“140 Characters,” “A new short story in honor of the professor who told me a short story should never, ever have more than 3,” by faculty member Liam Callanan, is online at New Haven Review.

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The old nun, Agnes, who keeps to herself.

The old nun’s friend, Frieda, because even old nuns who keep to themselves keep at least one friend and that’s who Frieda is, and why not, because she, too, is an old nun but also a former one, and was happy to drive over this fine summer evening and help Agnes root around the front yard looking for Joseph, who’s not a nun but a saint, or the plastic replica of one, buried upside down somewhere here in front of the convent, the two old women are sure of it, because the building is for sale and tradition holds that this is what you do: hire realtor, plant sign, bury Joseph, hello buyer.

Suzanne, who doesn’t go to church anymore—Sundays are for open houses—but happily retweets the odd biblical passage she comes across and keeps a trunkful of St. Josephs rattling around in her car to give to clients: hey, you never know….

Her clients, the nuns, specifically Mary Pat and Mary Grace, two of the three women remaining at the old convent in the inner city, who are wondering when Agnes, the third, is going to come back from that walk she claimed she was taking, what that highpitched sound is, whether their hearing aid batteries need replacing, who will pay for that, and if they really should ask Hector to bury the statue of St. Joseph in the yard, because they haven’t yet. 

Hector, who installed the smoke detector that’s confusing the nuns, and who has buried the following things in his own backyard: five mice the poison killed, two the cat killed, and the cat; a chicken neck, a votive candle, and a picture of someone he hated; a chicken heart, a votive candle, and a picture of someone he loved; Mrs. Reynoso’s business card with the bright red palm; two Pic-n-Save Supermarket bags, one inside the other, encasing a Glock he was told didn’t work; 300 U.S. dollars and 2,000 Honduran lempiras in an old pickle jar; a startlingly large dead crow he found Tomas and Angelina playing with one morning as he was headed to work at the convent he knew would close soon.

Gladys Reynoso, who attends mass every Sunday in the old convent chapel, sitting high up in the loft, the designated seats for the laity, looking down at the long empty pews below, the designated seats for nuns, wondering where those nuns are, wondering if they buried the secretly extra-special statue she gave that woman Suzanne, whom Gladys told would die very wealthy, but not that she would die next year, nor that this one particular St. Joseph, which Gladys gave to Suzanne to give the nuns to give to Hector to bury to sell the convent, had a teeny, tiny curse on it that would render it useless.

…[Keep Reading]…

Liam is the author of All Saints (2008, Dial Press).

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