Father Joseph Stansel kicked his bedcovers off with one leg and left his knee bent toward the ceiling, the sole of his foot resting on the top of the bedsheet. He opened his eyes halfway and looked at his striped pajama leg in the dim light coming through the closed slats of the blinds; the stripes vertical, the slats horizontal, both in the pale blue of dawn. He ran one hand through his sandy hair, and with the other, reached for the illuminated clock—5:30—he could sleep another half hour. He had to say Mass at 7:00. But if he didn’t get up now, he wouldn’t be able to have coffee before Mass. Nothing by mouth except water for one hour prior to reception of the Holy Eucharist had always included coffee, as far as he was concerned, though Father Bob told him he was being excessively scrupulous in the matter. He ran his hand over his beard, down his smooth bare chest, and massaged the smooth sheet with the sole of his foot, drowsily closing his eyes again, deciding he’d do without coffee until after Mass.
Dena Hunt is a retired English teacher who lives in Georgia, where she reads, writes, and tends her garden and her beloved Celeste, a Yorkshire Terrier who is also retired.