Friday, March 10, 2017

The Grandmother of All Gossip- A Short Story

I wrote this story last year, and it got me so tickled that I still go back and read it from time to time when I need a smile. Hopefully y'all can see the humor in it, but also the truth: gossip only hurts people, and says a lot more about the person gossiping than the person they're talking about!
Update: I appreciate those who read my blog and take it for what it is- encouragement and made up stories. Sadly, there are those out there who only wish to indulge in back biting, sowing discord, and gossiping amongst family, friends and communities. So for this reason, I have turned off the ability to comment on this post. I appreciate those of you who read this from a godly standpoint and hope you continue to read and find encouragement.

 For the most part, the Covington family lived in a peaceful world. Since the passing of Mr. Covington, Mrs. Covington had done her best to give her children a happy, peaceful life. Her youngest children, still in school, were happy and healthy, their days filled with sunshine and play during the summer and warmth and schooling during the fall and winter. Her older children were starting to make their own way into the world, finding their niche and using their time serving the Lord in whatever manner He saw best.
 Their world was one where there was little to bother them. Seldom did someone come along that disrupted their world. In some cases, this disruption was a welcome one, such as the oldest daughter’s sweetheart of two years. In other cases, it was not so welcome, such as Mrs. Covington’s mother.
 Mrs. Percival was known in their household for what she truly was. There weren’t many people outside the Covington house that knew what she really was. Few knew her love of gossip, her conniving ways, her habit of twisting the truth to suit herself, or her sharp and often cruel tongue. Mrs. Covington had escaped her mother at an early age, but her mother had still done her best to insult and ruin her family’s happiness. Only through the almost complete separation from her mother had Mrs. Covington kept her children and herself sane. Still, whenever and where ever Mrs. Percival could cause trouble, she did.
 Thus why Alice’s boyfriend of two years was kept a secret from almost everyone outside their house. Other than a few very close friends at church, who knew because they had introduced them, and his family, Alice and her mother had managed to keep the information private. To his honor, young Lewis Wright had not question his sweetheart when she had asked that he not spread the news of their relationship around. He had done his best to keep it private, and had almost had to resort to being sneaky when speaking to her in public. Though they had nothing to be ashamed or accused of, the two went around for two years like this, until Lewis could take it no more. Just before Alice’s twenty-second birthday, he decided to ask her for a full explanation- something which he had never asked for before, though she would have willingly gave it.
 “Alice,” He said, using his most patient and persuasive voice, “I want to ask you a question.”
 Alice gave a start, almost dropping the bowl of glaze she was putting on pound cakes for his mother’s Christmas party. She had been thinking, more and more here lately, that Lewis would soon be proposing, and now she feared he was going to ask her to marry him over half-glazed cakes in a messy kitchen. “W-what?”
 “You know I have never questioned why you haven’t introduced me to anyone in your family outside this house. I never questioned when you said it was for the best, and we’ve been happy these two years. But it’s been two years now, and I’d like to ask another question. Before I do, I would like to know- why do we have to keep our dating a secret?”
 Alice sighed, almost in relief, and set the bowl down. She almost wished her mother could explain for her, but it was time that she be the adult she was and tell Lewis.
 “You’ll believe me? I’ll tell you the truth.” She said, trembling just a little. “It’s to protect you.”
 “What, do you have a gangster out to get your family or something?” Lewis asked, with a chuckle.
 “No. More like… my grandmother.”
 “A little old lady? Oh, Alice…”
 “I’m not teasing, Lewis.” Alice insisted. “If you knew her, you’d understand. Five years ago, she spread around that my brother was furious with my mother and was moving to her house to live. Six years ago, it was my sister instead. Before that, she told me that she wished my parents would soon be able to afford to buy clothes for us, because she was tired of having to buy clothes for us- she had never been asked to do so, and we always had more than enough clothes to wear. She's spread some pretty malicious lies about our family over the years. Anything she can do to make us look bad, she has.”
 “Sounds like the kind of grandmother no one wants.”
