St. Thomas
Brian Cabrera
Break
The two boys zipped up their coats and waited at the side door. When Sister Angelica turned her head, they exchanged smiling glances and slipped out of the church. Keeping a casual pace so as to not draw suspicion, they pulled off their clip-on ties and stuffed them into their coat pockets as they headed toward the walled garden of the St. Thomas rectory.
"I think she saw us, Ryan."
"No way. If she did, she would have yelled out by now."
Both boys pulled on their hats and weaved in-between the cars, which were just beginning to leave. Eddie grinned. "You know, now would be the perfect time to get hit by a car."
"And why would that be?"
"Because we'd go straight up to Heaven."
"Up to Heaven? You really think so?"
"Of course I do. We just went to confession, didn't we?"
"Well, you can go up there without me, Eddie. I wouldn't want to miss the Steelers game next Sunday."
"But we could watch the game from Heaven. In Heaven, we could do anything we wanted. We could even make ourselves invisible and go into the girl's locker room!"
"You're such an idiot."
They reached the wrought-iron gate of the rectory's garden and Ryan opened it with a flourish. Bowing low, he swept his arm in toward the interior. "After you, Monsieur."
"Be careful!" Eddie pleaded as he dashed inside. Ryan closed the gate and they sprinted to the far end of the garden. They crouched under the evergreen branches and sat in a clearing with their backs against a low brick pedestal. Standing on this pedestal was a statue of St. Thomas.
"I can't wait to see the Cowboys get crushed next Sunday," Ryan said as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. He fished two out and handed one to Eddie. "And it's going to be in Pittsburgh. It'll be just like it was before." He fumbled around in his coat until he found his lighter. He reached over and lit Eddie's cigarette, then his own.
"But the Steelers haven't been the same for years," Eddie said, exhaling smoke which mingled with the chill in the air.
"They're still the Steelers."
"But they're not the champions that they used to be. And they'll be complete crap when Bradshaw retires."
"The quarterback isn't the whole team."
"Well, the quarterback runs the team. Without a good quarterback everything falls apart."
"Things won't change that much."
"Ryan, things already have."
Ryan felt a heaviness in his stomach and he took a drag off his cigarette, making sure that his friend saw he was really inhaling. "I guess things always do, Eddie."
The boys fell silent when they heard their classmates approaching. Playful chatter, punctuated by bursts of laugher, marched by on the other side of the wall. They could hear Sister Angelica's voice rise above the others as she laughed along with the students. The two friends remained perfectly still until they were sure that everyone had passed.
"Do you want to come over and watch it at my house?" Eddie finally asked.
"That's okay. I'm going to watch the game over at my dad's."
"Where does he live now?"
"Not too far from here, actually."
"Is the new house as big as the old one?"
"No. But there's no furniture in it yet, so it seems big," Ryan answered as he flicked his cigarette up through the branches. It made a high arc and hit the ground with a splash of sparks. He then tapped a fresh one out from the pack. Seeing this, Eddie cautiously looked over the garden wall.
"I don't think we have time for another one. We should get back before they notice that we're gone."
"It's not for me, Monsieur," Ryan said as he lit up. "Methinks that good ol' St. Tommy is needing a smoke." He stood up and put the lit cigarette between the statue's fingers.
"You better cut it out, Ryan. Someone's going to see you."
"There's no one watching me."
"But you shouldn't do that," Eddie warned.
"Why the hell not?"
"Because that's St. Thomas."
"It's just a statue."
"No it's not. And besides, we just had our confession."
At this, Ryan turned and faced Eddie. "You're not being serious, are you?"
"Serious about what?"
"Damn, Eddie, don't be such a pussy!"
Eddie's face dropped as he looked away. He put his cigarette down and ground it into the dirt with the heel of his shoe. He then carefully buried the butt and patted the entire area level. "When did you get so mean?" he asked as he rubbed the dirt from his hands.
"When did you get to be such a pussy?"
As they sneaked back out of the garden, Ryan felt the silence between them. They made their way out of the church grounds, with Eddie walking on ahead. Ryan could hear the sound of Eddie's loafers tapping on the pavement and the heaviness in his stomach grew as that sound got further and further away.
Brian Cabrera lives in El Cerrito, California. He was awarded the Twelfth Annual Tyner-Roethke Award for poetry, and his poetry and short stories have appeared in The Cardinal Sins, Cardinalis, flashquake, triptych, and The Square Table.