an original short story


Nancy B. G.


Note: This is a work of fiction. The characters do not portray any real persons, living or dead.


Somehow, when I was a boy in school, I never quite pictured myself growing up to be a crypt keeper. Well, I suppose that is a bit of a ghoulish exaggeration. I am, in actuality, my name is Lawrence. Not Larry. Never-ever Larry, got that? I hate the name Larry. Makes me sound like a plumber, or a pedophile. I'm the records keeper for our village's church and its neighboring cemetery. My full-time employers, as it happens.

I'm technically on call seven days a week at any hour, but so far no one's turned up at three am on a Sunday morning looking for long lost relations, or asking to be buried. But hey, you never know, right?

The church is a simple white clapboard affair, with a two-story red brick meeting hall attached to one side of the building, which was added on sometime in the late fifties. Children's Sunday school and adult religious education classes are held upstairs in the hall. Choir rehearsals and various other church functions are held on the ground floor.

The present church was originally a hay barn back in the 1900's. It was moved by horse team from a nearby farm, to replace the previous church. That one had burnt to the ground one winter night in 1924, leaving in its wake only a pile of charred black beams in the snow, topped by a half-melted church bell.

The cemetery grounds are to the rear of the structure, with the gate next to the church hall's parking lot. The office sits under some ancient spruce and maple trees, on its own little knoll, just past the gate. It's quite a large burial ground. About two hundred picturesque, nicely treed acres. All of it bordered by a black wrought iron fence.

I've pretty much the whole cemetery office all to myself, except for a cubby hole of an office used by the superintendent of grounds. It's a quaint looking Victorian cottage with tall, narrow windows. The exterior is made of gray granite blocks, with a steeply gabled clay tiled roof. I have a flat on the upper floor. Some people may think it odd for one to live in a cemetery. But, I always get a sound night's sleep. The neighbor's are very quiet, I assure you.

It's a lonely job, true. But, sometimes a quite satisfying one. No one hardly ever troubles me, unless it's some genealogist searching for information on a long-dead ancestor, or a family member finally turning up to look after some neglected plot. It's always gratifying when I can assist them. And, even better is the fact that I can I start work when I wish to begin, and finish when I decide I'm done.

You see, I'm a bit of a loner by nature. I never quite fancied the idea of punching a time clock every working day of my life. Or sitting in a two-by-twice cubicle, in some bland all-vanilla flavored office which espouses commonalty in its employees. Which is fine, if you like vanilla and don't mind being simply another member of the faceless herd. As it happens, I don't. Just like I never cared for going to discos, hanging out in bars or sitting around car parks smoking weed.

Not that I think I'm anything special, or am too good for that sort of thing. I'm not the sun. The world doesn't revolve around me. It's simply that the whole nine-to-five, party-on-the-weekends lifestyle just isn't my bag, man. You dig?

I know, I know, it's the twenty-first century and I'm using jargon from forty-five years ago. What can I say? I grew up hearing all of that groovy hippie slang malarkey. My mom and dad were at Woodstock in 1969. Truth to tell, Lawrence is my middle name. My real first name is Moondust. That's why I refuse to do any drugs. I wish the government would come up with a law that orders teachers to slap parents upside the head, for each instance where some bully teases their kid at school for having an idiotic name. Furthermore, stoner parents who give their children ridiculous names, should be forced to pay for a lifetime of therapy sessions.

I was at Woodstock as well, just three years old. And apparently not quite finished with my potty training. Jimmy Hendrix signed my diapers. Hopefully before I did my business in them, one would think. Actually, I think all this came about because mom didn't want to waste around dragging me to the latrines during the band's sets. Much to my mortified embarrassment, the autographed nappies are framed and hanging on dad's den wall. He makes a point to proudly show them off to anyone who stops by for a visit. I used to seriously dread taking my boyfriends home to meet the parents. It's no wonder I hardly ever dated the same guy twice, in high school.