 “Exactly. She is nosy, she is mean, and she looks for nothing other than gossip to share after she’s twisted it around to sound how she wants it to.” Alice said, finishing in a huff.
 Lewis wisely dropped the subject again, but he thought about it for a long time afterwards.
 Not too long after that, Lewis hinted to Alice and her mother that he would like to ask that other question soon, and with her mother’s blessing, they went shopping for a certain item often used when that question is asked. With her brother as a chaperone, Alice and Lewis went to the mall in search of the perfect ring.
 They had made it through two jewelry stores and the jewelry counter in a department store when the worst happened. Alice looked up in time to spot her grandmother coming in the doors.
 “Lewis, let’s go find Alex. He’s probably tired of waiting on us, and I don’t think we’re going to find a ring today.” She said in a hoarse whisper, tugging his arm away in hopes that they could escape before Mrs. Percival saw them.
 Lewis frowned, but followed her. Suddenly, without warning or any explanation, Alice gave him a might shove and trotted away a few feet. She squatted down and cowered behind a clothing rack, as Lewis spun around to face her.
 Giving him fierce signs to please keep quiet, Alice didn’t stand up. Lewis was dumbfounded, and watched her. It took a minute before she stood up, and jerked him in the opposite direction.
 “What was that all about?”
 “My grandmother!” Alice breathed out.
 “The one with the oversize faux leather purse and fake-looking dyed red hair.”
 “The one with the skin-tight clothes and that ridiculous looking gold necklace?”
 “Shhh! I don’t want to draw any attention!” Alice hissed. “Let’s go.”
 Once out of the store Alex was summoned via cellphone- a wonderful thing when you don’t want to go searching in a crowded mall- and Lewis took Alice to meet her brother at the car.
 “Alright, now, look here, Alice,” Lewis said, as they waited by the car for Alex, “I’m not going to go around town fearful all the time that we might meet your grandmother.”
 “Oh, Lewis, I’m just not up for hearing her opinions or giving her fresh fuel for the gossip chain.” Alice said, rubbing her head with a weak hand.
 “I know, I know, but this isn’t right. You shouldn’t have to live your life in fear of the old bat.”
 “I’m serious.”
 Alice sighed. “I’m not afraid… I just don’t want anything to do with her.”
 Lewis took her and her brother home.
 The next weekend, Lewis went shopping on his own for the ring. Armed with the right ring size and Alice’s preferences, he went back to the mall, hoping one of the jewelry stores might be able to custom order a ring that would be exactly what Alice liked. After ordering what he hoped would please Alice, he stopped through the food court for lunch.
 He hadn’t been there long when the same old woman, with a pale face and limp, fiery red hair, came walking by. She didn’t even notice him, but Lewis couldn’t help but stare. This was who Alice was afraid of? He watched her order some food and then, wouldn’t you know it, she took the table across from Lewis.
 Lewis tried not to stare, but his curiosity got the best of him. The woman took longer to eat a small salad than Lewis took to eat an entire sandwich, fries and dessert. And the obnoxious chomping she did on those tomatoes…
 When another old, haggard looking woman stopped at her table and Lewis heard where the conversation was going, he could hardly hold back.
 “Why hello, Mrs. Percival!”
 “Hi, Mrs. Ballard!”
 “How is your husband?”
 “Oh, he’s fine.”
 “Still dealing with the arthritis??”
 “Oh, uh, no, he’s walking alright now.”
 “Oh, good! What about your daughter? How is she doing? And the grandkids?”
 “Oh, they’re fine. We get to see them every now and then.”
 Lewis knew directly from Alice that they hadn’t seen her grandparents in over three years.
 Then they went straight into gossip.
 “How is your oldest granddaughter? I heard she’s engaged.”
 “Oh, I don’t know. I hadn’t heard that. But her mother let’s her date just about any guy that comes along, so she probably is. They don’t have standards, not like your daughter does with her girls.”
 “Oh, I see.”
 If they said oh one more time, Lewis would scream.
 “So she’s not engaged?”
 “I don’t know.”
 “What about the other oldest girl?”
 “I don’t even know where she is. I was pretty sure last time I heard that she wouldn’t have anything to do with any of them.”
