Tall, straight walls and south-facing windows that would have filled, each bright day of the world, with light. A broad porch that looked down a slope to a strong-built toolshed and sprawling pasture beyond. A good stream. Handsome shade trees. Evidence of an orchard. Heaven’s great gifts. All things laid out fine and right. And so it might have been a pretty place. And so it might have been that once upon a time. But now the paint on the house had peeled. Now more than one pane of . . .
Early last May, during the final week of the first stay-at-home orders, I received a phone call from an unknown number in Philadelphia. As most of my calls those days seemed to be hoaxes threatening some unspecified legal action, I hadn’t answered, and was surprised, upon checking my messages, to hear the voice of Alex Stephanides. Alex and I had been best friends through much of elementary school and . . .
The saint is nameless when she comes to Orrin Bird. By horse float, of all means. Though he cannot say what other mode of transport might have been more appropriate, given circumstances. She could hardly have come by rail, accompanied or otherwise. He supposes she might have come by hearse. Though hearses are scarce enough out here, and to receive a casket, a box of any kind from such a vehicle, would have brought attention, prying in the guise of condolences. In fact, condolences . . .
“Ed-wee-na, tell me a story.”
“No, no more stories. It’s way past your bedtime.”
That conversation had taken place more than seventy years before. She did not remember the little girl’s name—Maude or Molly or Millie, something that started with M. Dr. Ditmus herself had been fourteen then—old enough to be motherless, in the opinion of some of her practical-minded relatives; and old enough, surely, in the view of those . . .