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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Inner Person (09/09/10)

TITLE: The Stoutness of the Wick
By Loren T. Lowery


Philip sat in his uncle’s library, eyes fixed on a sputtering candle flame. The melting taper dripped rivulets of molten wax, pooling at its silvery base. Other than flames from a fireplace, the candle was the sole source of light in the room.

A howling wind, chilled by ocean air, seeped through the mullioned windows to his left. The flame fluttered, causing shadows to dance around the room.

“Tiny flame,” he muttered, “how mighty you are to make the darkness sway.” He moved his hand, as if to test his own substance. “Nothing but shadows; the darkness does not flee.”

The clink of crystal against crystal followed by liquid being poured broke the silence. The sharp but sweet smell of brandy filled the air. “It’s not the flame, you know.” A voice claimed across the room.

Footsteps followed and Philip looked up to see his uncle, Charles, carrying two glasses. Charles extended one of them to his cousin. Its amber liquid was pungent with ancient past summers, its depths holding opalescent shadows of its own.

“If not the flame; then what?”

“It’s the wick, dear nephew.” He raised his glass and nodded. “The tethering stoutness of the wick - not the flame.”

A log popped and sparked in the grate. Shadows danced around the room. “Then I am weak at best - a man of little substance.” He leaned forward, elbows on knees, watching the flames flicker above the brass andirons. He swirled his drink in thought.

“What brings this introspection? The howl of the winds around this drafty manor, the air’s chill,” he stopped, “or could it possibly be the rumor my wife shared after dinner that Caroline has rejected your proposal of marriage tonight?”

Two women’s voices, softly muffled by the wall between the study and the next room met their ears. Philip looked at his uncle. “What matter the cause? Shouldn’t the answer be level and certain regardless its origin?”

“Perhaps, but a surgeon does not apply the same measure to all wounds.”

“Would you call my introspection a wound?”

“From your morose pose, I would.”

Philip put down his glass. “You’re a dear relative, Charles. But even so, I will not confess my heart. But the rejection of which Jayne reports is but temporary. If I can but right myself.”

Charles sipped his brandy. “Then the wound must deal with character.”

“Why so?”

“Wounds afflicted by love are deep; piercing the thin casing of our souls; giving us pause to consider ourselves.”

“In what regard?”

“Attributes of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude.”

“Virtues my father once instructed make a man.”

“And you feel you’ve none?”

Philip laughed. “You’ve known me too long to ask such a rhetorical question.”

“Most men are as you, including myself. What can we do, we are men subject to the weaknesses of the flesh.” He came to stand beside Philip. “Which wound are you licking, or is it possibly all four?”

“Can one be forsworn without impugning the others?” He looked up. “Are they not links in a chain?”

Charles came to sit in a chair opposite, his countenance blending in the shadows cast by the fire. “Your goal is too lofty, my friend. God’s charity includes forgiveness and bids all men do likewise – even those whom we’d wish be unaware of our imperfections.” Piano music from the adjacent conservatory filtered into the room. He studied Philip’s face. “The women seem to be enjoying the evening and Caroline’s greatly improved upon her Mozart.”

Philip put his head into his hands. “She is so good, so pure…”

“You love her.”

“Yes, a thousand times, yes,” he whispered, “and the impossibility of my character to ever flame her devout affection stabs my soul. Indeed, the moral fiber lacking within me to strengthen the tethered wick to chase the shadows of past recklessness deadens my tongue.”

“It was much the same between Jayne and myself once.” Philip looked up in astonishment. “I found, at last, we are but sanctified by God’s grace alone.”

“But how?”

“Through prayer, scripture and Holy Communion, only by them is a man truly transformed into a state of perfect love – made acceptable to whom we would most genuinely link our hearts here on earth.”

“I ache to change…”

Charles raised a hand to stop him as the women entered the study. “Be resolved,” he whispered.”

“The stoutness of the wick,” Philip whispered back, rising to greet Caroline at the door.

“Indeed,” Charles affirmed, following close to embrace Jayne with temperate and sincere affection.

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This article has been read 883 times
Member Comments
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Sarah Heywood09/16/10
Shades of Masterpiece Theater... I enjoyed this very much. You very clearly laid out the setting and I could see the two men in the study, feel the dampness in the air, and hear the clink of their glasses. The message was very good, too.

Excellent writing!
Charla Diehl 09/16/10
Your words painted the scene in my mind so I could see the flickering flames, feel the chill, hear the disappointment in Phil's voice and the quietness in his uncle's. In other words, this story came alive to this reader. A+++!
Patricia Turner09/16/10
You really brought this scene alive with your descriptions, and the characters with snappy dialogue. A very enjoyable read with a wonderfully delivered message.
Catrina Bradley 09/16/10
I was shivering and drawing nearer to the fire as I eavesdropped on this conversation between uncle and nephew. Excellent dialog! And the descriptions and all-around writing are stunning.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/18/10
I enjoyed this honest and forthright talk between the older, wise uncle and his distraught nephew.
Barbara Lynn Culler09/19/10
I felt like I was reading one of those historical romance novels that I enjoy reading.

I felt and saw everything you described.

This is definately a masterpiece!
Gregory Kane09/21/10
I loved the richness of your vocabulary
Rachel Phelps09/21/10
I loved this conversation. Well crafted. There is a delicate balance in historical fiction when it comes to dialogue, and I tend to lean more toward the suggestion than the heavy dose, but that's personal preference on my part. Nicely done.
Christina Banks 09/22/10
This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction.

The only thing that distracted me was when Charles hands the glass to his cousin. Perhaps you meant nephew?
Carol Penhorwood 09/22/10
I want to hear more. I could see a novel coming from this and definitely would want to be one of your readers. Excellent!
Christina Banks 09/23/10
Congratulations on your EC!
Eliza Evans 09/23/10
Ahhh, sigh.

Loren Thomas with a pen (keyboard) = Sublime. :)

Just lovely writing. Incredible atmosphere!...as always. Superb dialogue.

Sara Harricharan 09/23/10
Ah, this is wonderful! I love the atmosphere here, it reminds me of the medieval literature I'm reading this week. So very well done!

Congrats on your EC! ^_^
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/23/10
Congratulations, Loren, on EC for this truly masterful story. I LOVED it!