I was born in a flower and peace sign painted VW camper van, parked a city block from the state capital building. I'm told my very white parents were attending a Black Panther rally, at the time. Some kid's parents played golf on the weekends, or went out dining and dancing. Mine made picket signs and went to protest marches. When anyone asks what sign I was born under, I tell them, “War Hurts Children And Other Living Things.”

They haven't changed much since then, either. Only now mom goes on pro-union and pro-environment marches. Dad never says much, he's a mellow sort of dude. Some might even say he's a bit of a milquetoast. Since he's retired from teaching, my dad seems generally content to simply go along quietly, and let her do as she pleases.

Though they stick out in this working class country town, like a couple of punk rockers at a barn dance, people here seem to have come to accept them. They make the rounds, those two. Community theater, adult co-ed volleyball at the high school, handing out hot cocoa at the pee wee hockey games, bingo and Chinese auction nights, down to the volunteer firehouse, taking continuing education courses like pottery making and gourmet cooking. They keep so busy, I wonder how mom finds the time to nag and pester me. I guess I'm just another one of her hobbies.

I feel like I'm a bit of a disappointment to her, sometimes. For instance, she's strictly a vegetarian, and a serious health Nazi. Paranoid about everything that goes into her mouth. I couldn't live like that. Me, I live for pepperoni pizzas, bacon-cheeseburgers and Ponderosa Steak House. She only wears organic fibers and buys clothing made by well-paid union workers. Unless I'm dressing for a special occasion, I don't fuss about my clothing or look at brand tags. I buy whatever is comfortable, looks decent and is on sale at half off. It's not like I need to impress dead people, elderly genealogists and funeral home staff, is it?

It can be sort of embarrassing though, when I'm obligated to attend church functions and whatnot. Toting the elderly flower children along to the church's monthly community pot luck supper, often tends to turn a few heads. Though I'm sure the gossips don't mind having a new topic of discussion. Other than their various bodily ailments, and who the widow Pinehurst's latest gigolo might be, I mean. Everyone needs a change of pace now and again, I suppose. And my parents certainly provide that!

Even though she's not a Christian, dad still is. So, she and dad are regulars at church socials. I think they just enjoy the sensationalism their eccentricity lends to these staid, proletarian locals. Makes my parents feel like celebrities. Mom calls it “mundane freaking.”

Dad walks with a cane now, but he still wears tie-die tee shirts, beads, sandals and has his salt and pepper hair tied in a ponytail. Mom...well, she's mom. All natural organic everything, body hugging jeans meant for teenage girls and slogan-riddled tee shirts. Liberals, like me. Only a bit more radical than me. OK, a lot more radical.

For instance, my gray-haired mother has a tee shirt that reads: “You'll Give Up Your Guns When They Pry The NRA Out Of Bush's Cold Dead Fingers.” Not the weirdest tee shirt she has, mind you. But, as you might guess, it still didn't go over very well with the more politically conservative members of our church. And this being a republican dominated county, means a packed house of righties on Sundays.

Let's put it this way, the people around here are so right-wing, that they live in a perpetual state of terrorist paranoia. In the summer of 2002, some perfectly innocent middle Middle Eastern tourist and his headscarf wearing wife stopped in for a bite at the little Chinese takeaway. One by one, all the locals bailed out of there, fearing he and the woman were going to bomb the place. I'm serious! The incident was the talk of the village for weeks.

Mother's now infamous anti-Bush/NRA tee shirt made its debut at the annual autumn rummage sale in the church hall, a couple of years ago. Mom was manning the houseplant table. At least she was, until some emotionally backwards Neanderthal type came along. The guy reeked so much of macho, I wouldn't be surprised if he used gun oil as an aftershave. He was wearing a camouflage jacket and hunting boots, with one of those black National Rifle Association baseball caps on his head.

