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Christian Creative Nonfiction Sad

Everything was ready for the ritual. The chairs and sofas were ranged in close, straight rows, all of them, more or less, facing the smaller room where the open casket rested. There's pressure in my head, that numb feeling I’ve experienced before: like a headache coming, or a stormy ocean trying to come out of my head, but not quite.Β 


As I walked into the main room of the funeral home last night, to attend the wake, I passed two acquaintances, both younger than me. They were sitting on a couch in an anteroom, looking distraught. I stopped to say, β€œI’m sorry for your loss. When my grandpa died, it was really hard.” They nodded numbly, and I followed my family into the main room.

Β 

Those words sounded so ridiculous. If these people had said that to me when Grandpa died, I don’t think it would have helped. At first I didn’t want to say anything to them, but Mom insisted. β€œIt’s the polite thing to do, you have to offer condolences.” When she puts it that way, I guess it would probably have hurt worse for them to act like I didn’t exist, even if they did remind me of the horror, if they’d come to Grandpa’s funeral.


My family headed towards the casket, pausing to greet the deceased’s son, one of my Dad’s friends from work. I didn’t follow them. Instead, I plopped myself down on a padded bench right beside the door we'd just come through.Β 

One of my Dad’s other co-workers, another friend of the deceased, walked over to me. β€œAren’t you gonna go see him?” he asked with his hoarse voice, quiet when he’s usually not.


For a moment, I was mad at him, mad that he was acting so friendly and happy when there was a dead person lying in a coffin over there. The only coherent thought in my head was I’ve seen this too many times. Over and over and over again. I shook my head, no. I was looking down at my hands, clenching the soft brown fabric of my messenger bag. I didn’t notice that until now. He walked away again, and I got up to go after my family.Β 


I wasn’t sure where my dad had gone; he was probably talking to someone. My siblings were with my mom, in another, smaller anteroom, the one where the casket was; they were standing right next to it. I didn’t want to look at his face, so I dropped down onto the far side of the kneeler that was positioned beside the casket, as far away as I could get from Mr. Dennis’s head.


I dug in my pocket for my rosary, determined to say one decade for the repose of his soul. That would consist of praying one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be, and one Fatima prayer. While my hand was still in my pocket, my mom leaned down and smiled at me. β€œPeacock feathers!” she said, discreetly pointing up at the open part of the casket. β€œHe has peacock feathers!” I knew what she was talking about; I’d had a brief glimpse as I knelt down.Β 


Mr. Dennis and his wife lived outside of town, and one day, a peacock showed up. They called him Blue. Someone came to take Blue somewhere else, but he flew off into the woods, and didn’t come back for a few days. In time, he returned, and he’s lived there ever since. Every time Blue molted, Mr. Dennis would pick up as many of the feathers as he could find. I remember how he gave some of them to us when we visited for one of his grandson’s birthdays; he lived immediately next door to his son.

He showed us how peacocks had two different kinds of feathers in their tails: the long, slightly flimsy green ones with blue eyespots, that everyone knows about; and the shorter, stiffer, rusty-colored feathers, underneath the long green ones. When Blue lifted his fan, he began to shake it, and we could hear something rattling. Mr. Dennis told us that it was the short, stiff feathers under the green ones. We walked around behind Blue, and could see the short fan underneath the long one, vibrating and clacking.


I nodded to my mom; perhaps I said β€œI know,” but I don’t remember. I finally got my rosary out, and began to pray the Our Father. It was difficult. The pressure in my head was interfering, and I couldn't concentrate. As I started on the first Hail Mary, small, rapid footsteps thumped on the carpet, and something hit the kneeler, to my left. I looked in that direction, and saw the young grandson whose birthday party we had attended. He looked at me, and I looked down again, trying to refocus on my prayers. His mom was close behind him, and I heard her instruct the little boy: β€œSay, β€˜Bye-bye, Grandpa,” β€œBye-bye Grandpa,” he repeated. β€œSay, β€˜I love you, Grandpa.” β€œI love you Grandpa,” he echoed again. I tried fiercely to keep praying, now deciding that I would only say three Hail Marys. I started the second one. I wasn’t really praying, only frantically reciting the prayers mentally. I hadn’t even prayed the Our Father properly.Β 


