Thursday, December 14, 2006

"I Shall Not Waste My Days in Trying To Prolong Them" Cathy's short story challenge

A short story submission for Cathy's Story Challenge over at Cathy's Rants and Ramblings. Each story had to end with the same quote. See links at the end of my story to read all the creative ways each writer used the quote. NOTE: Friday Karaoke Blog will post tomorrow featuring SGT DUB. Here's my (very) short story. It's called

Deacon's Button
I mixed the baby's formula, stoked the fire, took the clothes from the line, baby on hip, and went back inside to finish cooking his breakfast. A little sausage on fluffy white biscuits, orange marmalade and hot piping coffee. Just the way he likes it; served this morning, with a smile.

A knock at the door.

"Come in, Pastor Wainfield. Thank you for coming." We sat down in the small room next to the door of our bedroom where the flowers had been placed.

"So sad about John," Mrs. Ralston. "He was a fine servant of the Lord. Dedicated to his church and God's work. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Biscuit, pastor?"

"Uhh......Mrs. Ralston. I really don't think we should be enjoying jam and biscuits at a time like this."

Oh, but it's a perfect time, Reverend..... I thought to myself. Perfect indeed. In fact, the Reverend has no idea just how perfect it is. Last Sunday's church service was a life-changing experience for all of us, especially for my John. You might even say I saw the light.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. I'd gone around back to water the petunias in the flower garden, which was my churchly duty for the month. Being careful not to spill water on my new sanctified frock, I turned to climb the steps back into the sanctuary when I heard a noise. There. Through the window of the downstairs deacon's prayer room. That's when I saw it.


One blue and white warm fuzzy flannel shirt, the one I'd stayed up half the night finishing 'til my fingers bled, there on the floor where deacon after deacon had wrung drops of sweat praying - on that very same carpet - on their knees: I saw it. The one I made him for Christmas. Warm, full of love and tailor-made for my dear husband, the man I'd promised to love and cherish - in sickness and in health,
til death do us part.

It was there on the floor of the deacon's den. Just the edge of the shirttail, mind you, moving, in a strangely familiar way - and wrapped around the body of someone else. Certainly not my husband's six-foot frame.
Those weren't his shoes.

But that was definitely his shirt.

By this time the pastor had moved into the room where the casket had been placed and stood at the foot of the pine box. Something macabre crossed his face. His expression changed. He looked puzzled.

"What's wrong, Reverend? Doesn't John look nice today?"

He looked at me.
Then back at John.

"Why, yes, Mrs. Ralston. I just's just that....."

Waving an overwrought handkerchief and dabbing at my eyes a little more often than necessary, I ushered the good pastor to an armchair.
He was not looking well.
I offered him some coffee and asked if he'd like to pray.

I placed a basket of warm biscuits within our reach and poured a cup for both of us. Pastor Wainfield's hands were shaking so badly as he bowed his head that he didn't even notice the dab of orange jam I slipped inside one of the steaming rolls.

"But Patricia.....I don't understand. Why is John.....?"

"Please pray, Reverend. It's been a long night and the baby is tiring me. She doesn't like all these extra people in the house. It'll be over soon enough - the wake, the burial - I'd just as soon not have a funeral at all, but we wouldn't want people to would we?"

It hadn't taken me long that hot July morning to quickly climb into the church balcony, once my petunia-watering was done. I knew the deacons would soon file out of the prayer room in their good-ole-boy back-slapping fashion and turn on the piety once their deep pockets hit the church pew. A woman missing from service on Sunday morning would not raise suspicion.

"Oh Lord," started the good Reverend. "Have mercy on this poor, grieving widow. Open her eyes to the benefits of maintaining her virtuous reputation as she walks through this time of mourning....And Lord..." his voice rising higher and higher as the thick smell of hypocrisy filled the room, 'Lord....we beseech Thee to have mercy on the soul of our dearly departed brother John"

He'd risen from the table of biscuits and coffee to take another peek inside the pine box. His praying got quieter and quieter, his face more and more contorted, his eyes could not stop darting in and around the inside of John's final resting place. 'Careful, Reverend' I thought, 'be careful how you '......"May he find rest at your side on this day, O Lord....."

