Damned Nonsense

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

1999

The weekend after Mark Wilson’s visitation, Mom invited her parents (Harold and Joyce Wright), along with my cousin’s family (Kasey’s dad was my mom’s brother), to come for a BBQ on Saturday.  Since it was a hot and sunny day, we all gathered around the patio table in the backyard, enjoying the shade of the parasol. The conversation was happy and light-hearted, until the middle of dessert when Grandma mentioned Mark’s death.

“They were a Christian family, you know,” she said, nodding at my parents.

“Oh, were they? I didn’t realize.” My mom. She seemed to perk up a little at the thought of it. Mom tended to be on the quiet side, reserved. She was skinny too, almost delicate. I once heard my uncle refer to her as “anemic” but wasn’t sure what he meant. I assumed it had to do with her pale skin and lack of energy.

“These things are so dreadful, aren’t they,” Grandma went on, “so very tragic. But God allowed this to happen for a reason. All things work together for good.” A nod of agreement between her and Granddad.

“A good reason?” Uncle Donald said gruffly, setting down his spoon.

We’d all had sundaes for dessert, though I wasn’t finished mine yet. My younger brother slurped up the melted ice cream from his bowl and asked to be excused, running off to play. Uncle Donald leaned back in his plastic patio chair, eyes narrowed a bit. He was tall and fit, dark gray hair buzz-cut. He looked nothing like my mother.

“A child is dead and you say God allowed it for a good reason,” he repeated. “What kind of loving God lets a child die a senseless death, when he could easily prevent it?”

“God is sovereign,” Grandma replied. “He knows all things and sees all things, and as such, allowed this to happen as part of his big picture plan. One day it will all be made clear and in the meantime, we just have to have faith and trust.”

Granddad bobbed his head up and down. “Yes, yes, that’s right. What the devil intended for evil, God intended for good.” A pleasant smile. “It may well be that this particular family needed this tragedy, in order to grow spiritually. God uses suffering to shape and mold us into saints . . . to draw us closer to him, to teach us to lean on him . . . and to bring himself glory. We can take comfort in that.”

“Needed this tragedy?” Uncle Donald sounded angry. “To draw us closer to him, to teach us to lean on him? To bring himself glory? What kind of damned nonsense is that?”

Grandma’s eyes widened and she flicked a glance at Granddad.

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An Open Casket

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

1999

My cousin Kasey lived in a country home, originally a clergy house back in the late 19th century. The church was long gone though, had burned down, and only a few visible sections of the stone foundation remained. A barn was built after that and the home became a farmhouse for the next few decades. Now it was a regular home and the barn had a caved-in roof.

The top floor of the house had three bedrooms, and Kasey’s had a view of the field; the first half mowed and green, the far half flaxen with overgrown grass. Sometimes I stood at the window and stared at the distant barn, thinking of the pioneer girl who’d supposedly died inside it, even though I’d decided Kasey was only trying to scare me last summer; had probably made the whole thing up. She didn’t even believe in ghosts. Still, I felt uneasy recalling it, especially since a kid at our school had just died.

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Ghosts by Another Name

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

1998

My cousins lived in an old farmhouse out in the country. Sometimes when I’d visit for a sleepover, my cousin Kasey and I would explore the outer perimeter of the barn on the far edge of their overgrown field. The hayloft and floorboards were rotten, and half the roof caved in, so the inside was supposed to be off-limits.

“You could fall through the floor and break a leg at best, your neck at worst,” my uncle said many times. Usually we obeyed but tonight we’d gone outside to play after supper while auntie did the dishes, and we hadn’t yet been called back in, even though dusk was descending. It seemed the adults had forgotten about us for the time being.

“We’ll only go in a short way and look around, we won’t climb anything,” Kasey explained, a gleam in her eye. She took off for the garden shed and emerged again before I caught up, a flashlight in hand.

