Catholic Distance University

A Favor for Cyrus Hammond

Michael Bradburn-Ruster

Without a word, or even a glance at me, the spindly fi gure mounted the porch steps with rigid urgency, collapsed his long legs into a squat, and raising my dog’s bowl of water to his lips, drained it in one prolonged draft, the knot of his Adam’s apple pulsing like a dwarf heart in the slender, sinewy throat.

Too stunned to be startled, I found the book I’d been reading seemed to have drifted into my lap, as the arm that held it before me had deflated. Odd that I hadn’t even caught a peripheral glimpse of his approach, alerted only by the determined thud of feet upon the hollow treads. [Read more...]

Ghost Pain

E. R. Womelsduff

Knowledge is not power, knowledge is paralysis, is crippling. Knowledge is reaction, is indirect, is change. I threw away my curling iron. I found people with names like Roxie and Ash. I rubbed my hands against the greasy tattoo parlor vinyl so I could see the dirt, so I could touch it, so I could wash it away. I asked the man to mark me, to set down the time in my skin, and he did so without anyone’s consent but mine. I kissed him on the lips and he smelled like disinfectant. I came back time and time again to lift my shirt over my shoulder blades so he could trace with his blue latex finger what he had left on me.

I thought about Jenny. My other, the dead one.

Jenny. [Read more...]


Gabriel Olearnik

It was an orange hour, nearly seven o’clock, when I arrived. That time of day has always been the most beautiful season for me, when the neon starts to burn and line the edges of houses and hedgerows. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. In the middle distance there was a roar of traffic by the main road but it was intermittent, irregular, and did not intrude upon my reverie.

The houses were small and brown, little bungalows almost, and draped with trees. The streets were all named for men. I saw the signs for “Henry Close” and “Andrew Estate” in the half-light. The smell of laundry and cooking dressed the air, here Persil, there faint Indian spices. I could see the shimmer of women moving in headscarves in the low balconies. [Read more...]

Profesore Takes His Cure

Caroline Paddock

Luca, the young doctor, stopped Peter in the middle of the alley and took the branches right out of his hand. “Professore, you feeling bad?” Luca asked.

“I—” Peter muttered through his nest of a white beard. “No, I’m fine, thank you.”

The doctor took Peter by the arm and led him aside to the fountain at the Piazza della Madonna. Peter watched him stick his hand under the water. Then he felt a cold splash against his forehead. Another splash soaked his temples and ran down into his beard in droplets. Then Peter found Luca’s hand cupped, full of water, touching his lips. “Drink, drink,” Luca said, so Peter drank. “One minute, Professore. Stay one minute.” Luca reached into his bag and pulled out a stethoscope and thermometer. [Read more...]

Born-Again Virgin

Andrew McNabb

Holy, holy Ciara, numbed below the waist in her freely flowing bridal gown. Three months fresh from absolution. Pre-Cana, and she had kept her word since, lying stiff as a board night after night next to her Digby so she could wear white and it wouldn’t be a farce; but there she was, garter tight to thigh, in the room in her mother’s house she had grown up in, waiting for the word of the limousine to arrive, having just banished her mother to the hall, so confused in bridal plume, wondering about what she hadn’t mentioned to Fr. Danny: that bit of blood red by her own hand. [Read more...]

Eyes That Pour Forth

Karen Britten

Brother Michael remembers finding the girl standing in the doorway of the Tanzanian monastery where he lives. She is holding the remnants of her eyes in her hands—milky white orbs with pink muscle attached to them like the trails of twin comets. She doesn’t cry, but she trembles and quivers in the door frame, and the other monks, white Franciscans from places like Scarsdale, New York, and Wichita, Kansas, gather around her and embrace her with robed arms. They find out that she can see from those eyes when she describes the room in detail: the tanned hide lamp by the oak table, the woodstove by the front door. [Read more...]


Rosemary Callenberg

The dust had never bothered her before, except perhaps in an abstract way on weekends. But now, as she sat in her pajamas and looked around the living room, Ellen realized that it was everywhere—on the lamps, the baby grand piano, a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry she’d started to read last month and forgotten about. Ordinarily on Monday afternoons, she’d sit in front of Laurel Savings Bank on her lunch break and stare at the trees along Main Street, the coffee shop across the road, the white station wagon always parked on the next block. But this Monday there were no trees, no jobs at the bank. There was just Ellen, alone and unemployed in a living room coated with dust. [Read more...]

The Red Door Society

Clay Reherman

To many, the phrase “hard times in America” brings to mind stark images of the 1930s: Ecological and economic disaster, powerful storms following close upon one another, high crime, starvation, despair, societal depression in every imaginable degree and mode. We may thank Mr. Steinbeck for this mental association: His painting of the “dust bowl days” in The Grapes of Wrath has imbued three generations with a notion of what it’s like when a nation is visited by the Angel of Death. [Read more...]

A Circle of Cypresses

John Farrell

An hour after the accident, Elise looked out from the terrace and regained the loose thread of thought she’d entertained before they killed the man on the motorcycle.

It was the duck. They were on their way back from Florence where they bought a ceramic duck for his mother, even though Herman couldn’t stand his mother and thought the whole idea of a gift was stupid.

Now there was a man lying dead in the ambulance below and their Volkswagen sprawled on its side in the vineyard beyond the curve. No one had yet come to tow it away. Instead, a journalist took his time, walking around and around it, talking into a micro-tape recorder and snapping pictures with a small digital camera. [Read more...]

Old Grace and New Beauty

Julie McGurn

At the end of the block on Main Street sits a small dry cleaners owned by the Choi family. It is a model of tidiness and precision. Every day the hum and whoosh of electric dryers and steam cleaners sound forth like the beating heart of a great giant. Mrs. Choi runs the register with an efficiency bordering on the brusque, but mitigated by her ability to greet each customer by name. The pronunciation may sometimes be wanting, but she’s got the raw data down cold.

No one could doubt her willingness to extend herself for her customers either. Like one February morning when a regular, Mr. Sam Gilette, came in with a black smudge on his forehead. After her usual boisterous hello, Mrs. Choi leaned over the counter, pointed to her own forehead, and whispered, “Your head,” [Read more...]