Ash Wednesday

Happy Hour at Riverside Grille in Daytona Beach, Florida. In the bathroom four women, two older, maybe late seventies, and two younger, maybe early forties, bantering away. All four boasted oversized globs and streaks of black ashes spread across their foreheads. Must be Sacred Heart, I said to myself for I remembered this morning and the fistful of ashes the priest had planted on my forehead. Ash which I’d quickly washed away. Sure didn’t want to return north with a white cross etched on my forehead.

I asked, “Did you go to Sacred Heart?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?” giggled the forty-year-old whose large silver earrings bobbed up and down.

“Cause I’ve never been to a church where such heaps of ash were used.” At which point, the other forty something, the one in the short red dress, looked at her friend, and said, “You’re a big fuckin’ liar.”

And now the two seventy-somethings doubled over in laughter. “I’m going to pee my pants,” said the one with the oversized belly.

“Okay, ‘fess up,” said the other, the one with the bright red lipstick.

The liar looked around at all of us. “You wanna know how I received my ashes? Just watch.” And she threw her arms around her friend, pressed her forehead against her friend’s head and rubbed it back and forth, spreading the black ashes from side to side.

Then she looked directly at me. “Your turn,” she said. “There’s enough for all of us. Hell, I could do the whole bar.” She grabbed me by the shoulders, laid her forehead against mine and rubbed the black ash across my forehead.

“Okay,” said red lipstick. “We’re all blessed, let’s go party.”

Marilyn Morgan is a retired English teacher. She lives and writes in Central New York State. Marilyn’s prose has been published in Edge, Motif, Five Quarterly, Dear Nana and is forthcoming in Minerva Rising. Her poetry has appeared in Atlas, Poetica, Bright Stars, Ribbons, and other journals.