This gun-happy slob was all for bringing down the Secret Service on my mother. He told her that her tee shirt was threatening the president. She responded by politely thanking him for enlightening her, as she was quite unaware that tee shirts could be categorized as potential assassins. That made him pull out his mobile phone and start dialing the White House. I've cautioned her not to use too many big words around these people. Makes them even more afraid. Short, repetitive sentences with simple nouns are more soothing to their ears, I've noticed. .

Thankfully, the minister came along and defused the situation, bless her. She patted the man on the arm and sweetly asked if he'd noticed that there was an American flag on on the antiques and collectibles table, which had allegedly been flown on some World War II battleship. Pocketing the mobile and pulling out his wallet, this living proof that Darwin was indeed right, excitedly made his way over to the table to snag the flag. Thank heavens these people have such short attention spans!

However, as macho boy stormed off, he flung a threat behind him that he'd be keeping an eye on our village's little Socialist church. Apparently, some conservatives are all for the constitution when it comes to their right to bear firearms, but are against it , when a liberal like my mom exercises her right to free speech to protest those guns. Ain't life just full of little ironies, as my old man likes to say.

Actually, now that I think on it, maybe a church is a socialist institution. I mean, wasn't Jesus a socialist, in a way? He definitely railed against the moneylenders. He wanted the rich to give everything they had to the poor, and everyone to help the sick and the lame.

With that attitude, He certainly was a liberal, at the very least. And, with all those male groupies following Him around everywhere, He may have even have been a homosexual. They did have them back then, you know. The ancient Greeks and Romans were perfectly at home with people like me. Until the Roman empire converted to Christianity, that is. That was around the time when Rome fell, as I recall.

I'm probably rattling a few people's chains right about now. I'm just saying, the bible, which is full of people “begatting” right, left and center. Yet, it never once mentions Jesus getting his leg over any girls. Perhaps if he was celibate, or still a virgin, maybe he didn't know or care about his sexual orientation?

Maybe the world would be a happier place if most of us felt that way. Well, at the very least it would certainly be less populated. There'd be less hunger and disease. That's what happens when you're a gay man raised by perpetual hippies. When you're...not 'normal'. You sometimes find yourself thinking about stuff that 'normal' people find uncomfortable.

Anyway, at the minister's politely phrased request, mom went home and came back with a different tee shirt on. This one had a drawing of a marijuana plant in the snow, that read: “Chill Out, Man!” The minister wisely steered my mother into the kitchen, to help with the washing up.

That was the year I decided to become a closet atheist. At least, with parents like mine, I didn't have to come out of the closet at home about my sexual orientation. Unlike most parents—I assume anyway, my mom and dad were actually rather thrilled to find out that I wasn't straight. Though I had to hide it from pretty much everyone else. When I announced I was giving up on God, dad just shrugged and said, “OK, son.” Mom told me she could find me a cult I could join. I hurriedly told her that I was an atheist, not a Satanist. An atheist eschews all regions.

I don't tell people I'm an atheist, unless they ask me point-blank. Whenever possible, I skirt around the issue. Because inevitably, it seems to make some Christians look at me as a walking bullseye. A goal for them to reach for. “Let's convert the non-believer!” There you are, relaxing at home, and some religious zealots come knocking on your door, pushing pamphlets in your face. Even after you tell them politely but firmly, that you're not Christian. They're like insurance salesmen! God is a bit like life insurance, I suppose. I mean, people put money in the envelope every Sunday, on the hopes that their generosity will win them a place in Heaven. Mom says I'm getting way too cynical in my early middle age. Maybe she's right.

So I'm publicly hiding the fact that not only am I an atheist, but also gay. I live in a small rural community where any public declaration of gayness is met with either overt intolerance or a cocked shotgun. And in a community where a gun rack is standard equipment on many a pickup truck, keeping a low profile isn't the worst idea any gay or lesbian resident can have.

