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Debbie Ann Ice

The real estate agent put on her sunglasses, lenses so small they barely covered her eyeballs, and talked into the steering wheel as she shook her keys. "I thought we would see the United Methodist Church of Connecticut first. Colonial chapel. Lovely parlor." She inserted the key in the ignition.

"We're going to a church?" said Margaret. She pulled her plaid skirt a half an inch closer to her knee.

The woman glanced into the rear view mirror and brushed her eyebrows quickly with the tip of her index finger. "You will love it. Really. Simple, but not tacky." She smiled and peeked at Margaret over her sunglasses. She put the car in reverse and started out the parking lot.

"I wanted to see a few houses, just a few."

"The acoustics are a bit off because of where the beams of the chapel are located. Too low. The choir's voices echo. Still, it's nice. Minister's young. Congregation's predominately the Wellington school district."

"I really think this is all irrelevant."

"You were what, in New York, Episcopalian? The Episcopalian church is quite lovely." They were now at the corner. She flicked on the blinker and slowed the car to a stop. "But that would be at least a million dollar home." She looked over her sunglasses again. "Most of the congregation is the Hampton elementary school district. Lovely. Excellent academics. Phonics reading program and all of that. But the fundraising would drive you nuts. And the PTO's very social." She turned right and placed both hands on the steering reel. "Very social."

Margaret opened her mouth then closed it.

They passed one school after another, then came the houses, all scattered between churches. Margaret noticed most houses were two story, wooden framed, shuttered windows, 's' driveways. The car slowed at another intersection, and they stopped briefly in front of a small brick ranch; a miniature cross poked out of the roof near the chimney. There were a half dozen cars in the driveway, and a few heads moved behind the windows.

"Church of God." The agent said, eyes sliding toward the small house then back to her steering wheel. "Nondenominational. Royalton elementary school district. Houses in that district are cheap. $200 thousand." She leaned into Margaret. "We are not supposed to pit one school against another, but I will just say this off the record, ok? If at all possible don't join Church of God."

"Why are we talking about churches?"

"I don't want to influence you." She put on the brakes again turning into a church parking lot now. "Like I said. You were Episcopalian and maybe you want to stay that way."

"I was not Episcopalian."

"Well, then, I made a mistake. It doesn't matter. You will be what you will be. Here we are by the way." They were in front of a large white chapel with a black steeple that pointed towards the sky like a finger. Margaret could hardly make out the cross on top of the protrusion, at least a hundred feet above the building.

"But I was never anything. I was nothing," said Margaret.

The woman guffawed so loudly and suddenly Margaret's head snapped back a few inches, as if she were hit by small pebbles. "Nothing!" the agent screamed as she laughed. "You are so funny. Nothing!" She had her hand over her mouth and was wheezing into her palm, out of control with her giggles. "You will do so well here with your sense of humor!"

But Margaret really was nothing.

The agent finally stopped laughing and her "oh my" came out like a song lyric. She looked up in the rear view mirror and brushed her eyebrows again. "OK, shall we?"

Margaret followed the agent into the church and listened to her comment on the mahogany pews, stained glass windows, new songbooks, just purchased in the past year. When it was time to leave she turned to Margaret. "These houses will go for maybe $400 thousand, at least." She paused. "And as I believe I mentioned, the school district is Wellington? Very nice principal and exceptional soccer team."

They got back into the car. The agent smiled, her lips resembling a rubber band pulled and released. "So?" she began. "Don't make a decision based on one stop. Before we talk, let me at least show you a nice Tudor Presbyterian Church. Henley school district. They have wonderful Christmas plays. Then we'll peek at a Catholic Church on the way back to town. St Mary's Academy. Nice nuns." She leaned into Margaret again. "Quiet classrooms."

The agent took a left turn out of the parking lot, and Margaret looked out the window. She spotted a modern A-framed house up the hill. A boy, delicately built with an olive complexion, was in the back yard, staring at their car. She waved. The boy didn't wave back. They turned the corner, and the agent began a long pitch about the historical significance of the Tudor church. Margaret continued to stare back at the house and boy as they drove down the stretch of sun bleached asphalt. The house became smaller and smaller until it was a thin etching against the blue sky. The boy, a barely visible shadow.


Debbie Ann Ice lives in the Connecticut suburbs, far away from church, but close to the beach. She writes and has work published on line and in print. She has recently been seen in Sweet Fancy Moses and will be seen shortly in Opium.

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