Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Gossip Mill (05/08/14)
TITLE: A tale of milk and woe
By JK Stenger
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Johnson scanned the rolling hills in front of his farm. His cows, robust and sturdy grazed in the morning sun.
Thank you God for making the world so beautiful.
A sound caught his ear and he turned to look at the road leading up to the farm.
Someone’s coming? A wagon drawn by an old horse came in sight.
Ah…It’s Murray. He must be coming to pick up the milk for the ladies’meeting.
“Johnson… Came to pick up the milk. “
No greeting? Is he having a bad day?
Murray craned his neck to gape at the cows.
“You got a lot of cows, Johnson.”
“Thank you, Murray. Hey, you care for a cold drink?”
Murray rambled on, not seeming to hear.
“Should see Elmer’s cows. Or Dillon’s! Miserable herds. And they call themselves farmers!”
He cleared his throat and spit on the ground, barely missing Johnson’s pants.
“Hey Johnson, got something to drink? Most folk don’t know much about hospitality. The other day at Elmer’s I worked for a whole hour and he never offered me nothin. Got some beer?”
“Well, yeah…I mean no…just sit here and I get you some ice tea.”
“Ice tea? That’s what Dillon’s wife serves me...”
Murray plopped his oversized body on the porch bench and reached for the drink emptying the glass in one gulp.
“Hey, have you heard?”
His lowered his voice to a whisper.
“Well you know, Stacy Strobbels…”
Johnson knew Stacy. A sweet girl from town.
“What about her?”
“Well you know…the usual.” Murray snorted, his eyes narrowing.
“What do you mean with the usual?”
Lord help me to have wisdom. I don’t want to offend Murray.
“Well…I can’t really tell you. I’m not one to gossip. That’s against the Good Book!”
Murray patted the little cross he wore.
Murray leaned closer. He smelled of beer and garlic and sweat.
“If you’d been to church, like you should’ve, you would’ve known too.”
He leaned back again with a pious expression.
“But we don’t see you in church anymore, do we, Johnson? Church is a blessing.”
He patted his cross again.
Johnson felt the urge to rip that cross from Murray’s neck, but he controlled himself.
Lord give me wisdom.
“I do go to church Murray. I go over to West Fall Church.”
Murray squinted his eyes and shook his head. “That’s bad. That church is bad! Reallll bad!”
Johnson shifted uneasily. What’s Murray’s problem?
West Fall Church had been such a help to him when his Annie had gotten sick with scarlet fever. Throughout her illness, the community had been there for them. It had become family.
“I like it there”.
“Well, I heard some strange things!” Murray raised his voice. “Very, very strange things…” He spit again, barely missing Johnson.
“Pagans…that’s what they are!”
Johnson burst out laughing. That’s ridiculous.
“How are they pagans”
“Can’t tell you. I am not one to gossip. Against the Good Book. But it’s bad. Really bad!
Johnson suppressed the laughter. This has to stop.
“C’mon Murray…Take it easy.” He clapped Murray on the shoulder. “You see a devil under every stone.”
“A devil under every stone? Watch your words Johnson”. Murray pursed his lips.
“You are deceived, Johnson.”
He carefully wiped off the spot where Johnson had touched him.
“The milk, he hissed. “I want the milk.”
Johnson shook his head as he watched the cart roll away. Dear Lord, please help our community.
And the milk?
It never reached the ladies’ meeting.
After Murray picked it up he ran into Dillon and Elmer and told him he was convinced Johnson was a member of a dubious sect. What’s more he suspected Johnson’s supposed pagan beliefs had caused the milk to go bad. And indeed, to Dillon it actually looked green.
Within minutes they reached a verdict: “That milk was contaminated.”
There was only one thing to do: Dump it in the brook.
The ladies’meeting was not much of a success that year, but according to Murray that had nothing to do with the absence of milk.
He claimed it was because of all that gossiping the ladies did. And they should have known better. After all the Good Book forbids it.
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