As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

I am so pleased that a poem and a short story I submitted to Red Cedar Review have been published in their most recent magazine!  As promised, here they are.

LUST AT THE LAUNDROMAT

by Cathy Conger  copyright 2012

Our clothes roll around in moist heat,
yours bumping against mine
in a thousand quick kisses,
then drawing apart for a gasp of air.

Wrapped as skin-tight as lovers aroused,
they cling for one moment of ecstasy
in a world spinning out of control
until a crackle of static dooms them
to another thousand farewells.

As shirts tumble around unbuttoning,
their sleeves meet and embrace B
and it doesn’t simply end there.

Silk stockings, like tendrils, entwine your long johns.
My lacy things throw themselves at your blue jeans.
Lost in passion they toss, tumble, and tango.
Not a cool breath passes between them
in this heated affair.

But then, that’s how I feel,
like anything is possible
when all our zippers are undone.

Rags

by Cathy Conger   copyright 2012

When school starts this fall, Rags’ house will be gone.  That’s what it says in the Daily Tribune.  Of course, few people will notice.  As it is you can barely make out his saggy, old house behind all those thick pines and tangled weeds.  Funny, too, because it sits right in the center of town and not twenty five feet from the front doors of the junior high school.  Hundreds of students walk by Rags’ place every day and lots of parents park in that block after school to pick up their kids.  I’1l bet nobody knows Rags is in there.
That’s not to say that no one has ever seen old Rags.  I expect that if you asked around town, most folks would tell you they’d seen him lots of times.  But it would be hard to find more than a couple who’d actually ever talked to him.  Rags is forever coming or going on this old, blue Schwinn bike with balloon tires and a rusty basket.  He’s real bony- looking and always wears raggedy, basketball sneakers, an old, brown cardigan sweater and Bermuda shorts.  What makes most people stare is his hair and that beard.  Did you ever see those cartoons of a man who’d been locked in chains in a dungeon, forgotten for years until his beard was grown to his toes and his bones stuck out through his skin?  Well, that’s just what Rags looks like.  He wears an old  knit cap now and then, but his long white hair and beard still flow in the wind as he pedals along.
I see him at the public library now and again myself.  He seems to like mysteries a whole lot, judging by the number of detective books he checks out.  One time he balanced so many books in his bicycle basket that I followed him for six blocks just to see how he did it.  It was amazing.  Not a single wobble.  I was so impressed by it that I mentioned it that night at supper.  Daddy scolded me for treating the man like a freak.  He said his name was not really Rags and that I should know better.
Naturally, I know nobody would actually be named Rags.  My best friend, Mike, and I made it up after we studied To Kill a Mockingbird in school.  In the book there was this strange character named Boo Radley who lived in a spooky house and never talked to people, just like our Rags.  We thought he ought to have a peculiar name too, so we came up with Rags.  Even Mama says he’s a curiosity.
My daddy is a doctor in the emergency room of our hospital and he has seen Rags there from time to time I guess.  But it wasn’t until the terrible cold snap last January that anybody paid him any mind.  The thermometer hadn’t risen above -30̊ for ten days in a row.  Schools were closed and cars that wouldn’t start were abandoned in odd places all over town.  A person could honestly get frostbite just going out to the mailbox.  I mean serious cold!  Well, it seems that Rags’ neighbor, Ralph Polk, became concerned, which he admitted only happened once in a great while.  But seeing no sign of life next door, and this being such dangerous cold weather, he bundled up to go check on Rags.  He trudged up the unshoveled walk to Rags’ rickety porch and banged on the broken screen door.  No answer.  He hollered and banged some more.  Still nothing.  Seeing as how it was too blasted cold for proper manners, he decided to go on inside anyway.
The door opened fairly easily, considering the ice around the jamb, but stopped halfway, butting up against something.  Mr. Polk eased himself through sideways and adjusted his eyes to the dim light.  “Unbelievable” was what he told my daddy it was.  “Unbelievable!”  There were stacks of newspapers and magazines floor to ceiling in every square foot of the first floor.

