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  • Sister Marie Celeste pushed the big dust mop around the sanctuary. She reached under the shiny wooden pews to drag out dust balls the size of ground squirrels. Where did they come from, anyway? She wondered if she should dust more than once a week on Sunday mornings. As she was contemplating this, the electric candle beside the pulpit flickered and went out. She stared at it.

    "Is that you, God?" she asked, approaching the candle. The candle flickered and came on.

    "Should I dust more often?" the candle went out.

    "Should I pray more?" the candle came on again. Sister Marie Celeste knelt and began a string of Hail Marys. She bobbed her head and ran her rosary through her fingers, counting the beads.

    Finally, she said, "May I resume my dusting so I will finish before the sanctuary is needed?" The candle flickered and came on again. Sister Marie Celeste bustled around, dusting, straightening up, laying out the Eucharist on the head table.

    When Sister Francis Catherine spoke harshly to Sister Marie Celeste at dinner, Sister Marie Celeste came into the sanctuary and spoke to the candle. "Should I report her to Mother Superior?" She asked, after telling the candle of Sister Francis Catherine's unkindness. The candle went out.

    "She didn't mean to speak harshly?" Sister Marie Celeste asked. The candle came on.

    "Is her bursitis acting up again?" The candle flickered and stayed on.

    "Excuse me, Ma'am," a low voice interrupted Sister Marie Celeste's dialogue with God. It was Joshua, the maintenance man who kept the boiler and fixed things around the chapel and the St, Cecilia Home for Old Nuns. "Mother Superior sent me to replace the faulty candle bulb."

    Sister Marie Celeste put her hand to her mouth. "Ma'am," Joshua explained, "The filament is broken, see how it flickers? It heats up and separates, then cools off and joins again. And if anyone walks close to it, it goes out because the floor jiggles and the filaments separate. I just need to put a new one in."

    Joshua pulled a new bulb from the pocket of his dark green maintenance uniform. He unscrewed the God bulb and put the new one in. Sister Marie Celeste held out her hand for the old bulb.

    "I'll dispose of it," Joshua said.

    "Please, sir, let me."

    "As you will," Joshua said, laying the bulb gently in Sister Marie Celeste's hand. She slipped it into her pocket.

    When Joshua had left, she spoke to the new bulb. "God, are you still there?" Nothing. "God, can you hear me? Please speak to me." Nothing. "God, do you want me to leave the nunnery?" Silence.

    Carefully, Sister Marie Celeste screwed the old bulb back in to the candle fixture.

    "God," she asked, "do you love me?" The candle flickered and stayed on. "Do you love Sister Francis Catherine?" Again, a flicker, and a bright light. "God, forgive me for asking this, it's just a test. Do you love sin?" The light went out. And no matter what she asked, it never came on again.

    7-31-12 at 1:25 AM (insomniac)
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