Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: A MIGHTY FORTRESS (don't write about the song) (04/23/15)
TITLE: Once a Pillar
By PamFord Davis
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I have only recently moved into the cloistered elderly residential area of Cape Cod. As a fresh out of seminary minister, I dare not encroach upon Miss Mildred’s privacy. Yet, an invisible force beckons. This evening, with the guise of a brisk walk to aid in my digestion, I have a close encounter with the woman of mystery.
I catch only a glimpse of her stooped frame silhouette before the recluse retreats into her eerie habitat. The pleasantries of a nightingale diminish as foreboding sounds of six sliding dead-bolt locks seize my attention. Is Mildred locking perpetrators out or herself in?
Perhaps, I should risk vulnerability…
“Mrs. Carothers, will you come into my office please?”
The formality of the intercom question is out of character.
Perry Mason calling Della Street?
“Yes, Reverend; be right there.”
Listening from my adjoining office, I hear faint sounds of her walking the few steps to my closed door. There, she raps lightly before entering. Leaving the door ajar, we exchange courteous smiles as I gently take her by the arm. After leading her to a Queen Ann relic, I return to my desk chair and tactfully broach the topic.
“You can call me Jean if I can call you Steve.”
“Jean it is. Jean, can you tell me about Mildred?”
“How much have you heard?”
“Nothing much, just that she’d been a leader in the church and community. Then, suddenly became a hermit.”
“Sorry Steve, but I have little to add. She was once a pillar of the church; concerned members called upon her for a while, taking her casseroles and inviting her back to church. I guess we just felt like we were intruding.”
“So you don’t know if someone hurt her feelings?”
“No, I don’t know why she turned her back on society. It is queer; isn’t it?”
“That’s putting it lightly. Does she have family?”
“Just one nephew. He brings her groceries.”
“What about medical attention?”
“Dr. Elliot goes directly to her house. Physician-patient privacy, you know. I doubt you could get any information out of him.”
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to find out myself.”
“You mean you are going to go visit Mildred alone, uninvited?”
“Precisely. I am her minister. You said yourself, that she was once a pillar of our church.”
“I did, didn’t I? Why don’t you ask one of the lay leaders to go along for moral support?”
“No, I’d rather go alone, more informal. I don’t want her to think we are ganging up on her. I’ll go by first thing in the morning. That’s all Mrs.-uh, Jean. Getting dark early now; you’d better head on home.”
Her eyes reveal anxiety after our exchange; concluding our private conclave, the middle-aged secretary dons her cardigan, slings her handbag over her shoulder and walks down the creaking staircase to the back exit.
That night sleep eludes me…
As the rising sun is lighting up my bedroom, I make light work of shaving away stubble, showering and dressing. To quiet my rumbling stomach, I wash down bagel munchies with steaming black coffee. Having time to kill before my visit with Mildred, I kick back in my recliner and watch network news.
It is now 9:00 sharp. White knuckled-pulse racing, I knock on Mildred’s front door.
The sliding of six dead bolts signals the opening of Mildred’s mighty fortress. I view an impeccably dressed woman: from starched white-lace collar, pearl-buttoned bodice to floor length skirt, Mildred is a woman of bearing and grace.
“Reverend, won’t you come in? I’ve been expecting your visit.”
Dumbfounded, I follow at Mildred’s heels into her picturesque parlor.
Upon reaching the fireplace marble mantle, she pivots and peers into my eyes. Dwindling flames flicker, radiating a glow upon plump cheeks. She succinctly speaks.
“Welcome to my prayer closet. This isn’t quite what you expected, is it?”
“Uh, uh, no. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect but no, never. God has called you to serve in consecration as a prayer warrior?”
“Exactly! I pattern my life after Anna; she served God in the temple; I serve him here, in my private domain. The Lord meets all of my needs; I want for nothing!”
I envy Mildred…
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