BRUISED FRUIT FLESH. Fay sat with Benedict on the grass outside Banks House.

He wore his faded blue jeans, white tee shirt; she wore a lemon dress (one he liked) with small white flowers. It was warm, a summery sun was in the sky, trains moved over the railway bridge just over the way. She talked of a nun at her school, who was strict and carried a ruler around to hit the hands of girls who spoke out of turn. Benedict sat cleaning up his six-shooter toy gun, wiping his handkerchief over the silvery barrel. Girls live in fear of her, Fay said, she creeps behind them and pokes her finger into their flesh.

Have a teacher at my school who pokes with a pencil, Benedict said, digs it right in, especially when he’s making a point about something. Fay’s eyes caught the sun’s light; he thought he could see angel’s playing there. She caught me over my knuckles last week, Fay said. Did you tell your parents? he asked. God no, she said. Daddy would have beaten me for sure; upsetting nuns and such. O, he said, he loved the way her fair hair shone in sunlight, the way she moved her lips to form words. He put his gun back in the holster (the one his old man had given him) around his shoulder. She spoke of the mass and the priest who came. Benedict didn’t know what the heck the mass was, but he just listened to her talk, watched her lips make words like some potter makes bowls. He studied her hands as she spoke, how they gestured along with the words; small hands, thin fingers. He couldn’t understand how anyone could want to slam a ruler over such thin knuckles.

She spoke of the Host and that it was Jesus in the form of bread. He was stumped, but listened on, taking in her every word, the sound of the word, the way she shaped it, the way her tongue seemed to hold then throw out the word. Then she stopped and pulled off her yellow cardigan because of the heat. He saw on her upper arm, a fading green bruise, like damaged fruit gone off. She put the cardigan on the grass, and talked on about confessions, about the confessional, how dark it was, how the priest was hardly visible through the metal mesh. Benedict half listened; too concerned about her bruised fruit flesh.

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