An excerpt from

Strange & Familiar Places
by Kenneth Radu

As it happened, they were coincidentally sent to a parish only an hour's drive from the cottage they had purchased years ago with what little money she had inherited from her parents. Whether ministering in Nova Scotia or in northern Alberta, they always found the time to spend a few weeks, and, once or twice, two entire, glorious, summer months, in the cottage in the Eastern Ontario region along the Ottawa river. If the new parish was only an hour's drive, so much the better. They could come to the cottage on weekends, even during the Christmas holidays.

Moving did not improve her sense of community. Evelyn had often asked Paul if he really got to know his parishioners, if he really influenced the community in any significant way, when the Church shunted him from town to town as if he were a detachable railway car.

"There are so few ministers, so many parishes. I'm sent where I'm needed, if only for a few years," he had answered.

And so they moved. Not always to charming homes with garden plots. In Northern Ontario, they occupied a two bedroom flat on the second floor of a cinder block house, owned by the widow of a miner. From her bedroom window, Evelyn could see smokestacks rising like turrets on the horizon, the air about them hazy with pollution. The outlying regions of the city had often been compared to a moonscape by residents, visitors, and writers she read who had turned the heavily industrialized town with its copper and nickel mines, its mountainous slag heaps, into a symbol of spiritual devastation and cultural sterility. Rather unfair and snobbish, she thought, an attitude damning men and women who worked close to and under the earth, people who breathed in noxious dust over the years only to die of their labours.

Staying too long in one place, she learned that sexual escapades often led to carelessness. As the minister's wife, she acquired an aura of unapproachability, a reputation for virtue and fidelity where none existed because her husband's office provided camouflage. People seldom looked beyond the position, the stereotype. The minister's wife could not possibly find the church janitor sexually interesting, would not fantasize about male parishioners in their Sunday best, nor stimulate her secret parts in the shower, imagining her legs wrapped around Mike Sawatsky, her daughter's physical education teacher. She wore neat suits with a gold cross pinned on the lapel, served tea, counselled troubled members of the church, baked cakes and cookies for bazaars: a happy, dedicated wife, mother, homemaker, unobtrusively intelligent (she did not wear her education like a badge, or so she thought). Desire, lust, fantasy, flesh, lips, tongue, ecstasy, probing fingers, climaxes and ejaculations, the wild misdemeanour of sexual frenzy: she believed that none of the women and very few of the men whom she met in her capacity as the minister's wife connected her with those terms. Such things did not form part of daily discourse. Singing hymns after one of Paul's belaboured sermons, she would imagine running her tongue over the back of the neck of whatever man stood in the pew in front of her. Age, height, weight, even looks and personality, barring extreme deformity of character, were irrelevant when it came to satisfaction of desire. All men were beautiful, positively sweet and exciting in their nakedness and unabashed eagerness to make love with a willing woman. She recognized that as a generalization, and philosophically indefensible like her husband's faith; but sex, like faith, shut the door against reason.