I stopped trying to pray the second Hail Mary, and got up from the kneeler. My mom and siblings were to the right of the casket, the foot of it, looking at a white foam board on a stand, with pictures of Mr. Dennis glued onto it. He was younger in these pictures, only a child in some of them.

Β 

Soon we left that small room, moving back out into the main room. We looked at more boards of pictures, some of them still of his younger days, some more recent. Some were of him as I knew him: older, with white hair. He served as a volunteer firefighter for many years, and so did his son, so there were several pictures of him in different fire trucks. One of them showed him, his son, and his grandson, all sitting together in the cab of a truck. More of them were of him and the various animals he had owned. I saw two cockatiels sitting on the blades of a ceiling fan, several pictures of a doe deer in a house, lots of different dogs, Blue, donkeys, and a horse. I remembered another story Mr. Dennis had told us, this one about his donkeys.Β 


He had two donkeys to start with, a jack and a jenny. They had a baby, another jenny. Eventually, the jack died, and it was just the mother and daughter.Β 

One day, the jennies got out, and someone called to tell them that their donkeys were wandering around near the highway. Mr. Dennis went to retrieve them. He said β€œI put one arm around each of their necks, pointed them towards home, picked up my feet, and I rode ’em all the way back like that.” 


The picture of the horse especially attracted my attention. I’d seen that horse at his house: her name was Lacey. She didn’t belong to Mr. Dennis; her owner was boarding her there. The photo had β€˜Horse Hug’ written across the bottom, and he was indeed hugging the mare in the picture. He was standing on her right side, facing the same way as her, his arms around her neck, his left cheek pressed against her neck. It made me a bit happier to see that picture, the way he seemed so oblivious of the way he looked, just enjoying a horse hug.Β 

We left the wake soon after.Β Β 


The next day we are back in the same room, many, if not all, of the same people here as last night, the noteworthy exception the double row of firefighters in the entry hall, clothed not in their protective gear, but in neat dress uniforms. Then again, what do I know? I sometimes have trouble remembering faces, so all of these people might have been here last night.Β 

The two acquaintances who are younger than me are on the same couch, but dressed more fastidiously; the boy in a smart three-piece suit, and the girl wearing a tasteful black dress.Β 


We hurry to sit down, choosing seats near the back of the room, on the right. Other people find their seats as well, and the catholic priest who will preside over the service arrives. He doesn’t take his place at the front of the room, though; he stays in the rear.


The fire crew files in, lining up at the very back of the room. The man who has, until now, been standing at the head of Mr. Dennis’s casket, joins his comrades in the back.Β 

There’s a sudden, ear-piercing, prolonged beep from a radio, and I think, Oh, no, not a fire right now. That’s not what’s happening, though. The radio crackles dissonantly with static, and I almost jump. A woman’s voice intones:Β Β Β Β Β Β Β 

β€œDennis D. C. Cummings;Β Dennis D. C. Cummings;Β Dennis D. C. Cummings;Β 

This is the last call for Dennis D. C. Cummings. For thirty-six years you’ve served faithfully. Now, you rest in peace.”    

There’s another burst of static, and then the radio is switched off.Β Β 





October 30, 2021 03:56

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89 comments

22:49 Apr 05, 2022

Nice story, I really like the ending. That was a brilliant scene I could could picture vividly. Also the beginning when the boy feels awkward at a funeral was very well written. I think the middle part might have been better if it focused on fewer topics, either the boy who sat next to him or the animals. (i'm even more guilty of throwing a chum bucket of random digressions into my stories.) I also attended Catholic primary school and definitely relate to counting Our Fathers and Hail Mary's on a rosary and many other parts of the story. I...

