The Penitent

Kneeling in the snow before the only person of flesh and bone he knew in his soul he would ever love or be loved by, Elder Muller lifted his head to allow her full magnificent radiance to shine down on his bloody, tear-streaked face. Droplets of blood were scattered in a heart shaped box around them, and a chorus of sparrows could be heard in the nearrby trees. So this was love, he marvelled?

Only 9 weeks before he had come to the east coast from Utah, selected by his quorum for his humility, his obediance, and his “unwavering delight in endeavoring for the continual magnification of God’s eternal glory”. Only, he had asked Elder Parrish to write his recommendation for missonary work because Elder Parrish was by far the most eloquent among the aspiring Elders, and thus most capable of securing his ticket out. But he asked also in part because he knew Elder Parrish was secretly desirous of the young Elder Muller’s forthcoming status in the church once the elder Elder Mueller had passed, a post the young Mueller was not eager to take on but seemed almost imminent in light of the hacking cough the 87 year-old had been unable to rid himself of for several months now. Time was short for both of the Mullers.

Indeed, it seemed to the young Elder Mueller, after years of monotonous rejoicing in the glory ever-abounding, that with so little time left, it was only fitting to finally do something new, to go somewhere aside from biking to Mount Ada and back in a day (a 66 mile trek), to go and see how the other side of the religious divide lived, that dark other half writhing in all of its terrible squalor and indifference.

Just once, he thought to himself, he wanted for Sister Jeanne to look at him the way she looked at Elder Parrish when she didn’t know Elder Mueller was watching. Just once. Or not. Probably not. No, Sister Jeanne didn’t stir in him the sensation he knew she felt when saw Parrish. He wanted someone who DID ache for him the way Jeanne did for Parrish. He wanted to lose himself in lusty abandon, but he never felt the urge to do so with any one man or woman of his congregation. Parrish had it easy in that regard; he lost himself with candor in the folds of Sister Jeanne’s skirts many a sunny afternoon, and Sister Adriana’s, Sister Sarah’s, Sister Penelope’s, and Sister France’s for that matter. All the young Mueller wanted was the desire to and he would gladly lose himself as well, but he never once found himself compelled.

Skip forward 3 weeks to the train depot in Philadelphia: there she stood, alight in the glow of the setting sun pouring in through the windows. He had come from days away, with nothing more than a backpack and a wish, but he knew that his wish had come true from the moment he saw her.


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