A narrow path had been left clear to get to the kitchen.  Mr. Polk told my daddy it smelled like something had died in there and he was steeling himself to come across Rags’ corpse any minute.
When Mr. Polk kicked aside all the empty soup and tuna fish cans in the kitchen doorway, there was Rags.  He appeared to be half dead, stretched out on the kitchen table- obviously the only open space in the house to lay down.  One leg was wrapped in an old dishtowel.  A burned down candle and a half- eaten can of baked beans sat next to his hand on the table.  He was sort of bluish, but still breathing.  There was no heat and no electricity.  Mr. Polk said it must have been that way for years and Rags had apparently made out OK until this severe cold snap.  Mr. Polk couldn’t rouse him, but he unwrapped the towel from Rags’ leg.  “Nearly lost my breakfast, Doc” he told my daddy. “The leg was totally black and rotted.” There should have been plenty of bugs and creatures around because of the filth, but there weren’t.  Mr. Polk said it was probably too cold.
That’s where my daddy comes into the picture.  Mr. Polk dashed home and called the ambulance.  They say it took two extra policemen to move enough magazines to clear a path wide enough for the stretcher.  My daddy was on duty in the emergency room when Rags arrived and he said it didn’t look good.  Rags’ temperature was nearly at the bottom of the thermometer!  But they warmed him up and bathed him properly and cleaned out the rotten leg.  Daddy saved Rags and even most of his leg.  Nobody seemed to know if he had friends or family and Mr. Polk sort of felt he’d done all he was up to doing, so Daddy called the social worker.  After a time in the hospital, Rags was taken to an old folks home and seemed happy enough to go I guess.  We wanted to go see the inside of that house but Mama said “disgusting” and forbid it.
When the cold wave passed and we went back to school, we saw yellow police tape all around Rags’ property.  By summer there was a “condemned” sign out front.  Not too long ago, I asked my daddy what causes a man to stop living in the world.  He said he didn’t know but that hard times make even the nicest of folks do strange things and that we should be glad that Mr. Wheeler has a nice place to stay and people to care for him now.
Here in the paper is something interesting, though.  Next to the “Notice of Demolition” is a picture of Rags taken a long time ago.  The caption says his name is Francis Garrison Wheeler and he was an actuary for fifty years, whatever that is.  I keep staring at that picture trying to add a beard and wild hair to it to make it look like Rags, but I can’t do it.  The Francis Garrison Wheeler in this picture has a college professor look about him and I wonder. When did Francis become Rags?
Anyway, they’re going to tear down old Rags’ house.  It’s a shame really.  Maybe we could’ve gone in and cleaned it up nice and Rags - I mean Mr. Wheeler - could’ve moved back in.  That corner will never be the same, which is OK I guess, because all the mystery has gone out of it anyway.

AFTER THE ICE STORM

Treetops tinkling in the wind
like Waterford chandeliers,
snowdrifts sparkling like
sugar-dusted frosting,
the wintry world, dressed in glass,
appears through the hole I melt
in the frosted windowpane
this dazzling, sunny morning
after the ice storm.

WALTZING WITH SNOWFLAKES

Snowflakes fall like pearls on white velvet
as she makes her way through fresh powder
to the skating pond by the grove of tall pines.
The pure air passing her lips
tastes as if it has never been breathed before.

Alone in the early morning,
she laces her skates and pushes off,
gliding through silence so immense
she can hear the earth’s heartbeat.
Secluded in her private ballroom,
she twirls and spins in an imaginary gown,
waltzing with snowflakes.

JANUARY THAW

He stops by late while I’m taking out the trash.

Asks me to go for a walk.

My face has “It’s midnight!” written all over it,

but he offers to help drag the trash to the curb.

No earmuffs, no mittens, no scarf.
The wind is still, the ice in puddles, the air practically balmy.
A January Thaw,” he announces
like he was National Geographic.
“The eye of winter’s hurricane
and the hibernating public everywhere is missing it!”

Except for me.

I’m standing on the wet curb,  next to my garbage,
in my blue, flannel jammies, a wool pea coat and leather boots.

He takes my hands and says,
in the best I-kid-you-not Bogey imitation ever,
Good night for a stroll. What do you say, doll?”

Suddenly it’s a 1940s movie.
The sound of our steps on the wet street
echoes through the damp January night,
the only sound save the dripping of icicles
and a dog’s muffled bark down by the river.
We get drunk just breathing the air,
pulling its moist elixir
through our winter-shriveled lungs,
letting it wash over us
like a summer’s dash through a sprinkler.

A debonair Moon wears a white silk scarf
tossed about his neck.
Sexy starlets gathered around him,
through his nightclub’s milky haze,
he winks as if to say,
“Here’s to you, kid.”

.

The following poem was published in the fall Wisconsin Fellowship of Poet’s Museletter.  The challenge was to write a poem in a different voice than your own.  I chose the voice of a Yankee mother during the Civil War.

Yankee Mother’s Petition

Take a hard look, my son,

at the glories of war,

starvation, the maimed,

the maggots, the gore,

the smoldering ruins,

the spy and the whore.

******************************

Look into my eyes,

Tell me, what was it for?

To fight for the Union?

Was that what they swore

as brother felled brother

and watched the blood pour?

*********************************

Ask the widows who mourn

for what was before.

Ask the mothers who wail

and storm heaven’s door,

pleading, “Lord, may these dresses of black

be no more!”

**********************************

Son, be you tempted

to even the score,

to rub salt in a wound,

to march off with the corps,

stop and feel the earth shake,

hear the cursed cannons roar

then, by God, boy, for my sake,

don’t walk out that door.

by Cathy Conger

copyright August 2011

I am very excited to announce that I have had a poem published in the September/October issue of The Writer’s Journal!  Since most of you won’t have access to this journal, here is the poem:

Grasping for Words

I’ve crawled
out to the edge of an idea,
as an inchworm crawls out on a leaf,
clinging to the very tip,
revolving in the air,
feeling for something to latch on to.
So I am grasping about for words,
groping for that elusive phrase
to open my magnum opus.

FRED

    It started innocently enough. Six orphaned baby bunnies from a nest turned up by the lawn mower, five excited children wanting to rescue them, one heroic father who carried them in, and one harried mother who should have seen it coming.  Now we were scooping tiny balls of fur out of their shoe box incubator one at a time for pipette feeding.
    “Mom, why don’t they open their eyes?” Andrea asked.
    ”They’re too young,” I replied.
    “Won’t their mommy come looking for them?” asked Rachel.
    ”Once people handle them, the mother usually abandons them.”
    ”Dad, what are they eating?” Peter asked.
    “Baby formula,” my husband, Chuck, answered. “So far I can’t seem to get them to take it.” His brow was as wrinkled with concern as his children’s.
    “They’re wild bunnies,” I said. “At least they were before Daddy brought them inside. They’re supposed to drink milk from their mommy. And, if you think I’m going to get up and feed these rabbits every two hours after finally getting to sleep through the night for the first time in nine years, you’re all sadly mistaken.”
    “Mommy, don’t you like baby bunnies?” Rachel turned her doe eyes on me.
    “Daddy, don’t let the bunnies die!” Andrea wailed.
    How had I become the villain here?

    “I’ll feed them,” Michael said. “I could take them to school for Show and Tell. I’ll call this one Flopsy and this one Cottontail and this one…”   We hadn’t had these things six hours and they had names already! I looked at Chuck and mouthed, “Do something!” 
    “Now let’s not get our hopes up,” he said. “These bunnies are so tiny they may not make it to Show and Tell.”
    “But, Dad!” Michael looked stricken.
    “Tell you what. Let’s see how tonight goes. As soon as a bunny hops, you can give it a name. OK?”
    “Daddy, I think this bunny is a girl,” Andrea said, gently stroking one of them.
    “How do you tell, Dad?” Peter asked.
    “I have no clue. Ask your mother. She’s a nurse.”   Oh, good grief! 
   

