#BlogBattles, Stories..., Uncategorized

Ashes to Ashes…

“Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk…,” began the pastor at the graveside service.

“Umm… excuse me,” interrupted one of the mourners (the only one there, in fact). “Don’t you mean ‘dust to dust’?”

The pastor looked confused for a moment, before understanding smoothed out the lines of his expression. He smiled warmly at his only living guest.

No, no, no…,” he chuckled quietly. “Why would I wish that fate on anyone?”

“Because that’s the way the service goes…?,” answered the mourner, a touch of snarky in the implied question.

The pastor waved off the comment, his usually placid expression fully restored. “A simple misunderstanding is all. Easy to see why it might happen, though, isn’t it? They sound so similar!…”. He paused for a moment, thinking.

Have you ever played that game where you try passing a word around a circle of people to see how it transforms? I think it’s called Telephone, or something similar. This is kind of like that; someone heard ‘dust to dust’ instead of ‘dusk to dusk,’ and others kind of ran with it.” He smiled again. “A silly game, a silly mistake, but enlightening in the end.”

The lone mourner looked confused now… “Are you serious, pastor?!… No! You can’t be.” His tone sharpened as his sensibilities rebelled against the offense. “A person is dead here! This is no time for jokes or games! How dare you dishonor my great aunt this way!”

Dishonor your aunt?!… Oh my, never!,” he reacted automatically, the mere thought of such completely disorienting the usually serene pastor. “I adored Agnes! She was a wonderful woman, who lived an extraordinary life, right here in this little town! Did you know she never left this place?…” He paused, but no answer came on the warm spring breeze…

I thought not,” added the pastor, smugly. “Well, Agnes, dear soul that she is, believed that this little town was enough. Always. When others grew up and moved away, she stayed. When the man she loved moved to the big city to make a name for himself, she stayed behind, promising to be here if he ever came back… Of course, he never did…” An almost sad sigh slid past the pastor’s lips…

And yet, in spite of all that, I never once heard her complain. She was content here, keeping her parents’ farm going after all the others left. It was a struggle, of course, especially after her parents were gone, but she carried on. That was her way. And if she lost most of the farm over the years, who could blame her? She was alone, and aging, and really… what more could she do?”

The pastor stopped talking. He looked at the young man standing at the grave site. He looked a long time, a thoughtful expression upon his face…

“What?!,” snapped the young mourner. “Why are you staring at me?!”

The pastor sighed deeply. “I was just looking for a trace of your Aunt Agnes in you, but…” He shook his head mournfully. “I’m afraid I just don’t see it. I’m sure she would, of course,” he hastily assured the young man, “but her gift of seeing the truth of others was always stronger than mine. I learned a lot from her over the many years we were friends, but never enough, I guess.”

“But then, isn’t that the point here?…” He waited patiently for a response that would never come. Sighing deeply, he continued…

It’s all about transitions, young man. Birth is a transition, a dawning of a new form. As is death. And it is in those twilight times, when shadow and light begin to balance out, that we see the truth of things. Outlines become stark in the growing and fading light, revealing the boundaries between…”

“Your aunt welcomed this transition, whatever changes it might bring. She was ready to move on into a new form of being. I will miss her, and our time together very much…” A single tear slipped down the pastor’s cheek…

Did you ever get to meet her?,” the pastor asked the mourner.

“Um… well… no, not exactly,” the young man began.

The pastor held up his hand to abruptly end the awkward explanation about to spill from the young man’s lips.

Never mind,” the pastor reassured him. “I understand. You’re here to liquidate what’s left of the farm, and you came to pay your respects. Enough said.” He turned back to the grave and lifted his arms, palms up, as if beginning to pray. The young man bowed his head.

