Stonework is published by Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college located in New York’s rural Genesee Valley. Stonework seeks a diverse mix of mature and emerging voices in fellowship with the evangelical tradition. Published twice a year, the journal reflects the arts community at Houghton College where excellence in music, writing, and the visual arts has long been a distinctive.

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  • Issue 6
    Poetry by Paul Willis and Thom Satterlee. Fiction and interview with Lori Huth. Essay by James Wardwell, and student poets from Christian campuses.
  • Issue 5
    Poetry by Susanna Childress and Debra Rienstra. Fiction excerpt by Emilie Griffin. Art from Houghton's 2007 presidential inauguration and a forum on women writing.
  • Issue 4
    Matthew Roth--new poems. Diane Glancy--from One of Us and an interview. John Tatter-on gardens and poetry. The Landscapes of John Rhett. Stephen Woolsey--on the poetry of Jack Clemo. James Wardwell--on Herrick.
  • Issue 3
    Poetry by Julia Kasdorf, Robert Siegel and Sandra Duguid. Fiction by Tom Noyes. The portraits of Alieen Ortlip Shea. An anthology of Australian Poets
  • Issue 2
    Thom Satterlee - Poems from Burning Wycliff with an appreciation by David Perkins. Alison Gresik - new fiction and an interview. James Zoller - Poems from Living on the Floodplain.
  • Issue 1
    Luci Shaw — new poems with an appreciation by Eugene H. Peterson & Hugh Cook — new fiction and an interview

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hail Mary

~Stacy Barton

My very best friend in all the world was Mary Katherine. She was Catholic. There were seven children in her family, and every single one of them had red hair. There were so many kids in that house that her mamma didn’t even bother with bed sheets; they
just slept three or four to a bed right across the top of the mattress. Mamma said that wasn’t Christian, but Mary Katherine didn’t seem to mind.

We were Nazarene. There were only a very few of us in St. Margaret Parish, Louisiana. We didn’t drink, and we didn’t smoke, and we put out clean linens every week. We never swore, and we never worked on Sundays. There was only me and Mamma, and we ate meat every Friday. At Mary Katherine’s there was never enough food, too many kids, and Mary Katherine’s daddy drank whiskey. Mamma said they’d go to hell for drinking and for praying to the Virgin Mary, but I thought it was nice at Mary Katherine’s house. There was a lot of laughing there.

Mary Katherine and her mamma helped me sneak into the movies sometimes. In general my mamma believed movies were the handiwork of the devil. Last summer we saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. My mamma would never have approved of that one on account of its having dancing. Mamma definitely didn’t believe in dancing. I thought it was beautiful and couldn’t imagine what could be wrong with twirling around to gorgeous music. I couldn’t imagine God would hate me for it, but I said a quick prayer at the shrine for the Mother Mary in the rosebushes at Mary Katherine’s—just in case.

It was a beautiful place, that shrine. I could just feel heaven when I was there. Hail, Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. She had the sweetest expression on her face, and her hands were stretched out among God’s roses. I imagined that if she weren’t made of stone she would just break out dancing. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Mary Katherine wasn’t so sure that the Mother Mary danced, but she said I should imagine so if it helped me with all the guilt I felt for disobeying my mamma’s church. If I wanted to get near to God, I suppose I would just go out under the stars and be quiet and wait to see what God actually had to say. But I’d never heard of anything like that, so I just sat through the services with Mamma and heard how we were all going to burn in hell if we weren’t extra careful. I spent most of my time tracing the pew in front of me with my eyes.

Saturday was to be a very special day. We were going to see Gone with the Wind. Mary Katherine and I had been waiting for weeks. We had every last detail planned out. We told my mamma that there was an additional Girl Scout meeting over at Laura Lane’s
house to discuss the upcoming cookie sale. I planned to wear my very ugly Girl Scout uniform because Mamma couldn’t possibly imagine that I could do anything terribly evil in a Girl Scout uniform. Of course, I would have on an extra shirt underneath, but I simply must bear the disgrace of going to the movies in my Girl Scout skirt. It couldn’t be helped. But I didn’t care so very much because I was going to see Vivien Leigh!

By Friday night I was so nervous I couldn’t eat my okra, and Mamma started to worry I was taking sick. So I stuffed my mouth full of the little slimy things, and when Mamma wasn’t looking I spit them into my napkin. I hoped God wouldn’t get angry at me for wasting, and I said a special blessing on the poor heathens in Africa.

I could hardly sleep all night. In the morning Mamma asked why my color was so bright, and I said because I was especially excited about winning the badge for the top Girl Scout cookie sales. Mamma didn’t look exactly convinced, but before she could think of anything else to say, I kissed her goodbye and ran out the door. I would have to say another prayer to the Holy Mother for lying on the way to the movies, but I didn’t even care.

There was a decided thrill in going to the Ascension Palace Theater downtown. Even though we were seeing a matinee, they had the popcorn machine running and all the lights on just as if we were going to a nighttime feature.

Mary Katherine and I showed up red-faced and breathless; we had run all the way from the corner where her mamma dropped us off to escape being seen by anyone who might tell my mamma where I was. We slipped into the ladies’ room to cool our faces with a little water and remarked about how we just might faint from the excitement of it all. Mary Katherine had snuck a tube of her mamma’s lipstick, and we giggled as we painted our lips movie-star red. We bought our tickets and mooned over a large Gone with the Wind poster as we counted out our change for hot buttered popcorn. I squeezed Mary Katherine’s arm, and we walked down the aisle of the theater like brides.

I liked to sit close to the front and clear in the middle so I could feel like I was actually inside the moving picture with all those beautiful people. The Ascension Palace was the one place in the whole parish where I could believe.

The lights went dim, and the red velvet curtain parted, and Mary Katherine took my hand. We were beholding the very opening of Gone with the Wind itself. We hardly breathed, it was so beautiful, and we held each other all the way through. We were weeping by the final scene and positively hugging, and I couldn’t quite help myself—I kissed Mary Katherine on the lips. She was warm and salty and surprised, but she kissed me back, and for a moment we were Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, and St. Margaret Parish fell away, and God loved the Nazarenes.

Then it was over. We giggled, wiped off our lipstick, gathered up our popcorn bags and little change purses, and headed for the door. Suddenly, I was stone. There was my mamma in the doorway to the theater looking as though she hated me more than life itself, and all the beauty just slipped right out of me.

Mamma sent Mary Katherine directly home and didn’t speak to me in the car—except to tell me she was ashamed that I was her daughter and that to save my soul from burning in hell for eternity I was never to see Mary Katherine again. I didn’t even cry.

Later in my room, I traced my lip with my finger and remembered my best friend in all the world and wished I had been born a redheaded Catholic to a family that was going to hell for whiskey and prayers. I remembered Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and Mary Katherine’s movie-star lipstick and all those glorious sleepovers without sheets. I considered asking the Holy Mary, Mother of God, to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. But I was a child of a devout Nazarene, so I laid on top of the hot summer covers and closed my heart to God.


Reprinted with permission from Surviving Nashville (WordFarm, 2007) copyright by stacy Barton 2007.