That's another reason why I appreciate my place of residence. The dead don't discriminate. They don't blindly hate someone, merely because that person doesn't happen to conform to some closed mindset of what constitutes normalcy. They don't try to make you into something you're not. Basically, the dead don't do much of anything, but moulder away, really. Whatever ideals or social mores they had in life, in death the dead are moral perfection itself.

Even though I moved away from home over twenty years ago, mom and dad never stopped keeping in touch. Unfortunately for me, keeping in touch in this instance, means my mom rings me up every day. And I mean, every single day. Three hundred and sixty five days of the year. That's what I get, I suppose, for being an only child.

Last time she rang me, it was to tell me about my astrological forecast. Mother is a great believer in horoscopes. I should point out that she also believes in fairies, wood sprites, and yes, ghosts. In fact, mom, who is a pagan incidentally, truly believes that the spirits of the dead follow her around.

Whether mom's setting the kitchen table for dinner, or going for a paddle around the lake, apparently the dead tag along after her, like gosling's after a mother goose. At least, that's what she believes. I'm politely taking a power on that one. She can believe whatever she likes, as long as she doesn't expect me to follow in her footsteps like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

According to my mother, my office is inhabited by a man called Archibald. She says he's a very nice man, who died trying to save his horse, after his junk wagon crashed into the Erie Canal. And the public toilet off the reception area, is strictly off limits to me. Seems that room is the home of a female ghost named Sadie. Apparently, Sadie was a very naughty girl. She was murdered by her elderly second husband, after he'd found her in bed with his grandson.

Mom continually admonishes me against using the downstairs facility. I actually have to go upstairs to my own bathroom when nature calls. That's because my mother adamantly claims that this Sadie likes to stand there and stare at my private bits. Now, how mom would know all this stuff, I've not a clue, cos my she's never stepped foot inside this building. Mom claims it gives off a very negative aura. Well it would. It's a cemetery, not a beauty parlor. Not that I believe in all that nonsense! I just humor my mother in order to keep the peace. Personally speaking, I could care less if this place was a social club for leprechauns and poltergeists.

It's nine in the morning on a Saturday, and no one is about. I'm just finishing putting down the particulars of someone's granddad, who'd died of pulmonary pneumonia. This goes on to an old-fashioned (these days) index card, which will go into one of the row of metal filing cabinets on the wall opposite my desk. Because this cemetery dates back nearly two hundred years, they contain thousands of index cards. All of them list every person buried in a particular section and plat number.

Odd, the way things are spelled in the English language. We call the family burial sites 'plots'. But, in cemetery lingo, in larger cemeteries at least, the cemetery is broken down into sections, and the sections divided into what is known as 'plats', and the 'plats' are then broken down into the individual burial 'plots'.

Which can be very confusing to visitors, and that's why I'm here. The card I just typed says that grandfather has been buried in section three, plat fourteen, with his family surname underneath. It gives his last address, age, cause of death, birthplace and his immediate next of kin. That's why so many ameteur genealogist's love to come here. I've learned a lot from them, and even started looking up my own family tree.

In some dusty old history book, I found a distant cousin from the early 1800's, serving on a whaler, whom had been eaten by his shipwrecked crew mates. I wonder how he tasted? Another of my ancestors started out in the American revolution supporting the king. He was persuaded to become a patriot, by dint of having a pitchfork shoved into his bottom, whilst he was hiding in a hayloft.

Later, the unfortunate man made the mistake of voicing a pro-Tory opinion in a public tavern one night, while in his cups. He was immediately shot dead by an outraged neighbor. That early American ideal of free speech, weren't always quite so democratic as the history books would lead us to believe.

