Kyrie {Carmel, Calif.}


Photo by Stuart on Adobe Stock
Jake is at a loss. His beloved daughter, Hannah, is dead, and his ex-wife, Lizzie, is blaming him for their daughter's death. So Jake heads home to Indiana, eventually finding himself in Virginia, but along the way he meets Anna, an Anabaptist martyr who lives in bodies of water and shows Jake the redemptive path he must take. Structured around the seven movements of Faure’s Requiem Mass and flecked with magical realism, Requiem is an affecting meditation on the trauma of love, the gift of fatherhood, and the beauty of resistance.
Prologue: Introit {Augsburg}

unto Thee shall all flesh come

Let us now consider who we’ve plucked from that gravid river. She sits and blinks. Dark hair pressing against her forehead. Broken nails gripping the mud on either side of her thighs. She coughs up water, and we let the drowned among us inspect her. She’s slight, but her voice big; she’ll be a good one. One of us snips her binds. Another offers a towel. Her velvet collar is drenched. When she stands, water drips from her green kirtle, and her breasts push against her soaked bodice. She shivers. It’s cold here, never warm, but she’ll learn to live with it. She puts her face to the white sun and asks us the time. Probably noon, we say, but time here is fluid, the past, present, and future subsumed in every moment. She asks where she is, and we tell her she’s home, relax, get comfortable. She blinks but cannot see. It doesn’t smell like home, she says. Of course, it doesn’t, we tell her. She flaps her arms and tells us she feels so light, but then she clutches her gut. Mein Gott! she cries. First she’ll mourn, but what matters is the life she lived: she bore witness, so we give her time.

Lots of it.

And then we send her back to fetch another.

Kyrie {Carmel, Calif.}

Kyrie eleison,

Christe eleison

She died in June, just shy of fifteen.

Dust to dust, the preacher told us.

Lizzie refused to look at me, but I knew what she was thinking: our daughter’s death was my fault.

Ashes to ashes, the preacher told us, Lord have mercy.

I wanted to sock the platitudes right out of his fat-lipped mouth—how can there be mercy death? No, Hannah’s death had no mercy.

That day began with a bike ride. Lizzie dropped us off at Point Lobos, agreeing to pick us up later at the campground in Big Sur. She pushed her big sunglasses onto her forehead and squinted in the sun, watching Hannah adjust her bike seat. “Please be careful.”

Hannah rolled her eyes, then knelt in the gravel and clipped her toenails, gathering the snippets in her palm, her pre-ride ritual.

Lizzie put her sunglasses on. “You know it’s my job to fret.”

Hannah stood. “Whatever, Mom.” She was tall, like her mother.

“We’ll be fine,” I said.

Lizzie leaned in to kiss Hannah’s sunburned forehead, but Hannah flicked a clipping at her. Lizzie gagged—she hated toenails—and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Lizzie slid into her Subaru and slammed the door, then rolled down the window. “I’m not a fan of this,” she said. Her mouth was tight, her lipstick uneven, and her tires spit gravel when she pulled away.

Hannah grinned and draped her arm around my shoulder, dropping her toenails into my shirt pocket. “Looks like you’re in the shithouse again, Dad.”

Hannah loved Point Lobos, the way the sun colored the cliffs or washed them out, depending on the time of day. She loved the clarity of the water: you could look right through it and see the urchins. And she loved to swim.

We locked up our bikes and walked to a secluded cove, Oliver’s Cove, Hannah called it, named after her goldfish. She took off her shoes and dove in, not at all concerned about ruining the expensive bike shorts I’d given her. “The water’s great, Dad!”

I dug my heels into the sand and told her that I was happy right where I was. But Hannah would have none of it. “I’ll get you back into the water one of these days,” she said.

“Maybe someday when I’m comfortable.”

She stood and put her hands on her hips. “Time’s running out for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re ancient,” she said, kicking water on me.

I laughed, and she plopped next to me on the sand, her tanned leg touching mine. She was warm, and we sat quietly for a moment, looking out over the water. Her leg hairs were soft, almost fur, and I wondered if she still had that fine hair growing from the velvety skin at the base of her spine. It was where her tail should have been.

She suddenly slapped her hand on my knee and pushed herself up. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, you know.”

I wanted to tell her that I was fearless, but she knew better.