The pastor, realizing this, turned to address the man once more. “It’s ok, son. You’ve done what you came to do; you don’t need to stay any longer. Agnes is still smiling, even if you can’t see her beyond the veil…”

“But if you’re looking for a quick sale, I’m sure the Jones’ will be happy to take the old homestead. That’s pretty much all Agnes had left, and Ned Jones, her neighbor, had bought most of the rest of the farm already. Probably pay a good price for it, too, if you push him. Some developer wants to come in here and build a resort for rich people – you know the type: big houses, a gated community, expensive coffee places, the works…”

The young man hesitated only a moment before nodding curtly and turning away. “Thanks for the tip, pastor. Please carry on…”

Resuming his prayerful stance, the pastor began his service again… “Ahhh, Agnes, you were right, as usual. Everything changes in Time…”

“Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk…”

(933 words)

Standard

21 thoughts on “Ashes to Ashes…

  1. Hi Lisa,
    If I could change one word in your story, I would change the adjective snarky to the noun snark.
    Unfortunately, Lisa, I am not in tune with the theme of your story, for once. I am in agreement with your pastor that “dust to dust” is inadequate for his service, but I am missing the significance of “dusk to dusk.” I am going to have to read this a few more times, and let it settle into me for awhile. Meanwhile, thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh, Jerry, always so hard on yourself! I went back and re-read the story, using the noun form of “snark.” And you’re right; it does work better. Problem is, I never think of snark as a noun, only an adjective. Perhaps I merely enjoy the way “snarky” sounds in my brain; it’s such a fun word! I’m not even sure I use it correctly, but as someone who likes to play word games, I often redefine words by placing them in inappropriate contexts. In any event, the point was to capture that smug sense of sarcasm the young so often wield against elders they do not respect, and in that sense, both forms technically “work.”

        As for who deserves the criticism here, I doubt that fault need be assigned at all. And if it did, I would lay it squarely at my own feet. After all, I’m the writer of this piece; if I failed to communicate my point to my reader (especially one who usually reads me so easily and so well), then the “fault” is mine… 🙃

        Like

      • Nooooooooo! There is no fault, you are right. But I mentioned this because I am missing something–so far. I am waiting till tomorrow to go back to it, hopefully with nothing else on my mind.
        Snark vs. snarky, flip a coin, or a banana. You are the author. I was interloping.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Lordy, why did I never meet a pastor such as this one in the days when I frequented the dusty, hmmm, I must mean the dusky, halls of criminality – no wait, I mean Christianity. You’re so right, words do change when passed around, especially in our own minds. A fun read and the point is well made.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is a decent chap, isn’t he? Perhaps because he’s a small town pastor with no real flock to tend. Which makes him just another seeker on this lonely road to personal salvation… and empowerment. 😉

      Like

  3. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Dusk | BlogBattle

  4. S.C. Jensen says:

    I love this character! Every small down deserves a slightly eccentric spiritual voice to guide its folk through difficult times. I’m glad Agnes had such a friend.

    I found the italics for the pastor’s speech a bit distracting. It isn’t necessary, as you have identified the speakers quite well with dialogue tags and action beats, and with the pastors distinct voice.

    Other than that, my only critique echos the previous poster regarding the significance of “dusk to dusk.” I love the idea, and your description of dusk in the middle is gorgeous and poetic. Since you have a few extra words to play with, you could tie it all up at the end with a gentle hint of how we all move from dusk to dusk. I think I know what you are getting at, the implication is there, but you could add just a bit more to strengthen the symbol and make sure your readers are on the right page.

    Another suggestion is to limit the pastor’s dialogue a bit, give a bit more physical description of him and the scene, and contrast his character to the mourner. You could add some of the dusky imagery to the scene itself so that the pastor doesn’t have to actually say everything that you want the reader to know. This could help to strengthen the “dusk to dusk” theme, too.

    Great piece! I enjoyed reading it. I have only read two of your blog battle pieces so far, but I really like the philosophical leaning of your stories. They are like modern fables, almost! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful and helpful comment, S.C.! I truly appreciate it. As I’ve only written two blogbattle stories, I assure you you have read my entire catalog. Lol!

