by James Claffey
On the balcony above church door the choir practices with Ms. Fox. As I bend over the altar rail to say my penance, rather than close my eyes the way I’m meant to, I sneak a look at Emer, who’s on the end of the row, her hair pulled back with the ladybird barrette I always tease her about. She doesn’t like it when I make fun of her, and I know she got the barrette from her dead sister’s jewelry box. She sees me looking at her and tries to keep a straight face, but when I stick out my tongue she creases into a laugh and Ms. Fox, the choir teacher rattles her baton against the wooden lectern. The Old Man says Ms. Fox is well-named because she resembles the animal, with her red hair and the way her nose twitches when she looks at you.