Previously on the Carding Chronicles:
Like so many communities, there are tribal lines appearing in Carding.
Locals are pointedly avoiding one another based on who posted what political sign on their front lawn before the election. Andy Cooper’s lost some longtime customers. So has the Crow Town Bakery.
The Carding Quilt Guild and the Crow Town Theater Troupe have splintered.
No one is more distressed about this than the Reverend Gordon Lloyd of St. John’s Episcopal Church. You see, there’s this one member…
By the way, this story is dedicated to Sue B. because she needs to hear it.
“May I say something?” the mousy woman standing next to G.G. Dieppe asked in the heavy silence that filled the the Episcopal church’s sanctuary.
“I’m afraid I don’t have the memory for faces that I once had,” Reverend Lloyd said. “May I ask your name?”
Now it was Edie Wolfe’s turn to hiss out loud. “You’re the invisible school board member.”
The mousy woman’s mouth turned up, her lips parting slightly in the effort. Maybe it was a trick of the light but the priest thought her canine teeth were more pointed than normal.
“That was a rude thing to say but I forgive you because I’m a Christian.” Then Pat’s smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. “I’ve been traveling with my husband and we were delayed.”
“Hmph. For six months?”
Gordon hurried into the breech as the three women took a group breath to carry their argument to the next step. “Please. You are in a sanctuary dedicated to the work of God. This is not a place for harsh words. It is a place of peace, of tolerance.”
“Tolerance? Is that why you invited that…that…Jewish person here to speak during our Sunday morning service, to show how tolerant we are?” G.G. asked.
“But I thought Jesus was Jewish,” Edie said quietly.
G.G. opened her mouth once again but Pat laid a hand on her arm to silence her.”Perhaps it would be best if we continued our conversation elsewhere, G.G. How would you like to join my husband and I for tea at the country club?”
“Oh my, yes. I would like that.” G.G. touched her brassy-colored hair, and Edie caught herself wondering if it was a wig. It had a starched quality to it that could come only from massive amounts of hair product or synthetic fibers.
Edie waited until the two women walked to the front door of the church to let themselves out before she spoke. “Did you really get Leo Fradkin to come to Sunday services? I’m sorry I missed that.”
The priest nodded. “He’s worried about the rise of anti-semitism under the current regime, and I thought it was important for my parishioners to hear that. We can be so isolated, all of us in our own safe harbors.” He raised a hand to stop Edie’s next words. “And yes, I do remember that that is one of your many objections to organized religion.”
He shook his head slowly from side to side. “I don’t know about this, Edie. I’ve never seen so many people so upset in my life. I can’t go to the doctor’s office or grocery shopping or even read my church newsletter without some political reference. And it’s growing.”
He nodded his head in the direction of the church’s door. “And G.G., well, she doesn’t seem to understand how much her words offend people. Something about this election really set her off in ways that surprised me.” Gordon’s shoulders sagged as if pressed by a great weight. “She’s started a whispering campaign against me.”
“Who? G.G.? Why?”
“Partly because I asked Leo to speak,” Gordon said. “I also invited Jamal Lambert to talk about growing up Muslim. He’s not practicing Islam now but his perspective is interesting, and I wanted people to hear it. But when I asked him, he declined because he’s afraid he’d draw negative attention to his children. Here, in Carding, Vermont.”
The priest looked up at the ceiling, his eyes blinking rapidly. “I’ve advised married couples going through difficult times, and listened to the dying reveal their innermost secrets, and helped reconcile family members to one another. And I think I’m pretty good at that. But this…” he raised his hands then let them fall to his side. “G.G. wants me replaced.”
“Because you’re tolerant? Can she do that?” Edie asked.
“Maybe. And to tell you the truth, I don’t know if I care enough to fight her because I’m that discouraged.” Gordon sighed. “But that’s not why you came here, is it? How can I help you?”
“I came partly to give you this.” Edie pulled a knitted pink hat out of her pocket, and handed it to her friend. “You, Gordon Lloyd, are going to follow your good heart just like you’ve always done. You’re going to join with other people who believe as you do. You’re going to work to keep the rights we have, and expand the ones that need expanding. You’re going to protect the folks who cannot fight for themselves. You know as well as I do that you’re going to do that.”
“Yeah, I know.” The two friends smiled at one another. “So tell me, what’s the other reason why did you came here?”
“I came bearing an invitation. I wanted to know if you’d like to be a member of the Shades of Emerald Quilt Guild,” Edie said.
“But I don’t sew.”
“Hmmm, that may be true. But there are all sorts of ways to stitch things—and people—together. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Gordon smiled as he pulled the hat over his balding pate. “I would be delighted. When do you meet?”
“I was hoping tomorrow night, here in the church,” Edie said. “When we had our first meeting two weeks ago, we had eleven members and we all fit in my living room. But Shades of Emerald is growing fast because it appears there are all sorts of quilters.”
Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning.
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The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):