"Will you be making a special offering this Thursday?" the horse-faced Mrs. Satherswaite inquired.
"Lady Day," he smiled. "Are you in charge of the flowers?"
"What little there be," she shrugged. "This time of year, what with the heat."
"We will have to discuss it later," he said, hurrying on, the heavy pot swinging awkwardly in his hand, breaking his stride, imposing its own rhythm on his frail body.
It turned out there was a new communicant at the service that day, though the stranger's face was hidden deep within the folds of a green cloak that he or she (it was impossible to tell which) wore the entire time. A mark of disrespect or deep humility? Belcher, like most men of the cloth, could not stop his mind from wandering while preaching. Who was this rather macabre figure sitting in the front pew, coughing dry coughs that brought nothing up? At one point the stranger's legs crossed and the Reverend spotted a pair of red, high-heeled shoes, but then just as quickly, as if to dispel any easily gained impression, the person scratched--a rather vulgar, rude indication of boredom--an indisputably male part of the body.
"...Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad became the father of Shelah, and Shelah became the father of Eber. To Eber were born two sons..."
He was trying to show, and failing miserably, he sensed, that simply to exist was not enough. All these boring patriarchs of the Old Testament, with their names and children, their senseless replication, they did not live in the sense that those who accepted our lord Jesus Christ did. Living entailed risk, the leap of faith, the act of unrewarded charity, etc. etc. Living entailed SIN! is what he really wanted to shout at these smug parishioners, this phalanx of crumbling respectability. In back of them he knew, like the rancid gray under the crust of one of Mrs. Ebblebowle's rook pies, lounged the gin drinkers, the dog racing fanatics, the murderers and pickpockets, all sinners damned to Hell as sure as they sat, dozing or impatiently drumming their fingers. He would try slipping Mrs. Satherswaite's stew into the communal pot. Must remember to compliment her on its delicious bouquet. She loved it when he talked Oxford. And who was this bohemian stranger, shivering now, drawing the cloak tighter? Sickly? Yes. But also seeming to be genuinely moved. The first person up for communion, which surprised the Reverend. And then, when the cloak's hood was thrown back, Belcher almost fainted. It was Nan, the picture image of her, but horribly wasted with disease, almost in extremis, eyes burning, mouth open to receive the Host, and defiantly male.