Wednesday, December 20, 2023

A Stab to the Heart (Cumberland Saga)


Sunday morning dawned crystal clear with a tiny sliver of the moon in the southeast. The wind was stiff and it was COLD!!!

Blain showed up at Sarah’s house in his least tattered, cleanest clothes.

He was touched when she handed him an English translation of the Bible. She had placed a red, yellow and blue ribbon in the book to mark the day’s readings.

She asked him to carry the “cooler” with the squirrel pies in it. It seemed odd, given that the temperature was well below freezing. He mentioned as much to Lliam.

“Its to keep them warm, stupid” Lliam whispered back.

The tables in the back of the room groaned with the weight of the food. Everybody had brought food. Not just desserts but honest-to-goodness main-dishes. Cheesy-potatoes. Baked beans. Ham!!! Rolls. Meatloaf, pickles and pie….

The room was much more crowded than the other Sunday. There must have been 40 people in it. Blain did not think that there were that many people in all of Copperhead Cove.

The first reading* was about millstones and outer garments and loans and paying wages and leaving some harvest for charity as best Blain could figure.

The second reading** was about evil prowling about the campfire.

The third reading*** was about even the worst seat in Heaven being better than the best position on earth.

After Sig’s Homily, the congregation had a light snack and then self-organized with the women and children on two sides of the room and the relatively few, adult men along part of another side facing them.

Sig parked Blain alongside Roger, who he recognized as Tuffy’s owner. Roger had to be at least 80.

And then the singing started.

Hymns. In some language that sounded like German.

Roger elbowed Blain and hissed “Hum the melody!”

Listening for the low-register parts, Blain was surprised to recognize the “tune”. He had no problem humming along.

After a bit, Roger said “Louder!”

Blain opened his mouth and just generated the tones.

Roger nodded approvingly.

When Sig called a break, Blain looked at his watch and was stunned to see an hour had passed.

More food and coffee was consumed. Off to the side Blain saw Sig dispensing clear liquid out of a mason jar.

Roger collared Blain and commented "I heard you shot a squirrel. That is pretty impressive, first time out."

Blain made some non-commital comment to brush-away the compliment.

"No, I mean it. I shot that pellet-gun and it has a rough trigger, as bad as any AK I ever fired. I think you have a gift, young man" Roger said.

Blain allowed "Well, I guess I know what the sight picture is supposed to look like and I am trained to launch the round as soon as the target stops moving" carefully avoiding the fact that he had learned those "tricks" fighting NAZI in Stalingrad in video-games.

"We are going to have to get you your own rifle. An artist is worthy of his tools" Roger said as Sig called the singers back to their places.

Then more singing.

The music became progressively more complex and intricate. Stanzas were sung in rounds.

Never in a million years would Blain have considered himself a singer. He had electronic devices that had access to MILLIONS of recorded songs. There was absolutely no reason he would ever have to create his own music when it would have been pitiful compared to the world-class, trained voices of professional musicians.

And yet, he could tell that his voice made a difference. Even though he did not know the words. There was an abundance of voices in the higher registers. Even the male voices tended to thin-and-reedy due to the advanced age of the few men in attendance.

Blain’s voice, wordless, anchored the lower registers.

Some notes were a little bit sharp and some were a little bit flat. But overall, the music was deeper and richer for his being there.

The room, which seemed so poor and threadbare became vibrant in a way that a larger room with carpet and richly upholstered furniture could never be. It was as if, Blain realized, he was standing inside of the body of a cello.

During one of the intermissions, he saw one of the women (who he did not recognize but guessed was in her mid-40s) turn to speak to Sarah. He saw Sarah startle and her eyes became strangely bright. Catching Blain’s gaze, Sarah turned away. He would have to ask what that was about...and of course he forgot.

"Sarah, you need to feed that young man more” Constanze said.

Sarah raised her eyebrows. “He is from the outside and is becoming hardened by our work.”

"Yes, but if you do not feed him, you will kill him BEFORE you get him to the marital bed” Constanze said.

It was a stab to the heart.

Alice, Roger's wife overheard the exchange and winced. The comment could have been mere thoughtlessness but Alice knew that Constanze was as mean as a snake.

