Nun

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Dear God, I don’t want to be a nun anymore. I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is. I don’t feel cut out for what you are asking me to do. Mother says that you’ll help me but so far I’m struggling to see that hand. How can I bring new sisters to you when they are not interesting?

The world has changed and I fear we all must change with it. People don’t want a church anymore, they want something more, something we can’t give them. Perhaps, it’s a something even you can’t give it to them…

 

Playing In The Church Graveyard #CCC

Church bells rang to end Sunday service and the congregation came out. People stood talking and I bored as usual walked into the graveyard.

I adventured amongst the weeping trees and headstones, ignoring the ghosts I could see lingering, as a ten year old boy I had better things to do.

One old lady began shouting, ‘get out! You vandal! Stop disturbing me!’

‘I’m not doing anything!’ I yelled but she wouldn’t listen and carried on shouting.

I tried play but she flew and pulled me about like a whirlwind. Deciding it was best to leave, I ran back to my parents.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/02/05/crimsons-creative-challenge-65/ with thanks).

Postcard Story

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Dear Alma,

Very cold, snow keeps coming. We are in old church, trying to keep warm. It feels wrong to burn fire inside but if we don’t we’ll die. There is little food and water, we are trying best to survive. Must hold out till support and supplies arrive.

It’s wrong to go war with Russia in winter. The people are use to it and know how to survive. We don’t and are badly equipped. I fear I never see you again and this church will become my grave. I hold tight to memory of you and pray all time for saviour.

love, Viktor

Robin #TaleWeaver

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It was early morning and still mostly dark. The grass was crisp with frost and the road sparkling. Most people were still in bed but I was making my way to the church. It was the eve before Christmas Eve and many things still needed to be done.

I was dressed not in my normal vicar robes but a heavy coat underneath was a handmade wool cardigan, black shirt with my white colour, grey trousers and soft shoes. Even so, I still felt winter’s chill and I knew once inside it would be even colder.

My house wasn’t that far away but I had to walk up a narrow pathway then enter the back of the graveyard and go across there to the small side door. It was treacherous  when icy or snowy but last night hadn’t been cold enough to make it so.

I opened the gate to the graveyard, which I kept well oiled as I hated the loud screeching squeak. The headstones looked strange in the half light, some looked like fallen rocks and others like hunched figures. There were a few pathways that led through and I took the main one up. The grass was kept short, as I liked it and the gravestones well tended even if there was no family member left to do so.

I got the door, unlocked it with a too larger key and stepped inside. The smells of wax and damp stone met me. I stomped my boots and hurried to turn on the lights and the old 1960’s heaters. They should have been replaced long ago but money was needed else were and I don’t think it would matter anyway. Nothing could keep the church warm – too many gaps in the windows, doors and brickwork now.

I got on with my tasks; placing candles about, fixing the wings of an angel that a child had snapped off the other day. Make sure the winter food giving table was’t over full and removing a few things into the boxes underneath. I checked the stacks of prayer books, bibles, song sheets and other papers make sure no mice had gotten to them and they weren’t left too close to the leaking windows.

There were loads of other things but I didn’t made doing them. It give me time to think and enjoy the silence of the church. I sometimes hummed hymens, played a tune on the organ or went though some of the CD music to easily remember their numbers without having to look it up.

My final task before leaving the church was to check to the mice traps. Any little furries in there, I would collect and take the traps outside with me when I left. I didn’t believe like the last vicar and groundskeeper that they should be killed. I caught them alive and set them free in the fields I past by on the way home.

Today, as I did that and watched their little white and brown bodies disappearing into the frosty grass, I saw a robin on the fence post. He seemed to be watching me.

‘Good day,’ I whispered.

He put his head to one side as if wondering why I was speaking to him.

‘Cold out isn’t it? The church might be a bit warmer but don’t get frozen on the window sills!’

He chirped a little and dropped down into the grass.

‘Robins always remind me of Christmas. It’s said one relight a fire in the stable and an ember burnt his chest. Of course, there are lots of other stories,’ I spoke.

The robin fluttered about, looking for food and I wished I’d brought something with me.

‘Next time, little fellow,’ I said and walked back to my warm house and breakfast.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/tale-weaver-254-christmas-tales-19-12/ with thanks).

The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Small #WritePhoto

an old, carved stone whose recesses are stuffed with red and black ladybirds.

It was a too hot summer afternoon, so I had taken toddler Ava into a shady patch of the lower garden. We sat on the grass, in the dappled shadow of an oak tree which rose up over the reminds of the old family chapel.

Whilst Ava played with some of her toys, I looked at the fallen stone walls and large pieces of stone decor. It was hard to imagine what the chapel had once looked like but I had seen some photos and though it had been small it had been a splendid place.

On the other side of the chapel, out of sight down a sloping hill and nested around three willow trees, was the family cemetery. Every Bartlett was buried there and when her time came, Ava would be too.

I on the other hand, just a nanny, would be buried in the village church graveyard where all the other past servants of Bartlett Manor where.

‘Look! What’s it!’ Ava cried.