It was a cool August evening, crickets shrieking, a bull frog droning. I followed her through the woody plants and bramble, much of it nearly as tall as the two of us. At one point I didn’t see a blackberry bush in time and brushed right past it with my bare legs, the scratches burning; tiny beads of blood appearing on my shin. We soon reached the barn and Kasey flicked the flashlight beam up and down and around. It was nearly dark with an overcast sky, the moon a faint glow behind the clouds. I saw a swipe of fieldstone foundation, a rusted soup can full of decomposing cigarette butts, and a window with four broken panes.

“Here’s the way in,” she whispered, holding the beam over a peeling gray door with a rusted latch.

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What’s Hell?

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

1996

“Here’s a coloring sheet for you, April,” the Sunday School teacher said in a sing-song voice, handing me a piece of paper before moving on to the rest of the children at the table. “Next weekend is Easter, so today we’re going to learn all about why Jesus died.”

I reached for the basket of crayons in the center of the table, rooting through to find a handful that weren’t rubbed down flat or broken in half. I studied the picture. It was a simple cross with a spiky halo draped over top and some smiley-faced flowers in the grass below. (If I hadn’t been going to Sunday School since starting kindergarten last year, I might have mistaken the cross for the letter “t.”) In the top right corner was a beaming sun, smiling like the flowers, but something was missing from the scene. Feeling inspired, I did my best to draw a bunny rabbit next to the flowers, along with some eggs. I was very careful to draw zig-zag lines and polka dots on the eggs in even patterns, sticking my tongue out of the corner of my mouth a bit for added concentration.

“Are you having an Easter Egg Hunt next weekend?” I asked the girl beside me, glancing at her sidelong.

She blinked a few times, pausing with a purple crayon poised mid-air. “We don’t do that in my house,” she said. “My mom says Easter is for Jesus, and it’s not about eggs. She says the Easter bunny isn’t real.”

“Oh.” I thought about that for a moment, resuming my coloring; the subtle scent of crayon wax in the air. So she didn’t get to eat any jellybeans and chocolate eggs. I felt a twinge in my tummy. Did she at least get to have a chocolate bunny?

“Do you get any chocolate?” I stared at her side profile as she hunched over her paper.

“Uh-uh.” She shook her head, ponytail swishing.

The Sunday School room was warm, dust particles dancing in the sunbeams from the windows. But I felt a tad cold.

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The Appendage

An excerpt from “The Attic” by Bekah Ferguson & Rachel Xu.

A mist swirled around the trio and a swamp stretched out ahead of them. Dead trees reached upward from the murk at odd angles, casting spindly shadows over the oily surface. Floating weeds shifted positions as gaseous bubbles rose to the surface and burst around them.

Ian turned toward Varkis, who stood with hairy gray arms crossed over his chest and feet spread wide. “What do you think?” The last thing he wanted to do was enter the swamp, but Kurik had given him no other choice.

“I’m thinking it wasn’t a smart idea to come with you guys after all,” the dog-man replied.

“Come on. Seriously.”

“Who said I wasn’t being serious?”

Lily stood nearby, one hand on her hip as she squinted up at the dusky sky.

Ian ran a hand down his face and took a deep breath, nearly choking on the stench of the water. “Well, . . . let’s get this over with then.” He stepped into the cold goop, weed-muck sucking at his foot. Another step forward and he sunk down, slimy vegetation and dank water swirling about his knees. “Come on guys,” he glanced over his shoulder. “We have to get to the Jubaka Tree and out of this swamp before nightfall or we won’t live to see morning.”

Varkis harrumphed. “This swamp gets deep fast, you do realize. We’re going to have to swim a lot of the way and it’s going to be freezing.”

“I know.” He met eyes with Lily in an apologetic glance. She looked frightened now. “We’ll take breaks as needed and warm up afterwards.”

“Does anything, uh, dangerous, live in this swamp?” she asked.

“Not that I know of.”

It was a lie.

There was something lurking in the swamp; something that had started out quite small but had been growing for many years since.

