The Marryin’

original fiction by

Willard Douglas

This work is copyrighted by Willard Douglas.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The little donkey plodded along the deserted lane, slowly putting one foot in front of the other. He was attached to a two-wheel cart in which sat two people.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The little donkey continued for about five minutes. Then he stopped dead in his tracks, hung his head and just stood there.

The man, one of the two people in the cart, pulled a long switch from where it was wedged in beside the seat. He reached out and tapped the little donkey gently on the rump.

Come on, Boy, git up. We don’t got all day.”

After the third tap, each one getting a little harder, the donkey proceeded his slow progress along the lane. The man replaced the long switch into its nitch. The top waved slightly in the wind as if it was a very slender flagpole, too flimsy to bear a flag of any kind.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The other occupant of the cart huddled underneath the heavy blanket she was using to keep warm. Even if there had been anyone along the roadside who wanted to see her they would not have been able to for she was covered completely with the blanket. A small opening formed in front of her face where the blanket overlapped, but was sufficiently far from her face to make it possible to see it.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The man sat bolt upright on the board seat, a heavy overcoat buttoned all the way up to his throat. A felt hat was pulled low on his head and a thick woolen muffler was wrapped about his neck. It was pulled up in such a way that it covered his ears and face, too, except for his eyes. It was that cold in the early predawn of January. Snow lay on the ground all round but it was not snowing now which was part of the reason it was so bitterly cold.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The cart continued its slow forward progress for about five minutes before the little donkey again stopped and hung his head. Once again the man removed the switch from its nitch, leaned forward and tapped the donkey on the buttock with the tip. “Let’s go, Boy.” he said as he continued his tapping. It got a little harder each time and continued until the donkey moved again.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

About every five minutes this scene was repeated for what seemed an eternity. In reality it took only a little over an hour before the cart began to approach the village.

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

Just at the edge of the village the donkey stopped again and again the man used the switch to get him started, saying as he did so, “Not much further now, Boy. Just a little more and you’ll be warm and cozy neath your own blanket.”

Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop.

The man steered the donkey round to the left at the crossroads that formed the only intersection in the village, there being no formal side streets, only a few footpaths that led though the thickly wooded hillsides surrounding the crossroads, each eventually coming to a small clearing in which a cabin stood. Most of the cabins had just one room. A few had two and there were two of them with three rooms. It was in front of one of these where the man drew back on the reins to stop the donkey. The only other cabin in the village that had three rooms belonged to the mayor and operator of the general store and livery stable. The one where the man stopped the donkey belonged to the preacher.

The man reached behind the bench seat and picked up a heavy blanket and a feed bag. He swung his legs over the side of the cart and placed his foot on one of the spokes of the large wheel. Swinging down to the ground, he pulled the blanket and feed-bag down behind him. He opened the bag under the donkey’s nose and the donkey immediately plunged his head inside, snorting and blowing oat dust back up out of the bag. The man scratched the little donkey behind his big ears as he hung the strap of the feed bag over them. Then he unfolded the blanket and threw it over the animal. It was big enough to completely cover him, head to tail, and come completely down to the ground so that, except for his slow suspirations, the donkey looked like a large lump under the blanket.

The man used the wheel spoke to step back up onto the cart and swing himself around and onto the seat. Once again he assumed a very rigid, upright position on the bench next to the girl who had given no indication of movement at all. The only movement of the man was a very slow kneading of his hands, first one and then the other in slow reversal. If he hadn’t massaged his exposed hands in this way, they would have frozen.

About ten minutes after the man had resumed his position on the seat of the cart, the front door of the cabin opened and a man, wrapped in a blanket, stepped out on the porch. It was the preacher and his intention was to piss into the weeds that grew just off the edge of the porch as was his custom on a morning this cold. He could be back in his warm bed much more quickly than if he had gone to the outhouse. He glanced over his shoulder in the direction where the sun would rise shortly and could see only a faint reddish glow in the sky, the chiaroscuro that preceded the dawn, and as he did so he noticed the donkey cart with two people on the seat stopped in front of his home. He stepped to the edge of the porch and called.

You, there. Why are you stopped here? What do you want?”

The man turned on the bench and looked at the preacher for a moment. The girl still didn’t move and the animal, content not to have to move again, and content to be covered with a blanket, didn’t move either.

Well, preacher, me and this woman have come here to get married today. You do marry folks, don’t ya?”

That I do. What’s your rightful name, Sir?”

