I thought it would be enticing and refreshing to include an excerpt from Chapter 2, during the parish picnic and where Gio tries to console a sad and angry Sera. Imagine a fictitious beach somewhere along Georgian Bay way back in 1970.
As Gio was setting up his basket, organizing his fishing gear and wrestling with the lawn chair, he heard a sweet voice from behind.
“Aren’t you going to swim, Father Gio?” inquired a voice innocently behind him. He turned to face Gwen, her freckled cheeks and crooked smile. Her red-orange hair was waving in the breeze like licks of long, unruly flames.
“No, my child. You wouldn’t want to see ME in a swimsuit. I’d scare all the fish – and maybe even the ladies.”
“You’re funny,” she giggled, “Okay, then. See ya!” and she was off in a puff of beach dust to join the others.
Gio raised and lowered his arms to feel the late June breeze cooling the wet spots under his arms and on his back. He smiled and nodded as people passed by and greeted him. His scouting gaze met that of Marie Fletcher’s. She smiled and waved with her right hand then lowered it to lightly grasp her side. With her left, she pointed towards the milkweed patch near the trees. He nodded and waved back in acknowledgment.
Gio retrieved two cans of Canada Dry Ginger Ale from his cooler, grabbed an opener, his straw hat and proceeded in the direction of the patch beyond the border of a few birch trees. He stumbled slightly over stones and tree stumps then stopped. He listened to the sound of the breeze rustling through the treetops and realized how refreshing it was. It almost sounded like the water of the Georgian Bay lapping at the nearby shore. He felt soothed by the song of wind and water. He breathed lightly then stopped all activity at the sight of the little girl.
There she was, sitting on an old stump, holding out her small hand. On the tip of her fingers was a freshly transformed Monarch butterfly slowly flapping its wings in the light breeze of the sheltered patch. Gio stood still and watched her as she connected with this small creature. This is my child, he thought, smiling with joy. A wild child. An angel. A miracle of creation. My shame. My joy. He fought back tears.
The air felt suddenly still. Gio breathed in and out lightly. For a moment he couldn’t tell if she was holding the butterfly up and out with her hand and small arm - or if it, through its light flapping, was trying to lift her into the air. He smiled sadly and shook his head, realizing the logical explanation.
He lingered his gaze on the smooth, pudginess of her arm up to her fingertips. His heart raced and fluttered. The butterfly leapt off of the girl's fingers and floated awkwardly towards Gio in arcs and dips, landing on his straw hat. Sera turned her gaze to follow its flight path but frowned when she saw Father Gio standing there in his fatness, holding a can of pop in each hand and smiling at her.
“Are you thirsty, Sera?” he called.
Her mouth was indeed dry and she wanted to blurt out a loud “yes” but her pride allowed her to only shrug and nod her head. Gio walked carefully through the stumps and rocks, finally reaching a boulder across from the child. He slowly lowered his large rear end on the rock, sighing as he sat down.
“Hot day,” he stated then dug the can opener into one chilled soft drink, letting out a refreshing “Fizzzzz!”. He handed the can to her.
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, opening his can to fizz and accompany his response.
“Cheers, Sera,” he said lifting the drink to his lips and taking in a few gulps.
“Cheers, Gio,” she responded then observed the monarch still resting on his hat. He winced at her persistent use of first names with him but didn’t want to start a war of wills on such a lovely day.
“Why aren’t you out on the beach with the other kids?”
“I’m sad,” She kicked at a stone, "I’m angry."
He took another sip, “Why is that, my child?” As soon as he spoke those words, he realized their secret meaning. My child. My child.
- end excerpt -