ART BY MATILDA PENG
The church sits atop a hill in the center of Evans, tucked behind a slim bed of mountain laurel and dandelions. Crude, purple, and held up by bumpy, asbestos-filled concrete walls, it could be a Vegas brothel or cheap motel were it not for the fat and waxy cross that sits atop its peaked roof.
During breakfast, the people of Evans clasp their hands to say bless this food and the men eat quickly to leave for the steel mill. When they come back, the sulfurous air fills their houses with the stench of spoiled eggs. At dinner, they clasp their hands again to say bless this food and they close their eyes in prayer. At night, the people lift their eyes to the ceiling as they lie in bed, picturing the silent, bulbous cross, breathing in the rot. Please, Lord, they say. On Sundays, they walk up the hill to get on their knees in the purple church and cry.
One spring, one of the local boys is struck by a metal pole in the mill and loses his head. They put him in a casket and heave it up the hill to the church in the morning. Please, Lord, they say. At dusk, they bring it back down the hill to bury him among his own.
And the town remains like this, the steam from the mill billowing into the sky while the newly born are dipped into the water, and the people of Evans go up and down the hill, up and down the hill, up and down the hill.