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Hey! I'm actually Catholic, so I really enjoyed the references in the story (I'm also in Scripture class, coincidentally). I really love this! The imagery and the way you described things was really good. I also enjoyed the ending. The way you connected it back to the fact the he was a firefighter was really nice. Also, 100% relate to having no idea of the right thing to say to someone without the words sounding dumb, or repetitive, or unintentionally hurtful, or unfeeling, or unsympathetic, or [literally fill anything into this blank]. ...

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I am Catholic too! It makes me so happy that you like it! Mr. Dennis was an amazing guy, and his story just seemed to fit perfectly under this prompt. I like trying to put a Christian spin on prompts that seem a bit un-Christian at first, and I think it worked well this time.

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I like that a lot! Do you have any other stories you wrote with a Christian spin? And if you have time, could you please read one of my stories? I have a short blurb about each in my bio.

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I haven't actually finished any other christian-twist stories, but I've started lots! Hopefully I'll post more soon. I will definitely read your stories! I already read your CYOA, and your first day on the job! Please pray for my neighbor Ernest T, he suffered a stroke last night and is still in the hospital, his wife recently had a baby.

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if you were to be any animal in a story, what would you be?

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I like horses, wolves, ravens, spotted hyenas, and, on a more fantastical note, pegasi. Black or dun is usually my favorite coat color for horses.

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alright, horse or Pegasus then lol

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np :) it's...not really lol doing alright I suppose, hbu?

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I'm happy. God is giving this story to me very quickly right now. I just need to fill in some missing stuff.

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Alex Sultan
21:31 Nov 16, 2021

Interesting story! This must have been difficult to write about - I think you did well getting the feelings across, and I like the closing line. Also, sorry for the late feedback! A lot of school stuff lately to deal with. I have a few notes. I hope this is not taken negatively. -Some of the paragraphs feel a bit long. Unnecessarily so. They could be broken down into separate paragraphs(Consider this with your dialogue) and the story would be easier on the eyes, and easier when going from topic to topic. -'When Blue lifted his fan, [he be...

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No, I do not take a single bit of this negatively! Thank you so much for telling it like it is, even if it's tough. These are all really good points, and I will utilize them in future stories. One thing: I think that praying CAN be intense, but you're right, it may not be the correct word for this particular scenario. I have noticed that I have an awkward difficulty of using "I" too much when I write first-person POVs. I'm still working on it. I will definitely alert you when I post more, and I am very excited to read more of your stori...

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Another thing - thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and then giving such an in-depth critique. Mr. Cummings' wife knows that I write; the last time I saw them I showed her a fragment of something, and I've been planning on giving a hard copy of this to her, but I wanted more feedback before I printed it. The version I give her can be better because of you.

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Hi Alex! I finally got a chance to edit The Last Call! Thank you so much for your feedback.

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Endellion .
20:33 Nov 12, 2021

I really love your bio, I'm christian too and am happy to see there is more christians here.

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Thank you! Good to know that there’s another follower of Our Lord here. How’d you find me?

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Endellion .
14:37 Nov 13, 2021

Your welcome! Just by browsing through the authors

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Cool! I read one of your stories a long time ago, the one about how the Earth froze and then the little blue aliens showed up. Very suspenseful ending! Also, I read your bio, and I really like the poem you wrote!

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Endellion .
00:54 Nov 15, 2021

That one's called Cryosleep. Yeah, I planned on finishing it and then never got around to it. Thank you!

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very interesting story. I kinda like how you showed the funeral happening and having the main character not really care that much. It was an interesting concept for sure. I haven't got much to say otherwise, except, great job setting the tone overall.

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It was really hard to attend that funeral. Whenever someone I know dies and I attend the funeral, I get really numb inside, and sometimes I can't even cry. I once got accused of not caring by younger relatives when a relative died.

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