Friday, January 08, 2010

Entry #56

Contre-jour
by B. Nagel


Edith left money to the cemetery for this bench. So I could sit and enjoy the sunset with her.

We often visited her husband to watch the sun drop into the endless water. But my left knee is weak from a stumble in the sacristy back in ’75 and I could never stay on it long enough to actually watch the sun go down. Dodgy thing doesn’t even have a decent story, but it’s the truth. That’s why we always talked about a bench.

The townies whisper about my coming, but even priests need to mourn their friends. Especially old priests like me.

A snatch of moving black above me draws my eye. I look up and back and over my glasses at the large bird circling beyond the upper branches, ignoring the acorns, the breadcrumbs. It might be an eagle, but more likely it’s a turkey vulture. I can’t see worth a dime anymore, anyway. Could be a cowbird.

He circles again then heads to the river. Searching, I suppose, for fish. Or garbage. He flies against the sun and, for a moment, his silhouette burns bright. Until the dying light consumes him.

I use the headstone for a handhold while I work up from the bench under the oak. “You were my best friend, Edith.”

I work my way slowly down the path with my cane. When I glance back, two people are sitting on my bench, watching the darkling day sink into the Cheuckahoba.

32 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Aw. *sniff*. Priceless.

Bernita said...

A rare, gentle, and poignant piece.

Loren Eaton said...

Beautfully done, B. Calm and quiet, but with a lot going on beneath the stillness. Very nice.

fairyhedgehog said...

There's a real sense of the age of the priest for me. I like the line, "I use the headstone for a handhold while I work up from the bench under the oak" which is really how standing up feels some days. And then "“You were my best friend, Edith.” " tugged at my throat.

Alex Green said...

Wow, B. That actually stirred up emotions in my drying out little heart. Well done.

Meghan said...

Very touching and sweet. Especially the line "you were my best friend, Edith." Great job!

Leatherdykeuk said...

How sweet!

Janel said...

Very touching. The pain in his heart seemed to match the pain in his body.

pjd said...

Very nicely done, with a sublime ending. I love the voice of the priest, especially the interjection of such banal ideas as cowbirds and searching for garbage. It's a beautiful combination of the spiritual and the secular, a study in how they coexist both in concert and in contrast. I find this masterful.

JaneyV said...

B. I actually welled up with this one. Such poignancy. An honest study of true friendship, of how everyone needs it and how it transcends the grave. Gorgeous.

Craig said...

I love the way you portray the priest, there is a real sense of age about him. Not just physically but in the calm and mature way he looks at the world.

Lena said...

Sweet, touching and poignant. What else can you wish in a story for!

SzélsőFa said...

nice characterization with the description of the surroundings. I enjoyed the poetic visuals.

laughingwolf said...

lovely...

Aniket said...

Beautiful, lovely and very very well written piece.

One of my favourites for its clarity and simplicity.

catvibe said...

Even priests are allowed to truly love their female friends. Very lovely and poignant. I could see silhouette of the bench and him sitting on it in my mind. Lovely.

Chris Eldin said...

A touching and sentimental tribute to deep friendship. I loved this one.

kashers said...

The most pleasing part about your story is that you took your time in the telling. I can hardly believe it's only 250 words for it conveys so much.

Laurel said...

There is a quiet, simple quality to this prose that "feels" like the narrator is lonely. The last image of him looking over his shoulder at someone else enjoying their bench just tugged at my heart.

This is dignified and beautiful.

PS: Hey, y'all! My wvs is "critic". Hmmm.

AidanF said...

I like the way this evokes the old priest. I also liked the depth of the piece, as I scratched at it more, I found more underneath the surface.

Phoenix said...

Great piece - I could hear the priest's voice in my head and see the cemetery laid out before me. Nicely written, B.!

illyriataylor said...

poignant and different.

B. Nagel said...

Thanks everybody for reading and taking the time to comment.

Jack, the retired priest, is one of my favorite characters. I'm glad you like him.

CJT said...

definately calming and beautiful. Different from most of the others.

Terri said...

This is lovely. Real. Touching.

Michael Solender said...

lovely and lovingly told.

Deb Smythe said...

Touching, indeed. And a nice job with the priest. Well drawn and depicted.

McKoala said...

Proof that good writing doesn't always have to be smash, bang in your face. A gentle and touching piece.

james r tomlinson said...

Nicely done, without being overly sentimental. And you identified the bird correctly. Another flash to put on my short list. Good job.

Aerin said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Cheers,
Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like NKJV storybooks or how your Myers-Briggs type can change.

kashers said...

Just wanted you to know this was my favourite story of all. It has brilliant pacing where you, as the author, didn't go at 100 mph to ram the story down the reader's throat. The 'feel' was gentle, tranquil at times even, but so much happened. I was so 'there' with your old priest. Indeed, in reading it over and over, each time I did it was as if I became him.

If this was the only worthwhile story - which it wasn't, there were many others... but if it was - I would have considered the competition time well spent.

Really, hats off to you.

B. Nagel said...

My goodness. Again, thank you to everyone. This contest was quite exhausting and I really appreciate your stopping in to comment.

Aerin, do you remember when Justin Timberlake had that bright blond tumble of curls? I miss that, and I don't think it has a things to do with my flipy-floppy Myers-Briggs.

kashers, wow. I'm blushing. Srsly.