Continued from the previous chapter, here.
The shrill beeping of his cell phone work Asa Pemewan from a dream he could not recall other than it being strange. The display read half past five, and the room was dark save for the screen’s glow. The house around him was silent save for the persistent whispering of the ceiling fan above him; the noises of crickets and frogs outside, as well as the pronghorns that gave the town its name carried easily to him.
With a snippet of a medieval lyric half-remembered from a graduate class in mind–Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ / murie sing cucu–he rose and made for the door. As his hand touched the doorknob, Asa remembered that he had slept in only his underwear, and he slipped on a pair of loose shorts and the t-shirt he had worn the day before before stepping lightly out into the hallway. The floor creaked a bit under his feet as he made his way towards the kitchen, whence the sound of the coffee pot came as a new pot brewed.
Asa moved on towards the house’s one bathroom–We had a hell of a time of it when Sis was here–but stopped when he saw light shining from under the door. Wonder if it’s Mom or Dad. He leaned against the wall and waited.
And waited. Must be Dad, then.
The sound of the toilet flushing and water running for hand-washing marked came from the bathroom, and Asa stood up. The door opened, and his father stepped into the hallway, tying his robe shut. “Mornin’.”
“Mornin’.” Asa slipped past and began his own ablutions. A few minutes later, he returned to the kitchen, where the older man was reading a magazine. Asa poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down. “Anything interesting?”
Asa’s father sipped at his own coffee. “Not so much.” He put the magazine down. “You know you’ve got a damn loud alarm, right?”
Asa shrugged. “Does the job.”
“Does it too damned well. Good thing I was on the crapper when it rang.”
Asa had been about to take a sip of his coffee, but he stopped and snorted a laugh. “Keep your voice down, son. Your mother’s still sleepin’.”
“Thought you’d be getting ready for church.”
“Ah.” Asa and his father both sipped at their cups. “Who’s the preacher now?”
“Young lady named Kerr…I think it’s Anna Kerr. Usually just call ‘er ‘Rev’nd.'”
Asa nodded. “When did she come in?”
“Been, what, two years or so? Old Rev’nd Fisher finally retired–he and Father Reynolds still play cards together Tuesdays, though. Anyway, when he said he was gonna retire, church asked for a new preacher, and Rev’nd Kerr’s who they sent. Lives up to the fam’ly motto, too.”
“Yep. She’s got some Scotland back in her family, says she’s descended from the Kerrs in Ferniehurst–goes on for hours ’bout it if you ask ‘er. Anyway, she’s got up in her office a plaque or something with the family emblem; it says ‘Sero sed serio’ on it.”
Asa paused for a second, recalling his old coursework. “‘Late but serious,’ I think.”
“‘Late but in earnest,’ she says. And she is; never gets started on time, but quite a bit of fire in her preachin’. Some folks were worried about her comin’ in, after so many years of Fisher; they ain’t worried now.”
Asa set down his coffee cup. “I take it you approve.”
His father smiled. “A bit.” Then, seeing something behind Asa, the older man stood. “Mornin’, honey.”
Asa scrambled to his feet, too. “Mornin’, Mom.”
Asa’s mother yawned, covering her mouth. “Good morning.” She walked across the kitchen, filled a kettle, and set it on to boil.
“We were just talking about Rev’nd Kerr, honey,” noted Asa’s father as he and Asa both sat.
“Oh? So will you be coming to church with us, Asa?”
“Seems that way.” Asa shrugged. “I don’t have anywhere else to be today.”
“Now you stop that self-pity! You’re a smart young man, educated, talented. You’ve got a lot going for you.”
“It’d be nice to find someone who agrees with you, Mom, and who’ll give me a paycheck.”
Asa’s father chimed in. “You were gonna check that place on Main tomorrow, remember?”
Asa nodded. “I was. I am. But that’s tomorrow.”
“Alright, then, but don’t you go getting down on yourself. You know what I told you.”
Asa’s mother sat down. “By the way, did you call that Richard boy?”
“And it went about like I expected.”
“He asked why I was calling. I didn’t have a good answer. He hung up.”
“Catching up wasn’t a good reason?”
“Well, what’d he say?”
“That catching up isn’t a good enough reason.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass!”
“I’m not, this time.” Asa raised his hands, as if in self-defense. “It’s what he said.”
“Well.” Asa’s mother stood and started to set up her tea. “The important thing is that you tried.” She paused. “You’ll try again, right?”
“Not with him, no.”
“With who, then?”
Asa paused. “I have no idea.” But I’m sure you do.
Asa’s mother sat back down with her tea. “I think I might have some ideas, Asa.”
Of course you do. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Asa looked at his cup of coffee, seeing it empty. “But what I have in mind right at the moment is that I need to get a shower and a shave. Either of you need the room?” Seeing both shake their heads, Asa nodded. “Then I’m going to be a few minutes.”
Asa walked off to get his clothes for the day. His parents looked at each other as he did, Asa’s father with an eyebrow raised, his mother with her lips pursed.
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