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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: March 7, 2019      Views: 78

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This is a fictional atrocity in the name of religion.
"Buried with the Dead" by called2rite



Seventysix year old Sarah, laid the obituary section down from the Wichita Eagle newspaper. Beside her old car, the Wichita Eagle and the Palmar Star were the only luxuries she could allow herself. Slowly she crossed the room of her studio apartment and opened the lock on the little cedar box sitting on her dresser. Carefully she took the obituaries out and re-read them. There were two of them, and she reread them. The last one was only a week old. Emotional ocean waves rose and fell and whisked her thoughts to and fro. She left the tarnished gold colored bracelet laying in the box. Gently she took an old quilt block out and traced her name with her fingertip on the friendship block, and put it in a plastic zip-lock bag and put in her purse. She started packing her things in the tattered old suitcase, a remnant of her youth and left. This was another trip she had to take: alone.

The old woman was watching from an upstairs window where she was staying in the old-fashioned hotel, cafe on the bottom and rooms to rent on top in the small northwestern Kansas town. She saw the hearse slowly roll down the only paved street. She knew where the hearse was going, about three miles south of Palmar, KS. Fate was propelling her to follow it.
She took one last look around the room she had requested to have, before leaving. The decor was different, but in her mind she saw the old floral wallpaper, bare wooden floor: and the bed with a crumbled rose colored chenille bedspread. It wasn't only the room that was familiar, she knew the whole layout of the hotel having cleaned it in her youth. However this room was now: it was either the beginning or end of her life or maybe she had two lives.

A lone horse and buggy hitched to the surviving hitching post stood out among the black cars with their bumpers painted black in the parking lot. The old woman's knees matched the creak in the wooden steps that led onto the porch in front of the antiquated church. The sanctuary had the same wooden floor and benches as it had in her youth. Sunlight flooded through the sparkling clean windows and Old English furniture polish lingered in the air. A week ago she had learned this old church was slated to be torn down or moved because of a newly constructed brick church across the road. She sat down on the back wooden pew with the same songbooks she had always known.

She had been back one year ago and her emotions were still pulverized by what she had learnt. She had returned last week for a second time for the same reason. She had given the few remaining old-timers an opportunity to recognize her. Of course with her short hair, makeup, and worldly modern dress, no one had. She hadn't heard anything new then, either. Today they nodded curiously at her, recognizing her face from a week ago. The whispering began.
The song leader led the congregation in an old hymn, singing acapella. There was a rustling sound and they all stood respectfully, as the handful of mourners walked in.
A kind looking young minister with a trimmed beard welcomed the small crowd. How different he looked from the stern long bearded minister of her youth. Maybe things would have been different if... The minister started reading the obituary, "Helen Penner Kramer, daughter of Elias and Mary Penner, was born in Palmer, KS, August 24, 1917. She died reaching the age of ninety-six years, three months, and two days. She married Paul Kramer on August 24, 1935. She was a homemaker and helpmate to her husband who founded this church. She was proceeded in death by her two daughters, her husband, Paul, who died one year ago and her husband's sister, Eva, who died a week ago. (The old woman in the back had been shocked to hear of the daughters' deaths when she had been back one year ago.) She is survived by her only grandchild, Louise Miller, and her spouse Lyle, one great grand-daughter Melanie, and one great grand-son, Kent.

Despite the tragedies in her life, she remained true to her faith in God, reaching out to help everyone who needed help, including her husband's sister, Eva, who had lived with them. It is hard to mention one without the other as their lives were entwined," the minister went on with the obituary.

The older woman in the back was immersed in her thoughts, still teetering with her decision as to what she should do, when the minister announced that the grand-daughter Louise was going to have the eulogy.

"Grandma, made a house into a home with her love and laughter," Louise began. "I don't mean any disrespect for my grandfather and his sister, Eva, but they rarely laughed or smiled. Grandpa had been very strict and a lot of things were forbidden. Like the minister said, she had her share of tragedy. Her oldest daughter ran away from home when she was sixteen. They never heard from her again and she was pronounced legally dead after fifteen years of silence. My mother died of cancer when I was a teenager and my father moved away from here, taking me with him. After that I didn't get back to see my grandparents except maybe a couple times a year and then of course last week. Grandma kept busy with her cleaning, baking, gardening, and sewing. She had a passion for quilting. She was a very active and giving person.

Grandpa had a stroke two years ago and wasn't able to talk or walk after the stroke. Grandma, with the help of Aunt Eva, took care of him until he died a year ago.
One of the things I remember most was grandmas' old treasured friendship quilt. I loved to ask who, where the people were, and why they had their names embroidered on it. My mother's name was on it, but I couldn't find her sister's name. In the middle of the quilt was a red velvet block.

