Sometimes, on Sunday, in Chaanakya, the wind carries the sound of church bells. Bessie loved to hear them ringing out, even though she didn’t go to church, so the bells were not a call to anything immediate. That isn’t to say they weren’t echoing the great prophecy of death, the road to salvation nearing, a lovely but irritating reminder that one day the bells would toll for her.
It wasn’t that Bessie never went to church; there were those necessary occasions, like funerals. She didn’t doubt God, and she didn’t think it was necessary to prove it. God was something one either found or not, inside, deep where the spirit must reside. Mostly, for Bessie, God had crept up on her as she’d aged, but church was not where she found her connection to a higher power. She was more likely to find God staring at the river’s edge or watching a night sky blink.
Most of her early life she’d been dragged off to church by her mother. The deal was, she’d go, but only if she could sit in the last pew. “I don’t make deals like that, young lady,” her mother would say. “But I can hear the sermon just fine from back here, Mother.” And into the last pew Bessie would shimmy before her mother could grab her by the ears and force her toward the altar. She couldn’t sit up there and pretend to be interested. She could slump down low in the last pew where no one would notice if she were interested or not. Her mother couldn’t keep turning around to spy on her either because there’d be too many heads blocking her view. Bessie could eye her watch and doze off, when she wasn’t thinking about Roland or wondering who she needed to call, or who needed to call her and hadn’t, without her mother making a stern face at her. Besides, she had been assured, by each and every minister, that just showing up to church was enough. Bessie assumed the sermons worked like osmosis, seeping in, no matter where else her mind had wandered.
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