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“And our guest of honour, the Reverend said to me as he stretched out both arms, half-laughing. And how are we feeling now? Get some rest? Have a nice meal?
I remembered his voice from the church, but now that he lacked a whole sanctuary between his face and mine, his voice was simple and fragile, like anyone’s voice. I looked at the floor, at his feet in his shoes, thought of the toes in his shoes, here, standing in the living room like the rest of us. I looked up at his face, his neck. He stretched his arms out as if he wanted me to hug him or to allow myself to be hugged by him, to submit my body into his. I did not. He patted my shoulder, then left his hand there. He stared at me much longer and more carefully than anyone else had in a long time. I felt a kind of heat behind my eyes, a signal I couldn’t decipher.
Now, what is it that we call you, dear? he asked. I looked at the empty television screen, saw ghostly reflections in it. A name? the Reverend asked again. Really, whatever you’d like to be called, that’s all we’re asking.
I didn’t want to be called anything.
I thought of leaving the room. I thought of leaving the house and going somewhere, but I somehow couldn’t. Some kind of force or threat was in the room, all over the house. The parrot called out, Hello? I gathered my hands in a fist behind my back.
Well, the Reverend said, not much of a talker, now are we?
All talk. No game, the parrot said. All talk. No game.
Steven and the Reverend laughed and the sons did not laugh. Jack muttered something under his breath, and Steven stamped on the boy’s foot.”