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John H Payne

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The Gathering
By John H Payne
Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Abbigail's Tom is the victim of a violent death, and friends and family rush to her side to share their love of Tom.



The Gathering
A short story by:
John Payne
On a beautiful November day in New England in the early sixteen hundreds, Mother Nature’s woods were ablaze with the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn. Abigail had a modest log cabin in a clearing at the edge of the forest. Her homestead consisted of her and Tom, plus one cow, one rooster, two hens and a hog. It was a simple life to be sure.
The attendees came from locations near and far.  Many had to travel by public wagon and were met in town and transported to Abigail’s home by an accommodating friend or relative. Others used their own modes of transportation. They arrived by horse, ox cart, mule and foot. Some arrived as singles; others as couples, families and small groups. A few were long time acquaintances but several new friends who had lived in the immediate area for most of their lives were also in attendance. Presiding over the gathering was Reverend Abernathy, a devoted and secret admirer of Abigail, whose residence was within a short walk to Abigail’s humble cottage.  Although they were a disparate group; none were strangers to the deceased. As the travelers arrived, Abigail made them welcome and arranged for their comfort. Her home was not large by any means but as is often the case in such circumstances, friends of Abigail also opened their homes to the visitors. It was the Christian thing to do. The neighbors loved Tom and offered to do whatever they could to be of help.
            Some at the gathering had been secretly envious of Abigail’s Tom. His visage did not escape the eye of any of the discerning maidens or wives in the community. One would not describe him as handsome, but he had an arresting appearance with his massive physique. His broad chest and powerful legs were further enhanced by his self-satisfied gait. Some said he strutted around that humble property like he was Miles Standish himself. But that was then. Now he was gone, deceased, and in such a violent way that many in the group said they did not like to even think about it. “Why him,” “Why Tom,” they all wondered aloud; but the unspoken truth, as everyone knew, was his size. He had grown huge and was not as quick or agile as he had once been. His weakness was food. Thanks to his own gluttony and partly because of Abigail’s enabling him, he had grown very large. She never missed an opportunity to provide him with a hearty meal, and always left tempting mixes of raisins, grain and suet within easy access to satisfy any impromptu urges. Abigail could not be faulted for her offerings. Nutritional information at the beginning of the seventeenth century was not as complete as it would be four hundred years later. In fact Abigail’s culinary skills achieved the very results desired. She wanted Tom to become strong and hearty. He was outside most of the time and Abigail wanted him to be able to weather the wicked New England winters.  In the end, those meals became his undoing. But it wasn’t indigestion, or his weight that brought Tom down. He lost his final battle to a very visible, stronger and more fit adversary. Those were neither gentle times nor gentle folk.
Abigail was not lacking in courage, but given Tom’s size and his feisty temperament, she did not have the fortitude to approach him in his condition, so she asked her friend, Reverend Abernathy to intervene. Tom was not a member of the Reverend’s flock but Abigail was a member in good standing in his congregation, so the Reverend was more than willing to get involved. Reverend Abernathy also harbored a deep affection for Abigail, and looked forward to the opportunity to be of service to her. He was a handsome man, tall and lean with sinewy muscles, but he was also passive man.
When the time came, he approached Tom cautiously, but Tom would have none of it and spurned the Reverend’s subtle advances. After several approaches and rebuffs, they both became a bit agitated and increasingly aggressive. Soon a skirmish ensued. During a brief but fierce tussle with the Reverend, Tom’s condition caught up with him. He was no match for the resolute Reverend’s speed and reflexes. He grabbed Tom around the head and they both twisted and spun in a ferocious dance, the Reverend suddenly whirled Tom around and the motion snapped Tom’s neck instantly. He lay motionless as the Reverend and Abigail looked on. The light was gone from his eyes. The Reverend was silent for a long moment. He was conflicted. Deep down he had always admired Tom and this was an uneasy moment for him, but strangely, at the same time he took it as an opportunity to be of service to Abigail once again. As they both stood over Tom, he saw that she was deeply saddened at the sudden and inexplicable way Tom had lost his life. He told Abigail he felt awful also, and said, “Even though Tom was not a member of my flock, I would be honored if you allowed me to preside over his service.” Through tear filled eyes Abigail said, “It’s not your fault. I knew it would happen sooner or later. If it wasn’t you, then someone else would have intervened. It’s the way of our small community.” Then she gave the Reverend an understanding smile and said, “Thank you. Of course you may preside over the service. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Tom and I are the ones who are would be honored.”     
And now the moment had arrived. As everyone gathered around looking at Tom, all the usual bromides could be heard: “He Looks great;” “So good of you to come so far;” “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” The early European settlers did not have any commercial services for such an event, so Abigail had personally prepared and dressed Tom for the occasion. Everyone had arrived donning their finest attire and best manners. They all looked to Abigail to say something. Her eyes filled up and she patted her hand over her heart. She was overcome by so much love and support. Friends on either side of her took her hand in theirs; then the rest also joined hands in a circle around Tom.  Reverend Abernathy said a few prayers and thanked the Lord for bringing Tom into their lives as he blessed Tom. Then the Reverend looked around at the anxious faces and asked, “Now, who wants leg?” And, to the best of my knowledge, that was the first Thanksgiving.

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Reviewed by Caroline De Angelo 12/30/2011
Love it. How quick we are to assume.Went back to read it again at first
thought I missed something.

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