Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Communication Breakdown (12/16/10)
TITLE: The Stepford Clergyman
By Gregory Kane
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My wife is a changed woman. Passionate in the bedroom, courteous in polite company, fastidious around the house, concerned for my every need. A far cry from the sorry mess we found ourselves in only eighteen months ago. Being a clergyman, divorce is not something I would ever have considered lightly. But, were it not for the grace of God and the ministrations of Dale Coba, I have no doubt that Sandy and I would have gone our separate ways.
As I watch her taking her seat in front of the Willis pipe organ, it's hard to recall the woman she used to be. My sermons were never good enough, my suit hung on me like a crumpled sack, I invariably sang off-key, my handshake was limp and my greetings banal. In her eyes I was a disappointment as a minister, as a husband, as a lover, and as a man.
My appointment to the Stepford Episcopalian Church was a last-ditch attempt to hold our marriage together. The setting in rural Connecticut was idyllic, far from the pressures and expectations of big city life. Everyone seemed so genuinely happy, the schools were well run, the crime rate was low, and (the thing that most attracted me to Stepford) the town hadn't seen a divorce in twenty years.
I loved the place from the day I arrived. Dale dragged me along to the Men's Association and I instantly felt at home. My backhand improved no end as did my golf handicap. And I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of camaraderie as we men played cards together or simply nursed our glasses of brandy. I had never had so many male friends before. Churches tend to attract women, that's just a fact. Those few husbands who found their way to our table for Sunday lunch were often insipid, browbeaten specimens of the male species.
Sandra's reaction to Stepford was completely different. She loathed the other woman with their fascination for flower-arranging, basket-weaving and every aspect of housework. What irked her the most was that no one would criticise their husbands. Every time she began to whinge about one of my shortcomings, one of the other wives would immediately tell her off for gossiping.
Three months after we arrived, Sandra was all set to leave. Joanna and Walter Eberhart, our best friends in Stepford, begged her to stay but there was no talking to the woman. Eventually Dale came to see me and explained about the Change. I was appalled at first. Who wouldn't be? But there was no denying the obvious benefits. Two nights later I took Sandra along to the Men's Association and the rest, as they say, is history.
The opening bars to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor bring me back to my senses. Sandra gives me a gentle nod, reminding me that I need to be getting ready for the processional. The church is reasonably full today. All of the wives are here and most have brought their children with them. It's a delight preaching to such a compliant congregation, knowing that they will drink in my every word and then compliment me for my sermon as we shake hands by the door. A few of the men have joined their wives but not many. I appreciate that it's hard not to feel guilty about what we've done. That's why I tend to preach a lot about man being made in the image of God and the importance of wives submitting to their husbands. God hates divorce, the Bible says so. Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him her Master. I don't honestly believe that the Good Lord is going to blame us for putting things back the way they were meant to be.
Funny enough, I sometimes miss our rows. Sandra and I could scream at one another for an hour at a time. But afterwards we would take ourselves off to bed and remind each other of the extent of our love. These days we never fight. We don't even talk, not really. Sandra constantly tells how much she loves me, but of course she's been programmed to do so. Stepford has blessed me with the perfect wife. What man would choose to have it any other way?
Based on the Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, adapted for the cinema by William Goldman
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