What Mary Did | Sarah Layden

	Kneeling in the front row is Mary, a woman of diminishing means but with the reddest hair you ever saw. Supernova hair. Light eyebrows, an ethereal movement to her hand when she touches her forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder, almost as if she’s forgotten those are parts of her body. The touch reminds her.
	She stands in boots not meant for church, a full three inches taller than the priest who doles out communion she does not take. The parishioners say the priest resembles Gregory Peck; Mary is too young to know who that is. It is Wednesday, and for the third day this week Mary has left work and come to Mass, suddenly appearing among the devout retirees like a baby in a basket. They can’t help but touch her hair when it is time for the sign of peace. They whisper in her ear Peace be with you. They glance at their fingers as if expecting to see red. 
	She has not showered in three days. She will not return to her home; a man still lives there, but who is he? She sleeps in her car. Sponge bathes in the office restroom, daubing her body with wet paper towels that leave cold gray spit wads under her arms. 
	At communion she does not take the host. Ida Mae Tucker, supplicant, creases her forehead in Mary’s direction but won’t make eye contact. Mary bows slightly, leaning her head to the priest. Gregory Peck blushes to the tips of his ears, thumbs the sign on the cross on Mary’s bluish-white skin, the translucency of low-fat milk. 
	Someone has spray-painted over the inspirational query on the concrete overpass Mary drives beneath on her way to Mass. Now it asks, What Will Gordon Do? A man by that name lives in the house she left. He told her to go, she left, these are just words. The dark moon beneath her index fingernail looks like black spray paint, or earth.
	Mary, a shade dyslexic but never diagnosed, thought as a child that Jesus was spelled Gees-us, like the Bee Gees. In school she was shaky with tenses. Still. She does not care what Jesus or Gees-us or Gordon or any of them would do. (She already knows. He confessed; it has been done. The admission means he could take communion.) Mary wants to know what will come next. Facts hard as concrete. Permanent as painting on a bridge, until a new tagger comes along.
	No one in this church has heard her voice, raspy with cigarettes, unintentionally seductive just like the rest of her, save for those boots. They did not see Mary leaving her home days earlier, her hips simply moving the way they move – I can’t help it, she sometimes told the man who still lives there. They see her eyes on the ground. They consider her holy, submissive. It’s just those boots, Mrs. Tucker complains to whoever will listen, and nobody does. 

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Contrary ® is a registered trademark of Contrary Magazine
The Figure of Authority | Thomas King
What Mary Did | Sarah Layden
Tithonus | C.E. Chaffin
Homecoming | Patrick Reichard
How You Remember Her | Amy Reed
The Night of the Iguana | Derek Pollard
Generations of Leaves | Taylor Graham
Three Poems | Patrick Loafman

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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | summer 2007