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Spencer Church


Rusty Broadspear

Spencer Church knelt at the front pew in St Peter’s Church. Whispered echoes of his mumbled prayers reverberated around the ancient stone walls. Apart from Spencer, the church was devoid of people. Soft, stifled, intermittent sobs punctuated his prayers, then suddenly there was silence. He awkwardly got to his feet, walked up to the altar and stared up at the crucifix that was hanging at an angle from the roof joists. There was a long, calm hush as Spencer stared into the face of the figure of Jesus. The stillness was broken when Spencer shouted, “WHY!!? WHY ME!!?”

If Spencer had walked home from the Church via the roads he would have reached home, (a converted barn on the outskirts of the small town of Cedarbrook), in 45 minutes. Instead he was walking across country which takes twice as long. It was mid morning with a stronger than average September sun bathing his back and shoulders, as he trudged an old footpath by the side of a wood. He missed Chambers. Spencer and Chambers had been as close as friends could get for fourteen years. Spencer was only 20 years old, starting his own photography business, when one of his first customers gave him Chambers. Even as a pup Chambers was so ugly, thin, bony, straggly grey / brown coat, skinny whip of a tail that stood erect and a top lip that couldn’t cover his chipped canine teeth. As he quickly grew to the size of a greyhound his looks deteriorated even further and it looked like he had a permenent snarl. Looks are only ‘mutt fur’ deep, Chambers character was so endearing, and he was probably in love with Spencer. You’ve heard the song, ‘Me and My Shadow’, well that was written for Spencer and Chambers. Until about a year ago.

It was a Saturday wedding job, a beautiful day, service was over and the photo session was in full swing. Chambers lay snoring between graves in the shade of an oak, just off to one side of the guests. Two graves away a rabbit was nonchalantly chewing the heads off flowers and the constant chomping must have opened one of Chamber’s eyes. Maybe it took a moment to register what he was seeing but when it did, then Chambers was immediately in doggy/hunter mode. Rabbit and dog shot off quicker than a greased camera flash, to the delight of the wedding crowd who laughed and cheered. Without any hesitation Chambers followed the rabbit through the hedge that bordered the churchyard, straight on to a busy road. The rabbit made it safely across, Chambers didn’t. Chambers was hit full on by a car and taken for a quarter of a mile ride that he knew nothing about. It took a considerable time to calm everyone down, especially Spencer but eventually the show went on, as the show always does.

Spencer sat on a rotten log, poking it with a stick, pondering the myriad of life just below the surface, each weirdly designed insect with it’s own life, getting on with it’s own business. In the grand scheme of things he compared himself to an insect and came to the conclusion that he might be very close to the truth. Too frightening to contemplate he quickly came to other more desirable conclusions that involved his Faith. His Faith, however, at this moment was shaky, very shaky indeed. Tears began to fall onto the insect world, instantly they all burrowed a little deeper, Spencer wiped his eyes and moved on. He was about to call Chambers, then realised. This forced a most welcome ironic grin and he wondered if Chambers was indeed running alongside and darting in and out of the long grass.

Spencer had reached his favourite spot at the edge of a field of corn and at the top of a rise that overlooked Cedarbrook. Cedarbrook nestled in a very pretty valley straddling the snaking river Ostwell. Two very ancient bridges in the village connected east and west Cedarbrook. Three preserved stoneage burial mounds provided a superb backdrop from Spencer's viewpoint.

Spencer needed answers and he wasn’t getting them and if you don’t get the answers you need, is suicide an option? He’d thought this one over many times recently and every time reached the conclusion that, due to his Faith, it was not an option. But what if he should lose his Faith………..? There were no answers at home because, through choice, he had no family. He liked women a lot, he also liked variety and he didn’t like commitment.

His life ended three weeks ago, on the day before his thirty fifth birthday. It was a Tuesday lunchtime and he was driving to a golden wedding reception at the Woodmen’s Hotel. The Woodmen’s was a beautiful little country hotel situated in 10 acres of landscaped grounds about 5 miles south of Cedarwood. If Spencer did have a long term love affair, then it was with his car, a 1956 MG roadster. A bright red, open top, two seater, sporting chromium bumpers and trim. He always drove it with loving care and his ego was duly boosted as heads turned in admiration.

This Tuesday was no different…….yet. For some time he’d looked forward to today. The golden wedding was his only job, not far to drive and should be finished around 3pm, leaving enough time for a golfing lesson and a few relaxing pints at The Flying Flute. The sun was shining, the car was gleaming and heads had turned. He was heading into country lanes and Cedarbrook was rapidly disappearing in his rearview mirror. Should take him no more than ten minutes, he was very familiar with this route, (with hindsight this was his first mistake, relying on familiarity). The MG rode the many sharp bends comfortably and Spencer was becoming hypnotised with shadows of overhanging trees playing and racing along the length of the car’s bonnet. Today was proof that life can sometimes deal an oasis of absolute perfection, bliss, heaven.

It happened, in this state of euphoria, as he came out of one of the many bends. The girls were on their bikes riding in the same direction as Spencer. He hit them from behind with what seemed like the force of an express train. Later, he was told ‘it was instantaneous’. So Spencer had dealt instantaneous death cards to two little girls, (one 7 years old and the other 8 years old), whilst in a selfish state of euphoria. And the car that he’d loved and cherished was equally guilty. Somehow he’d phoned the emergency services but he already knew the ambulance would be surplus to requirements. The girls had been thrown high into the air and then into a stone wall that bordered a field. They lay side by side as if sleeping.

The air was quite still, birds chittered quietly somewhere, as if discussing what had just occurred, and there was a regular cooling ‘tick’ coming from the MG. Spencer can’t remember anymore of that Tuesday. The police found him passed out somewhere near the two little girls. They brought him round and breathalysed him; he was clean of any alcohol. He was held in a cell, visited by a doctor who checked him over and the next day he was required to give a detailed statement. That was when the police told him they were sisters.

From his present vantage point he could see the road he’d driven out of Cedarwood. Memories didn’t flood back to him, they never left him. Memories, or maybe the little girls themselves, will haunt him for the rest of his days and deservedly so.

He began to walk down to his home. Thoughts of lost faith and suicide visited Spencer Church yet again.

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