Madge Cusper is an alcoholic parishioner of Nicolet's.
SHE WAS DRESSED AS if for a garden party in powder blue with powder blue gloves, a string of white summer beads tight about her thick neck. She turned away from him toward the window, her lion-face softening. " Will you help a lady in distress, kind sir? A lady like me. . . . "
Did you pray when you made your calls? Always the silent prayer, entering anywhere—"Peace be in this house"—and when you were asked to, of course: a grace at meals, a prayer for the bereaved, the dying. But how about when you were not asked? It was not for a prayer that Madge Cusper was pleading but for comfort, advice, reproof, all of which he had given her often before. She could not bring herself to look at him now, asking for what she knew was of no use to either of them. She was purring again, gazing out beneath the green and amber panes as out of a cave.
He stood behind her chair with his two hands on her head, seeing himself in the convex mirror as some kind of hairdresser. The carroty hair was surprisingly thin, her scalp hot and hard through it. Her skull beneath his hands. She sat stiff.
"Lie down with a plastered old lion, thou blessed lamb of God," he prayed. "Place thy hands on my hands and use my guttering love to love her through, a channel to her of thy healing grace, that she may kindle to thy dancing at the heart. . . . "
-Originally published in The Final Beast