Thoughts and Prayers, it's a Travesty Ain't It?

Submitted into Contest #157 in response to: Write about a character who discovers the grass isn't actually greener on the other side.... view prompt


Coming of Age Friendship Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The marquee of the Georgia Theater in Athens was slightly dimmed in contrast to the glaring sun during the swelling summer of 1962. 

The weather had been unkind towards Georgia’s inhabitants. Blades of grass stood unmoving in the gradually condensing air, the ends slowly altering their colors until the fields looked tan. No longer was the dust carried by wind after being kicked by unbeknownst children, for when they played, it was almost as if it perched near their mouths before settling to the ground. 

Moira thought it was impertinent for her health to visit the theater daily. The Chrysler conditioning units offered little to no relief, and movies were seldom seen without the blur of sweat on one’s eyes. 

I thought Moira was stupid to think anywhere was going to offer comfort. No southern summer had ever been of consolation for those who lived through it. 

She had once been Frank’s girl, but Frank decided to leave for college, and one day in late May, in a moment of shame, he left Moira on the side of the road, collecting gravel in her blouse. Unfortunately, her last memory of Frank was diluted by the scent of gasoline. 

Now Moira only had me.

In the mornings she would arrive eagerly on my porch with a wad of cash.

“Want to go to the movies?” She would ask. 

My momma once said that if she was cast in a film, Moira would be the heroine. If she held anything, it was modest beauty and a great fortune. While I noticed that she did pass her courses in school, Moira didn’t seem to know all that much. That’s why conversation was so easy with her, she didn’t make me think too hard. 

In some ways, I envied her. Just two years ago her daddy had bought the nicest house in town with a sloping balcony and an old white trim that circled the stained glass windows. She came to school with clean ironed dresses and a great big bow around her straw hat. I had nice cotton dresses too, but they didn’t look the same on me as they did her. 

She acclimated to the Georgian climate easy as pie. In the spring, I didn’t notice one spherule of sweat when she said she was from Ohio. Her powder stayed dry and her handkerchief clean. 

“You ever visit the Oke swamp?” Evan Geeters teased.

“The what?”

“The Okefenokee swamp down south of here?” 

“Never. But I’d like to go one day.” She nodded. Evan’s lips fell into a line. That’s what Moira could do well– make you feel as if you shouldn’t have spoken at all. 

On the morning of August fourth, for the first time all summer long, Moira didn’t knock on my door. 

When I arrived in the kitchen, Momma was pouring herself a mug of coffee. 

“Where’s your friend today, doll?” She pulled out a wooden chair and sat.

“Oh, I- I haven’t-” Before I could calculate my confusion, four rapid knocks arrived on our door. I found my neighbor waiting underneath the awning, fanning herself and leaning against the frame. 

“Oh good. I thought I’d find you here. Thank god.” She drawled between breaths.

“Hi there Ms. Sylvester. How can I help you?” I compelled myself not to yawn. 

“Well, I’ve got some news. I was just sitting on my porch you know, as I do this morning. And out of a cat's cradle I hear the siren comin’ towards my street. And it gets louder and louder and I see it racing towards the Heron’s house, and it stops out front. Then, a few minutes later, I sees the oldest girl being carried out on those beds and being put into the truck. The momma came racing out and cryin’ and I just felt oh so awful. But here’s the strangest part.” Mrs. Sylvester’s left hand now inclined towards the pillar behind her, the wood gently groaning beneath her feet. “I don’t sees the daddy anywhere. And he’s home in the mornings, I know this. So the ambulance goes to the hospital, and just the momma is waiting on the porch. Strange, ain’t it?”


“But you spend time with that girl, don’t you? I sees her come to your house in the mornings.”

“Yes but-”

“I was just so worried. She had this blood all over her poor face and she looked so frightened.” “Ms. Slyvester what hospital was the ambulance for?”

“Clarkson’s, just down the road.”

“Thank you.” 

She pinched my cheek. “You stay safe out there, yes, girl? Don’t go worrying your momma.”

“I will thank you, ma’am.”

“Goodbye, darling.”


The shade of the southern oak partially covered Mrs. Sylvester’s rounded back as she paced herself away from the house, the light a fissure between the leaves, a quilt of sunlight weaved across her dress. 

I watched as the sunlight disappeared, and the shade rejoined its neighbor. 

Moral obligation and slight curiosity carried me to my room and my tin can, where I meticulously counted two quarters and fit them into my leather pouch. Cautious about my appearance, I ineptly forced my cotton dress over my slouching body and coerced my abnormally large feet into my flats. The rollers were pulled from my knotted hair without too much effort, although brushing it, along with the clammy air, sterilized the once curls into flattened locks. 

Just beyond my house’s coastal fog, I found myself enfolded in heat. I nearly felt like discarding my clothing once the sun rebounded off the cement and onto my now pink skin. Shoes provided some comfort as I made my way to the bus, and sat on the bench to read while waiting. 

Caring for Moira was only partial to my veneer of going to visit her, but a deeper, more yawning position I found myself in was of curiosity. Part of me wanted to see Moira as vulnerable, as imperfect, as hurt?

The bus departed outside of Brandon’s Grocery, the windows unbarred from their natural state, hoping for air to pass through the seats. As it had all summer, the air remained stationary. The bus had been recently and naively repainted with a grey coat, sections of the metal brassy with discolorment. I sat in the front, the bus empty for other than a man reading in the back. 