This is how I arranged the store: dress, pants, jeans, pants, dress. Then two dresses, two pants, three pairs of jeans. One dress, ten blouses. Next size. Dress, pants, jeans, pants, dress, et cetera. Customers like patterns, makes them feel smart when they figure them out, and then they buy more, and Wentworth is happy with me. Carmen’s a pro at arrangements. She is, in fact, the only person I trust to organize stuff the way I like it, the way things sell. I’ve been through seven assistants in three years, but none have compared to Carmen. She’s from LA via San Juan but speaks English as well as my Grandma Stolzfus. But unlike Grandma Stolzfus, Carmen has an eye for design, even went to school for it, UC Berkeley I think. For example, Books, Housewares, and Jewelry are on the right as you enter, Women’s on the left. This arrangement has something to do with natural flow, Carmen said. And oh, never have staff staring directly at the door, that’s just too much pressure on customers. And don’t forget about smell, because—fuck!—thrift shops can smell really bad. That’s why we don’t do Furniture or Men’s and always keep the front door open: the warm breezes carry in the smell of pine and eucalyptus, no candles needed.

On slow days, Carmen concocted patterns of her own in different departments, and I had to figure out her schemes, every day a big puzzle. I got pretty good at this, but Carmen’s patterns for Books was brilliant. She had the idea after an anonymous donor bestowed upon us a run of Europa Editions, nearly two hundred books and their glorious spines. We didn’t ask questions, just took the books, trashing Mystery and Romance to make room for the set. And after we finished? We sat on the floor and celebrated Carmen’s brilliance with a bottle of wine. We looked over the colorful spines, arranged in rainbow order, not alphabetically, and the result was amazing. Or maybe we were drunk. Either way, Wentworth complimented the shelves, and our local gazette, Shore News & Business, wrote us up: “By-the-Sea Thrift arranges books by color, not letters.” Hannah would have thought it a paltry article.

Maybe Carmen’s arrangement attracted the blind woman with the fat, dark braid. It channeled down her narrow back, nearly to her waist, and was tied with frayed yellow yarn. Her forehead was broad, her eyes dark as coffee. She was shorter than me, maybe even a bit scrawny, though I couldn’t be sure since she wore a moss-colored cape that nearly covered her whole body. She smelled stagnant, like water in a drain.

Carmen noticed her first. I was in the back sorting through a donation of silver chains and pearl earrings when Carmen motioned me to the register. I followed her, and there was the blind woman, tapping her brass-handled cane along the wood floor. At Books, she crouched at the Europa Editions and scanned them with her fingers. Carmen asked me what she was doing, and I told her that she was probably looking for something to read.

 “She’s blind, dumbass,” Carmen said. “Like we carry a ton of Braille.”

The woman slipped a book off the shelf, laid it on the floor next to her cane, then rescanned the shelf with her fingers and found another book. She repeated this process until she had a stack of books, all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

“Amazing,” Carmen whispered.

I was about to agree, but then the woman slid the books into her cape, stood, and walked out the door. What the hell? I looked at Carmen, who simply shrugged and told me that it was the manager’s job to stop theft. She pulled out her compact and applied a fresh coat of lipstick.

I caught up with the woman about half a block from the store, in front of Seaside Coffee. “Excuse me,” I said.

The woman stopped and turned. “Yes?” Her voice was steady, unperturbed.

“I think you have some of my books?”

She smiled and reached into her cape, then held out the Ferrante novels. “These?”

I gave her my best managerial voice. “Those would be them.” And then she whacked my head with her cane.

I came to with my bandaged head in Carmen’s lap. She was feeding me chipped ice, her go-to cure for everything, and we were on the sidewalk with Officer Kyle Longrum at the corner of Delores and Sixth. Carmen told me what happened, how Blake came out from the coffee shop and called the police, how the woman tapped her way down Ocean Avenue and into the sea—it’s true, into the ocean she went!—how Officer Longrum came and questioned her, Carmen. Was she alone? She was, Carmen told him, and she was about my size, a little taller, maybe a hundred and twenty-five pounds. What was she wearing? Carmen gave Officer Longrum the details, a mossy-looking hooded cape with cream auger shell buttons—I hadn’t noticed those—and Birkenstocks, the kind with the heel straps.

I looked up at Longrum, and after telling me I looked like shit, he wondered if the blind woman may have been, perhaps, a dancer. How the hell would I know?

Longrum clicked his pen and explained that caped dancers in Monterey had been stealing money from tourists. “They’ll say it’s interpretive worship dance,” Longrum said, “but after the dancer collects her offering, off she goes with hot Christian cash.”

“A shame,” Carmen said.

Longrum asked me the worth of the stolen goods.

“Maybe sixty or seventy bucks?” I said.

He stashed his pen behind his ear. “Really?”

“Retail,” I said. “Obviously.”

“We had them priced at seven-fifty each,” Carmen said.

Longrum grabbed his pen, clicked it, and jotted in his black notepad. “So, thirty bucks, give or take?”

I let my head fall back into Carmen’s soft lap. “Sure.”

He finished writing, then ripped out a slip of paper. “Here’s your case number,” he told me. He rested his hand on his Glock. “Good day and be careful out there.”

At Headland Cove, Hannah climbed a cypress and shielded her eyes. I asked her what she was doing.

“Calling the seals,” she said. “Duh.”

I rested my backpack at my feet. “Can’t you do that from down here?”

She spat, and the thick strand of saliva didn’t break until it reached the ground six feet below her. “Nope.” And then she called the seals. “Hey Mister Seal,” she said, her hands cupped at her mouth. “Up here!” She told me to wave my arms around, and when I did, the seals turned, slipped off their rocks, and swam to us. Their whiskers were long, their eyes kind. They reminded me of spoiled cats. I asked Hannah where she learned that trick.

She jumped from her perch. “School,” she said. “Ms. Bittington taught us.”

“What’s the secret?”

Hannah swigged some water. “Acknowledgment and patience,” she said, then suggested we eat. She devoured her turkey sandwich before I had even eaten three bites from mine.

We hiked until we smelled the dead sea lion, its corpse rotting on some rocks jutting above the water, as if the ocean had spit the thing up. I plugged my nose and tried to keep from gagging. The trail ran close to the carcass, maybe ten yards or so, and the flies were thick, even in the wind, but Hannah wanted to stay and watch.

“God, the smell,” I said.

Hannah scaled some rocks and sat down. “It doesn’t smell up here.”

I climbed up next to her and she was right: the salty breeze hitting my face was fresh. Hannah asked for her sketchbook, and I pulled it out of my backpack, along with her pencils, and watched her sketch around the empty space until a form appeared. The gray and white ribs, for instance; they weren’t there, and then there they were, as if they had been there all along, invisible only to me, something out of nothing. It was pure magic.

I watched her until the ocean licked the corpse. Hannah showed me her drawing and asked what I thought.

“It’s fantastic.”

“I had trouble with the face.”

I took the drawing pad. “Faces are always hard.”

“Its face was blurry to me.”

I returned the sketchbook. “Takes practice,” I said, “and acknowledgement.”

“But a sea lion can’t acknowledge you when it’s dead,” she said. “Maybe I’m not supposed to draw dead things.”

I hadn’t thought of that.

Wentworth’s a dick.

He acts as if his shop were the savior of Carmel. I just want to help out those with less, he says, but there’s no one here with less, we all have more. Except tourists. And no one likes them very much. But a party is a party, especially at Wentworth’s.

Wentworth’s house overlooked Monterey Bay, its front crowded with marble Doric columns, an eager kid with Cadillac teeth, but the rear typical California luxe: plush grass, glassy pool, opulent gardens, and expensive kitsch. I had to pick Carmen up from Hollister, nearly an hour both ways, because it was Saturday, and she wasn’t in town on the weekends. But I liked the drive.

Near Salinas, Carmen asked what gift I’d brought for Wentworth.


“You always bring a gift for the host.” She opened her purse and pulled out a silver chain she’d pilfered from the store.

I glanced at the necklace and asked her what all the dangly things were.

“Miniature mirrors,” she said.


Carmen dropped it in my hand. “So he can admire himself,” she said, “like Narcissus.”

I glanced at myself in one of the mirrors. “It will make his nose look big.”

She snickered. “That’s the point.”

“Could it be from the both of us?”

Carmen looked at me soberly.

“I’ll throw in some cash,” I added, relinquishing the necklace.

She dropped it into her purse. “Twenty bucks should cover it.”

I merged into traffic, happy knowing that Wentworth was getting a dead lady’s necklace.

Marjorie Wentworth, a tall woman with tucked skin, greeted us at the door. She flung a white stole over her shoulder and held a cigarette away from her body. She smelled like roses.

“Come in,” she said, leaning so far forward that I thought she was going to fall over. I could, if I had so desired, glanced down her loose dress—she never wore a bra and had excellent breasts—but I didn’t, because Carmen was with me, a moderating influence Lizzie never did appreciate. She led us out back, where everyone was hanging around the portico lit with tiki torches.

Carmen walked straight up to Wentworth. “We brought you this.”

He held out his hand, and Carmen poured the mirrored necklace into his palm.

“Ah, my Puerto Rican angel,” he said, “you didn’t have to do this.” He gripped her left wrist, and Carmen grimaced, leaning in for her kiss. He shook my hand, then held up the necklace and looked at himself in one of the square mirrors. “Makes my nose look big,” he said.

“Lennox, honey, your nose is big,” Marjorie said. She winked and everyone laughed.

Wentworth picked up a sweaty Collins glass and swigged his drink. “Gin and tonic?”

We both nodded, and drinks appeared in our hands. My considerable gin consumption made Wentworth tolerable, but Carmen hated stooping to drunkenness just to be able to get along with someone.

The night wore on.

I went to the bathroom, the marble one just off the den, then wandered outside to stand by the pool. It was quiet there, the air cool, and fires glowed on the distant beaches. My feet felt squishy, like Jell-O blocks. The horizon listed, but I blinked it straight, only to watch it tilt again. And that’s when I fell into Wentworth’s pool. The water was warm, and I wasn’t at all scared, because she was there, the blind woman with the brass-handled cane, her thick hair surging and swelling around her face. She took a drag from her cigarette and looked at me coolly. The smoke slipped down her body and disappeared into the intake drain.

She asked why I was in the water, and I told her that I was drunk, had sort of stumbled in.

She looked displeased. “You can’t swim yet?”


She dropped her cigarette, told me there was still time. I watched the butt go down the drain. How could she smoke underwater?

“And I was going to ask you how you could breathe underwater.” She reached for my face with her nicotine-stained fingers, but before she touched me, Carmen pulled me out. I threw up on the deck.

“If you’re going to die, at least have the courtesy to do it in private,” Carmen said. “No wonder you’re divorced.”

It was too late to drive Carmen back to Hollister, so I offered her my bed, I’d take the couch. I made some tea and told her that I saw the blind lady in Wentworth’s pool. “She didn’t have the Ferrante books though.”

Carmen held her cup in her lap. “You drink too much.”

“She even asked me what I was doing down there.”


I rinsed my cup. “I told her I was drunk.”

“At least you’re honest.”

“I think she lives in the drain.”

“I think you’re tired,” she said. “Time for bed.”

On Monday I tried to convince Carmen to return to Wentworth’s, perhaps the blind lady would be in the pool. We were on the floor in Housewares pricing silver spoons. Carmen thought my idea was ridiculous. “Wentworth doesn’t want us snooping around.”

“We could sneak in,” I said, “at night.”

Carmen put the pricing gun in her lap. “There’s a fence.”

“We could climb it.”

She priced five spoons, ten dollars each. “No, we couldn’t.”

“Then maybe just go through the front door, invite ourselves in.”

“Then you’re going by yourself,” she said. “I value my job.”

At lunch, I walked down to Seaside Coffee for a latte and a sandwich. Blake asked about my head, how I was feeling, if we’d found the blind lady or the books or both, and I told her it was still under investigation, even though we both knew that wasn’t true.

Blake tugged her shirt collar until her cleavage disappeared. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“I’ll be fine.” I took a sip of coffee and paid, leaving a good tip on my credit receipt.

“Carmen told me you saw her again,” Blake said. Her hands were folded on the glass counter. I saw her prayer ring, with its Om Mani Padmi Hum in beautifully scripted Tibetan, on her right middle finger.


“In the pool,” she said, rolling her thumb over stray sugar crystals scattered across the counter.

“Carmen doesn’t believe me.”

“Well, I don’t either,” Blake said, showing off her perfect smile. She brushed the sugar off the counter, and the crystals dusted my chukkas. “Some things you should let go of.”

I was at Wentworth’s gate at eleven o’clock, a beautiful evening, the sky strewn with stars, lazy breakers on the shore below glinting under the fat moon. Light from the pool sparkled the undersides of an imposing eucalyptus growing near the fence that surrounded Wentworth’s yard. That tree was my way over, so up I went, settling on a branch overhanging the pool deck. But the water was lady-free, though there were wet footprints across the deck. I tripped over the Ferrante books after scraping my way down the tree. They were neatly stacked, not a single spine creased. I picked them up and looked around but didn’t see a soul.

In the morning, I held out the Ferrantes. And for once Carmen was speechless. She examined each one. “I stumbled over them when I came down from the eucalyptus,” I said, watching her make room on the shelf. She was spatially sensitive, and the stolen books seemed like they had never been gone.

Wentworth fired us because the store was losing money. Carmen cried—what was she ever going to do in Hollister?—and I stupidly thanked Wentworth for the opportunity to work for him. We were both behind the register. Carmen had some necklaces strung over her thin fingers, I had a box of lingerie in front of me.

Wentworth ran his hand over his head, as if he had hair. “So, I’ll need your keys,” he said.

I stuck my hands into my pockets, and, of course, found no keys; Carmen kept those, both sets. I looked at her.

She wiped her cheek. “Just a minute,” she said, then pulled me into the break room. The keys were on a hook above the stainless steel French press (courtesy of Housewares, $49) and a milk frother ($12). Carmen snatched the keys and gave me a set. “Keep this set,” she whispered, shoving them into my front pocket.

I looked at her.

“He’ll never know.” She pushed me back into the store.

Wentworth had his hand out, and Carmen dropped a set into his palm. “Both sets,” Wentworth said.

I handed it over.

“Well, that’s it then,” Wentworth said. “I’ve enjoyed working with you both.” He gave Carmen a little bow with his hands palm to palm in front of his heart. “Namaste,” he said.

Carmen bowed. “And also to you.”

He kissed her, then bowed to me. “Namaste.”

“Sure,” I said.

He waited for my bow, but I didn’t earn an MA in English for this kind of shit. When Wentworth realized he wasn’t getting a bow, he strode out the door. “Be out by noon,” he said over his shoulder.

Carmen jabbed my side with her bony fingers. “What the fuck?”


She poked me again. Her finger felt like an awl. “The keys?”

“They were his,” I said. “Stop stabbing me.”

“Now, we won’t get anything.”

“Get anything?” I followed her into the break room. “I didn’t picture you as the stealing type.”

She boiled some water and whirled some beans in the grinder. Carmen always drank coffee when she was stressed.

“Maybe the store’s tanking because you’re taking stuff.”

She sipped her coffee then slammed her mug on the table. “I’ve never stole anything.” Coffee sloshed down the side and made a dirty halo on the yellow tablecloth.

I asked her what she was planning to take.

Carmen adjusted her lipstick. “I wanted to read the Ferrante books.”

I pulled a twenty from my wallet. “Put it in the register and take the books.”

She took the bill, stuffed it into her bra, and walked onto the floor. I stood in the door frame. She slipped the books into her bag, smiled at me, then pushed the front door open. The little bell jangled, and the sun illuminated her body. Then she was gone.

We rode Highway One out of Point Lobos. The ocean was on our right, the air salty, even when we couldn’t see the water. I was hoping for a fog bank—I liked the way the droplets pearled on my arm hair, how the fine mist made me feel as though I were flying through thick clouds. It was disorienting but exhilarating.

We stopped for a water break on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Hannah munched on almonds, and we watched the urchins anchored on the rocks below us, ever still in the crashing waves. Then Hannah took my hand and told me that she loved me. I squeezed her hand, wondered where this sudden affection was coming from, then she yanked her hand from mine and wiped it on her shorts. “Your sweat is gross,” she said.

Back on our bikes, I told Hannah to lead for a while. I did this because she needed experience leading and not just a drafting, but also because the cars flying up behind us scared me.

I would have taken a hit for her.

About the Author

Chad Gusler

Chad Gusler holds an MFA in fiction, an MA in religious studies, and a BS in theology. His stories have been published in Sunspot Lit, Broad River Review, Driftwood, the Southwest Review, The Maine Review and elsewhere. His work has been a finalist for the Calvino Award, the Ron Rash Award in Fiction, and the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction. He teaches at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Read more work by Chad Gusler.