      This is a new format for me, this short short fiction, and a challenging one at that. I am grateful for the insights that will help me improve! 😁

      Like

      • S.C. Jensen says:

        You’re very welcome! I started writing flash fiction about two years ago. At that point I thought it was impossible to tell a story in even 2500 words, let alone 1000! In many ways the form is really foreign; the same rules apply but they look so different that they are hard to recognize. But it will get easier!

        I subscribe to a few flash fiction newsletters (Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, The Arcanist, there are others). Reading published flash fiction pieces really helped me get a handle of the scope. I’m a lot more comfortable with 1500 and less now than I am with longer stories! The funny thing is, the shorter the piece, the longer it takes me to write…

        I’ll keep reading as long as you keep writing! Next step… getting them published, haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Published?! Oh dear, no… lol! But I certainly appreciate the support! 😁

        What I find most fascinating about the format is the way it forces me to change my entire approach to writing. I have always been an “inspired” writer, writing off the cuff, so to speak. I get intrigued with a character, a title, a phrase or an image, and I start typing to see where it goes. There are no outlines, no planning, no real expectation. And when the story is told, there is only the editing to smooth it out…

        But this format requires me to watch it all unfold, without typing, just to see if it might work in a 1000 piece story. And then I have to remember it, try to pull out the salient points, and mesh them together in a narrative of some sort. It feels much more “crafted,” and so more difficult for me. It’s almost like work! Lol!

        But the draw is the challenge, I think. A test for myself as a writer to see if I can actually produce something reasonably planned out in advance. I’m not sure I will be successful every month, and clearly I have room to improve, so for now I will keep trying! 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      • S.C. Jensen says:

        Yes, short stories are a much purer form of storytelling, I think. Flash Fiction even more so. You really have to think about every word you use and make sure you’re getting the most out of it. You can’t afford to waste any words if you only get 1000 of them in the first place! I find the exact same thing. You have to craft your story more consciously, and it is much more difficult. It’s definitely like work (I often say I actually don’t enjoy writing, I just feel compelled to do it, haha).

        The challenge is why I keep doing it, too. And the fact that practicing flash fiction has tightened up my prose in longer forms so much is a big perk! I’m certainly not successful in every attempt, but I learn something ever time I try. And with shorter pieces, you can try and fail/succeed and learn so many more times than with longer stories and novels. The process is a bit addicting, in a way, for me at least.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Very good use of the prompt word Lisa, and integrated well with the pastor’s character. My first thought was dusk is an apt choice over dust here too. Death being the twilight before moving into the next world. It seems to fit with the pastor’s outlook. More so as he saw straight through the man. Hope to see more of your work on future BB prompts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you, Gary! Very kind of you. I’m glad you grasped the connection, as I fear it was unclear to some. This is a new format for me, and it comes with a steep learning curve. Lol! I certainly appreciate the encouragement! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol, my mind tends to enter the heads of characters and poke about a bit to see what’s lurking. That applies to reading too! Your pastor I really like. He’s got a Callaghan feel from Salem’s Lot.

        I was also rather fearful, if that’s the right word, of short story formats too. Very different from novels. I was told they help develop scene tightening and aid in writing habits if other things stick. Here I am now as a BlogBattle admin!! Keep it up Lisa. New prompt is out first Tuesday of the month. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good to know. Thanks for the support, and for being an awesome admin; the selfless work the admins do to encourage us writers deserves acknowledgement and reward. Kudos to you and Rachel (the only two I know of here)! 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kudos to Rachael in my opinion. I first met her on the previous incarnation of BlogBattle and out of that came an unexpected good friend. In fact I have been amazed how blogging has led to many friends. That was definitely an unexpected bonus! The fact that they spread across continents is awesome too.

        Many thanks for your kind words too. I do try to visit each entry and drop in, tweet and share across my social media too. I’m of the opinion we actually have a monthly online anthology now too. Indexed by the entry page. All good fun and certainly helps get to know other writers we might not encounter otherwise!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.