Ebenezer. Ebenezer Wilberforce from yonder beyond the river, bout six or seven miles as the crow flies, I reckon.”

And what’s this woman’s name, sir?” the preacher asked.

Her name’s Yolanda, Reverend. And I want to make her my wife.”

The preacher stood and looked at the man and woman for a moment, the pressure on his bladder becoming unbearable. “Okay, come on in the house. I’ll go out back and get some firewood to freshen the fire and we’ll talk.” The preacher was about to piss himself, so he turned quickly and walked through the cabin saying over his shoulder. “Just sit down at the table and I’ll be back directly.” He disappeared through a door on the back wall of the cabin directly opposite the open front door.

The man climbed down from the cart and went to the other side to help his future bride down. She made no move to help herself, nor to help him, so he pulled himself up on the wheel and reached over to lift her out. She was small and presented no problem to him in lifting her down to the ground where she, at least, stood on her own two feet. She pulled the blanket closer about herself as he steered her, prodding and pushing as necessary, toward the front porch of the cabin and in through the door.

They found themselves in a room that served as kitchen and living area with a fireplace against the side wall to their right. Besides the door on the back wall through which the preacher had gone, there were two more doors along the wall on the left. One was open and a recently vacated bedstead could be seen in the dim light. The other was closed. Soft snoring sounds came from the other side of the door. The man steered the girl toward the table where there were four chairs. He pulled one out and pushed her down into it. Once seated, she continued to hold the blanket to herself in such a way that her face could not be seen.

After a few minutes the preacher came back inside carrying an armload of firewood. He dropped it in front of the fireplace. He used a poker that was leaning against the side to stir the ashes. They began to glow red as he stirred. Then he reached up to the mantelpiece to get a hand bellows. Several short pumps resulted in flames bursting up from the coals. He then took the wood he had brought in and placed it, one stick at a time, on the coals. Once all of it had been stacked on, maybe six or seven relatively small pieces of split log, he used the bellows again to excite the coals even more until flames began to lick up on all sides of the wood and give evidence that the fire would indeed continue to grow.

He turned to his guests. “Now, sir, before we can talk, I must go and get dressed. I will summon my girl to come and start coffee and some breakfast. If your trip has been seven or eight miles in this cold, you surely started this morning before time for breakfast and I warrant you are quite hungry and would accept something to eat.” he said, phrasing it in a way that it sounded like a question.

Well preacher, I won’t say we would turn it down but it’s really not necessary. We just want to get on with the marryin’ so we can get on back home in time for dinner. Judd and Orrie, them’s my two boys, will be wonderin’ what happened to us if’n we ain’t back home in time for dinner and then there’s the milkin’ and feedin’ to be done what I didn’t get done this mornin’ on account of we left so early and by the time we get all them chores done it’ll be time for supper, so if we could just get on with the marryin’ I’d be much obliged.”

Now mister, I understand you might have obligations at home but you chose this day to come and see me and it’s not generally my habit to marry people immediately without gettin’ to know them first so we do this on my terms if we do it at all and you’ll wait till I get dressed and we at least have some coffee. Breakfast for you is optional, but I’m going to eat. You and the young lady suit yourself.”

The preacher turned and knocked on the closed door, calling as he did so, “Get up, Girl. We got company and they need some breakfast. Come on out’cher and get it started while’st I get dressed.” He went into the front room and closed the door behind himself, leaving Ebenezer and Yolanda to sit there at the table. The fire had fully caught by this time and was burning steadily, making the room toasty warm. Ebenezer unbuttoned and removed his overcoat. The girl made no attempt to remove the blanket that covered her.

A young woman came into the room through the door the preacher had knocked on. She was simply dressed in a house dress and heavy leather shoes. A heavy shawl was wrapped about her shoulders. She busied herself making breakfast. She brought ingredients in from the cellar and made biscuits, bacon, and scrambled eggs.

Not a word was spoken throughout the entire cooking process. Ebenezer sat bolt upright in his chair, hands resting on the table. The girl continued to sit hunched over in her chair wrapped up in her blanket despite the fact that the room was now quite warm.

When the breakfast was cooked, the woman set the Dutch oven containing the biscuits on top of the smaller skillet with the eggs and lay strips of bacon on top of the Dutch oven to keep everything warm. She swung the hook on which the coffee pot hung out into the room and, one at a time, filled three cups by tilting the pot up on it’s hook. When the three cups were filled, she placed one in front of Ebenezer, one in front of the girl, or at least on the edge of the table nearest the girl, and the last she set down on the hearth next to the breakfast makings.

