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Flash Fiction
583 words
SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Prayer Wars

by Dan Gilmore

Jimmy Fulton, our local grave digger, died an early death a year ago and I’m pretty sure his wife Eunice prayed him to death. It’s a well-known fact that she prayed down a tornado last year, turned it into a dust devil. And I personally saw Widow Molly’s mule deflate like a balloon when Eunice prayed over its blocked colon. I’ve seen her pray folks out of the church if she didn’t like them, and I’m positive she prayed Jimmy into that grave-digging job he worked at for his last five years. I also believe she can pray folks dead if she wants to. You want proof? Here’s proof.

Jimmy got paid by the grave. If no one died, he didn’t earn a cent. There was a three-month period two years back when people stopped dying. My hunch is, Eunice took things into her own hands and prayed to restore the natural death rates so Jimmy could bring in a decent wage. At any rate, after the well-known drought of deaths, folks at the old folk’s home started falling like bowling pins. And a pickup truck loaded with drunk teenagers went off the bridge and not one survived. Eunice kept praying, corpses kept coming, and Jimmy kept digging four to five graves a day.

He became so exhausted he had to do something, so he took up religion with a fury and learned himself the art of praying. Not everybody is possessed enough by the spirit to become a outstanding prayer. But Jimmy discovered a spiritual streak he didn’t know he had. And each morning, out of earshot from Eunice, he prayed for an abundant and long life for everyone. It worked. Jimmy’s workload became manageable again.

However, it’s my guess Eunice grew impatient with no longer having her nice clothes and good cuts of meat, and so she prayed even harder for people to die, which they did because she not only possessed a powerful spiritual meanness, but she was more practiced than Jimmy.

But Jimmy, bless his heart, switched up his strategy and prayed for Eunice to have happiness no matter how much money he brought home. Shortly thereafter, Eunice had a spiritual awakening like none ever seen. But if you’ve ever been around a happy person too long, you’ll understand when I say that after a while Eunice’s unending joy drove Jimmy into cinched-up depression.

All he’d wanted was less work, not to become a mule for Eunice’s happiness. So, here’s what happened. One evening, alone in the woodshed, Jimmy prayed for a little less happiness on Eunice’s part, perhaps a small illness even, but Eunice was eavesdropping outside the door. That’s when she offered up one earth-scorching prayer for Jimmy’s death and asked God to find her a new idiot husband better fit to her lifestyle.

Sure enough, the next day Jimmy took a nosedive into the first grave he dug. After an appropriate period of mourning, the Lord delivered to Eunice the idiot non-believer she had prayed for. Now she spends her nights in bed making wifely demands on her exhausted husband (yes, that would be me) while Jimmy, free at last, lies peaceful in that grave he dug. Now he has roses sprouting out of his head. That’s it. That’s how Jimmy Fulton died and I’m the fool who took his place. One last thing. I’ve taken to studying the scriptures and go to the woodshed of an evening to shore up my praying skills.

—This flash is a “re-visioning” by the author of a poem which appears in his collection, Panning for Gold (Imago Press, 2014).

SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Dan Gilmore

has published a novel, A Howl for Mayflower, and four books of poetry. His flash fiction, Happiest Black White Man Alive, was nominated for a Pushcart prize and chosen by novelist Robert Olen Butler for The Best Small Fictions 2015 anthology. His latest chapbook Just Before Sleep (KYSO Flash, 2015) includes 23 tiny works that represent a fusion of narrative prose poems and American haiku.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury