between darkened buildings. The character in the story was trying to climb back into a particular second of his past life, represented by the swift passing glowing carriage windows. The train sped on, rattling and shaking, and the character plucked up courage to jump.

The five Eucharistic Ministers stood in a line below the altar steps and Father Stanislaus held out the little flat-bottomed basket on which the wallets were overlaid like slices of cake. Edmund's had a crucifix engraved on the leather near the clasp and Sylvia's a kind of primitive stitching. Inserting the two unconsecrated hosts as she came into the early Mass, Mary had felt her heart sink at the thought of Monica and Mr T. Father Stanislaus was droning his preamble ‘… about to carry page 154 the body of Christ to our friends who are unable to be with us. Give them our greetings …’

Mary had hoped it might be Father Damon and she might have a few words about dinosaurs on the porch steps after the crowd had dispersed. This morning Father Stanislaus had attacked charismatic evangelistic simplifiers of the gospel as if they were patent medicine sellers. He does not approve of ecumenism, Mary translated. Then her mind drifted until the first notes of the recessional hymn struck up on the electric organ.

The Eucharistic Ministers slipped back into their seats but Mary who was in the last pew kept walking through the doors which had been flung open, out into the still dark morning. Light was coming on the clouds which seemed to be opening and expanding. The road was the colour of pewter. In a few minutes there would be a stampede of cars and the dairy owner would brace himself for an influx of Catholics buying bread and milk and the Sunday papers.

There was a step behind her and Edmund's voice.

‘I was wanting to ask about Mr T.’

So that was how Mary found herself in Edmund's kitchen, drinking coffee with brandy, pouring out her uncertainty about being a Eucharistic Minister, her feeling that it was useless to visit Monica Gribinski at all, that she might as well consume the host in her own car with the radio playing for all the good it did, and as for Mr T how can you console anyone for how the world is, especially when a huge fact in the shape of a huge bone—for there was one of those in Mr T's book, being dug up, a thigh bone which dwarfed the man beside it, probably a student—gets in the way.

‘I suppose some cave woman was expected to make it into soup,’ Rosalind said, setting down crumpets dripping with butter.

‘Perhaps Mr T is suffering from a vitamin shortage,’ Mary remarked, rather wildly.

‘You could read up on dinosaurs, I suppose,’ Edmund said, taking a crumpet and turning to smile at his wife.

‘Even though they perished in swamps, devoured one another or were hit by meteors?’

Could Mr T envisage, under the denuded trees, piles of deflated page 155 sauropods collapsed like airbags?

‘Not a good idea, I think,’ said Rosalind. ‘Old people are terribly tenacious. Better just to listen to him talk about them. It'll wear itself out.’

‘As always I bow to your wisdom, darling,’ said Edmund, patting his wife's plump hand.

‘Thanks,’ said Mary, as she stood on the doorstep. If her eyes had been peeled about Edmund's marriage, maybe there was hope for the dinosaurs. Into her mind came an image of a very little dinosaur, dravidosaurus. Short-legged, plump-bodied, with a frill on its spine that deceived no one.

Abelisaurus, acanthopholis, acrocanthosaurus, alamosaurus, Mary read in the alphabetical sequence of dinosaurs. Small wonder Mr T was alarmed. Allosaurus had hideous teeth and front limbs that could probably perform delicate tortures. Archaeopteryx was a hideous reptile-bird, archaeotherium a kind of pig, elasmosaurus a snake-headed duck. There was not one that was lovable or remotely well-designed. Diplodocus had a special ‘double beam’ backbone to support its neck and tail; deinotherium was a hideous short-trunked, tusk-chinned elephant. Perhaps, Mary allowed, a herd of saltopi with pointing tails running across a plain might be attractive seen at a distance, a very safe distance, like blurred tapestry figures.