    Two bunnies expired that first night. Dawn crept through the kitchen window as I sat cradling a tiny brown bunny in my hand. “Come on #3, swallow. You’re going to die if you don’t eat. Then, what will I tell the kids?” One stubby ear twitched as milk ran down its chin and puddled on the table. I felt my husband’s gentle hands on my shoulders.
    “Good morning,” he whispered. “For someone who was so determined not to get up for feedings, you sure look maternal.”
    “All right, so I thought I could take a shift or two. Anyway, as long as we’re in this, we might as well give it our best shot. Besides, these little guys are kind of cute.”
    Chuck sighed. “If they were just a little older, they’d have half a chance at survival.” 
    ” I wouldn’t worry,” I groaned. “With our luck, we’ll nurse them back to health and they’ll hop right out and polish off the garden.”

    The next day, between housework, chasing a toddler, and pipette feeding my fuzzy brood every two hours, I squeezed in a phone call to my friend, Sue, 
    “They’re eyes aren’t even open yet. Every two hours I pick one up and rub him. When ihe wiggles a bit, I draw up formula into the pipette and carefully wedge it into his mouth. I’ve discovered that pulling their ears gets them to swallow. Two of them are taking enough to get by, but I’m afraid the others aren’t going to make it.”
     Sue commiserated with me,  “My dear, you’re going to need a miracle to save those bunnies. Got to go. Keep me posted.”
    “You have no idea,” I thought. ” Without a miracle, I’m going to end up being responsible for five dysfunctional childhoods.”

    That night, two more bunnies died on Chuck’s watch. He took it rather hard, I’m afraid. I felt obligated to attend the back yard services he conducted, despite another day’s dirty dishes piled up in the sink. This was family drama at its best. The following night, after his fifth glass of water, I let Michael stay up and help feed the two remaining bunnies. “Mom, if this bunny lives, can I name him Fred?”
    “I guess so. Why Fred?”
    “There’s this kid at school named Fred. He told me he was born too early and the doctors said he wouldn’t be able to learn or anything, but he turned out just fine.”
    “Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “Please let Fred hop.”

    The next morning Bunny #5 expired. Chuck called all afternoon to check on our last bunny. Fortunately, the week passed and #6 finally opened his eyes! Friends and neighbors came to call on him and to offer their educated opinions about whether he was a Fred or a Fredricka. We bought another can of formula and a larger pipette. I shot a whole roll of film of the kids giving him hopping lessons. Number #6 sat shaking on the sun-warmed patio while each child prodded him. “Hop, Fred! Hop!” Afterwards, poor, exhausted Fred rode around in my apron pocket to recover. We added a heating pad to his shoe box, Andrea placed her stuffed bunny beside him, calling it Baby Sister, and Chuck experimented with giving him a piece of lettuce.
Then, on the morning of day twelve, it happened. Fred hopped! Out came the video camera to record the momentous occasion. After  #6 was officially christened Fred, Chuck said, “Kids, your mother has been a great sport about all this. Fred is alive because of her TLC. What do you say we thank her?” The kids all flung their arms around my neck. Basking in their adoration, I suggested,
    “Why don’t you put Fred into his shoe box and take him shopping?”

   ”Shopping for what?”
    “A rabbit cage. If we’re going to keep a rabbit, we’d better have a proper cage.”
The happy band set off for Ace hardware while I caught up on the dirty dishes.

    As the clock chimed four the next morning, I flipped on the light over the kitchen sink and stuck the Pyrex bowl of formula into the microwave once again. Fred yawned as I drew him out of hjs shiny, new cage. “Okay, Fred. Make it snappy so we can both get back to bed before the sun rises.”  I held Fred in my left palm and the pipette in my right hand as I drew up the milk. “Open wide.”  Then, just as I was sliding the pipette between his lips, Fred suddenly hopped! He flew out of my hand onto the table and lay motionless, the broken pipette sticking out of his mouth. My breath came in strangled gasps. I had killed my children’s rabbit! After all my valiant effort, after realizing that I loved Fred despite everything he’d put me through, he was gone.

