Amelia did not have the sort of mind that could compass the richness of Byzantium—the gold leaf halos encircling narrow, dark-eyed faces, the scent of dried roses, the black-skirted priests, all crushed together on a narrow strip of land that tied the dregs of Europe to the promise that was Asia.
Her own aesthetic had been shaped in a colder, harsher land. She worshipped in tiny chapels built from raw pine boards on free-flowing prairies far from any sea. No gold glinted behind her father’s pulpit. No saints were allowed within town limits.
On most days Amelia enjoyed her job, driving her chocolate-coloured truck, placing birthday presents wrapped in brown paper and fat Amazon parcels in the mailboxes that lined the county roads out of town. But she wasn’t having much fun this January day, not with the winter wind blowing waves of sleet across the prairie. By 4 PM she had to turn on her headlights. As she headed back to town, a swirl of snowflakes obscured her windshield.
She slammed on her brakes, just missing the robed figure that was faintly visible in the growing dusk. Her headlights illuminated the Patriarch’s narrow face. He raised his right hand as if to push her truck away, or maybe just to bless her. When she cut off the engine and opened her door, he called something out in a deep bass voice. But it was all Greek to her.
She was not the sort of person to meet a lost saint, an heir to Constantine himself, in a snowstorm on Rural Route 3.
Back when she was in Sunday school, her father had taught her to pray. But she had no words with which she could address this icon of a man. All she could do was stumble out of the cab of the truck and kneel down in the snow. She bowed her head, allowing him to place his ghostly hands on the ice crystals clinging to her hair.
by Frances Hay