Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan

Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan

Author:Stephen P. Kiernan
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2020-05-05T00:00:00+00:00

Outside, the church presented quite a contrast with the spired steeples of Hyde Park. This house of worship was smooth adobe. Inside its wide wooden doors the place was echoey and cool. Colored light spilled through stained glass onto the stone floor. Mrs. Morris charged up the center aisle trailing lily of the valley perfume, her heels banging the floor like a mallet. I heard people speaking in front, and a man and woman emerged from the office area.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Sanchez,” the man was saying, at high volume.

“We pray for your family, senor,” the woman answered in a Spanish accent.

“I can rely on you to keep this matter private, I hope.”

The woman did not answer, but bowed repeatedly as she backed away.

“Very kind of you to come see me,” he said, again too loudly.

Mrs. Sanchez hurried past, eyes down. But then Reverend Morris was shaking my hand, welcoming me, pointing at this and that feature of the church.

“A revitalized music program will strengthen our worship,” he boomed. The man was stiff-necked, and he had a nervous tic: angling his chin forward, as if to stretch the muscles in his throat. “Another form of devotion.”

“I’m delighted to be here,” I said. “What became of your last organist?”

I’d asked in an offhand way, making conversation. But it must have contained blasphemy of some kind, because the reverend and his wife both froze solid.

“I’m sorry,” I backpedaled. “I can tell I’ve misspoken.”

“It was me,” Mrs. Morris said. “I’ve been the music director everywhere my husband has been a preacher. But here, some circumstances arose—”

“Outside circumstances,” the minister interjected. “And we agreed that someone new, with musical skill and a prayerful spirit, would be good for our congregation.”

“As I wrote to you,” I said, beginning a speech I’d rehearsed on the train, “I am not a deeply churched person. But I can promise you a strong music program and dependable choir conducting.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Reverend Morris said, overloud again. After which we all had a nice long awkward moment in the nave of the church. I was already planning my interrogation of Lizzie Hinks. She would know what these “circumstances” were.

“May I see the organ?” I said at last, sighs of relief all around.

“Of course,” Reverend Morris foghorned. “This way.”

The organ bench and choir loft stood in front, to one side, instead of in the balcony over the entry. That was helpful, because I preferred to see what was going on directly, rather than reversed in a mirror as a balcony required. However, it meant I had a better view of the pulpit than of the choir, which would make conducting a challenge.

While the Morrises stood shoulder to shoulder, I slid onto the bench. It was a decent organ: three manuals of sixty-one keys, stops for flute, reed, trumpet—plus a swell division, which promised good volume. The console, though not ornate, was warm, reddish cherry. I slipped off my shoes and admired the two octaves of pedals.

“Pretty instrument.” I switched the organ on.


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