Mary turned on the oven and made Mr T a batch of muffins. To some she added chocolate chips and squeezed orange juice; to others raisins and pineapple. Perhaps God was letting things take their course 200 million years ago, when the map of the world was something like overlaid leaves. But would Mr T buy that? Perhaps long before Darwin and the evolutionists God was conducting an experiment of his own. Letting bad design burn itself out and leave huge bones behind as a warning. Letting nature red in tooth and claw tear and rip and gouge. Great shrill screams rang in the forests and clearings; great carcasses fell and dented the ground and sharp teeth came running.

Mary took the muffins out and arranged them in a basket with a red gingham cloth. Little Red Riding Hood goes to meet the Wolf, page 156 she thought. Perhaps Mr T had turned away from dinosaurs by now. Because that was the only thing to do. To turn away.

Monica Gribinksi's condition had deteriorated rapidly. She lay against the pillows, no longer looking around the room for familiar things but sinking in and out of sleep. Mary arranged the few late unsprayed roses from her garden in a small vase and then pulled up a hard plastic chair and sat beside the bed. She reached out her hand and touched Monica's fingers. Instantly the fingers retracted and made a loose fist, then slowly they unwound again.

A nurse came in and wound a blood pressure cuff around Monica's upper arm, pumped it up and the mercury rose, shivered, and fell back in its case like a crocodile's jaw. The instant the nurse was out of the room Mary made the sign of the cross on Monica's forehead. She felt filled with a strange fervour. She took out her folded and battered communion sheet and softly read her part.

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves for this Celebration, let us call to mind our sins.

Lord Jesus, you healed the sick: Lord have mercy.

A nurse went past the door and looked in but Mary's voice was low.

When it came to communion, Mary broke a tiny piece from the host and inserted it in Monica's mouth. She consumed the remainder herself. Finally, after the blessing, she went to the handbasin and washed her hands. She kept the tap running for a long time, aware of an obscurer ritual. On her white bed Monica gave no answer.

Mary had half-hoped the dinosaur books might be gone from Mr T's sitting room but the pile had increased. There was even a model brontosaurus brought by one of his grandchildren. It was made of hideous rubbery material and crudely painted. Mary's heart sank.

‘I don't know whether I need to see you anymore,’ Mr T said, accepting the four muffins without a glance. ‘Once a thing's gone, it's gone. Better to accept it and get on.’

‘I'm sure that's true,’ Mary said, thinking of the early Mass in page 157 winter when she longed to stay in bed. Of the little line of Eucharistic Ministers standing together in front of the altar. Sylvia beside her, sometimes without any makeup; even Edmund now seemed noble. An anger at plastic dinosaurs and dinosaur books rose in her breast.

‘Perhaps it is all a mistake,’ Mary said. ‘Us, the dinosaurs, God, everything. Perhaps we are all experimental models of one kind or another. The dinosaurs looked hideous but are we any better? We might be more refined but did the dinosaurs go in for concentration camps and ethnic cleansing? I'm sorry Mr T but I don't think I'm in the mood to give you communion this morning. I think I'll ask Father Damon if I can be taken off the list.’

‘Handing in your warrant, are you? Won't you at least sit down.’

Mary sank into an easy chair, sweeping aside A Dictionary of Dinosaurs with an albertosaurus on the cover.

‘What got the dinosaurs in the end?’ she asked. She realised she cared more about the end than the dinosaurs.

Mr T was practically on fire with information. First, though, he must butter two of the muffins and bring mugs of coffee.

‘There are several theories,’ Mr T said, eagerly, taking a mouthful of tea and crumbling his chocolate chip muffin in his eagerness. ‘Some think poisonous plants or global warming. The likeliest is a comet or asteroid striking the earth 65 million years ago. The asteroid would have formed a crater 100 to 150 kilometres wide. And when it exploded it sent up 400 million million tonnes of rocks and dust. The dinosaurs would not have been able to see the sun for the dust cloud. Acid rain would have fallen and …’

Mary found herself thinking of the long swaying neck and tiny head of the saurotops. Its head and neck would be in shadow before its body was; the bewildered neck and blind eyes searching for the leaves that were gone. How long had the swaying and searching gone on? There must have been some kind of cry. A mewing, mewling sound before it sank to the ground.

