Anton Chekhov's stories are considered little slices of life. At least by me. I'd have to consult with Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier Guy, to learn whether Mr. Chekhov really used that phrase anywhere. No matter. What follows isn't meant to be particularly funny or serious or remarkable. Just a slice of a day in the life. Sort of like Nicholson Baker's wonderfully Proustian "The Mezzanine," about a man breaking his shoelace and his ensuing lunch hour. Here goes.
The granules of coffee measured out for 40 cups regular and 35 or so for decaf, two cups and less than two cups respectively. A. remarking how strong the smell of coffee is and how could E. possibly stand it. B. running to the megagrocery store to get paper plates, then calling me on the cellphone asking me the date of the half and half in the fridge. The cold water in the coffee urns. Plugging them in. A. taking care of the urn for tea, my having to tell her (cooly and evenly) three times so that she understood it was for tea not coffee. In the pew threatening to move to another during her fidgeting. The crab apple blossoms. The words sometimes far off. The redbud in the memorial garden. A woman, someone I'd never seen, sitting on the stone bench. Flushed. Perhaps having cried. The passing cumulus clouds. The sparrows. Water trickling at the memorial garden fountain. The faded paint on the fence. My wondering about the woman and what I take to be her grief outside a pane of glass. Closing my eyes and thinking, praying, I am her she is me there really is no self the Buddhists are right I know her pain I just felt it I have felt it when R. died in November and D. the preceding May and wept like a betrayed lover like an orphan like a father leaving his children like Lebanese or Israelis after the rubble. I do know her grief, if that is what it is. She knows that I know. The bread, a sizable portion, placed by Fr. M. in my empty (for I offer nothing but my nothingness) upheld palm, M. looking into my eyes, saying my name, just after saying the name of my daughter, just after saying the name of my wife. The Body of Christ the Bread of Heaven. My assent. Sit in the pew. Close my eyes. Summon faces of loved ones. Back to the kitchen. Creamers. Apple juice. Spoons and forks. Plastic and metal. The woman in the memorial garden. Gone.