I once asked Ray if Episcopals had Lent. Why yes, he said. So I asked if he'd ever given up sweets for Lent. Why no, he said, he'd never given up anything. How could anyone live without abstinence? That was my question.
The Church had some odd answers. My aunt, who was a Sister of Mercy, knew them all. She told me if I married a Protestant, I'd be excommunicated and go to hell. If I married Ray, she said she'd pray every night he'd die before me. That way, the marriage would be over, and I could go to heaven. But how could it be heaven without Ray? I asked. Charlotte, you can't change Paradise to please yourself, she said. What I wanted wasn't part of the picture. It was easier to think of what I didn't want.
From Alice Fulton's A Shadow Table, first published in Tin House, republished in The Best American Short Stories 2009: