Meryl’s fingers creaked as she anointed each with holy warmth, struggling to dress each gnarled crevice. The smell of incense and candle smoke was strongest in the back pew where she huddled together, a clump of dirt and tatters. She smiled at her hands. Sure, it was colder than pews further towards the altar, but the scent was the most heavenly vessel in the church. Besides, she got enough looks sitting in the back. The front would be a firing squad of stares and mumbles.
“Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world,” the priest’s intonations rose with the organ, “Have mercy on us. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Grant us Your peace.”
Meryl tilted her head upward to watch. It was no different from any other mass she had sat through. The ushers conducted rows to the front for communion, releasing the spiritually hungry to join the bread line. Soon, it would be her turn. As the row in front of her gathered into the line, a family of four walked past her. A boy of 10 pulled his face below a dress shirt and tie, smushing the bridge of his nose under the white collar; a girl, Meryl reckoned his sister, pinched tight her nose, grimacing at Meryl as she pinched tighter.