Her Smile

Her Smile

There are days when I go to church just for the chance to see her smile at me. The funny thing, no one knows this. Surely not my husband. Barney thinks I’m agnostic at best. Of course I use the expression, “Oh my god!” Who doesn’t? And occasionally I’ll mention Jesus Christ when I’m angry or frustrated with Barney.

Then, before the holidays I wandered into St. James Catholic Church in the West Village. I was trying to get away from a homeless guy pestering me for a smoke. I’d no clue that I’d feel so…what? Safe? Protected? I realized that I’d never been in a church alone. Walking around the dank church I stared at the stained-glass windows, mesmerized by the depictions of saints and their various lives. The burning incense tickled my nostrils. I lost track of time. And that’s when she walked up.

“May I help you?”

I turned around. She was wearing a habit, and I thought of Sally Fields in the Flying Nun. I stifled a laugh, and noticed she was grinning back at me.

I shrugged. “I’m not sure why I’m here,” I said, realizing I’d forgotten lipstick.

“That’s a great place to start!” Her smile was dazzling.

I looked around, clueless. “It is?” Suddenly, I felt sadness welling.

She nodded. “Self-inquiry is the crux of all growth.”


The smile, just focus on that smile.


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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11 Responses to Her Smile

  1. Suzi says:

    Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

  2. Andrea says:

    Grin grin.

  3. Nicole says:

    Love Love Love it! absolutely! My favorite part:

    I shrugged. “I’m not sure why I’m here,” I said, realizing I’d forgotten lipstick.

    “That’s a great place to start!” Her smile was dazzling.

  4. Shari says:

    I love this one too- and agree with Nicole, my favorite part when she realizes she forgot lipstick after admitting she has not a clue why she is there. Brilliant!

  5. david says:

    Perhaps change the word CRUX.. to the beginning or root.. no not root. The word ‘crux’ pitched me out.. is the foundation? Is this a bit “preachy” ??


  6. tomfroehlich says:

    You certainly left me wanting to read more. I liked “crux.” Kind of sounds like crucifix. It’s great how I am unsure of what direction the story will go. Is it about the peace or forgetting her lipstick and maybe just wants to get into the habit.

  7. Don says:

    I like the ambiguity about this piece and I wanted it to continue also. I wondered about the nun’s smile and what drew the main character into that so much. I also liked the word ‘crux’ for the same reasons that Tom did. I know that lipstick is probably something a woman might miss having on, but ‘foundation’ has more implications for the story? Sort of a message within a message, which lots of your writing has.

  8. nancy says:

    great story, I can’t wait to read the rest…

  9. Gloria says:

    Robert, I love your brain and how you express yourself on paper and to the world. The only thing better about you is your silliness and I miss that so much.
    Love Mom

  10. Beverly says:

    Smiling as I read your amazing work, so happy you are writing a daily story.

  11. Kimberly says:

    Intriguing …

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