INSIGHT • by Christopher Floyd

Summer lies heavily on the street. Two men sit at a distance from each other at a bus stop. One wears black with a white collar, the other has taken off his tweed jacket and loosened his tie. Their respective buses are far off, and both are uncomfortably alert to the silence between them. The first man frets knowing that this other man is nervous because of him. The second man can’t sit still. He is dreading the conversation he knows this priest is about to start.

“Good evening.” The priest’s voice is as warm as the sidewalk.

“And to you,” the other man says too quickly.

“It’s a little warm out today.”

“Humid as hell too.” The man winces. “Sorry, Father.”

The priest shakes his head in dismissal. “I always find myself at a loss with new people. They know as soon as they see me what I do, and I know nothing about them.”

The man nods. “I teach architectural design at the university.”

“Teaching is a noble profession. Tell me, do you find it rewarding?” The priest has been trained to keep people talking. He believes it makes them feel more at ease.

“No.”

“No? That’s too bad.”

The professor fumbles with his tie. “I meant, it is difficult relaying the same material to students who think they know everything. These kids are so eager to create that they don’t stop to realize the importance of — ”

He stops and hesitantly scoots closer to the priest. A large man in dark sunglasses, sweating profusely, approaches the bus stop and turns to sit. He folds his white cane into thirds, leans his bulk backwards, and sighs.

With annoyance on his face, the professor continues, “It’s just that the work doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.”

“I sympathize with you there. My parish takes and takes without a thought of how exhausting it can be.”

“In a way, I suppose we’re both educators,” the professor concedes.

“I hope so,” mutters the priest.

They hear the blind man’s breathing on the far side of them. His head bobs disrhythmically.

The professor removes his tie and asks, “Do you know anything about architecture?”

The priest sits straighter. “Well, the Church has certainly constructed its share of marvels. We’ve built many of the things you teach about. Westminster Abbey, for example.”

“The Dome of the Rock is much more significant,” the professor says.

“Have either of you been in a cathedral?” the blind man asks, his head nodding a greeting to the pavement.

The priest and the professor start and look at each other. The priest speaks first.

“My parish work keeps me busy. I don’t get to travel,” he confesses.

“Bingo night takes a lot of effort,” says the professor.

The blind man bobs patiently, waiting for the professor to answer.

“I’ve been to the St. Louis Cathedral,” the professor says. “But it was closed to the public. They were having Easter services.”

“In New Orleans. The one with the voodoo symbols on the steeple,” confirms the newcomer.

The priest gasps.

“You two have never been inside a large house of worship?” the blind man asks incredulously.

“No.”

“No.”

“That’s a shame.” The blind man shakes his head. “Most of them are beautiful.”

This gets a stare from both men.

The professor leans forward. “How do you know they are beautiful? You’re blind.”

The priest squints his eyes against the setting sun and shakes his head disapprovingly.

“I have been in a few,” the blind man returns. He sips in the humidity, then begins. “Sometimes the older ones drip. I’ve never found the sources and the priests don’t know about it, but sometimes they drip. And they echo. The walls are cold and they bounce sound around even in the quiet. Everyone is hushed, except sometimes for children. If a service is underway the people in the cathedral get noisier. The priests’ voices boom. The acoustics, you know. The people listening think their own voices are drowned out, but the acoustics work just as well for them. You should hear the footsteps.”

The priest looks at the professor and shrugs a little. A bus pulls up in front of them.

The blind man ducks his wobbling head with a frown. Unfolding his cane, he stands to board his bus.


Christopher Floyd lives and writes in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Beautifully written slice of life piece. “His head bobs disrhythmically” is a great line.

    The major thing that stopped me from giving five stars was confusion about the plot of the piece. The blind man seems to be offering some ‘insight’ to the priest and the professor (this could be the start of a joke), but his only insight is that he hears things the others don’t because they are too busy looking with their eyes only. But I didn’t get any sense of confirmation from the other characters that they’ve realized this. Only a shrug from the priest.

  • I’m not sure where the author went with this; I suspect there’s a symbolism or moral or something that I missed. But even though I have no clue of the destination, the ride was beautiful. Very genuine and evocative; great sense of scene; realistic dialog.