Mr. Wainfield was oblivious to the fact that I now stood at the opposite end of the coffin, stroking John's meticulously combed black hair and admiring the way I'd carefully placed his gentle hands alongside his poison-racked body - so as not to hide the obvious gaping hole in the bright fabric of the Christmas shirt. Dear John. The marmalade hadn't taken long to work signs and miracles. It was a wonder he'd even had time for a second cup of coffee that morning.

Waiting patiently for Pastor's final "Amen and Amen" and with one final twirl of John's hair, my perfectly timed announcement seemed to startle the shallow-breathing preacher.

"I think this belongs to you, Reverend Wainfield."
Even before his face could turn a shade paler than the pale it already was, his six-foot frame doubled over in pain at the sight of what rested in the open palm of my left hand - and the warm stickity feel of rancid orange marmalade too far gone to worry about now.

"I believe you dropped this last Sunday."


"Yes. Before the service. I was outside watering the petunias by the prayer room window and....."

He was sweating. Not a convenient affliction to have while holding audience with a corpse, I thought. Dead men, in this case, had plenty to say. And a heated room might be just what John's soul needed to rise up and babble a bit. Or at least make half the town of Saintsboro wonder why his loving, dutiful wife chose to bury him in a blue flannel shirt -
with a missing button.

Had it not been for those rambling prayers of his and the fact that I'd only had a chance to dab a small amount of marmalade inside the doomed biscuit, he would have died a little quicker.

Such a scandal for a small town - to lose a deacon and a pastor in one fell swoop. "Our parish will never be the same," remarked widow Tilsdale, "Those two spent more time working in the basement of our church than most people know about. Such dedicated souls. And now they're gone."

I closed the lid of dear John's final resting place and placed the button inside the lapel of dear pastor's coat.

A few days later I found Pastor Wainfield's Bible underneath the chair in the parlor. Inside the front cover was a letter addressed to a certain departed deacon, tucked inside an envelope with "For John" written on the outside - obviously meant to be slid inside the casket and accompany him to Glory.
It was a touching note.
Full of regrets and lovely sentiments.

Dear John,

I cannot live without you and I cannot live with my shame. I will soon accompany you in the house of our Lord. Please wait for me. I
do not wish to watch my brother wrestle with his conscience any longer trying to keep our secret - as I've asked him to - and continue to pastor his flock. It is not fair to ask him to do so. Forgive me for not attending your funeral but I could not. I trust my brother to take care of things for me. Expect to see me soon.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them."

Mimi Lenox
I can't wait to read the rest of the stories submitted! Find the links below. What a challenge, Cathy. Thanks for hosting this.

At Your Cervix

Kim (Emergiblog)

The Wandering Author (?)

Patient Anonymous

Potpourri Of Writing (Mary Emma)




wolfbaby said...

Ohhh wow that was something... just wow

Cathy said...

Mimi..Oh my..I am speechless...What a story! What a great writing job you did...


Thank you for doing this Mimi. I have noticed that a few have just recently posted their stories.

Fathe said...

I love your blog and your story is written beautifully,but forgive me for saying that I don't really get it?

Kim said...


NOT where I was expecting this to go!

These have been amazing stories - I've laughed, cried, remembered, smelled the salt and sea and now my jaw has dropped.

I'll pick it up in a minute.

Great, great story......

Annelisa said...

Brilliant, if macabre, story! I was hooked straight away, and loved the added turns and twists... hope the good brother keeping the secret wasn't next on the list!

Patient Anonymous said...

Hi Mimi, apologies for not getting to this sooner but it was worth the wait. I just loved it! I couldn't wait to find out just what the secret was! I suppose I could have guessed but nope, you kept the suspense going and it was just excellent.

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