Anna McDougall, 2nd Place
The Faithful

Deacon Watkins knows everybody in Cochrane. Mondays he tours Main Street chatting up the neighbors. Today, the baldy sits on a metal bench near Berstein's Seafood, the building with dogfish murals.

A motley army humps past reeking of marijuana, briefly detracting from this perfect day. The teens gather at the corner where Officer Tim approaches on his deafening motorcycle. One boy forswears shaking his head then motioning to his crotch. The boxy-faced man has obviously returned the insult because laughter from the others follows. Now biddable, the boy squats to retrieve his trash. Deacon admires Tim's fluent teen-speak. His own efforts with young people at church suggest he would be more effective communicating with terrestrials.

While the truce forms, Deacon happens to sees an unfamiliar woman: her fresh beauty coruscating from across the icy street. He considers trotting over to introduce himself. She is staring at a lone leather glove resting on the ground. Soon, she glances around; presumably to ensure she is alone. Deacon turns his eyes to study the asymmetrical design on Bernstein's door saving the woman from certain embarrassment.

The next time Deacon spots her, the woman is circling the block, stopping just short of the glove. Again, she searches for others then consults her watch. Perhaps she is to meet someone and the glove is marking the meeting place! His laugh threatens to draw her attention.

Deacon pegs her as an aesthete stopping to smell the flowers, as they say.

She begins to pace, excoriating the walkway of its thin layer of snow.

He decides on a worshipping animist, under the illusion that the glove has a spirit.

From the flower shop exits the talented basso from his choir. "Deacon, how are you?" Before he answers, Mrs. Bonn adds, "It seems that poor gal has had a run of a plant disease in her store called anthracnose."

"Sound like anthrax."

"It does, doesn't it? It didn't come into town by envelope rather; on the tiny legs of a black-bodied roach from one of those transport trucks. And the way those multiply...."

He peeks into her shopping bag. "A garden gnome in the winter?"

"Rids the yard of negative energy any time of year." She winks. "By the way, we need to chat about the Croatian supper. Proceeds will be sent directly to the famished in Zagreb." Mrs. Bonn keeps folks abreast of local philanthropic events. Deacon is happy to support charities but avoids committees with nightmare politics.

"Is that June Birgi?" Following her outstretched hand, his eyes find the strange woman again. "June!" Mrs. Bonn waves and then notes, "An Arkansan. She's speaking at City Hall tomorrow. Doesn't look like a scientist, does she?"

June crosses the street in a serpentine path through the slush and slurry. Clearly relieved, the explanation effuses from her without hesitation. "Mrs. Bonn, I am so glad to find you! Please, I have dropped my glove and cannot pick it up myself; bad luck you know."

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