‘So if the last dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago and human beings only evolved about 5 million years ago, that leaves a gap of 60 million years.’

‘Some dinosaurs might have persisted,’ said Mr T, sensing a trap.

page 158

‘Or God might have gotten smaller,’ Mary said, half to herself. ‘Thrown out an extravagant design for a smaller working model.’

‘Which means,’ said Mr T, flipping the pages of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals Fact Finder, ‘the deinotherium had plenty of time to lose that extra trunk with tusks you so object to.’

‘And the wombat got smaller and the armadillo and the shrew. Perhaps in those missing 60 million years.’ While the great lumbering carcasses rotted and soil covered the bones, Mary thought, but she didn't say so. Mr T was eating the muffin he had spread for her, puzzling over the space that had opened before him: a quieter, cooler world. Perhaps God had been in a great rage or had tested baroque to the full. And Mr T's grandchildren loved dinosaurs so much because they themselves were small but their imaginations were not.

‘I feel quite tired,’ Mr T said. ‘I think I might go back to bed.’

‘Would you like me to call again next Sunday.’

‘I'll take a rain check. I'll let you know.

The next Sunday Mary did not fill her pyx or step forward when Father Stanislaus summoned the Eucharistic Ministers before the blessing. Even the words sounded odd and far away. Give them our greetings and our love. Pray with them. Administer to them this most precious sacrament. Monica unconscious on her bed, Mr T sitting up in his, lamenting the dinosaurs.

Two nights later the phone rang and it was Father Damon.

‘I just called to tell you, Mary, that Monica Gribinksi died in her sleep a few hours ago. And to express my gratitude …’

‘For what, Father? A few muffins and a host sometimes consumed by myself? I was worse than useless.’

‘On the contrary.’ For a second Mary thought he might forget himself and say ‘my child’. ‘Who knows the comfort we may bring another. Just a presence can be an inestimable gift. We are not to judge.’

The sermonising mode, Mary thought, but then she recollected Father Damon was probably tired. Administering Extreme Unction to feet that hadn't touched the earth for months or years, skin as translucent as glass. Trying to ignore bunions and corns. Anointing page 159 senses that for all their supposed innocence had done their share of evil.

‘I've a problem with Mr T,’ Mary blurted out. ‘He's hooked on dinosaurs.’

Two Sundays passed. Blissfully lying in bed, aware of the house wakening around her, pressing herself close to Peter, Mary nonetheless felt a faint pricking of unease. But it will die she thought. It will die very easily. Rising for early Mass is a very frail flower. There was a thunk in the garden as the Sunday papers fell.

‘Dinosaur man deserted you?’ Hannah remarked when she emerged, mid-morning. Mary consoled herself that the malice of the young was usually unconscious. It was the dinosaurs that were malicious, not Mr T. As if the ugly ghosts of parasaurolophus or hylaeosaurus still had the power to haunt and overthrow. Poor Mr T, Mary thought, wrapping her hands around a second mug of English Breakfast tea.

It was the following week, when Mary was wrestling with a load of wet laundry, that Mr T phoned. At first Mary felt a surge of rage. She would be as blunt as a dinosaur thigh bone.

‘Yes,’ she said, and left it unembellished.

‘Yes,’ said Mr T. ‘That's what I'd like to say, Mary. Please call again, if you can bear to. I've been thinking about those missing 60 million years. When things got smaller. I just went overboard for size, I guess. It'd be the same if I went to New York. I've come back to my own size now.’

The following Sunday Mary placed just one host inside her pyx. She stood next to Edmund to receive it back from its little basket. As Father Todd intoned the instructions she turned her head slightly towards Edmund and winked.

A clean white handkerchief belonging to her grandmother, this time she would omit nothing. She already had the Liturgy of the Word: John 6: 58 ‘…they are dead, but whoever eats this bread shall live forever.’