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The Town Cryer
by Marcus Del Greco
How few will ever know besides myself, or even get a peek at, what in Godís great earth went on in that house. Praise Jesus. Give us all the strength to love what we cannot understand.
In the rectory, where I live as envoy minister (which I will explain), I have a picture book of the Ivy League Colleges. The widow Brunerís house looks exactly like those photographs: as though it could be dragged down to Hell by those vines. As long as I can remember, though Iíve only been in town for seven years, the Bruner house has been a shrouded hall of learning. My fascination with the widow began with the sight of this house, and this story is how I learned of the bridge between fantasy and affection.
Within the house, as everyone in town knew, Mrs. Bruner wrote, laid out, and published her independent bi-monthly The Town Cryer. This was something of a dark joke to the community, the case being that the old womanís articles on anything from town politics to transcendentalism bordered on such self-pitying drivel that you could actually picture her crying as she wrote. But the fruit of her literary labors was marked by an undeniable erudition that nearly excused her misery. Her mansion house was a sad academy.
I myself am a man of the Spirit, not of the intellect, but I admit a slight fetish for the Ivy League world within my picture book, a world I would have joined had I not decided to become ordained. Higher learning and Faith can go hand in hand, I am convinced, when science is viewed in the light of Godís many wonders. What brought me to the mysterious house of Mrs. Bruner, however, was an article of noted intellectual language which assaulted more than the Faith.
Donít think that Iím the variety of minister who harasses atheists and agnostics out of twisted duty. In truth I am as committed to the 1st Amendment as I am to the Faith. As I would be committed to a wife, if I had one.
I became involved because Mrs. Bruner had the propensity to name individuals in the Cryer. I was visiting the house on behalf of two sisters who attended my services, and who had been insulted in print by Mrs. Bruner. They were, of course, far too afraid of the old dwelling, and the old widow, to call on her themselves. They had both imagined Miss Havisham in a wedding dress lurking somewhere behind all those vines.
Their vision, it turns out, couldnít have been further from reality. First of all, it was understood that Mrs. Bruner and her late husband had shared four decades of relatively contented marriage. They were known to take summers in upstate New York. They were even social. The oddity of Mrs. Brunerís publishing efforts, however, and her mental decline into hermitage sparked the town to fabricate gothic stories of her secret life. The only person whom she ever visited was the pharmacist, Mr. Leer, who doubled as a "medical therapist" for many in town who desired his mood elevators. He required half-hour "therapy sessions" in order for a customer to receive his wares. It had to do with his certification somehow, a formality.
People often asked him about Mrs. Bruner.
"Doctor-patient relationship," he would say, honoring his contract with lip-service, but then screwing his finger around on his temple as if to add, "Loony as a jaybird."
The drivel Mrs. Bruner had published in the Cryer about the two sisters I reluctantly represented accused them of being religious zealots. You could imagine Mrs. Bruner weeping as she lamented the horrible rumors the "prudes" had been spreading about her. Undoubtedly she was right, as the sisters were known as gossips. But they werenít gossips in print, as Mrs. Bruner had the power to be, and by evoking such smoky curiosity the widow certainly got the whole town to read her paper every two months.
And she had torn the sisters to shreds.
From the article: "The Age of Reason, I had previously taken comfort in assuming, had precluded the existence of such people who fantasized on the lives of others and believed their fantasies. But to these credulous prudes I suppose any conjuration is believable."
Which, I knew, was a veiled criticism of my ministry. I was (and am) an "envoy minister" because my predecessor left town under questionable circumstances. I was sent as a replacement with my lingering "envoy" title to assure my salary wouldnít grow. The connection between Mrs. Bruner and my predecessor is perhaps the highlight of town gossip about the widow. The theories are many, and mostly sordid, but nobody knows for sure. The only thing thatís sure is that impending scandal drove the minister from his post, and abruptly. Mrs. Bruner has scorned me since the day I arrived, sometimes in the Cryer.
All these thoughts were my companions
as I stood on the doorstep of Mrs. Brunerís residence. The doorknocker
was perfect; it reminded me of one I saw on a monastery door during a retreat.
Behind this doorknocker was organ music, I was sure. I had no organ music
at my services, but a small folk choir, two guitars, and a tambourine.
Marcus Del Greco has been writing for the page, stage, and record since 1992. He founded mindmined.com in 1998 and continues as editor and developer of this domain and a small network of other creative websites. He lives in Alton, New Hampshire.
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