By on Oct 28, 2012 in Fiction

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Collage of photos from Halstatt

As she always did, Megan lit a candle at the statue of Mary and the Christ child, praying first for her never-to-be born baby, then for her absent mother, and next for her father, a retired construction worker who seldom left his cluttered house, only going out for paltry groceries and a supply of liquor. Watching the wavering flame, a faint smell of smoke surrounding it, she included Matthew, her good Catholic first husband who, in the way of her father, had cared for his booze more than he cared for her.

She knelt and under her breath recited childhood prayers — Our Father, Hail Mary — and the comforting Twenty-third Psalm. Because she was far away from home, Megan whispered, “Please give us a safe return. Keep us from any disasters.” A terrorist bombing; a hotel fire; a crashing airplane. So many things frightened her, but she wanted to go wherever Alex went.

Gazing at the altar and stained-glass windows and crucifix in this silent sanctuary, she recalled other opulent ones they had recently seen — the magnificent cathedral in Trier with its pilgrim’s walk to the golden chapel where a relic supposed to be Christ’s robe was kept; Munich with its baroque interior and statue forever fighting a Protestant demon; Mondsee with its heavy rococo embellishments where a virginal Maria from The Sound of Music walked down the aisle accompanied by the sisters’ heavenly voices. Megan had been drawn to these places like a fish to a sparkling lure. Hallstatt’s church seemed unimpressive in comparison, but after so much abundance, she preferred its simplicity.

Delaying the reason why she had come, Megan began to consider criticisms of the Church’s wealth. She had never before seen Old World extravagance, and rationalized about all the good that had been done in Catholicism’s name. Still, how much more could be done for the hungry and the sick and the needy if money spent on maintaining these immense temples was used for them?

Her last prayer before leaving was: “Please God, let me get pregnant.” Megan had made this request every day since she married Alex.

He wanted a baby as much as she did, and knew about her past, often reassuring her with comments like, “I did plenty when I was young. All that time in juvie. Selling drugs to kids at Lakeside. Think of the people I hurt.” And he would say, “If you could just relax….” Tests on both of them had given positive results. Nevertheless, she failed to conceive, and often thought, How exactly am I supposed to relax?

When she left the church, Megan poked a twenty euro bill in its offering box, and felt less like a trespasser.

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Kathleen Glassburn earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, three male dogs, several wandering cats, and a 45-year-old female turtle. When not writing or reading or editing, she plays the piano — jamming with friends — or rides horses. Her work has been published in Cicatrix, Cairn, Crucible, ep;phany, Lullwater Review, Marco Polo Quarterly, RiverSedge, SLAB, The Talon Mag, The Writer's Workshop Review, and several other journals. Her story, "Picnics," was a finalist in Glimmer Train'sBest Start contest. She is managing editor of The Writer's Workshop Review. Check out her website,, for more information.

One Comment

  1. Kathy, I wor