Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)
TITLE: The Saint
By Carol Alwood
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“You wouldn’t recognize the place anymore.” He bent down slowly feeling every bit of pressure in his weary knees and back as he ripped out the resilient weeds popping up along the edge of the flower bed. “Nobody’s done a thing around here in a long time.”
He stood, satisfied, then lowered himself onto the white, stone bench near the church’s columbarium wall where Patricia’s ashes were locked away. Scanning the yard behind him, he noticed there were now swings hanging from the thick limbs of farthest fig tree, planted so many years ago by Pastor Fields. Robert loved the yard with the variety of trees, the same ones you would find in the holy land. Swings on the fig tree? He wondered if that counted as blasphemy. It ought to.
Tuning out the calming songs of the sparrows and chickadees, Robert pulled his sweater tighter against the lengthening shadows and pursed his lips.
“I don’t know what the new pastor does all day to tell you the truth. If you asked me, he’s making everyone else do the work while he disappears for the week. That’s the way of young people, I guess. Too interested in their computers or phones to care about anybody else.”
Robert shook his head, remembering how angry he had been on Sunday when Pastor John had gotten up to preach without his Bible. He had carried up some tiny computer instead. Irreverent! He gritted his false teeth. He’d told everyone what he thought, too, during coffee hour. They’d be hearing a lot more, then the whole bunch of them would take their tithes to some other deserving church. Some place where the pastor got things done and showed some respect.
A squeal and feet pounding on the grass behind him startled Robert. “What is going on?” He grumbled under his breath, upset that his time with Patricia was interrupted. He turned partway around to see Emily, the pastor’s youngest daughter bounding in his direction. He braced himself, hoping she had sense enough not to knock into him.
The little girl in long, blonde pigtails wore jeans with holes in the knees, and a sweatshirt that appeared too large for her. He could tell she had been eating some sort of sticky, red candy because it was smeared on the sides of her mouth.
“Hello Mr. Robert. Whatcha doing out here? Praying for the saints?”
Robert furrowed his brow. Praying for the saints? Where did a little girl come up with an idea like that?
“No. I’m visiting my wife.”
“Patricia? I’ll bet she was really nice.” Emily sat on the small bench next to Robert. He inched his way to the right, trying not to end up covered in stickiness as well.
“How did you know my wife’s name?” Hearing the girl say his wife’s name brought a lump to his throat. He never got to hear anyone say her name anymore. She should have called her Mrs. Davis.
“We were down here praying for the saints this morning. Daddy helped me read some of the tiles."
“Who was praying?”
“Mommy, daddy, Chloe and me.”
“That’s nice.” Robert gripped his aching knees, wondering how long Emily would sit by his side.
“Is there anything special we can pray about for you tomorrow?” Emily looked up, her big, blue eyes innocent and curious.
“You just keep praying for the saints.” Robert felt the hard layer of anger melting away from his heart, and sat up straighter to fight against it. He cleared his throat and tried silence to make Emily leave. It didn’t work.
“There’s one thing I don’t get, though.” Emily scrunched up her nose. “What’s a saint?”
“A saint? Well, Pastor Fields used to teach that a saint was someone who loved and followed Jesus.”
“Like you.” Emily gave Robert one last smile and ran off toward one of the swings. Pumping her legs so she soared up into the leaves, she sang “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of her lungs.
“Yes. Just like me.” Robert’s cheeks were wet with tears again, but this time he didn’t wipe them away. Instead he hung his head and began to pray.
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