    When daylight broke, Chuck came downstairs to find me weeping over Fred’s limp little body. “What happened?” he asked. I pointed to the broken pipette.
    “It was an accident,” I sobbed. “He hopped just as I … and I…”

    There is no guilt like the guilt a parent feels who has accidently murdered the family pet. I remembered the previous summer when Sue had run over their dog, Buster, with the station wagon. Out of guilt, she went out and got Sparky, the most destructive Dalmatian who ever lived. When I told her about Fred, she warned me not to make any unreasonable promises in a state of grief.  But she didn’t see my family’s faces.  As I looked at those heart-wrenching expressions, I heard myself say,

“I know! We have this nice cage. Let’s get a hamster.”

by Cathy Conger   copyright June 2011

*This story won an honorable mention in the 2011 Florence Lindeman Humor Contest of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association.

WAITING FOR THE TRUMPET TO SOUND

I’m desperately trying to safeguard my own
from poisons they pick up mere blocks from home,
poisons that drip into eyes and ears,
injected or snorted or swallowed or smeared
on the backs of their brains,
on the soles of their shoes,
in an assortment from which to choose,
while corruption’s refining the state of its art,
gathering social excuses in its rusty cart.

We cannot rely
on some leader to stop it,
new technology to fix it,
think tanks to explain it,
going green to reverse it,
nor celebrity causes to heal the nations,
nor prosperity preachers on TV stations,
while poverty clings to the state of its art,
like a bag lady cleaves to her shopping cart.

Lord, the media, the sirens,
the gunfire like thunder
pulse louder and louder
until it’s no wonder
we can’t hear your voice, Lord,
so could You speak up
‘cause right now it seems
like You are whispering,

while evil and sin are refining their art,
gathering millions of souls in their barbed-wire cart.
Not a war between men but a war for the heart,
until the day comes, foretold from the start,
when the trumpet will sound
and the heavens will part,
and then
You’ll stop whispering.

Cathy Conger   Copyright June 2011

This play is being produced at Christian Life fellowship church on Good Friday 2011.  I wanted to share it with you who won’t be there that day to see it.  In transferring it to the blog, I made some spacial mistakes so please excuse the big spaces and some of the misplaced drama script indentations.  Cathy

WAS HE THE SON OF GOD?

 

The Story of Simon of Cyrene

a

PLAY IN ONE ACT

by

Cathy Conger

 

Copyright 2011 

 

CHARACTERS:

1)      Rufus- 16 year old son of Simon of Cyrene, a Hebrew who has made the pilgrimage to           Jerusalem from North Africa for the Passover 

2)      Alexander- Rufus’s 13 year old brother

3)      Ruth – 16 year old Hebrew slave of the household that is camped next to Simon and his sons

4)      Simon of Cyrene – Hebrew resident of Cyrene in North Africa.  He is a 36 year old widower, very strong and muscular.  He has brought his two sons on this pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.  They have been camped outside the city gates among other pilgrims who have come from afar.  They have been in Jerusalem for a week. 

PROPS:  1) an artificial fire that can be switched or plugged in  2) a canvas drop cloth that looks like a downed tent and some poles that look like tent poles  3) a pottery cup  4) a pack. 

COSTUMES: The characters are dressed in the common Bedouin clothing of the times. 

SETTING:  Late at night the day Christ was crucified.  Two teenage boys huddle by an unlit camp fire, alone amongst a caravan camp just outside the city gates of Jerusalem during Passover,  33 AD.  There is a collapsed tent and poles behind the boys.

 

                  ********************************************************** 

AT RISE: Complete darkness.  In the darkness of night, Rufus and Alexander are huddled by a small fire pit.  Behind them is a pile of canvas and some poles on the ground.  The night is still.

Lights come up just enough to see the two characters center stage. 

Alexander

Rufus, I’m scared. What are we going to do? Father should have been back by now. What if the Romans still have him?

Rufus

(puts his arm around Alex’s shoulder, speaking as though he’s trying to convince himself too) 

Calm down, Alex.  He didn’t do anything wrong. He just did what they said – he carried the poor man’s cross. He said he’d meet us back at camp and that’s just what he’ll do. He will. 

