William Fitzgerald Attends Church

On Sundays he sat in the bright stained-glass puddle that filled the nave of the stone church down from his office. He sang the songs with biting cynicism, his brittle voice strained by the pot and a half of thick black coffee he’d swallowed acidly; cynical not because he disbelieved but because the idea of humanity lifting its voice and lauding revolted him. He bore the sermon with angry affectation. He sat in an empty space within the row, though squeezed on both sides by fellow parishioners. He shook hands obliquely, a mask of a man, the distant eyes of a woodwife never quite meeting the moist eyes of the men and the women who pressed his hand and greeted him formally in Christ’s name.

He took no part in the greater mysteries of the faith. William Fitzgerald did not attend weddings or funerals, and held himself aloof from the communion, passing the bread and the wine silently, untasted, along the row. His hands were steady as he handed the host to his neighbour. He donated little, just enough so as not to lose entirely his place within the congregation. These weekly rituals confirmed and highlighted the righteousness of his misanthropy.