Then she went over to the door the preacher had gone in and gently tapped with her fingers. “Father. Tis I.” she said. “I’ve finished with the breakfast and your coffee’s on the hearth getting cold. You’d better come while everythin’s warm.”

Presently the door opened and the preacher came back in. The woman went back into her own room just as the preacher stepped into the warm kitchen.

The preacher was dressed in black trousers, a black shirt, a starched clerical collar and black frock coat. His high-topped shoes were shined to perfection. His hair was slicked back with some type of grease.

Good morning again, my friends. Now we will eat the bountiful breakfast which my girl has prepared for us.” The preacher said.

But, sir,” said Ebenezer, “I just want you to marry us and let us be on our way. Back at the farm there’s animals to tend to and my boys who don’t know where we’ve gone and then we have to do all the rest of our chores afore nightfall. Can’t you just say the words and get it over with so we can get back?”

Young man, “the preacher said, “despite your hurry, you are in my house and my house is an extension of the house of God and in God’s house we abide by God’s ways so you must calm down and realize that this is not going to be an instant process. Now, let’s eat this wonderful breakfast and then see where the day takes us. I’m sure this young lady, — What’s your name, sweetheart? — would like to have something to eat, wouldn’t you darling?” As he said this, the preacher rubbed his hand across the shoulders of Yolanda who sat hunched down in her blankets without moving.

Preacher,” Ebenezer started to say, but he was instantly interrupted.

Young man, you will address me as Father Abraham, not Preacher, and unless you call me by that name I will be unable to respond to you in any way. Do you understand?”

Yes, Father Abraham, I understand. But, I really need you to know that we are in a hurry and must get back on the road. That stupid jackass out there don’t go at any speed other than very slow and even then he stops every few minutes and must be beaten back into submission before he will walk further. Now can’t we just get on with it?”

Yes we can.” The good father replied, getting up and taking three plates from the sideboard. He knelt beside the fireplace and set the plates onto the hearth. Then he placed his hands together and raised his face to the heavens. “Dear Lord, “he said, “we give you thanks for this your bountiful harvest that without your grace we would not be able to partake. Amen.”

He separated the stack of plates and put three of the thick strips of bacon on each of two of them and one on the third one. Then he removed the lid of the biscuit skillet and put two of the large, fluffy biscuits on each of the first two plates and one on the third. Then he withdrew the skillet with the eggs from under the biscuit skillet and used a fork to apportion them between the three plates. His portion was the largest and Ebenezer’s was the next largest and Yolanda’s was what was left over. Hers was the plate with one strip of bacon and one biscuit.

The preacher placed the three plates on the table along with a tin of bacon grease before he stood up. He reached over to the cupboard and got two more forks which he dropped on the table as he went around and sat down. He placed each plate in front of the intended recipient. Ebenezer sat and stared at the food. The girl, Yolanda, didn’t move. The preacher broke open both of his biscuits and used the wooden paddle in the bacon grease to slather the viscous liquid over each half of each biscuit and then pushed the grease pot over in front of Ebenezer.

What’re ya’ll waitin’ on?” he asked, “It ain’t gonna get any more blessed or no warmer.” He used his fork and his hands to stuff his mouth with bread and bacon and eggs. “It’s time to eat.” He said. This last was muffled through all of the food he had in his mouth. After stuffing his mouth full of bacon, eggs, and biscuit a second time, he reached for his coffee cup as he chewed and swigged down about half of it before reaching over to rub Yolanda on the back again.

Aren’t you goin’ to eat, girl?” he asked, as he tugged at the blanket. She held to it tight, however, and his tug had little effect.

Leave her alone and I’ll eat.” Ebenezer said, picking up his fork and moving his eggs around on his plate. He tentatively took a bit of his biscuit, finding it to be fluffy and very tasty.

The preacher looked at him and didn’t say anything, continuing to chew another big bite of his own food. When his mouth was almost empty, he washed it down with another big swig of coffee and said, “Look here, Mister. I’ve tried to be nice but I’m telling you I’m not marryin’ nobody that I can’t see so you might as well talk to this woman or girl or whatever that is under that blanket if you want me to marry you to her or else you might as well drag her back out there to that cart and wake up that little mule and get the hell away from here. You hear me?”

Ebenezer just stared at the preacher, somewhat in disbelief that a man of the cloth would speak this way.