Alex

O.K., but it’s getting awfully late.  Can’t we build a fire, Ruf?  I’m getting cold. 

Rufus

I guess so.  I think the flint is in Father’s pack – which is probably inside the dumb tent.

(He stands up to look inside the tent)

Pg 2

Rufus (cont)

I can’t figure out how this tent collapsed.  Humpf.  Someone’s idea of a bad joke, I suppose. 

Alex

Here it is. It wasn’t in the tent.  I was sitting on it.  When Father gets back we can pitch the tent again and get warm. 

(They light the fire. Light on them changes to red. There is a noise.) 

Rufus

(jumps, startled) 

Who’s there? 

Ruth

(enters from the darkness) 

It’s me, Ruth.   You sure are jumpy. 

Alex

You’d be jumpy too if you’d seen what we saw this afternoon. 

Rufus

What are you doing here?  Shouldn’t you be at your master’s camp? 

 

(Ruth sits down by the fire.) 

Ruth

Nobody’s there. After they ate the evening meal, they went somewhere to do business. I stoked the fire and laid out their beds. Then I saw your fire.  Where’s your father?  I heard there was a riot in the city over some rabbi getting crucified.  You were in town all day.  Did you see anything? 

Alex

You remember this morning when we left camp with Father? We were going to the Temple to give our offering.  

Ruth

Right. To celebrate the Passover. (Boys looked surprised.) Hey, even a slave girl knows about Jewish festivals.  After all, I am a Hebrew, you know.

Rufus

OK. OK.  Well, when we got there, there was all sorts of commotion. A mob was gathered in the Temple courtyard and they were crazy! They kept yelling “Crucify him, Crucify him”.

Pg 3

Ruth

Crucify who?

Alex

We’re trying to tell you!  That rabbi we told you about, Jesus of Nazareth.  The one they say is the Messiah. 

Ruth

The one who was going to free us from the Romans.  That’s what my master and his friends say.

But that man preaches peace. Why would the Romans care about him? 

Rufus

It was the chief priests that wanted to get rid of him. Father said the first time he heard Jesus teach, the words were revolutionary.  He was bound to make the Jewish leaders angry calling himself the son of God! 

Ruth

But why?  Your father said Jesus preached peace.  And he healed people!  They’re going to crucify him for that?  I don’t understand. 

Alex

They’re angry because he said he was God.  That’s blasphemy. 

Ruth

But you said earlier this week that the people loved him.  You said they had a big parade and called him their king. 

Rufus

You should have seen those same people today.  It was just like that parade never happened.  They were vicious.  I don’t understand it either. We’ve been following Jesus all week with Father.  We’ve listened to Jesus teach.  He was – I don’t know – gentle somehow. But at the same time, he seemed powerful, his words anyway.  Father told us that he believes Jesus really is from God. A lot of other people thought so too. 

Alex

And where were they when Jesus was put on trial today?  Father said they just let Jesus be thrown to the wolves. 

Ruth

I guess they didn’t believe him after all. 

Rufus

Not only didn’t they believe him, but Father said they set him up. They brought in people to lie about him. And then they talked the Romans into killing him. The Procurator – um, Pilate I think his name was- even he thought Jesus wasn’t hurting anybody.  But the mob ruled.

Pg 4

Alex

It was horrible!  One minute we were standing in the crowd and the next we were being pushed along behind the Roman soldiers. Father held onto us tight or we might have been trampled! 

Ruth

Where was the crowd going?  You mean you were following Jesus and the guards? 

Rufus

To that big hill where the Romans crucify people. Father said it’s called “The Skull”. 

Alex

All of a sudden this soldier pushed me aside and I saw him!  I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.  I almost threw up!  And they were making him carry the heavy cross beam. I knew he’d never make it.  He could barely stand up! 

Rufus

(looks as if he will be sick)

Ruth, they’d whipped him so badly that the skin on his back was hanging in pieces.  They’d beaten him so much … (his voice breaks)  He was so swollen, he didn’t look like a man anymore. 

