Friday, May 15, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 5-21-15

Notes From My Knapsack 5-21-15

Jeff Gill


A Body in the Well (conclusion)



Back at the tavern, Job Case sat with William and Sarah Gavit on one long bench alongside the large hearth in the public room. Opposite them, closer to the fire himself, was Hezekiah Mirk. Case and Mirk were closest to the warmth, boots to one side, woolen socks steaming.


"So, Chief Justice Gavit, what do you propose that we do?" Case had just finished describing the scene at the well southwest of town, and the conversation he had just had including Mirk with Caleb Munro's widow, Tirzah. "That was near enough to a confession of murder."


"Was it?" asked Mirk gently. "She repeated what her . . . second husband had told her. She might have misunderstood, she could have misheard, we don't know."


Gavit smiled grimly. "You have the makings of a lawyer, Mr. Mirk. That's correct, her statement, even sworn in court, is not a confession. And you told her, Mr. Case said, that her account matches the wounds you saw on Munro's body?"


"That's correct. His face is not marked, and his skull is . . . depressed from the top. If we could call back this Judson fellow, and he's battered about the face and front, I'd be tempted to credit her, or rather his story told us through her. A man choked with rage, blindly lashing out again and again, charging forward and plunging into that open well headfirst…" Mirk looked at his hands in the firelight, and the other three knew he saw them in a different light than they did. Stories of Lundy's Lane had been told, not by him, but of slaughter and blood unimaginable.


Gavit looked at his wife, then back at Case. "We are left with your question, then; what shall we do? We could try to get Tirzah to call back Judson from Lancaster, inspect his wounds, take his statement."

"If he'd return," shrugged Case.


"That's right," Gavit went on. "Or we could send to Newark for a warrant, recruit a bailiff, and go bring him back before he flees farther. What do you think, Mr. Mirk?"


Hezekiah looked up and directly into William's eyes across from him. "Or we could do nothing."


"Nothing, Mr. Mirk?"

"We see to Caleb Munro's proper burial, we report his death. The circumstances of his return are well known in the district. Who is there to file a charge? If anyone believes justice requires one, they can travel the few miles to the courthouse and do so. We honor the man's service in the late war, we allow his friends to help see to his burial and marker, and speak honestly to what we know if asked."


"If it's up to his friends," nodded Case, "he will have a plank for a tombstone. But the village will honor him, and bury him rightly."


After a long silence, Sarah added "There are many problems in this world that are best served by letting them alone for a season."


William stood, and then did the rest. "We all have work to do, and perhaps I can send the parson down to let Tirzah know what's to be done for Caleb."


"Husband," Sarah said, "I think that right, but I should say that my guess would be that she will have been long gone by that time."


A year later, an envelope arrived from Natchez, Mississippi addressed to William Gavit. It came with money enclosed and a note saying only "To cover the costs of burial for Caleb Munro."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's enjoyed sharing this fiction based on stray facts of life in Granville 200 years ago. Tell him a story at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Faith Works 5-16-15

Faith Works 5-16-15
Jeff Gill

What a wonderful world

"I see trees of green, red roses too;
I see them bloom for me and you,
And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

The world may have good days and bad, and we may know sickness and health, poverty and wealth, life and death.

We make our way through all of this with very little that we can count on. Even the stones of the earth and the blue of the sky are temporary from a deep perspective. Just in the lifespan of a human, let alone a redwood, we don't have much in our lives that endures. Youth, careers, plans, even dreams have a way of advancing and receding that is independent of our intentions or actions.

Childhood homes go up for auction, teenage haunts are paved or demolished, places we took prom dates to that "had been in the family for generations" are a parking lot for a fast food chain today. The clouds pass by from west to east, the sun swings round from its rising to its setting.

"I see skies of blue and clouds of white;
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night...
And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

So anything, anyone you can count on, is precious. That helped make diamonds popular, because they are considered so hard and permanent that they endure. The market in resold wedding rings, though, has lowered prices somewhat. They're not hard to find, cast off, needing cash in return for lost love.

We lose our elders and our family and friends, sometimes in the order we expect by age, other times through shocking turns of events that make us wonder yet again who will last, who will stand with us. It can get lonely through the years.

"I see friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do,'
What they're really saying is 'I love you.'"

The traditional wedding vows, and in fact marriage preparation whether done by me or most other pastors, do not ask if you love each other. And in today's romance obsessed society, that would be greeted with amusement. "Do we love each other? Why do you think we're standing her?"

What the service does ask is "will you love?" First I ask of the woman "will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" Then likewise of the man. "Will you love her?"

Because the question is certainly not do you love this person today, which is obvious; but WILL you love them, through the years, as you learn more about them, as you learn more about yourself, as you learn together what it really means to be as one, through the times of friendship and times, yes, of competition (do spouses compete in ways explicit and implicit? for moral advantage and to gain obligation? oh yeah, it happens...)? Will you love them when they have their unloveable moments, when they need forgiveness, when they need you and you are wanting not to be needed by anyone, but just to nurse your sorrows or angers alone? Will you love them then, and beyond?

It can be done. I've always enjoyed hearing the anodyne sentiments of those married fifty and seventy-five and even eighty years, often so simple in expression they seem beyond what can actually be lived outside of a greeting card.

Then you realize that this Tuesday you will have been married thirty years, which is not forever, but it ain't nothing, neither. And a woman has said yes, she will love you. And has, through the years, right up through tomorrow. I haven't made it easy for her, let's just say, and leave it at that.

But she's been my rock, and my reliable source of strength, and my partner through thin and my own frequent thickheadedness. And I will love you, Joyce, as long as life lasts in me.

"Yes, I think to myself what a wonderful world."

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your secrets to saying you will love someone at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.