The Devil's Work
By sean mcnulty
A cold wind split their faces and that as well as tiredness caused them to rest by the sunflower as tall as a small tree.
‘We should dig the plot here,’ suggested Stinson. ‘And get back to the boat.’
‘He’s in no state to be Captain right now,’ said Masterson.
‘I’m okay----a little queasy, but okay,’ said Littlewood.
‘This may be a cemetery,’ said Geissel. ‘But... it’s an unfamiliar one. I have doubts God is here.’
‘Why wouldn’t he be by the reckoning of your faith?’ responded Katrine. ‘This is too familiar – too earthly – to let it disarm you. It’s uncanny, yes, but no more than everything else that is real.’
‘The uncanniness you speak of is a perversion. This? These things...I can only surmise they are perversions of nature.’
‘There is a lot of perversion in nature, Father Geissel. And just who is responsible for perverting it?’
‘Why, the devil, of course. The devil has his mitts in it.
‘So all that is unexplained is the devil?’
‘That’s the only way to explain any of it.’
‘When you see a person with a big nose, do you ask why that person’s nose is so big compared to other noses?’
‘Like Stinson’s nose?’
‘Yes, like Stinson’s nose.’
Stinson did not react to the mention of his large proboscis. It had arisen in conversation many times in his life and he’d learned to accept it as a matter of interest for people. If anything, he was shocked that it took until now – in this discussion of unexplained phenomena – for it to be noted.
‘I don’t usually think about his nose.’
‘Yes, it is a normal nose. Yet you consider it different from the others, yes?’
‘Of course. It is rather rangy for an Irishman.’
‘And you’ve never asked why?’
‘I have no interest in finding out why his nose is the way it is.’
Katrine broke for pause in the debate with Geissel. There was a look of fierce obstinance about her. She had been a debating champion in her school years. This was the kind of pause she instigated prior to unveiling her most crucial argument.
She loosened the leather belt around her waist and slowly began to unzip her parka to the surprise of everyone. Underneath she had on a number of heavy wool and polyester layers.
‘What are you doing, Katrine?’ Stinson asked; he was the only one who had actually seen what was under there.
It took some tugging on the multiple vestments before she was able to lift them satisfactorily and reveal her lopsided upper half.
There was silence.
Masterson was astounded by the sight most of all as he had after all been intimate with Katrine on one occasion and had been oblivious to her disfigurement. Then again, that night they were both blasted and it was dark.
Then Geissel asked: ‘What happened?’
‘Pectus Excavatum,’ replied Katrine. ‘I’ve had it since birth. A sunken chest. A perversion of nature, Father Geissel. The work of the devil.’
‘Oh, no – that’s not what I...’ Geissel struggled to respond.
The view of Katrine’s deformity brought a moderate soberness back to Captain Littlewood. He held in the whiskey-mad impulses and tried to avoid a histrionic reaction. Since Stinson divulged Katrine’s secret to him, he had had her chest on his mind. This was not unusual as he often had ladies’ chests on his mind but in this case the fascination was more inquisitive and less laden with carnal properties.
‘Put your clothes back on,’ the Captain ordered. ‘You’ll catch your death.’