The Choir Loft

The attack was bad and it upset the village. Everyone kept calling it “the incident,” as if it were nothing more than a local drunk falling down outside Maguire’s Pub on a Saturday night. When I was sitting on the steps, my face wedged between the posts listening to Ma and Pa talk about it in the parlor – where they always talked about important stuff – they kept saying rape, whatever that was. But the incident wasn’t nothing, I knew that much.

It wasn’t nothing to the victim, the sweet and lovely Virginia Potter, the organist and choir director at the First Congregational Church of Northfield Falls, Vermont. We all knew her as Miss Ginny. Everyone loved her.

It wasn’t nothing to our church neither. Next to Reverend Daley and the pews, Miss Ginny was part of the church. Without her, we had no music to guide us singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God on Sundays. She made the pipe organ just about talk and sang the hymns with such devotion and passion. You’d have thought we had our very own angel. She was always there, even when it wasn’t time for service.

And it wasn’t nothing to me, Madeleine McInerney, because if I’d only listened to my ma and come right home after the picnic, I wouldn’t be getting almost as much attention as Miss Ginny’s incident. Ma said I was being punished by God on account I didn’t listen to her; I broke a Commandment. I sinned and was now getting something she called my “due diligence” for being somewhere I shouldn’t have been. “Miss Maddy McInerney, if you’d pay more attention to your chores instead of nosing in everyone else’s business, you wouldn’t be in such a state right now,” she reminded me again.

Ma was right, but sometimes I can’t help myself, especially where Miss Ginny’s concerned. I saw more than I should have. Something just wasn’t right about that man following her around, standing behind a tree or a car, watching her every move. I’d seen him before, hanging around the Maple Leaf Diner with some of the new folks in town. The older girls swooned over him. They acted like he was the best thing to happen to this village since we got electricity. I didn’t think he was anything special; he wasn’t as handsome as my Pa. He was tall like Pa, and much younger and really strong, with eyes the color of slate, always combed hair, and teeth that were too straight. No one in these parts had teeth that good looking, but then again, he wasn’t from these parts and he was way too interested in Miss Ginny. That’s probably why I thought him peculiar and took to keeping an eye on him.

And if I hadn’t been following Miss Ginny that late summer afternoon, who knows what else he would have done to her? He might have killed her, which to me would be far worse, but Miss Ginny said death would have been better compared to what she got. I didn’t understand what she meant; there’s a lot you don’t understand about adults when you’re only eight.