My great-great-grandmother died only two years after her marriage to great-great granddad. Her life cut short, run down by a horse car. She'd desperately charged into the city street, trying to retrieve her new hat, which had been blown off by the wind. Considering that the horses were usually plodding along the rails at a walk, and pulling a big, colorfully painted tram behind them, that must've been one helluva' hat! Apparently my family's always been a bit...dololly. Mother claims one of her ancestors was burned as a witch in Salem. I wisely decided not to comment on that

The cemetery association, whom is made up of a handful of the local senior citizen population, oversees the business end of running this place. Unfortunately, they've yet to drag their whithering carcasses into the twenty-first century. No computers, no fax machines, not even a modern telephone system. Still just the one desk phone, and office furniture purchased when Calvin Coolidge was still president of the United States. The one concession to modern technology is the answering machine. As if I'm so busy logging in dead people, that I can't answer the telephone. Go figure!

Oh, they mean well. The old boys are sticklers for keeping the place looking well groomed and tidy, I'll give them that. Yet, while many cemeteries now have their records all computerized and available on the Internet, people still have to come here in person, to check out the family records.

Of course, that means I get to stay in my job. There's not many people around anymore, in this super-duper technological age, who can still work a file card system and type with a proper typewriter. At least the typewriter is an electric one. An old gray IBM Selectric model. It's better than the ancient black manual Underwood they had, when I first began working here. Which I'm pretty sure dated back to World War I. God, how I hated that thing! You had to have a very heavy touch, and my fingers kept getting bruised, slipping between the keys, which were shaped like little flat discs. Not to mention that I was forever getting that black and red typewriter ribbon ink all over my fingers, as well.

At the moment, my typing is done for the day, and all is quiet in the cemetery office. Alright, so it usually is, anyway. I guess I should say that it is far more quiet than usual, for a Saturday. Tom, the grounds superintendent, has gone off to have new brakes put on the cemetery's pickup truck. The grounds keeper and his two sons have the day off to attend, ironically enough, a family funeral somewhere downstate.

There's no burials planned for this weekend, as apparently no one in the area has decided to off it, this week. No octogenarians passing away peacefully in their sleep. No tragic drunk driving accidents, drug overdoses or domestic violence. If it weren't for those garage sale ads and supermarket sales circulars, our local newspaper would be out of business in no time. It would only be filled with news of lost kittens, speeding tickets and people shoplifting cigarettes from the IGA supermarket.

I'm here in the office all on my own, staring out the widow, with nothing much to do. I've got a fire burning in the office fireplace. There's that tinge of woodsmoke smell in the late autumn air, that makes me feel all cozy and homey inside.

No one seems interested in coming in here to dig up their family roots, today. I can't say as I blame them. It's an overcast and leaden sky out there. A fine drizzly rain has been falling intermittently. Most of the leaves are gone from the trees and they look less like trees than gray spindly skeletons. The grass is still mostly green though, where it's not covered in a carpet of dead brown leaves. The dripping gray and green mountainside above the cemetery is wreathed in tendrils of morning mist. The perfect setting for funerals and suicides.

Mom calls it 'melancholy weather'. I think she's right. Only, days like this don't make me sad, so much as content. Somehow, they make me feel safe and warm. Maybe that's cos I know I have someplace to go, to shelter from life's storms.

I can hear the big antique oak regulator clock on the wall of the reception area, tick-tocking loudly away. There's a soft hissing coming from the old cast iron radiator in the corner. The snaps and mutterings of the wood in the fireplace. Occasionally, my ears note the westerly wind driving dead leaves across the parking lot outside, and gently rattling the windows. Only the phone is truly silent. Mom isn't calling to ask me if Sadie is behaving herself.

For the first time since I can remember, my mother is out of touch for the weekend. She and dad are off on some sort of Native American spiritual healing retreat, up in the deep woods for the day. A group of people sitting inside a tepee doing god-knows-what. No phones, i-pods or laptops allowed. It feels strange. Part of me is relieved, yet another part of me feels sort at loose ends. It's like when I was a kid. I had these allergies, and needed to take a shot every day. Then, several years later, I stopped needing the shots. As I recall, I was quite happy about that. But at the same time, it felt a bit weird, suddenly not having to jab myself on a daily basis. It's sort of like that, mom not calling me this morning.

