Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outlandish (05/19/11)
By Phee Paradise
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“Tell me, Miss Sarah Beth, how long has Poplar Baptist Church been supporting the Reverend Thomas Mann?”
“Why, it’s been twenty-six years come June. We sent him out just after my Lizzie was married. It was such a sweet wedding and now her little girl is getting ready for the big day. My goodness, how time flies.”
“Yes, we all know about your granddaughter’s wedding.” She turned to her hostess. “Miss Mary, where does Reverend Mann serve the Lord?”
Miss Mary looked surprised. “Why, India, of course.”
Miss Julia spoke up, as unyielding as her friend. “You don’t have to treat us like children, Miss Caroline. I know what you’re doing. We all support the Reverend Mann and we are happy that God has blessed his ministry. That young man he sent over to study here is welcome in our church. But his wife is in America now. She should dress like a proper Christian when she comes to church.”
“Yes, but her skirts are so pretty,” Miss Sara Beth gushed. “Silk looks like it would be so cool. I told my Lizzie she should have the bridesmaids dresses made of silk.” She paused and frowned. “But the way that young woman bares her belly is disrespectful.”
“It’s not a skirt, it’s a sorry,” Miss Julia corrected her. She glared at Miss Caroline. “It’s downright indecent.”
Miss Caroline stood up and reached for her purse. “I don’t think the Indian girl is the one having trouble acting like a Christian.” Forcing a smile, she thanked Miss Mary for her hospitality and marched out. She had known these stubborn old women for more than sixty years, so she would have to do something drastic to get through to them.
When she got home, she pulled a chair over to the wooden chest at the foot of her bed. She slid her fingers across the polished surface, pausing on the latch. She hadn’t opened the chest since Frank had gone to be with the Lord. The trip to India had been their last adventure and she’d never been able to bring herself to look at the treasures they had found together in the bazaars.
But now she sat up straight and tugged on the latch. It was time to use her treasures in the service of the Lord. She lifted the length of peacock silk and laid it across the bed, smoothing it as she unfolded it. The silver trim and little dots scattered across the fabric were as breathtaking as she remembered. She laid the short blouse and silver earrings on top of the silk, then went to set up the ironing board.
Sunday morning, Miss Caroline rose earlier than usual. It took a long time to fold the length of fabric and wrap it around her waist properly. When she was satisfied it would hold, she slipped the blouse over her head. The mirror revealed her pale, sagging midriff, and she had to admit she looked outlandish. But Frank had chosen the garment for her and she could feel his approving smile. After putting in the dangling earrings, she turned her back on the mirror.
Her three friends were standing together in the foyer when she entered the church. She could hear their gasps across the room and she gave them a triumphant smile, but stayed near the door. When the young Indian man and his wife entered, she went straight to them. He smiled and shook hands as he accepted a bulletin, but his wife kept her eyes on the floor. Her pink sari was trimmed with gold that set off her brown skin and black hair.
“Good morning Mister Devi. Miss Ranjana, you look lovely today. Pink is such a good color for you. Would you care to sit with me this morning?”
The Indian woman looked up and her eyes widened at the sight of Miss Caroline’s sari. Tears gathered in her eyes, but she smiled a little and nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered, and her husband echoed it. Miss Caroline took her arm and escorted her toward the sanctuary.
When they reached her three friends, she paused. “Good morning, ladies. It’s a beautiful day to worship God, wouldn’t you say?”
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