 “How sad.”
  "And her oldest son... well, I've heard some terrible things about his recent behavior. Makes me sad that my daughter didn't take a stand when raising her kids. At least your daughter is trying to raise her children right."
  "Oh, my!"
 “And my daughter won’t even let us see the kids anymore.”
 Didn’t that contradict her other statement, Lewis wondered.
 “Oh, that’s terrible.”
 “Yes, just pray for us. I’m only telling you all this so you can pray for them.”
 “Oh, we will. I’ll have our whole church pray for you all.”
  Was pray a synonym for gossip? Lewis couldn't help but think so.
 “Thank you. See you later.”
 Lewis was not normally one to let his temper or spite get the better of him, but this woman had insulted Alice, her mother and her family. He stood up, pulling a tract out of his pocket.
 “Excuse me, ma’am,” He said, using his most sugar-sweet voice, “But I’d like to give you this. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and it sounds like you could use to meet the Lord.”
 The woman’s eyes grew wide, despite the wrinkles surrounding them. She sputtered and stuttered but nothing intelligent came out.
 “I think the Lord could solve all your problems, and maybe if you knew Him, your daughter would let you be around your grandchildren. I’ll just leave this with you.” Lewis set the tract on the table. “And quite honestly, I wouldn’t want to spread such tiding around town, since people are always going to look back to you to wonder why a loving grandmother would spread such information about her grandchild if she loved them.”
 With those final words, Lewis turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the woman still sputtering like a car engine about to die. Deciding that talking to Alice as soon as possible might be his best idea, Lewis headed straight for her house.
 “Lewis! Hi! What are you doing here?”
 “Alice, I’ve got two things to ask you. One: How many other guys have you dated before me?”
 Alice’s pleasant face dropped. “None, I promise! I’ve never dated anyone else.”
 “I believe you. Two: will you marry me?”
 “Lewis!” Alice gasped.
 “Look, I’ve just come from a nice confrontation with your grandmother, and before any gossip can spread around about you, I’m determined to get you away from it.” Lewis said, balling up his fists.
 At Alice’s persistent questioning, Lewis explained in detail what had been said. The story ended with Alice in tears.
 “Alice, if that woman bothers you so much, I’m going to take you as far away from here as I can. We’ll elope out of state, if need be.”
 “Absolutely not!” Alice said, shaking her head. “I’ll be married right here, and in my family’s church. There’s no way she’s going to take that from me. I just hope she doesn’t get wind of the wedding and come uninvited.”
 “I’ll hire bodyguards to stand at the doors. She won’t get it.”
 “She’d cajole and wheedle her way in, Lewis.”
 “Oh, no, she won’t.”
 “You know, you’re probably right. She’s probably so mad that… what’s that sound…oh, no.” Alice looked out the window, then backed away quickly.
 “She’s here.”
 “She’s here.” Alice’s face paled. “Quick, go get my mother.”
 “No, I’m not leaving you alone-”
 The doorbell rang and Alice saw her grandmother peering in the windows.
 She hesitated a second too long. Lewis walked right over to the door and opened it.
 “Can I help you?”
 Lewis nodded. “Yes. By the way, if you ever spread such malicious gossip about my fiancé or her family again, I’ll sue you so fast your dyed hair will go gray again. That’s all I have to say to you, and I’d appreciate it if you would vacate the premises immediately.” He closed the door before Mrs. Percival could say one more word.
 “Lewis!” Alice’s eyes were wide as saucers. “Oh, no, now you’ve done it. She’ll go around town saying that you threatened her and have you locked up.”
 “Oh, no, she won’t.” Lewis grinned. “You forget, my father’s a lawyer, and a pretty good one, too. Slander and defamation are pretty hefty to fight, especially when she spends all her money on hair coloring.”
 “Lewis, shame!” Alice giggled.
 A year later, Lewis and Alice were married. Neither they or Alice’s family were bothered by Mrs. Percival again, no gossip was ever spread again about Alice or her family- at least not from Mrs. Percival‘s lips- and she did not crash the wedding as Alice had expected.