This is part four of six from my short story Never An Absolution. The last section ended with John Hudson refusing to forgive the man who killed his brother in a drunken accident, and wanting to end his own life then and there. His friend Duncan Flilips stopped him, however, and asked him to give him a week to try to change his mind. With John promising to wait for a week, Duncan determines to show John what ‘Never An Absolution’ can really do.
The first half of the week Duncan spent in planning. From Monday until Wednesday, he got everything ready. Thursday was the day Duncan decided to put his plan into action.
So far that week, John had been ill behaved and had come to the Flilips home two nights in a row drunk. Needless to say, they were glad when Thursday came, praying that John’s heart would be open and that he would change. Duncan had wisely advised the Standishes to stay out of the way, for if John saw them again, he feared what he would do.
Early that morning, Duncan stepped outside, and saw John whittling on the bench outside their house.
“Hey,” He said.
John barely looked up. “Hey,” He answered glumly.
“I was going to run some errands in town and figured you could come with me if you’d like.” Duncan spoke, putting his hands behind his back as he waited on John’s answer.
“Might as well.” John said emptily as he set aside his whittling. “I’m going to die from boredom otherwise.” He stood up.
“You looked as if you were a bit busy.” Duncan replied as he started off. “You whittle very nicely.”
John shrugged. “It’s not that good.”He muttered.
“Why it is too! You should try to sell some at the county fair next week!”
“I won’t be here for that.” Was the cold reply.
Duncan sighed deeply. So, John was still determined to kill himself. Well, he wasn’t going to just stand idly by. He started down a different path than the main one to the town.
“Hey! I thought you said we were going to town?” John exclaimed. “Even I know that town is that way!” And he pointed that direction.
“I know. But first I need to visit Miss Spencer. She’s a lonely old lady who really could use some cheering up.”
John groaned audibly. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Why can’t her kids come visit her?”
“She doesn’t have children, John.” Duncan replied calmly.
“Well, what about in-laws or siblings or anything? If she’s a lonely old widow lady she ought to at least have some relatives to check in on her!”
“She isn’t a widow either, John. She never got married.”
John rolled his eyes. “Well great, she must be some ugly old lady who’s mean, and no one likes. What a waste of time.”
“Actually, I heard Miss Spencer was the belle of the ball, so to speak, when she was younger. I heard she had so many beaus she lost count!”
John gave a snort. “Well, why didn’t she marry any of them so we wouldn’t have to come and visit her now?”
Duncan shrugged and hid a smile. So far so good. “Why don’t we ask her that when we arrive? I’m sure she’ll give us a very direct answer.”
John sighed and shrugged. “Might as well. I’ve got all the time in the world. But if she goes off on a long tangent, I’m outta there, you got that?”
Duncan hid a laugh. “All right, John.” He said, as he stepped up to a small cottage door and knocked. “Miss Spencer? Are you home?”
“Who is it?” Came a shrill voice from inside.
“Duncan Flilips, Miss Spencer.”
There was the sound of a chair being pushed back, then the wooden floor creaked, and the door opened. An older lady, with a pair of round spectacles and pretty silvery hair, opened the door and gave a small smile. “C’mon in,” She said, ushering them in. “Who’s yer friend?” She asked Duncan pointedly.
“John Hudson, ma’am.” Duncan answered respectfully back, but with a sparkle in his eye.
“Ah, I see.” She smiled. “Well, Mr. Hudson, would ya’ like anything to drink?”
“No, thanks.” John spoke quietly.
Miss Spencer and Duncan small talked for a bit, then she turned to John. “Well, yer a quiet one, but yah looks like yah want to ask somethin’. So ask away.”
John looked to the ground, then back up again and scowled. “Well, since you insist. I’ve heard you led on a lot of guys when you were younger, and never got married, and now are a lonely old lady. What d’you do that for?” He asked in a very unkind tone.
Miss Spencer raised her brows, then frowned as well. “Well, since you asked, young man, I’ll tell you!” Her tone was slightly sharper than it had been. “There were many fellows all around me, always wanting to take me here and take me there, do this for me, and buy me that! Well, I couldn’t stand it! Some said I was too pretty, and I reckoned they thought I couldn’t hold my own! Others said I was a real fun gal and probably didn’t think I was a real lady! And one man—hmph! Barney Jackson, that was his name—I’ll never forget what he said! He said I’d make a good housewife! Like I wasn’t good for anything but bein’a housewife!” Miss Spencer exclaimed in contempt.
John was speechless for a moment, then stood to his feet. “That is the most outrageous story I’ve ever heard!” John exclaimed loudly. “Why—”
“I know!” Miss Spencer interrupted him. “They were outrageous! Ugh, I couldn’t stand any of them!”
“I wasn’t speaking of them, but of you, Miss Spencer! Why on earth would you let things like that bother you?!”
“They wronged me!” Miss Spencer tilted her head higher. “You among anyone should understand that!”
John’s eyes flashed, and he felt a sharp prick of conscience in his heart, but stiffened his jaw, curled his fists, and marched right out of the little cottage angrily.
Duncan and Miss Spencer watched him for a moment before Duncan smiled gently. “Thanks, Miss Spencer.”
The older lady sighed and softened her face. “Well… it’s all true, you know.” Her eyes took on a dreamy look. “Ah, I still wish I had married old Barney Jackson,” She laughed. “He was a fine fellow.”
“Well, I better hurry and catch up with John,” Duncan stood up. “Good day, Miss Spencer, and let us know if you need anything!” Duncan tipped his hat, and started off.
“I will!” Miss Spencer called after him. “And God bless you!”