The people over at Write Anything have a weekly writing challenge called[Fiction] Friday. The rules can be found on their [Fiction] Friday page. The following is my first, (albeit belated), attempt at their challenge, but I hope it will become a regular part of Writing From The Ashes. This week’s challenge was:- Include these characters somewhere in your story–a weasel, a priest and a spinning wheel.
“Father, please, I’m begging you. Please officiate at Sam’s funeral. I can’t bear the thought of having a stranger do it. It has to be someone who knew him, who loved him.”
The priest stood silent. He had known Sam for a long time, that was true, but he wasn’t sure it was appropriate for him to take part in Sam’s funeral. Besides, he was having great difficulty keeping his composure in the face of this request. If he was on the verge of hysterical laughter now, how would he be able to keep a straight face during the ceremony?
On the other hand, how could he deny such a serious request from Jim? Dear Jim, who he had loved for ten years, and who meant as much to him as a son? Jim, whose innocence was such a rare thing to find in this day and age?
It was the thought of hurting Jim while he was devoured by grief that caused the priest to hesitate and consider agreeing to the request.
“Jim, it might be better for someone else to conduct the funeral. Have you considered doing it yourself matey?”
Fresh tears flowed from Jim’s blue eyes. His nose became redder as he attacked it with a handkerchief, and the freckles on his cheeks seemed painted on his face because the spaces in between were so incredibly pale. He opened his mouth to speak, but was overcome by wracking sobs that left him bent over double and choking.
The laughter the priest had felt bubbling to the surface dissipated in a heartbeat. He walked to Jim and knelt next to him. He placed his left arm around Jim’s shoulders and gently drew Jim into a hug. Feeling Jim’s body shudder against him, the priest chastised himself for treating the impact of Sam’s death so lightly. He waited for Jim’s choking sobs to subside and then said, “Jim, just for you, and just this once, I will step away from my better judgement and agree to your request. But Jim, you must promise not to make a big deal of the part I will play in Sam’s funeral, and I will not be able to wear my robes.”
Jim’s cheek rubbed against the priest’s rough shirt as he nodded his head in agreement to the conditions. He closed his eyes and leant a little harder against the priest, drawing comfort from the embrace.
The priest allowed Jim to remain in his arms a few moments longer, then carefully drew back, placed his fingertips under Jim’s chin, and tilted Jim’s face so he could look directly into his eyes.
“Now Jim, you need to go and make the necessary arrangements. The funeral’s tomorrow afternoon, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. It will be under Sam’s favourite tree.”
“I will see you tomorrow then.”
Jim threw his arms around the priest once more and whispered, “Thank you.”
The mourners gathered in the shade of a large oak tree. Before them was an open timber coffin. Jim was at the front of the congregation, and in one hand h held a small blue and silver, toy spinning wheel. In the other hand was an extra-long, green woollen sock. The front of Jim’s shirt was wet from the tears dripping from his cheeks.
The priest cleared his throat and started the ceremony.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to farewell our friend Sam. Sam has lived a full and active life, and has brought a tremendous amount of joy and love into the life of his closest friend, my nephew, Jim. When Jim asked me to conduct today’s ceremony I was hesitant to do so, but now I understand how important it is for Jim, and Sam’s other friends, to have the opportunity to say a proper good-bye.”
Looking skyward, then bowing his head and closing his eyes, the priest continued, “Dear God, please find a place close to your heart for Sam’s soul and keep him safe and well until we meet him again.”
After a moment’s silence, the priest said, “Everyone, please say a silent prayer for our friend, Sam, and then feel free to approach the coffin to say your final farewell. Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available in the kitchen.”
Jim approached the coffin first. He carefully placed the sock in the coffin and stared at the spinning wheel in his hand. Slowly, he raised the wheel to his lips and kissed it. As he placed the toy into the coffin he whispered, “I love you Sam. I will miss you always.”
Jim walked away from the coffin and the other mourners approached in single-file.
Meanwhile, the priest stood with his head bowed and looked at the inscription on the lid of the coffin. It read, “Fare Thee Well my Dear Sam. The best ferret a boy ever had.”
The last mourner winked at the priest as he approached the coffin, and said, “Bit over the top for a weasel, ain’t it?”