(Ruth puts her hands over her face and cringes) 

Alex

On top of that, they made this ring of sharp thorns from those bushes, you know, the ones along the desert road? They pushed it down so hard into his head that there was blood running down his face. He couldn’t open his eyes.  Blood was dripping from his hair! 

Rufus

All right,Alex!  Enough. 

Ruth

How could anyone stand it?  Why didn’t you run away? 

Rufus

Because Father said “He has not one friend here. Someone has to stand by him.  If he looks up, I want him to know I am his friend.”  I suppose Father thought he could help, but there was nothing anyone could do. 

Alex

It was the first time I’ve ever seen Father cry. He was sobbing. He kept saying, “Oh God, why?  Why are you letting them torture your son?” 

Pg 5

Ruth

                                                           So of course you had to stay.

 

Rufus

Then, when I thought I couldn’t stand any more, Jesus collapsed. The beam fell on his back. I thought he was dead.

                                                                                Alex

But this woman ran over to him and poured water over his head and in his mouth. She kissed him and he put his hand on her face.  I don’t know.  It might have been his mother. 

Rufus

That’s when two Roman soldiers grabbed Father. “You!  Carry his cross!”, they shouted. 

Ruth

What?!  Your father?  He is one of the strongest- built men I ever saw, but, oh my gosh!  Your father! 

Rufus

My heart went to my throat.  Father looked back at us and it was so strange. He didn’t look scared at all. He said, “Boys, I’m going to carry my Lord’s cross. Listen to me. I want you to go right back to camp and wait for me there. Everything is going to be all right.” 

Alex

Then Father picked up that beam.  He lifted it up across his big shoulders and kept walking. The soldiers picked up Jesus. They had to practically carry him the rest of the way. 

Ruth

The rest of the way?  You mean you followed them?  Your father told you to come back here. 

Alex (teary)

I know, but we couldn’t just leave him. We stayed, moving along with the crowd as long as we could until we got shoved off into an alley.  We don’t know what happened to Father!  We’ve just been sitting here in the dark waiting. 

Rufus

This city is full of nooks and crannies.  We got lost.  We must have wandered around for hours until we finally recognized the right gate.  We barely made it out before they closed the gates at sundown.

Ruth

But that was hours ago. Where is your father now? 

Rufus

That’s just it.  We have no way of knowing if he is OK or if he’s in prison or…why didn’t I stay? 

Pg 6

Alex

Rufus?  Do you think we could pitch the tent now?  Maybe Father is on his way and then he’d have a warm bed to climb into when he gets here.  What do you think?  Ruf? 

Ruth

(Rufus just sits staring. She stands up and motions to Alex)

 

Come on Alex.  I’ll help you with the tent.

                                                                              Alex

(stands and goes over to help Ruth spread the tent out) 

Hey, Ruth.  You were here all afternoon.  How did our tent get knocked down?  

Ruth

Did it get real dark where you were – I don’t know- maybe about three o’clock? 

Alex

Yeah!  It gave me the willies.  Like a giant rainstorm, only it didn’t rain.  It did something worse. 

Ruth

Did the ground start to shake all of a sudden? 

Alex

I’ll say!  We were in this narrow street and I thought the buildings were going to fall on us.  Right,  Ruf? (speaks in Rufus’ direction but with no response)  I’ve never run so fast in my life! 

Ruth

It was an earthquake then, for sure.  The camels and donkeys started braying and acting wild. Then the ground shook all around camp. I was petrified! It knocked me flat on my face in the sand. Next thing I knew, it was over.  Quiet.  But everywhere I looked the tents were on the ground. 

Rufus

(solemnly with a flat affect)

It’s when Jesus died.  God made the earth shake and he hid the sun because his son was dead. 

Alex

Oh, Rufus, what if the Romans crucified Father too? 

Rufus

They didn’t.  I just know they didn’t.  I have this feeling in my gut that God didn’t let that happen. 

Pg 7

 

(Simon enters looking muddy, sweaty, and exhausted with streaks down his face from tears) 

Alex and Rufus

It’s Father! Oh, Father! (The boys run into Simon’s arms) 

Rufus

See, I told you he was all right.  Father, you are all right, aren’t you? 

