Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)
TITLE: Chicken Feathers
By Kellie Henningsen
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The clock on the wall gonged three o’clock. Grabbing a light coat, she rushed out the door. St. Michael’s Church was only a half a mile away at the end of her street.
The creaking noise of the church door announced her arrival. Candles burned at the front while parishioners bowed in prayer in various parts of the sanctuary. Margaret hurried over to a confessional and pulled the curtain. Taking a deep breath, she waited for the little door to slide open enabling her to unload her darkest sins.
The moment came. “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been two months since my last confession.”
“Go ahead child. What sin do you wish to confess?” The voice reassured Margaret that it was Father Phillip – a wise and patient priest. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Father…I have a problem with gossiping. I have spoken unkind things about people around town. I don’t know why I get caught up in this but I know it’s wrong. For this sin I confess and await my penance.”
She held her breath as the Father considered her situation. “My daughter, this is what you shall do. Go and find a chicken. Pluck all the feathers. Then walk through the town and throw them about. This is your penance.”
Thinking this rather odd, Margaret hesitated before standing up. “Yes, Father, I will do what you say and return tomorrow.”
Margaret walked home; her mind in a blur. It was Father Phillip, right? She knew he wouldn’t send her on a wild goose chase. She chuckled at the irony of the thought.
As soon as the sun shined through her window the next morning, Margaret prepared for her task. After a breakfast of oatmeal and tea, she left the house in search of her chicken. A nearby neighbor kept chickens for eggs so she headed straight toward for their coop.
“Elmer! I need a chicken.” Margaret leaned over the fence watching the hens pecking at their morning feed.
“Which one you got in mind?” Elmer beamed at his fine flock.
Wrinkling up her nose, Margaret pointed toward a nice plump one.
“Great choice! This one lays an egg a day without fail.” Elmer grabbed the chicken by the legs and plunged her into a burlap bag.
As soon as she arrived home, Margaret set to work plucking feathers. The ole bird put up a fight with each one but thirty minutes later, Margaret scooped a nice pile into her basket and headed for the door.
Walking through the streets, she tossed the lightweight items one at a time. The wind took the feathers and tossed them about. Some landed on the street and were trampled. Others stayed in the air a remarkable amount of time before landing on other people and heading off to locations unknown. A couple landed in a stream beginning their trip to the sea.
Margaret found it fascinating to watch each feather’s individual path. At last, her job was done, and without a second thought, she went back to St. Michael’s.
The door creaked once more, a few candles burned despite the early hour, and a parishioner wept in the pew near the door.
Entering the same confessional, Margaret picked feather dust off her sweater while waiting for the priest. The door slid open once again.
“Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I have done the penance you gave me and now seek forgiveness.”
Father Phillip cleared his throat. “Before forgiveness, your penance needs to be completed. Go out now and retrieve the feathers.”
“But,” Margaret choked, “I can’t do that! The feathers spread throughout the whole town. The wind has taken some, the water has taken some, and others have gone on journeys with other people.”
The silence between priest and parishioner was deafening. Father Phillip waited just long enough to make sure his words were heard. “Yes. The feathers are just like your words. What you throw out; you cannot take back. Words spread further than you’ll ever know. Now, go and sin no more.”
Story adapted from a parable written in the 1500's by Felipe Neri.
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