portion of the artwork for Andrew Stancek's story

Pilgrimage
Andrew Stancek

The day we buried my mother, I woke with the worst cold. In church I honked and sniffled and the congregation was no doubt convinced that the dutiful son was overcome by grief. When I blew a little too hard, I had a nosebleed and seeing blood on my hand, thought “stigmata.” St. Sebastian pierced by arrows peered at my bloody palm from his stained-glass window, the priest carried on about the Lamb, and I had to stifle laughter. I was still capable of laughing, even on burial day. My brother waved at me from the end of the pew although we buried him six months earlier. Outside, a cock crowed.

The conviction that only a certain amount of bad luck can befall anyone at one time is drivel. I learned otherwise: I lost my job, wrestled with cancer, said goodbye to my brother and now my mother.

Cosmic sense of humor. Isn’t that what de Chardin says that God has? Perhaps She just sees the ridiculous. The ant-like, methodical, purposeful marching to and fro, setting goals: it is comical. I’m undoubtedly better off without the job, don’t need two lungs, and close family members? Absence teaches self-reliance.

Leaving the cemetery, I stopped and watched the clouds. I would have liked the skies to open, a cataclysmic downpour, lightning, so I could spread my arms wide in pelting rain, a drama to commemorate mother. But no such luck. First the larger cloud dissipated, then the smaller one, and the sky was blue again. Turkey vultures soared, swooped lower, rose again. No matter how much I longed to fly off, my feet remained rooted. I picked up a maple leaf, stared at its web, put it in my pocket. I sat on the low wall encircling the cemetery, stared into the distance. Was that a green light? A shimmer?

“Ma?” I called.


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 52 | Fall/Winter 2018