You hear me, Mister?” the preacher said as he reached over and grasped the girl’s blanket right at the point where it formed a hood over her head and face and he jerked it as hard as he could. At the same time, his other hand came up from beneath the table with a long barreled Colt 45 that was pointed straight at Ebenezer. Yolanda screamed, but no one else moved for a moment and then Ebenezer slowly moved his right hand beneath the table hoping the preacher wouldn’t notice. The preacher cocked his gun and said, “Don’t.” There was a pause. “Don’t. Bring your hand very slowly back up to the top of the table with the other one and leave both of them there, palms up, so I can clearly see them.”

Ebenezer did as he was told and the preacher eased the hammer of his revolver back to the safe position.

The preacher still had a firm grip on Yolanda’s blanket although she fought trying to wrest it from his grip and cover her head and face again. The preacher glanced ever so briefly in her direction, for he couldn’t let his concentration slip away from Ebenezer. She appeared to be no more than eleven or twelve years old. She stared at the preacher as if her eyes could shoot daggers at him. The only emotion that showed on her face was extreme anger.

All right, Mister.” The preacher said. “Let’s hear your story and it better be good.”

Ebenezer just sat and watched the preacher without saying a word and every few seconds he would glance at Yolanda who continued to shoot daggers out of her eyes directly at the preacher.

Why do you think I should marry you to this young girl? Why should she become your wife?”

Ebenezer’s gaze continued to be split between Yolanda and the preacher, but the preacher noted that his hands had relaxed a little. He also noticed that Yolanda’s eyes no longer shot daggers at him but had softened and she appeared on the verge of crying. Ebenezer seemed to notice this also.


I told you you will address me as Father Abraham.”

Father Abraham, I …” Ebenezer paused momentarily and then continued. “I … Well, that is, my wife died a while back and her brother, Jacob, sent his daughter, this girl here, to stay with me and take care of my needs. She mostly does the chores like cooking and cleaning and chopping firewood and taking care of the animals and taking care of my two boys who are five and seven years of age. And you see, Father, before too long she became very desirable to me and I began to want her, if you know what I mean, and soon I couldn’t stand it no more and I brought her into my bed and I got to know her, you know, in the Biblical sense. And it seemed a good thing to me, Father, so it continued until she told me she was not having no monthlies anymore and I knew what that meant and realized that we had to get married before I became the father of a little bastard and I couldn’t stand to be the father of no little bastard so here we are to get married.”

Yolanda had loosed her grip on the blanket and was openly crying now. Father Abraham laid down his revolver on the table and turned immediately upon her and slapped her so hard that she and her chair fell backward to the floor.

You little …!” His voice trailed off. He was ashamed of what he was about to say. “How could you tempt a good man like this, a man who is obviously a man of the Church and who loves the Lord, a man who needed you to help him take care of his family and raise his two boys in the Lord’s ways. How could you tempt him into doing such a thing?”

He jerked her up and thrust her back down into a kneeling position. Holding her there he shouted “Repent!” at the top of his lungs. “Repent! Repent! Repent!”

Over and over he screamed the words. His pistol lay on the table. Ebenezer sat in his chair in disbelief at the reaction of this man of God but knew not what to do.

Suddenly, the door to the other room opened and the woman who had cooked breakfast stood there with a double barrel shotgun in her hand. Without saying a word, she pulled one trigger and shot the preacher full in the face. His body reeled backwards. He was dead by the time his body hit the floor.

Without hesitation she turned the shotgun towards Ebenezer and pulled the other trigger. Her aim wasn’t as good this time and the buckshot only raked his right shoulder. He wasn’t even knocked off his feet. He tried to reach into his pocket for his pistol just as the woman turned the gun around and struck him in the head with the stock. Using both hands and wielding her club with all her strength, she continued to bash the stock into his head until his skull was crushed and a large pool of blood collected about it as he lay on the floor.

Calmly, the woman poured the coffee left in the pot into the basin at the pump sideboard. She rinsed it with fresh water and then pumped more water into it. She added a handful of tea leaves that she took from a tin above the basin. She placed the kettle on the hook and swung it back over the stove. She used the poker to stoke the fire until it was flaming again and soon the kettle began to emit steam indicating it was beginning to boil.

Meanwhile, the woman pulled a chair over next to Yolanda, lifting the blanket up from the floor and covering the both of them. She began to sing a lullaby as the kettle boiled gently on the fire and Yolanda fell asleep with her head on the woman’s shoulder.


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