13 Jan

Jimmy wiped the last of the spilled water out of the cabinet base and packed up his tools. He listed the parts he used and his time on the work order, but it was more for his own records than anything else. He never billed Pastor Tom for repairs.

As he left the restroom, the door squeaked. He opened and closed it a few times, listening, and then set his tool box down. With a mallet and screwdriver, he popped out the offending hinge pin, cleaned it, and added a bit of chain lubricant. When he tested the door again, it was silent.

If only his mind could be as easy to silence. Squirt on a little lube, shut it up. Johnny Walker worked, sometimes, but only for a night.

He repacked his toolbox and lifted its heavy weight in his left hand. As he walked the narrow hallway that led to the exit near the sanctuary, the fingertips of his right hand brushed along the wall, an old habit he didn’t resist this time. The horsehair plaster was cool to the touch, uneven and heavily painted. His fingertips bumped over cracks, dipped into craters, the path foreign. He stood a good foot taller now than he had the last time his hand had traveled the wall. His stride stretched longer. He dropped his hand, and continued on without reaching.

In the archway, he paused. The afternoon was bright, but except for where the sunlight played in rainbows through the stained glass, the sanctuary remained shrouded in shadow. The church was old, gothic revival in design. Cherry paneling covered the walls. Ornate chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The pews could hold a hundred people, twice that if they really packed in, and they had on many a Christmas Eve of past. He wondered if they still did.

After a moment of hesitation, he set his toolbox down and stepped inside. The air smelled cleaner than he remembered, free of the perfume of flowers and women, the cigarette smoke clinging to the jackets of men, but it still carried the comfort of lemon oil and sweet sage.

He slid into the pew on the left-hand side, second from the back, and slowly inched his way down to the other end, close to the wall. He placed his hands on the pew in front of him and closed his eyes, sitting without moving, without breathing. He heard nothing, except the screaming of his own mind. About his father. Brayden. What he’d lost.

About Ky.

Always, about Ky.

“It’s still there, you know.”

Startled, Jimmy turned in the direction of the voice, and watched as Pastor Tom settled into the pew behind him.

“What’s still there?” Jimmy asked, though he knew.

“Your name.”

Jimmy slid the hymnal in front of him over in the rack, revealing the first half of his name, carved into the cherry wood long ago. He traced the letters, the lines no longer splintered and fresh. They had been aged by a buildup of wood oil, smoothed by the polishing of other’s hands, his presence a shallow scar time was threatening to erase.

His thumb caressed the letters. “I sat and stared at this every Sunday morning for years. My mom thought it was remorse…” He shook his head. “I just hated that I got caught before I could finish.”

“If I let you carve the rest, will you come back again?”

Jimmy traced the J. The I. The M. The unfinished remainder of who he had once been. “I wish it were that simple.”

“It can be.” Tom set a folded pocketknife on the seat of the pew. “Once you realize you’ve been searching for Someone who has never left your side.”


This short was written for the “Where is it?” prompt on Story Dam. Write a descriptive piece (fiction or non-fiction) in which you or your character has lost something important.


8 Responses to “Lost”

  1. Renee January 14, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Well done.
    When one loses their way, it can be very hard to find the right path again. Even if it’s right in front of you.

    • Donna January 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Renee! 🙂

  2. jesterqueen1 January 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    horsehair plaster
    Oh there’s a memory!!
    I grew up in a house that was built around 1865, then added on to in the 1920s and again in the 1940s. My bedroom walls had horsehair plaster, and you capture that uneven, bumpy, cratered description so well.

    I was a little confused by the contrast between “he never charged Pastor Tom” which suggests he does regular work on the church and “he had been a foot shorter” which suggests that he hasn’t been in that part in a little while.

    But I found his desperate search for peace very plausible, and I liked that the Pastor offers him a path but the story doesn’t just neatly tie up that end. We don’t KNOW if he took it or not. I like that you trust the reader to decide.

    • Donna January 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

      We’ve owned two houses with plaster walls. I have such a love-hate relationship with it. But ripping it out?…..a nightmare! Hope I never have to do that again.
      Thank you for catching my time inconsistencies! I’ll get that fixed asap so it’s not so confusing.
      Thanks for reading. 🙂

  3. Satu January 15, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    I like that most of the backstory is only hinted at, lots of blanks for the reader to fill. Well done!

    • Donna January 15, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      Thank you, Satu! 🙂

  4. Brandi January 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Donna, every week you amaze me even more than the week before. I could read your work all the time.

    • Donna January 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Awwww. Thank you, Brandi! That’s one of the sweetest compliments I’ve ever received. You’re awesome. 🙂

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