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Y2K

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

1999

Y2K was coming right after Christmas and either nothing was gonna happen or everything was gonna happen. At the strike of midnight, December 31st, computers and security systems might just instantly shut off and as a result, there’d be airplanes crashing into one another, mass burglaries, blackouts and car collisions, and in general, the wreaking of havoc.

As a nine year old, I wasn’t sure what wreaking meant and for many years I actually thought the expression was reeking havoc: something smelly. But when I came to realize the spelling was different, I figured havoc must be the mess or damage the wreaking caused; something very bad. I’d also heard the grown-ups talking about the pandemonium that would follow. I didn’t know what that was but since it sounded like pantomime, I pictured a clown with black and white paint on his face as he tip-toed around, splaying his fingers and grinning with blood red lips.

I’d also heard a lot of talk lately about The Rapture and End Times. We were living in “the last days,” they said, and it was just a matter of time before the events in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, would begin to unfold: one by one and in sequence. Once it started you could even write the prophecies down in a list form and check them off as they happened. Some of the prophecies had already “been fulfilled.” There was a verse about a fig tree blossoming and withering and that verse meant Israel would someday become a nation. Well guess what, that had already come true in 1948. (I had the date memorized simply from hearing it spoken about many times.) Other events were still to come, like the Rise of the Antichrist and the Beast.

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She Hadn’t Expected This

An excerpt from the novel, “A White Rose,” by Bekah Ferguson.

Dakota Reilly hadn’t really noticed Ryan Hill when he first started showing up for her father’s poker games, but one night she’d bumped into him in the kitchen when she went to grab a soda.

Most of her dad’s friends were older, middle age, but this guy was much younger; like one of those hotties from Beverly Hills, 90210. She’d seen him from a distance before; he lived down the road in an old farmhouse.

Having thus seen him up close for the first time, she was star-eyed. From then on, she made a point of going to the kitchen for a glass of water or soda whenever she saw him head in that direction. She also stopped wearing shorts to bed with her over-sized T-shirt. She didn’t really know what she was doing, but she’d seen this in movies before and understood that long bare legs were sexy.

After one month of obsessing over him, daydreaming about him constantly and writing his name on every page of her diary, he asked her how old she was. For a moment she panicked, fearing he would think her a stupid kid, and blurted out that she was seventeen. His pleased grin indicated that he actually believed her and she almost giggled with excitement when he nicked her chin with his knuckle and gave her a wink.

The first time he kissed her took her breath away—she’d never been kissed before. It happened two weeks later in front of the kitchen fridge. The poker game had been going on for a couple hours already in the living room and they were well out of view of anyone who might happen to glance toward the closed-off kitchen. With one deft movement, Ryan pulled her against him and kissed her lips—hard and fast.

Before she could say a word or open her eyes, he slipped something cold and metal into her hands.

A key.

“Come see me tonight, baby,” he whispered, brushing his lips against her earlobe. “You know where I live.” He pulled away and moved to leave the kitchen, a sly grin on his face. “Three a.m., sweets. . . . Don’t disappoint me.” He left the room with a wink that turned her knees to jelly.

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I Was a Stranger

A blindsided young man can suddenly see the Other.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

He knelt down next to the fireplace, stoking the coals and adding another piece of wood to the pile. A Christmas tree twinkled beside a wingback chair, and in the adjoining room, pillar candles burned atop the dining table. Two plates were set with a cloth napkin, Christmas cracker, and crystal glasses. The trimmings sat ready on the stovetop, the turkey nearly done.

But she wasn’t going to be there—she was never going to be there again.

“I wanted to tell you this in person,” she explained over voicemail, “but I just can’t bear to look into your eyes when I say it.”

He’d missed her call earlier while out walking the dog. There was a pause in the recording here and goosebumps rose on his skin as though the blizzard outside was still swirling around him.

“The thing is, Emerson,” she went on, “I can’t marry you. I wish I didn’t have to hurt you like this but I canceled my flight this morning and I’m not going to be moving to your province. I’ve unpacked all my bags.”

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