My grandmother must have loved that block; because every night she sat in the rocking chair by the fireplace, and would hold the quilt. She would start stroking and rubbing the block without a name and eventually the nap rubbed off. When I was a little girl, I asked why it didn't have a name on it. Aunt Eva wouldn't tell me and my mother said it had got ripped off and grandma mended it. My grandma would only say, she had loved that person, but that person wasn't living anymore and would change the subject. I have my idea of whose name was on it.
She had the quilt on her lap the night she had died.

She was sitting beside the fire place going through a box of letters that were addressed to my grandparents that Aunt Eva had among her personal effects. When grandma fell out of her chair with her heart attack, they must have fallen into the fireplace. The letters were mostly burned up. Some of them had the old three and five cent stamps on them. The last couple ones were more recent, with forty-eight cent stamps. I would have liked to have read them, but I'm sure if they were important, my aunt would have given them to my grandmother earlier."

Everyone was captivated by the story and was attempting to cover their sniffles up, so no one noticed the gasp the old woman made from the back row. She opened her handbag and fingered the block of old material with her name embroidered on it. She thought about the time, an aeon ago, when her father, in a fit of anger, snatched a pair of scissors, and cut the quilt block with her name on it, out of the friendship quilt. She had helped her mother put the quilt together and loved that quilt. He threw the block at her and said, "You have disgraced us and no longer can live in this house. You are hereby shunned and banned."

Her Aunt Eva had stood stern-faced beside her father, while her mother sat in the rocking chair, crying quietly.

She was gathering her meager things together when her mother came in her bedroom, and put her arms around her. She handed her some money and said this was all she had and told her she loved her. Go to my sister's in Ohio, she will take you in. Most of our kind of people are not like your father.

She had left with a broken heart and a flutter of life in her womb.

She had gone to her aunt in Ohio and gave birth to a little boy. He looked just like the traveling salesman who had stayed in the hotel where she worked, a lifetime ago. She had fallen for the age old line, you are so beautiful and I love you. He had said he had wanted to see her with her hair down, and had taken her black cap off and pulled the hair pins out of the bun, and her black hair had tumbled around her face. To prove his love for her, he had given her a gold bracelet as fake as the address he had given her. He had checked out of the hotel and left town, before she got to work the next day.

Her mind grappled with the new possibilities of what she heard. She put the dates together and something didn't add up. Had anyone read those letters? Was it possible that her mother didn't know? Or even her father? Had Aunt Eva hid them? Or did they all know? She had worshiped her older brother almost as much as her religion and she would have protected him! She didn't know when the eulogy was over or what followed until the usher touched her arm, and motioned for her to get up.

In old fashioned funerals of that religious sect, the casket is left in front of the church during the service and would be opened at the end of the service, for one last viewing of the deceased. She had made sure she would be the last one to file by the casket before the family did, as they would be the last ones to view the open casket.

The old woman looked down at the frail wrinkled faced woman in the casket, who still wore a long sleeved navy blue dress without trim and adornment. The familiar small cape over her shoulders was sewn on her dress, instead of a collar, and a black cap covered her white hair. Tears welled up in her eyes. She turned and looked at the grand-daughter, Louise, until they made eye contact and was watching her. It was execution time.

The old woman deliberately dropped the quilt block on the floor, picked it up, reached in the casket, and put the quilt block in the older woman's hand. She walked to the back of the church, feeling eyes piercing her back. She went outside to join the rest of the people, where they waited for the family.

Outside she made herself visible for the family to see her when they walked out. The cemetery was behind the church. Louise came out, turning her head from side to side, eyes darting around the crowd until they found the older woman. Comprehension was in her eyes as she looked at the old lady. Understanding flooded her face, and at first, her eyes looked kind, and the old woman took a step forward in anticipation. Suddenly, Louise's eyes changed and a remnant of the abstruse religiosity of shunning, appeared in her eyes and face. A veil gradually came over her face as she re-aligned it into the familiar facade of a blank wall of pleasantness: she turned away; walked to a trash can, and threw the quilt block in it. Her little lacy modern white cap, almost fashionable long skirt, and her high-heeled boots made her look like a modern day Aunt Eva. There would be no reprieve, no blending of the old woman's two lives.

Agonal gasping of one life, dying slowly, set in. The older woman turned away stumbling, feeling like she was going to faint. She walked away, knowing one life, past, present, and future was buried with the dead.

Only the thoughts of her son and grandchildren, her other life, kept her going.

Story/Prose Poem contest entry

Author Notes
This is a fictional story of atrocities that could happen in the name of religion. Although the names, towns and the actual incidence are fictional, I took bits of various traditions of religious sects and pieces of various rumors and facts to create this fictional story that I grew up in. I want to emphasize that any particular name, religious sect, or incident would be entirely accidental if it had happened to be true.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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