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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Pew Perspectives
By Kimberly Lane
08/21/08


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Jules sidestepped into the wooden pew, and immediately considered retreating to the back vestibule of Park Presbyterian Church. There she could casually wander, nonchalantly tap her foot, and pretend to wait for her handsome and successful husband to finish parking the Volvo. At 26, she considered herself way too old for the College and Career kids and waaay too cool to join the Singles Group. Let’s face it, signing up for that class was pretty much a guarantee of eternal Protestant spinsterhood. In fact, most of those girls looked as if they were destined to be there until their time for transfer to the Senior Circle. Scanning the backs of four hundred well coiffed heads, she engrossed herself in the details of the glossy church bulletin as if there would be an exam later. Tuesday tureen supper... Salisbury steak for Wednesday Fellowship meal…

She had never intended to become one of the dreaded “CE People” she had heard her mother speak of. “Christian Education” was not what she sarcastically alluded to, but rather the good natured, well groomed folks that showed up for Sunday services only on Christmas and Easter. Decked out in full holiday regalia, they would smile brightly and dole out hand shakes and air kisses from 10:30 a.m. until noon. Somehow, like “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, Jules had mysteriously morphed into one of “them”. The Few. The Proud. The Backslidden.

Church was just so darn inconvenient. When you work full time, Sundays are really the only day you have to relax…and doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that the Sabbath is a day of rest? It made complete sense to spend Sundays leisurely reading back issues of People magazine…or organizing that overflowing linen closet… or nursing a headache from one too many frozen margaritas at Paco’s. The only prickle of guilt came after one of her mother’s weekly phone calls.

“Have you found a church yet?”

Avoiding the stare of an aging greeter-bouncer (surely he was on his way down the aisle to usher her out!) she glanced down the length of the pew to admire a pair of black patent pumps. Attached to them was a petite strawberry blonde, impeccably dressed in an expensive, pale gray suit and strand of pearls. With flawless posture she sat and gazed straight ahead, freshly manicured hands folded gracefully in her lap. To her left sat an equally attractive gentleman—no doubt her doting husband—his arm draped protectively around her as he grinned and nodded to those nearby. From time to time he would lean over to whisper words of endearment, while the woman shook her head and blushed self-consciously. Jules’ eyes fell to her own stubby fingers and the back of one hand which still bore the purple imprint of a popular nightclub. She stole a second glance at the perfect couple, and felt envy painfully seize her.

“Who am I kidding? I don’t belong here…and everyone knows it.”

***

Sheila tried to focus on the announcements that darted across the screen at the front of the sanctuary, resisting the urge to wriggle out from under the oppressive weight of her husband’s body. The touch, the patronizing small talk, the smug demeanor of this sudden stranger repulsed and confused her. She held her breath, not moving, all too aware that if she exhaled, she would surely begin to scream.

I thought I knew you.

A recent phone call from a “friend” had confirmed her suspicions about Steve’s long hours at the hospital… the sudden emergencies, the puzzling hang up calls, the distant look in his hazel eyes. As the wife of a prominent physician, a deacon no less, Sheila had always considered her marriage “affair-proof”. For twenty years she had committed herself to being a loving and loyal wife, mother, and Sunday School teacher. How many women had she counseled about the joys of matrimony, the importance of unconditional love, the responsibility of a Proverbs 31 woman? "Love is not a feeling…love is a decision" she had lectured. How trite and condescending that must have sounded. Sheila’s face flushed crimson with shame, as the church’s comforting embrace begin to slowly release her.

“Who am I kidding? I don’t belong here…and everyone knows it.”

***

The service drew to a close, and the Greeting of the Gathering ultimately forced both women reluctantly to their feet. It was showtime. Bring on the air kisses.

Each secretly wondered if today would be the day the charade passed them by.














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This article has been read 382 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw08/21/08
Full of intrigue and suspense, this was a great piece for the topic. I got a little confused when the name Sheila was introduced, but a second read showed me she was the lady from the paragraph above. What I liked about this story is the unique voice and descriptions, very true to life of skeptics in the church AND the way you showed that we as believers can fall into the trap of being phony. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 08/21/08
Excellent read, almost none of it took me where I thought I was being led. My only small suggestion is the the two women's stories be more nearly equal...the second one was every bit as interesting as the first, and I felt as if she got shortchanged. Very compelling reading.
Laury Hubrich 08/26/08
I liked this entry. We all do it - we look at others and think they have it so much better. Very good job here!
Ellen Dodson08/28/08
Well thought-out piece! The title is perfect. The irony at the end breaks my heart. Church should be THE PLACE for all who feel lonely, betrayed, and inadequate. You've definitely made an important statement with this story. Congratulations on your placement!!!