  • Rob

    There’s some very good writing reflected here, which is why the piece was so disappointing to me. I think the writer needed to slow down and give this one another re-write to knock out the kinks. I can only guess that there was more and the author cut too deep when editing it down.
    – 1st paragraph is a little clumsy in its construction. That’s always a killer of stories.
    – Teacher moves over for the 3rd man before he arrives on-scene. Always have reaction follow action.
    – No one greets the newcomer.
    – ‘He folds his white cane into thirds, leans his bulk backwards, and sighs.’ (A blind man ‘turned to sit’ but never sat down . . . you kind of expect him to fall over.)
    – ‘They hear the blind man’s breathing on the far side of them. His head bobs disrhythmically.’ Another chance for introductions that they both avoid. This seems out of character for the priest who was so anxious to introduce himself to the other man who obviously didn’t want to talk to him.
    – ‘The dome of the rock is more significant’ A clear opening for an argument/discussion but the priest lets it pass.
    – ‘The priest and the professor start and look at each other.’ Why? Are cathedrals a startling subject? Certainly not to either a priest or an architect. Talking to a blind man is certainly nothing new to a priest, at least.
    – “Bingo night takes a lot of effort,” says the professor.’ I stalled on this one thinking it was a typo. That the priest was making feeble exscuses. Certainly the author would’ve given the reader a hint of how it was said if it was sarcasm from the professor . . . right? Or the Priest might’ve countered about how many hours it takes to keep up with the sick and needy in a parish of hundreds of people . . . The professor obviously thinks a priest only gives mass on Sunday and plays bingo the rest of the week. Another point of conflict ignored.
    – “You two have never been inside a large house of worship?” the blind man asks incredulously. (This one strains my belief also since cathedrals are a pinnacle of both the church and architecture.)
    – ‘The priest squints his eyes against the setting sun and shakes his head disapprovingly.’ (What doesn’t he approve of??? This was very odd.)
    -And the blind man ends by noting that footsteps echo in a great open space . . . Ummmm, okay. Don’t we all notice that when we’re about 4 years old?

  • Some very strong writing here. Congrats.

  • rich

    I’m with Rob on this one, though I am wondering if there’s a deliberate reference/homage to Raymond Carver’s short story, “Cathedral”.

    Keep writing.

  • Jen

    I also was confused with this peice. i wondered if maybe the blind man was sighted untill he went to the voodoo temple, but I don’t know that for sure it’s only a guess.

  • Thanks all for reading this. I’ve enjoyed the comments, as this piece was about perspective and bias.

  • Al

    The dialog read smoothly and the characters are different enough from one another that they don’t feel like three stamps from the same mold. Many stories I’ve read lately (not so much here) are missing that element of believable diversity. Also, there are many missed opportunities regarding interaction and realization for the characters, but nothing speaks so loudly as the fact that those things remained unsaid and unexplained. These things created multi-dimensional interpretation potential for the story… as well as depth for later contemplation. In my opinion, the piece cannot so much be called “inspirational,” but it reached three goals of much greater importance: vivid, interesting, and thought-provoking.

    Although this piece is excellent, I have to agree with a previous commenter who said the story felt a little “over-edited.” It’s almost as if this is most of a thought. It certainly stands alone, but there’s more.

    Thank you for the effort you put into this. It sings.

  • Margie

    “A Priest, a blind man, and an architect were waiting at a bus stop . . . . . ”
    I kept waiting for the punch line that never came. 🙁

  • I liked the idea behind this; the blind man who knows more about architecture and catherals than an architect or a priest. But there were problems–like why was it neither of them had ever visited a cathedral? Without explanation that wasn’t plausible.

  • Mary B.

    Sorry, but this one just left me in the dark.

  • I also thought of Carver’s “Cathedral.” The story has a nice every-day, kind of ordinary-day feel to it. That’s a real accomplishment. I think the story needs just a pinch of something that will make it feel that a significant event has taken place, some sort of an epiphany…But now that I think about it, it’s the reader that has the epiphany because the priest and the architect sure as hell don’t get it.

    Which means that the story is about a significant event. So, that just leaves the fact that the priest and the architect were never in a really large house of worship…Wait a minute. I see. This means that the blind man has a greater inner, spiritual life than the priest and the architect.

    Okay, I’m having my own epiphanies here. You’ve earned your five stars.

    Visit my blog some times. You’ll find a few stories (not all of them) that match up well with this one.

  • I don’t know what was better. The story or Rob’s coment. Nothing more for me to say except I liked it!