Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: The Moving
By Marc Smith
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Jessica Patterson, the wife of Pastor Patterson, had just settled into her morning routine with a newspaper and a hot cup of coffee at her dining room table when a frantic knocking came from her door. With a small sigh of displeasure, she slowly rose from the table. Who could be disturbing her peace at this inconvenient hour? Her wildest imagination would not have prepared her for the conversation to follow.
Opening the front door revealed a short, awkward looking man in his late eighties. He wore tight curly hair, a pair of small spectacles, and dirty, brown overalls. He was hunched a bit but was trying his best to look past Jessica to peer inside the house. His urgency made Jessica very nervous.
“Mr. Arkwell, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you okay?”
“It mived, it mauved…,” clearing his throat and huffing in frustration, he yelled, “It moved!” Ralph’s drawn, wrinkled face was more pale than usual, and the trembling in his hands was not due to his age. He stammered and stumbled as he continued. “First this side, then that, now up top…oh my…I am very careful about putting it away…oh yes yes…very careful about that. Then people getting hurt… this one, then that one…and now…NOW…oh dear… this terrible…ter-ri-ble...”
“Mr. Arkwell!” Jessica interrupted. “You are going to have to slow down, or I’m never going to be able to understand you. What moved? What are you talking about?”
“The crucifix,” he replied quickly. “Pastor Paterson. Is he….uh….ok?”
“As a matter of fact, he is not doing very well. He is quite sick. How did you know?” she asked.
“It was the crucifix,” Ralph whispered.
Ralph had worked as the building/grounds caretaker for the Episcopal Church for nearly 30 years now. Everyone in Riverton knew of his wild stories about the unusual findings he came across during his duties at the church. However, today Jessica wondered if there wasn’t something to his story.
“It tells me who is injured or sick,” he continued. “I am very careful about putting the crucifix back on the shelf after the Sunday service is finished. Pastor puts it on the stand next to him as he greets the people leaving, then I put it on the shelf. But the past three Saturday mornings, when I go in to straighten the sanctuary for the Saturday evening service, it has been in different places, each a clue to who was ill in the church. First it was at the piano when Mrs. Jenkins broke her leg. Last week it was at the organ when Mrs. Cathy had that bad case of pneumonia. Now, this morning, it was at the pulpit, so I ran over here to see for myself, and sure enough Pastor Patterson is very ill.”
“That is very odd indeed, but I am sure there is an explanation for it,” Jessica confirmed.
“Yes, it is God revealing things to me. Good day, Mrs. Patterson.”
The next Saturday, Mr. Patterson planned to sleep at the church, determined to see a glimpse of God working His miracle. Around nine o’clock, Ralph, who was lying on the front pew for the night, heard the front door latch lift and the hinges creak as the large, wooden door opened. A soft glow intruded the moonlit darkness of the sanctuary as the clopping of large boots crept closer to where Ralph lay. He pulled his blanket to his chin and attempted to quiet his rapidly intensifying breath. The footsteps drew closer and closer until the candle hovered right above Ralph’s head.
“Pastor Grimes?” Ralph inquired.
The assistant pastor stood at the end of the pew holding a small candlestick and the church’s crucifix.
“You have been moving the crucifix!” Ralph exclaimed
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry. Admittedly, I am still a bit afraid of the dark, so I like to keep it with me for comfort,” Pastor Grimes smiled sheepishly. “I’m coming in to go over what I need to do for tomorrow’s service. I have been covering for people the past three weeks. First for Mrs. Jenkins, then Mrs. Cathy, now preaching for Pastor Patterson the past two weeks. I guess it gets late and I forget to put it back. I am terribly sorry. What are you doing here?”
“Going home,” Ralph said somberly.
And with blanket over shoulder and head hung low, he did just that.
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