I turned, frowning and  saw the three year old pointing to one of the decorative stones. Picking her up, we went for a closer look.

Crowding into the nooks of what might have been a corner stone of the outside ceiling with a now moss covered leave like pattern on it, with hundreds of small ladybirds.

Ava squealed and tried to stick her fingers into the crawling mass. I grabbed her hand and pulled it back.

‘They are only baby ladybirds,’ I explained.

‘Lay-d-burs,’ Ava tried to pronounce.

I laughed at her and clapped her hands together as I sang;

‘Ladybird, ladybird,
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that’s little Ann,
And she has crept under
The warming pan.’

We laughed together then carried on watching the ladybirds.

‘What lay-d-burs doing?’ Ava asked.

‘Napping. Like you should be doing,’ I replied.
Ava pulled a face and began to make a fuss. I quickly settled her down on the picnic blanket and started to read some fairy tales to her.
The heat and tiredness got to her and she was soon asleep.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/ with thanks).

Ladybird nursery rhyme quote from; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46960/ladybird-ladybird

Return #FridayFictioneers

It’s been ages since I last walked through the doors of a church. My loss of faith had been a gradual thing and for years I had stopped believing.

I don’t know why things had started stirring inside of me, I guess because when you don’t have anywhere else to turn you go to religion. Even if you don’t believe and it doesn’t solve the problems, there’s a peace to be had in worship that can’t come from anywhere else.

Taking a few deep breaths, I walk through the door ready to commit once more.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/05/01/3-may-2019/ with thanks).

The Walk Home #WeeklyWritingPrompt

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Even though he had to work on Sunday, Nick always went to church afterwards. Sitting on the cold wooden pews, he stared at the alter watching the candles flickering against the stone wall and stained glass arch window above. Nick shut his eyes and prayed, thanking God for his second chance, for removing his sins and his needs now being meet.

Not long ago, Nick was barely surviving his fourth year on the streets. Newly released from jail for robbing shops, houses and cars, he found himself with hardly anything. He couldn’t get a job and when he spent all the money he had, he found himself with no home. There seemed nothing else left for him to do but die in the gutter.

However, death had left him alone and during his first snowy winter on the streets, Nick had often visited churches and other holy places that left doors open. There he had found himself again through religion.

Years later, with the help of a few kind people, Nick had turned over a new leaf and found employment in maintaining the cities’ churches. An old victor had allowed him to live in a tiny vicarage which was very basic but at least it was warm and dry. To Nick it was the best home he had ever had.

Leaving the church, he made his way through the graveyard. It was snowing heavily again and some of the smaller headstones where almost covered. Nick was careful and respectful in his walking, he tried not to disturbed anything. His breath misted in front of his face and snow fell on his worn coat and rubber boots. He didn’t shiver or really feel the freezing air, he was use to the cold now.

Leaving deep footprints, he went through the open gate at the end of the graveyard and along the path to the vicarage. Snow lay thick on the roof of the building and also on the window sills. There was little arched porch at the front and Nick huddled underneath. He shook the snow from his coat and boots then dug in his pockets for the key.

In the quietness, Nick putting the key in the lock and opening the door sounded louder then normal. Heading in, he turned the light on and felt a brush of warmth. Taking his his things off in the hallway, he went into the small living room and looked out. It was dark outside but thanks to the streetlights reflecting off the snow, Nick could make out some of the graveyard and the church.

‘I wouldn’t like to be out there right now,’ Nick mumbled, ‘thanks for my new life.’

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2019/01/21/weekly-writing-prompt-177/ with thanks).

Christmas Eve

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The church bells rang out signalling the start of midnight mass. People walked or drove  over, some carrying presents or boxes of food for the poor. Snowflakes fluttered from the dark sky whilst fairy lights everywhere twinkled warmly. The fresh air was mingled with the scents of pine, hot cooking and frankincense.

In the church they gathered, singing hymns and saying prays by the flickering candle light. They celebrated the birth of a baby thousands of years ago that they believed changed the world for the better. With hearts full of joy and wonder, they wished for a Christmas of peace.

God’s Will #FirstLineFriday

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Amber light streamed down from the arched windows, splattering the altar and their upturned faces. The congregation, choir, organist and vicar all remained seated as the earthquake rocked the church.

The stone floor, walls, pillars and the stained glass in the windows shook. Candle stands toppled and the people closest reached out to grip the still burning candles. Vases of flowers tipped too and people moved out of the way. The vicar and members of the choir collected the Holy Communion things off the altar. The church bell began ringing by itself.

The choir master started up a hymn. Other voices joined in, mingling with those who were saying prayers aloud. The vicar joined in the song, his voice drowning out everyone else, until the organist began playing the hundred year old organ and those booming notes covered everything but the rumbling of the earthquake.

Dust fell from the high wooden beams and stone roof. The sound of things falling echoed then the vibrations stopped and the rumbling faded. People opened their eyes and looked around. The church was still intact, they had survived.

 

(Inspired from; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/first-line-friday-september-28th-2018/ with thanks).