Alex

Father, where were you? What happened? 

(Simon looks dazed and sits down by the fire) 

Simon

Bring me some drink, will you son?  I’m so thirsty. 

(Ruth hands Alex a pottery cup and he gives it to Simon who drinks long) 

Simon

(Tearfully) 

Oh, my dear sons.  Our Messiah is dead. They crucified him.  He died right before my eyes. 

Rufus

But Father, you said he was the Messiah. Was it a lie? Was Jesus of Nazareth the son of God? 

Simon

(Speaks as if he still can’t believe what happened- sort of in shock)

 

You know, when they were ready to cut him down from the cross, the sky turned black … angry.  I have never felt so lost in my whole life. Not even when your mother died. I can’t explain it.

(pauses, takes a breath, and looks into the fire)

And there was a Roman soldier - just standing there, looking up at the dead body hanging on the cross.  Do you know what he said?  He said, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”  Isn’t that something?  And then they cut him down… 

(he wipes his eyes and looks back at Rufus, Alex and Ruth) 

And then the earth began to shake!  It shook so hard that we were all thrown down , sprawling on the ground, crying for our lives!  When it stopped, I found myself laying right beside his mother. (continued) 

Pg 8

Simon (continued) 

She was sitting there, holding the Lord in her arms.  She looked right into my eyes.  Tears streamed down both of our faces.  And she said something to me so powerful, I’ll never forget it as long as I live. She said, “You carried his cross. Thank you. We musn’t be without hope, you know.  This is not the end. It is just the beginning. I know now that I bore him for this purpose. His death will save all mankind. He will rise again from the grave.  That’s what he said and you and I and all who believe will surely see it.”  

BLACKOUT  (bring up appropriate music) 

 

Note to Director:

The message and solemn power of Good Friday is in the question, “Was he the son of God?”

Who knows how any of us would have reacted had we been there that day with Simon of Cyrene?  The tension created between wanting to believe the words Jesus spoke before he was crucified and  accepting the reality of his death on that cross,  tore the early believers apart - especially in the hours between his death and Easter morning.  They were frightened, disillusioned and grief-stricken. 

I chose to place the message of “confusion” in the voice of Simon of Cyrene.  The message of grief mixed with hope I gave to Mary, the woman who had been given a promise many years before that she was to bear God’s son, the Messiah, but who now held his breathless body in her arms.  To communicate this message, it is vital that the actor who plays Simon have the ability to speak powerfully, causing the audience to “hold its breath” through his final speech.  Cathy Conger

                                                  

APRIL FOOLS 

This pensive afternoon

as March is melting into April,

it seems that spring has lost its way

and winter, in exasperation,

has crawled to a standstill,

impatiently sputtering.

 

We talk over tea

of waiting forever for boobs to grow,

of slogging through the interminable teens,

of punching the clock for our posterity,

dropping months here and there,

until suddenly

we run out of forever.

Cathy Conger

copyright 2011

 

 

From the Saucer

 

I haven=t made a fortune.

It=s probably too late now.

And yet it doesn=t matter.

I=m wealthy anyhow.

I have family who loves me

and friendships by the score.

I=m drinking from the saucer

for my cup can hold no more.

 

When troubles have besieged me

and my faith has lost its voice,

I=ve learned pain in life=s expected

but misery=s a choice.

In the good times and the trials,

I=ve reaped more than I have sowed.

I=m drinking from the saucer

for my cup has overflowed.

 

I praise the Lord who=s given me

His strength when I had none.

And may I bear my neighbor=s load

in turn when he=s undone.

Then we=ll thank our God together

for the blessings He=s bestowed

As we=re drinking from the saucer

`cause our cups have overflowed.

 

Copyright February 2011

True Love

True love is neither physical nor romantic.

True love is an acceptance of all that is,

all that has been,

all that will be,

and all that will never be.

True love is how you stay alive

even after you’re gone.

by Cathy Conger 

copyright 2011