One Night Two Souls Went Walking
COFFEE HOUSE PRESS
Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Cooney
Cover photograph by Dil, @thevisualiza, on Unsplash
Book design by Rachel Holscher
Author photograph © Greta Rybus
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Cooney, Ellen, author.
Title: One night two souls went walking / Ellen Cooney.
Description: Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, 2020.
Identifiers: LCCN 2020002803 | ISBN 9781566895972 (trade paperback)
Classification: LCC PS3553.O5788 O54 2020 | DDC 813/.54—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020002803
Printed in the United States of America
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The Publisher’s Circle of Coffee House Press
One Night Two Souls Went Walking
Once when I was small I asked my parents, What is a soul?
My father called it a mystery, like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. He knew I’d been reading stories of Arabian Nights. But what he said could not be true. A soul can’t slip from a body and speak to you and grant wishes, if you rubbed yourself like rubbing a lamp. I had tried, many times.
My mother said that if she had to compare a soul to a character in a story, she’d pick Tinker Bell, the best thing about Peter Pan.
So I began to imagine a fairy inside me, curled up sleeping for most of the time, perhaps on a cushion of my guts, or some pillow of an organ.
“Wake up, Soul,” I would say, but it didn’t matter. I had to accept the fact that it could not be told what to do. I never had a clue when it would remind me it was there, whirring about like crazy, fluttering inside my rib cage, zipping around wherever it wanted to go, because of course it would do that; it had wings.
And it knew about the other thing. Like that was its job.
“The other thing” was what I called it when there was ordinary, everything ordinary, life going on as it does, and then suddenly there’s a something else. I could never describe it to myself, but I could have called it “the thing that doesn’t have words.”
Once I heard a thrush sing in twilight, its notes ascending, its melody like no other, and then I had to feel sorry for flutes, whenever I heard one. Maybe the flutist was a genius of a musician, but my soul had learned a flute is not a bird.
In the waiting room of my dentist, a stranger suddenly smiled, and the light of that face was beautiful, when one second earlier, I thought I was looking at someone ugly and weird.
In stacks of the library where I wandered, where almost no one went, where everything was old and a little beat-up, a ray of sunlight came in, filled with swirling bits of dust, when nothing else was moving, and I saw it wasn’t dust but particles of the spirits of those books, free and out playing around, like no one was watching.
Moments. They were moments. They belonged to the other thing and they could never be broken, as you can break a clock, but not time.
I would say to my soul, “Wide awake! Good job!”
But you can’t believe in fairies forever.
The first time I saw the cathedral, on a drive with my parents, I felt I was looking at a castle. And then bells began pealing.
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