Here I sit, daydreaming out the window, when the phone rings to disturb my idle thoughts. I decide to let the machine pick it up. I'm comfortable and, dare I admit it? Yes, I'm feeling a tad lazy, for once. Very mellow, me. Mom and dad can smoke joints or go on retreats to chill out, all they want. Me, I just need a bit of warmth and quiet on a chilly, rainy day. And a really good cup of coffee in my hand doesn't hurt, either.

The phone stops ringing as the answering machine begins its monotonous spiel. “Thank you for calling the Kromkill Rural Cemetery. We're sorry we can't take your call right now....” Whoever it is, hangs up before the beep. I chide myself for not picking up. Maybe it's that hot guy I gave my number to at the Muddy Moose Pub, a while back. Seems like I haven't been out on a date in ages. I assume that answering machine is sort of a turn off for most guys. Unless they're into dating zombies.

Staring at the phone as if it were a genie's magic lamp, I suddenly long for it to be someone phoning me for a date. Common sense tells me it was more likely a funeral home, calling to make a burial date. Either that, or someone dialing a wrong number. Or my mother, warning me off of Sadie for the fifty millionth time.

Nah, she wouldn't. Not in the middle of a retreat. Would she? As if I'd care about some dead woman eying my meat and two veg . Now, Archibald, hmm—nah. . What am I thinking? Too old for me. And probably too fugly on the eyes, as well. Sorry, Archie. Nothing personal, old fella'.

Sighing, I decide to go upstairs to my flat, to make myself that cup of coffee I'm longing for. As I move towards the door, the phone rings again. Instead of letting the answering machine get it, I pick up this time. There's no one there. That's par for the course, around this place today. As I walk through the doorway to head upstairs, the phone rings a third time. Giving my best dramatic sigh, I do an about face and pick up the phone again. “Hello?” I say a tad brusquely, “Cemetery office. Can I help you?”

“Lawrence?” Says a woman's voice I'd never heard before. “Is that you, Lawrence? Where have you been? I've missed you so much.”

I'm a bit taken aback. I really don't recognize this woman's voice. It sounds young and willowy, yet strangely mature and seductive. It seems to belong to a woman who is a cross between sexy Marlyn Monroe and naive Audry Hepburn.

“Please come, my love, it's been so long since I've seen you.”

“Ey?” Is all I can say for a moment, raising an eyebrow. I admit to suddenly feeling slightly amused at the idea of some girl pining away for me. Realizing there's a sudden gap in the conversation, I politely tell her, “Erm--I am sorry miss, but I'm very much afraid you have the wrong Lawrence.”

“Do you still have that tattoo of a ship on your bottom?” She asked sweetly

EY?” I asked again, louder this time, completely taken by surprise. She had me raising both my eyebrows now. How in the world...?

I really don't like to be reminded of that damn tattoo. Chalk it up to a drunken lapse in judgment while out clubbing one night, in Amsterdam. That was roughly twenty-five years ago. I was on an overseas studies tour. First time away from home. Woke up with the worst hangover of my young life, and a replica of Henry Hudson's ship, the Halfmoon, tattooed on my arse. It wasn't all bad, mind you. I used to have a boyfriend who liked to give the ship a very special salute, before coming aboard.

Yet, despite what some people seem to think gay men do all the time, my bare bottom isn't frequently on public display, I'll have you know. I'm...shy, alight? You'd think not, having a set of parents who liked to sunbathe in the nude every summer. Yet here am I, a sexually repressed homosexual. If I had the income to support a therapist, I'm sure he or she would have a field day, analyzing me.

“Erm--I...ah...” I stammered awkwardly., before recovering my voice. “How'd you know about that?” Then, a thought occurred to me. “Wait a minute. Am I being punked? Is this Lucy from the monument company? I bet it is, isn't it? I bet Art put you up to it, didn't he? He's always trying to mess with my head, like that. OK. Joke's over. Very funny, you two.”

