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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)

TITLE: A Good Work
By Ann Grover


Thomas Collyer had a lot on his mind. There was Sunday’s sermon to ponder. A baptism one week hence, a wedding in three days, and the midsummer’s fair in a fortnight. Most importantly, however, his beloved wife was labouring with their first child in the nearby vicarage.

“She’s coming along, Vicar.” Mrs. Blackburn had brought him a pot of tea and a plate of buttered scones earlier. “When it’s time, I’ll fetch you.”

Thomas ran anxious fingers through his hair until it stood straight up, and he nibbled at the scones, crumbs littering his vest. He tried to concentrate, but his thoughts were like feathers in the wind. Maybe a turn about the churchyard would relieve his mind.

The air was damp, mist wending through the headstones, dew lying heavy on the grass between the rows. A dreary day to be born, he thought. He glanced towards the vicarage, but it was silent and taciturn. He pulled his watch from his pocket; the hands hadn’t moved since the last time he’d looked.

Thomas strolled around the back of the church, observing that weeds had overgrown some of the older graves, mossy scabs capping the stones. A work bee was in order.

“Vicar, it’s best you come.” Mrs. Blackburn’s voice broke through Thomas’s reverie, and he looked up expectantly. The housekeeper was already plodding through the sodden grass, and Thomas followed the stooped shoulders.

The vicarage was hushed. Thomas felt a prickle of fear as he ascended the stairs, knowing, yet afraid to know for certain.

“You have a daughter, Vicar. Alyce is dying. I’m very sorry.”

Thomas did not hear. He was intent on the waxen face framed by damp curls. He tenderly touched Alyce’s cheek. Her eyes fluttered open and soundless words came from her bloodless lips. Thomas bent closer.

“Care for her. Love you.”

Thomas laid his head against her chilled hand.

“Help us to trust Thy loved ones to Thy care...” He felt her life ebb away. Help me.

Gentle mewling came from the cradle by the bed. Thomas lifted his head.

Help me, God.

The day of the funeral was sunny.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life... Hear our prayer.”

“And let our cry come unto Thee.”

On cue, tiny Elizabeth whimpered in Mrs. Blackburn’s arms. Thomas sprinkled soil onto the coffin as did the parishioners as their grieving vicar dismissed them. Several ladies tried to engage Thomas in conversations about wet nurses and mother care. Thomas walked on, deaf.

While Elizabeth slept, Thomas went through the layette, each item lovingly sewn, knitted, or crocheted by Alyce over the last few months. He examined each bootie, nightgown, and jacket, trying to understand the ties and buttons.

Later, while going through Alyce’s work basket, Thomas found her final project. It was an embroidered infant’s bonnet, tiny sprays of flowers on cotton, the embroidery incomplete, the brim and ties not yet attached. He’d give it to Mrs. Blackburn for completion.

Yet... Thomas held the bonnet to his cheek, trying to glean the lingering touch of his Alyce’s fingers. He thought about the small life sleeping in the cradle, blissfully unaware.

Help me.

Clumsily, Thomas threaded the needle and knotted the thread. He pulled it through the cotton. Down again. One stitch. Up. Down again. Two stitches. A tear streaked down Thomas’s face and soaked into the pristine fabric. He didn’t know what to do. He searched through the basket for a guide. Nothing.

He continued the stitch he’d started. It was ungainly, not as graceful as Alyce’s stitches. He changed colours and tried another stitch. It didn’t work, not on the first attempt, not on the tenth, not after he marred the cloth with his blood. After several more tries, he managed a lopsided imitation of Alyce’s stitch, and he tried for another, faring better, although he snarled the thread twice. He determinedly made another.

Some of the stitches were beyond him, little buds of twisted thread. They’d have to wait until he had help.

Although she readily gave him guidance, it was a mystery to Mrs. Blackburn why the vicar finished the bonnet. It was greyed when it was completed several weeks later, and the bloodstain never entirely washed out.

To Thomas it was simple. Alyce had begun a work, and he’d finished it. Just as they’d begun a good work together in Elizabeth, and he’d complete it, too.

Help me, God.

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This article has been read 1468 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Karen Deikun02/16/07
Bittersweet and lovely. Nicely done.
Jen Davis02/16/07
This was a beautiful story. So sad and so sweet. Such a wonderful expression of a husband’s love for his wife. As tender as it was, I thought it was also very real. I enjoyed it a great deal.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/18/07
What an emotion-filled beautifully written story! Nice work.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/19/07
Precious, endearing, and loving story...beautifully done.
Joanne Sher 02/19/07
Such real emotions here. This felt completely authentic and heartbreaking. A wonderful portrait of love.
Jacquelyn Horne02/19/07
FYfou can feel the sadness here, and, I guess, that's what it's all about. Sadness through death comes to everyone, but we need to go on because life is still happening.
Joanney Uthe02/19/07
WOW! This really drew me in and took me through a range of emotions. You do a great job of putting us in the location without a lot of discription of the setting. I really like message.
Jan Ackerson 02/21/07
Your writing is as tender as the stitches on that little bonnet. Just beautiful, Ann!
Joanne Malley02/21/07
I could feel quite a few emotions; especially Vicar's desperation. Terrific job molding this lovely little story. Blessings, Jo
Julie Arduini02/21/07
This left a lump in my throat. So tender and raw emotions expressed so well.
william price02/21/07
Your work is always beyond description. I really liked thid. "A good work" a good title, but not when it comes to commenting on your story. Superbly, outstanding work. God bless.
Helen Paynter02/22/07
Beautiful, moving piece, Ann. Strange similarity between our pieces this week! Congratulations
Beth Muehlhausen02/22/07
Jeepers - I was SURE I left a comment on this yesterday, but it's not there. Hmmmm, I must be losing it! ANWYAY, this touched me very deeply, and I even told my hubby about it last night....as my first pick (of those I read). The tender heart-message of this man says volumes. You've crafted the story so that it's packed with details and character development, is period-dated (sort of), and speaks of humanity's longing to heal.

Bonnie Way02/23/07
Ditto on all the comments above - great story. Very precious, very sweet. I was waiting for the tie in of the daughter being crafted as well. Congratulations on your win.
Marilee Alvey02/27/07
Ann, your imagination, your creativity are wondrous. I'm so glad that they're tied in with writing talent. You're the whole package. Keep raising the bar!