She glanced over at Blain. In the two months he had been in Copperhead Cove he had shed a lot of weight. He was beyond burning through puppy-fat. He was burning muscle.

She needed to have a talk with Roger. It was past time to slaughter a hog.

Everybody sang. They sang four sets over five hours.

Blain was exhilarated.

The last song was Silent Night which the group sang in English. Sig announced that it was for Blain's benefit.

Blain was touched to his core.

He could not understand why Sarah was so silent on the walk back to their cabin.

*Deut 24

**1 Peter 5

***Luke 7


  1. Blain's gonna get fed alright, and man cannot live upon bread alone!-)

    1. My wife had a coworker whose husband got a new job in a large office as an IT manager. The office was mostly women and there were about eight young, unattached women. The new IT guy was handsome and like attention.

      It did not bother them that he was already married.

      Women are just as competitive as men, perhaps more-so.

      My wife's coworker's marriage did not survive.

      Blain is walking through a mine-field whether he knows it or not.

    2. Blain will need some counsel, perhaps Roger will help him avoid the worst of it.
      Thank you, ERJ, for your fiction!
      Boat Guy

  2. Thanks so much for another chapter.

  3. I've been in church since I was floating in salt water. This current church I'm at has the most froward women in it I've even seen. And to a person, they are ugly and spent. I found out that they aren't members, go for the "prayer requests" they can turn to gossip, and to look for willing partners. If you've ever picked up a swollen carton of warm milk you will recognize them at a distance. This little town is a veritable Payton Place of slags and thags. That snake tongued woman would be right at home. But you can learn truth from a jackass.

    Listen and learn well, Sarah. And consider the source before you get offended. An anus just blows and goes, it's the nature of the beast.

    1. If you dip into the water with a large enough of a net you will catch at least one of every species that swims in the water.

  4. One of the great losses of our modern world is a capella music. It is popular in a sense now because it is simply so rare. Going to worship services which do not use instrumentation (such as Orthodox Services) one remembers the simple joy and power of the human voice, especially in worship.

    The description of the room expanding was a great verbal representation of C.S. Lewis' description of the inside of things sometimes being far bigger than the outside of things.

    On an idle note, the question of calories has been on my mind of late. I know "the numbers"; it is interesting to see it play out in story.

    1. The Church of Christ that my Mom picked in Southern So. Cal. sang only Capella. Other churches I've attended used musical instruments.

    2. I was raised Church of Christ so three times a week I heard my Mother's singing. Probably the first time when I was "floating in saltwater" (love that phrase) up till I went off to boot camp. This chapter, and the comments, reminded me of that. Thank You.

  5. A woman in our congregation was conniving and petty. She'd never forego announcing how long she had been there. We all knew, but it was to imply how integral she was to the body.

    Her reason I suppose, was to lord over others. This step above was important in the grievances between people which soon came along. Somehow they always involved her.
    Maybe 2 or three times a year, Pastor would scold from the pulpit; Won't mention any names, you know who you are. Stop it!

    Her husband was always on the Deacon board. Twice in Deacon's meeting, he threatened to leave the congregation if people didn't leave his wife alone.

    This woman was caustic and caused many disturbances. But clever was she that on the face much of what she did had a tone of amicable behavior. At least in part and if considering each offense as stand alone.

    Many people did leave over time. Most identified that one woman as primary in their decision to leave.

    After 20 years I left too. She had told wicked, false tales about me. So it struck deep to read that simple line about Constanze. One like her can and will infect the body.

    I suppose this is a hallmark of the fine writer. Weaving reality into a tale of fiction yet so effortlessly, the effect deeply felt by the reader.

    Smasing success, ERJ.

    1. My son-in-law's church (UCC) is currently suffering through this. It's going to destroy the place. They've already ran off the pastor who married my daughter and son-in-law plus a lot of members, some of whom really are integral to the survival of that particular congregation.

      Something similar but different happened in the Baptist church I grew up in. It still exists at a different location, but it's unrecognizable to me.

      Being a decent person isn't all that hard, is it? Or maybe it is.


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