The hospital, although associated with Athens, distinguished itself from the city by distance. I barely noticed the changing scenery outside of my window as the town evolved into the outskirts, then to rural Athens. The building sat behind a sloping parking lot, in the shadow of a great wheat field. It spread like the letter C across the plains, the buildings a collage of concrete and brick. 

The bus trailed to the sidewalk not twenty minutes after departure, and although the windows had been opened, exiting the bus with the greeting of air was one of reassurance. 

I walked first into the lobby, where I was greeted by a teen like myself, who directed me towards a folded chair. It was after some willful patience that I was announced by a man named Dr. Beeker, who, without a word other than my name, led me down the first hallway and to a windowless white door. 

On the walk, I noticed how the walls had been removed of color, and how all of the equipment that would be expected in a hospital, had been similarly withdrawn. It was devoid of life.

He knocked twice, and before waiting for a reply, (how forward of him, I noted), conducted a wide sweep of the entryway before abandoning his follower altogether. 

White walls integrated with a white bed frame and sheets, partially covered by the curtain which shared its surroundings’ colors. 

The only thing in the room that slightly deviated from white was Moira’s skin, which was nearly as pale as the pillow she lay on. 

“Oh my, oh my. Is that you, really? Oh gosh. Oh, gee.” Moira’s delirium was attributed to, I noticed, a bottle of pills near her bed. Her eyes unfocused on my stiffened body. 

“Oh hi, Moira. How are you darling? What happened?”

Alertness imbued my every step toward her. 

“Let me hold you, let me grab your hand. Oh please, nobody has come to visit me.” She slurred. 

The nearsightedness only detailed her pain further. Bruises indented the left side of her face, approaching her ratted hairline and gouged skin. I nearly gasped, although, with the sensitive disposition she had been placed it, I avoided breath altogether. 

This wasn’t no fall. 

Discreetly, so as not to draw attention, I pulled the stool underneath me and folded her hands in mine.

“Tell me what happened Moira.”

She was quiet for a moment, then, “You know how it is, you do I’m sure. I- I just, I knew he was gon’ do it, I could just tell. His face, I can always tell. ” Her eyes faced the ceiling. “An- An’ I thought it was gon’ be just once, you know? He’d hit me, and then it'll be over, just…like…that.” She blinked, as to show the expeditiousness. “But, he didn’t stop at one. Oh, he didn’t just stop. And I didn’t know what to do and so I started to kick back. Do you hear me? I- I kicked back.”

Almost impulsively, “I am proud of you, Moira.”

“But that only seemed to make him angrier and he just kept goin’ and I saw my momma run behind him and grab the phone and call the po-lice. And so just a few minutes later I see these flashing lights right outside my window and I hear a ‘bang, bang, bang’ on my door. And only then does my daddy get up and let me go, and when I see him get up, oh, he looked scared. He looked so, so scared. And I was scared, and my momma was crying behind me and I couldn’t feel my face…”

She took an unnerving breath.

“You should have seen him. He was so, so scared.”

“I’m sure he was Moira. Do you feel any better now?”

“Yes.” She answered quietly, “But I know that I’ll be back soon.”

It was now my turn to draw air. How long had Moira endured such a violent household? How many mornings had she arrived, when just the night before she had lived in a nightmare? How many times, I recalled, did she hold her head to the floor, or wear uneven patches of powder on her face? 

And how many times had I not cared?

It was now, as she lay in front of me, narcotized and fiddling with the consciousness that I realized the insufficiency of my companionship. I brushed aside her mauled hair, my fingers scarcely near her wounds. 

At odds with, and also most similar to healthy relationships, we both maintained regulation through co-dependency. 

Moira needed me for stability, an escape from her home. I needed her for serenity, for fleetingness, and for the emptiness that we carried together. Perhaps in that way, I had fulfilled my role as her friend. Our movie trips, our ice cream tours, had been necessary, however frivolous I thought it was. 

And now, even with the escape, she had found herself in the hospital. A fate even I could not have intercepted. An event that would repeat itself no matter how many mornings I accepted her invitation. 

All I could do is sit with her, hold her hands, and pray that her escape would transcend our friendship soon. 

August 04, 2022 01:49

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Graham Kinross
18:33 Aug 10, 2022

Great story. Very on point.


Amelie R.
22:20 Aug 10, 2022

Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
21:09 Aug 09, 2022

This was an enjoyable read, though the subject matter was ugly. I think the setting is very well established, and Moira hides her abuse well enough to fool the narrator, who misunderstands the situation. To the point, she resents Moira, and even desires to see her brought low – at least until she actually gets there. I suspect Moira would have continued to keep it a secret, if not for the painkillers. That gives this a horror angle, where this is treated as private business and not something you should trouble others with. Good use of ...


Amelie R.
22:20 Aug 10, 2022

I appreciate the analysis. Thanks so much for reading!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tricia Shulist
14:40 Aug 07, 2022

That was a good story. It seemed to capture the essence of what it is to be from the south— I’m not from the south, so my only information is second-hand or from the few times I’ve visited. But it rings true. I enjoyed your story. Thanks for this.


Amelie R.
22:21 Aug 10, 2022

Yay! So glad you enjoyed.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.