“I'm not Lucy, I'm...wait, have you been cheating on me?” The young woman indignantly asked.

“That would be a definite no.” I told her.

This conversation was getting truly weird, now. I shifted the phone to my other ear, and settled down into my chair. This was definitely going to require a rather blunt explanation.

“Er, listen, whoever you are. I hate to break the news to you, but I'm gay.”

“Oh, I know that!” She laughed.

“You do?” I asked, completely baffled, now.

“You're always such a cheerful man.” She enthused. “That's what I like best about you. Well, that and the size of your....”

“Um...no. Not that kind of gay. Sorry.” I interrupted her. “Forgive my bluntness, but I'm a hom....”

“Yes, yes, I know you're home. That's why I called you, silly.” She told me.

“No, but...”

“Why don't you come out, now?” She asked.

“Well, actually, I already have....”

“Really? I don't see you. Where are you? Oh, I have missed you my sweet!” The young woman gushed.

“I'm in my office and, sorry, but I really don't have time for this nonsense. I do have other things to do, you know.” I said, getting more than a little vexed with her.

It was time to hang up and get on with my day. Not that I had anything more exciting planned, than a walk down the hill to the Chinese place for some lunch.

“Look, I honestly hate being rude, but I'm going to have to hang up now.” I stated firmly.

“Are you leaving the office?” She asked, sounding more excited than disappointed or angry.

“Yes, I am. I do have to go and...”

“How wonderful! You've not gone in such a long time. I was worried that there was something wrong down there.” She said.

“What?” I blurted out, totally not following the conversation at all, now. “I mean, I beg your pardon?”

One thing dear old mom firmly instilled on me, was manners. Always treat a woman like a lady, she said. Unless she was an obnoxious slut. Or a lawyer. Same difference, really.

“Just come along, my pet. I've waited so long here, among the flabby and the wind-ridden. You're not like any of them. You're so....oh, you know..” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Big” She giggled like a little girl.

“Erm....” Was all I could say. I felt myself blush, to my everlasting mortification.

“Now, be a good boy, Lawrence. Do say you'll visit me again.” She cajoled me, “I'll even pull the chain for you.”

“You'll do what!” I said suspiciously, abruptly feeling icy fingers crawling from my neck, down the length of my spine. “Who is this?” I demanded fiercely.

“Why love, don't you know?” She asked coyly.

“I'm afraid I just might.” I answered.

“Yes, dear. It's me, Sadie. And I'm ever so lonely. Now that mummy's away, you can come out to play.”

Just then, a loud bell began to ring. It's sonorous tones shook me to the very fiber of my being. I jerked upright.

Only to find myself sitting on a hard wooden church bench, surrounded by my friends and neighbors. Mother was sitting next to me. Dad was up on the podium, shaking hands with the choir director. Or is it called an altar? I don't know. Whatever the protestants call that thing where the minister hangs out during services. People were standing up. Grabbing a hymnal, I went to join them. But, they weren't going to sing, they were getting up to leave. Mom angrily jabbed me in the ribs.

“You fell asleep, son.” She hissed into my ear. “I know you don't like having to sit through a long sermon. Who does? But, really, Moondust...."

"Mom! Not here!" I whispered anxiously. Even to this day, it makes me wince to hear my first name said aloud in public.

"Don't go changing the subject. Lawrence." She begrudgingly humored me. " Today meant so much to your father. It's not every day one is chosen to become a deacon of the church. You could at least show some respect! You've slept though practically the whole service.”

“Yes, mom.” I mumbled, thanking a non-existent god that I'd only been dreaming.

“And another thing Lawrence.” Mother added, as the last cobwebs of sleep fell away from me. “Must you drool on my shoulder when you nod off?

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