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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: The Sixth Proverb Epitaph
By Patricia Turner


We’d been rubbing gravestones for an hour when I came upon an epitaph that caught my attention.

“Minnie!” I called out. The matronly lady in the pink polka-dot dress hustled over.

“Minnie, what’s the story behind what it says on this marker - ‘He Seen Red’?”

“Oh!” she giggled. “That’s our Proverbs Six epitaph paraphrased.” Plopping down on the terracotta clay she crossed her legs Indian style, prepared to tell a story.

“No one ‘round these parts’ll fergit that day fer a long time. Clem, he done illustrated the meanin’ of the sixth proverb – a husban’s fury indeed!”

I sat down beside her to listen, prepared to take notes. This just might add some real meat to my article on grave rubbings.

“Clem Fiddlehopper?” The name itself got my attention originally.

“Yep, a big husky boy, Clem was. Good as the gospel itself an’ a heart bigger’n Texas. An’ soft it was fer his young wife Em’ly. That be her grave right next to his.”

I’d noticed it too and hoped I’d find out what the epitaph on hers meant.

“So, what happened?” I was eager for the story but knew she’d tell it in her own way and time.

“Well, Clem was a foreman up at the paper mill just north of the state line. Must’ve had twenty or thirty men workin’ fer ‘im up there. He also vol’nteered as a fire fighter. In gener’l ‘e tried to do good by ever’ body.”

She paused to answer a question from someone else in the group. She gathered her thoughts and continued.

“As busy as Clem was, Em’ly musta’ got kinda’ lonesome. Most of ‘er friens had little ones by that time an’ Clem an’ Em’ly, by the good grace a’ God as it turned out were bar’n.”

“Wait Minnie, mind if I take some notes for my article?” I was already scribbling fast and furiously - probably should have asked sooner.

“You mean our little story might end up in a big classy mag’zine like Redbook? Sure, young man, write all ya’ want.”

“Well, one day Clem was up at the mill an’ the call come out fer’ the fire fighters. They used a big brass bell back then an’ ya’ could here it clean up to the mill. Clem an’ some a’ the other boys high tailed it down ‘ere. It was a big fire - clean burn’t up the library.

Well, right in the middle a’ fightin’ that fire, Clem sees ‘is Em’ly over by Crow’s drug store, talkin’ to the preacher’s son. Well, nothin’ wrong ‘cept she was wearin’ a little strapless red dress an must a’ been standin’ in a certain way that got Clem's heat up. ‘E dropped ‘is fire hose an lit out ‘cross the square. ‘Is bes’ frien’ Charlie, a sherr’f’s dep’ty run over to try an’ stop ‘im. Well, Clem was quite lit’rly seein’ red. ’E got Charlie’s gun away from ‘im an’ kep’ runnin’.

“Gee, seems innocent enough.” With today’s morals this didn’t seem like it ought to cause all that fuss.

Minnie nodded. “Guess I did leave out the little bit ‘bout Em’ly’s attraction to men an’ the reputation a’ the preacher’s son too. Anyhow, toss in that red dress an’ trouble was a-brewin! No one ever seen Clem mad quite like that. ‘E looked a bit like a wil’fire out a’ control. We all figer’d there was more to the story than met the eye at the time. Anyhow, Clem, ‘e was loaded fer bear an it prob’ly did’n help that as soon’s Em’ly saw ‘im comin’ she lit out like a scared rabbit. John, the preacher’s son jus’ stood there an’ watched ‘im come.”

By now most of the group was clustered around us, listening to the story. I guess it was a little more titillating than grave rubbings.

“We all figer’d John jus’ thought to reason with Clem. But Clem jus’ run past John an’ kep’ on chasin’ Em’ly. He chased her all the way out the road to their house, both of ‘em flyin’, an’ that red dress quite a target. She got there first an’ must a’ got one a’ Clem’s rifles, cause we heard the shot all the way back ta’ town. Guess she didn’t get off another shot ‘fore Clem shot an’ killed her.

“What happened to Clem?”

“Well, ‘e died in prison ‘bout a year later, we reckon of a broke heart.”

Emily’s epitaph read: ‘Loved Her As Best I Could’.

Proverb 6:34
“For jealousy is a husband’s fury;
Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance”. NKJV

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 10/08/09
I love the dialect of the story's narrator--very well done!

The situation seemed a teensy bit contrived, and actually quite tragic, which didn't really match the light-hearted tone of the story-teller.

Great title, and great story set-up. Lots of creativity here.
Allen Stark10/11/09
The dialect does create some difficulty in reading the story, but makes it more authentic. The way the story began left me wanting to know more about the "rubbing" that was going on. I've never known what that is about. Perhaps that part could be brought out in the sequel.