"In the summer," says Ulman, a Stonecoast MFA graduate, "I work in Alaska as a field technician for a shorebird study. In the winter I live in Delaware, where I write about Alaska." His work has appeared in several other magazines.
The wives of two prisoners serving life at the prison across the Bay were walking home after church hand in hand. Like every Sunday morning, they had each devoutly prayed for heavenly lenience for their husbands' sinful souls. The serenity of the crystal snowfall and overall whiteness of town resembled one woman's idea of heaven. And that peace spurred a conversation, which afterwards both women thought was a talk more appropriate to have in heaven, once they had arrived there and therefore had proof that there was such a place.
"Have you ever considered that there might be a divide between what people say and what they think? A revolting divide."
The woman's best friend, more like her sister, gave her a knowing look. She knew what she meant. After surveying the surrounding snowy peacefulness again, she responded. "Yes. I have. OK. Want to talk about it?"
"Father says such nice things -- about unfair trials and tests and strength, our strength in the face of such strife. Our fortitude and limitless courage."
Her friend quoted father, Your enduring love provides hope, not only to your husband but everyone. Paradigms of virtue and faith. Pillars of our congregation. Precious Jesus is proud.
"Yes! The exact same to me -- word for word. And being unoriginal is fine. He is a speaker and he has reliable phrases, like anyone. But..." Picturing the priest's face made her wince.
"I know, dear... The way he looks at us."
"Yes! Even, or especially when he is paying these compliments. Disapproval, pity, disgust, spite."
"And almost like anger, right?"
"Yes. Like we're breaking his heart, and we know it."
"Basically the same way anyone who knows who we are looks at us. Like the crimes are ours, too. Like it's our guilt."
"As if staying married to and supporting sick men is a sin."
"I often wonder if it is."
"Oh, of course, dear. Every day. But I always find love. I don't know how but it's always there. Maybe because, like father says, there are no exceptions to love, everyone gets love, and not just from Jesus. And since no one else has love for our husbands, not their mothers or fathers and sadly, certainly not Father. So we seek and take up that vacant love."
The other wife squeezed her friend's hand and nodded solemnly. "Every day I look, too. And I find it, too. And until I don't..."
Aside from sharing the complicated burden of having murderous husbands, both women had toddler daughters that were conceived during loveless conjugal visits; both were Pisces with long blond hair they dyed black, and they both knew this friendship or sisterhood was the only thing that sustained their relative sanity. Watching their daughters holding hands, skipping ahead of them in the snow like angels, the women began to cry. They held one another.
Yesterday a shipment of twelve transferred convicts arrived at the prison. And today at noon (while their wives were walking), for many reasons -- to dissuade a new prisoner from picking a fight with either of them, because they hadn't fought yet this winter, they missed it and, mostly, to put on a show -- the husbands fought one another barbarously, with intent to kill. This exhibition of their hate -- a hate which was the sole motivation that kept them interested in prison life and living life -- left both battered, bloodied, bruised and content.
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