A Widow's Prayer
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Gary Fielding had cased the street a number of times. It was the older part of the town where single family homes, mostly frame houses were scattered between an industrial area and some antique shops. Parts of the old streets were quaint with picked fences and bougainvillea bushes blooming in an array of strong color form purples, pinks to fuchsia. He kept coming back to this area searching for property, rather than the commercial property his real estate agent recommended. When the proposal came from the broker, his heart wasn't in it and he rejected it. The house he was eyeing was built on a large double lot, probably an acre or more. The wood casing of the house looked dry, decaying, boards turned colors from soot and lack of paint. Windows were dark and dirty, paint flaking off window sills. Yet he knew someone lived in the house. An old car sat in the open carport.
This was the third time he'd driven slowly by the house. Inside, the curtain moved. A hand let it fall back into place. Probably some old people lived there, no money, no kin. Maybe they had children who cared nothing for their folk. Something in him urged him to park the car and knock on the door, what could it hurt? If the house wasn't for sale he would say “Sorry, my mistake,” and he could leave. It could be a good deal. It could be a bargain. If this wasn’t a bargain, the next one would be. He'd done well for himself in the past waiting for the better deals.
Lately however, since he had gotten religion as his former friends would say under their breath, when he met them at the club or the gym, it had been different. He'd gotten used to them disapproving. No matter, he could cope with that slice of life. Having the hope of better things and, for once a purpose to his formerly drifting life, was well worth some sacrifices, such as shedding a few friends. Money was still a matter of importance to him, but now in a different light. At times he would give away half of his profits when a worthy occasion presented itself at just that special moment, when he knew it was right. He had become almost obsessed with doing good deeds, the thrill of just holding his breath, anticipating the blessing. Feeling a rush of adrenaline, he knocked on the door. A shuffle inside, a chair scraped the floor.
“Who is it?" a woman’s weak voice filtered through the door. It was probably a helpless little widow.
"Ma'am, I'd like to talk to you. My name is Gary Fielding, I'm a contractor."
“Just a minute." A lock turned, the door opened a fraction. A woman just as he had pictured peered through the crack. "Yes?" Her blue-veined, white hand fluttered slightly as though she would rather close the door on him.
"Ma'am could I talk to you for a few minutes? I am interested in this property. Is your house for sale by any chance?" The woman's blue eyes opened wide and so did the door.
"Come on in,” she said with a distinct southern drawl. She had probably lived in these parts most of her life, probably right here in this house. It felt like it to him, as though she were wrapped inside the skin of this old house, a part of it. "Do you know I was just sitting here praying my last prayer?" she smiled softly. "I was telling the Lord that I just couldn't think of anything else to do. I would have to leave this house and go out into the streets begging. I guess that wasn't His will since I‘m getting so old now. God is so good to me." She looked up at him from her four foot eight height and leaned her small hand on his arm pulling him inside the door into the living room. As with the outer wrap of the house, it had at one time been charming but now had grown dull from wear and lack of attention. The furniture was antique, probably inherited from another generation. "My husband passed on six months ago and with his long illness, we about used up our savings on his medicines. There isn’t much left for me to live on now.
“Yes, sir, I'd love to sell this house to you,” she said and with her hand guiding him, coaxed him gently into a recliner.
"Yes, of course, but the house would do me no good; I'm looking mostly for some land to build on. I figure I’d have to buy this as though it were a piece of land. What kind of money would you need to get for this place?”
“I’d need enough to build a house to live in,” she said smiling demurely. “All I have for savings now is a piece of property out in the western parts of the county. My husband and I always hoped to build on it. When he got sick we couldn’t do it anymore.”
He sat contemplating the elderly widow. A passage of scripture ran through his head concerning God’s special care for widows and orphans. Obviously this was once again one of those special occasions he loved anticipating. He straightened and smiled jovially, his eyes lit with a strange fire. “Tell you what, I wear more than one hat, I’m also a builder. What do you say, I build you a house on your property and we’ll call it even? “
The woman sat staring at him, slowly her eyes moistened and tears began rolling down her flushed cheeks. She looked like a little girl, her face draped with soft curls of graying blonde hair, faded blue eyes and still smooth cheeks. He bet she had been a beauty in her day, ripe with old, southern charm.
“Oh, you saved my life,” she muttered, her hand smoothing the hair of her forehead. “I have some plans for my dream house; let me get them for you.” She suddenly got up with surprising agility and opened the doors to a hutch where she retrieved a parched roll of papers. Crooking a finger, she gestured for him to come to the dining room table were she spread the blueprint out. He took a deep breath. What had he gotten into? But again the scripture about widows rang in his head. He knew what he had to do, this as some others, was a divine appointment. It didn’t matter now who would get the blessing. Seeing hope restored, her faith rewarded was blessing enough for him.
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