frost & fog

“This mite’s sins are nothing to some I’ve had to swallow,” boasted the sin eater. He was a dark, energetic man of middle height and years, always nodding his head, rubbing his hands or shifting his weight from one foot to the other, anxious to put the family at their ease. “They’ll taste of vanilla and honey compared to some.” No-one answered him, and he seemed to accept this readily enough–he had, after all, been privy in his life to a great deal of grief. He looked out of the window. The tide was ebbing, and the air was full of fog which had blown in from the sea. All along Henrietta Street, out of courtesy to the bereaved family, the doors and windows were open, the mirrors covered and the fires extinguished. Frost and fog, and the smell of the distant shore: not much to occupy him. The sin-eater breathed into his cupped hands, coughed suddenly, yawned. “I like a wind that blows off the land myself,” he said.

–from “The Sin Eater”, 1983.