WEDNESDAY: Broken Boards

BY DAVID WATTS

Copyright is held by the author.

“IF I have to stay inside any longer, I’m going to go crazy,” Rev. Stover told his wife. “I’m going out to the barn. I have to keep busy at something.”

“All right. I’ll call you for supper.”

Stover was the Anglican priest in the small rural community outside the big city. With his wife, a dog and two cats, he occupied the parish’s rectory, which still claimed its barn, in use at one time to supplement previous rectors’ stipends. The council had kept it in good shape, and now it provided a home for a neighbour’s two riding horses. In the attached coop were a rooster and a dozen hens. Stover gave away the eggs to needy parishioners.

In the barn, the priest looked about for wood useful enough to replace the broken boards in one of the stalls.

Pull, rasp, shove, rip. The sharp points of the saw drew along the lines he had drawn across the grain in the wood.

“Why God?” he spoke out loud. “Only a week ago I baptized her, such a beautiful little baby, all pink and blond. A perfect child. And you know that. So why?”

He held the board against the empty spot, and grabbed hold of his hammer with the other.

Hammer, hammer, hammer on nail. With each slam, his arm pulled back further, struck harder, delivered more force, released more energy, nailed God to the cross.

“Tell me what I’m supposed to do!” he shouted. “First you want me to receive that beautiful soul; now you want me to bury it. You’re a mean vindictive God. Self-centred, caring for no one else but Yourself. Then you want me to do this? I can’t. I can’t speak your love to those parents. Who could?”

The boards were replaced, and he stood in silence, looking at his work, seeing nothing of it.

He gathered up his tools and returned them to the bench. It was time to go back inside, but on the way, he stopped at the roosts to gather what fresh eggs there were. Moving hay aside, he brushed against the lifeless form of a chick. Unable to get enough warmth, enough to eat, enough attention from the mother it lay dead in the box.

“Supper is ready.”

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