January 23, 2017
“The Preacher and His Wife” is a comical look at the comings and goings of Mennonite life in a small town in the sixties. It is as pure as the view from inside the cocoon can be — but it’s just one cocoon.
The story goes live TODAY (January 23) on Fiction on the Web
Please find below a few short excerpts and also a couple of links to two other “Mennosphere” stories of mine that are in the FOTW archives.
On FICTION ON THE WEB JANUARY 23
“All family congresses were held in the tiny house and we sat packed as tight as two-yolks in a shell. Chair legs intersected like a village of miniature wigwams, and above that, our arms and forearms were in constant contact; sometimes linked. Our Zehen freundschaft heads – complete with high, overhanging brows – bobbed as one as we laughed or bowed in prayer or swiveled to see the facial expressions of the storyteller of the moment. The incoming newlywed uncles and aunts who found themselves part of this household became used to the close quarters. They soon grew adept at stepping over overlapping legs and socked feet as they picked a path through from the kitchen to the living room, doling out fresh coffee and buns with jam while a dozen conversations hummed and budgies squawked in their cages.”
“One fall day, when winter parkas were in order, Sarah ran into our house to announce that, ‘Grandma can’t find her engagement ring and she is pretty sure that the Preacher’s wife has it.’
‘What?’ my mother said, stopping in mid-paw as she dug through a box of warm clothes to outfit us for winter. Grandma’s ring was her lone extravagant luxury and unlike other items of some beauty in her possession – furniture and rugs for example – this ring had no redeeming practical use. It symbolized love and fidelity and was purely a thing of pleasure. Grandma loved her ring, which had set a much younger Grandpa back almost a whole season of timber cutting in the Redekopp forests south of town.
‘That’s impossible,’ Mother said, with no opportunity for rebuttal, standing up straight with her hands on her aproned hips.”
Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016
Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017
Red Fez’s Story of the Week. Next: world peace. Stand by…
In 2015, I was told this story – parts of it at least – by a resident in a predominantly Mennonite senior home in British Columbia. Some friends and I were there for lunch — the restaurant in the building had famously delicious food. One of the women at our table told us a moving account of incidents that had happened in Russia, during the early days of Communist rule.
Later, on the way back to work, we discussed her story. All of us had heard versions of it before even though the three of us were raised in Mennonite communities in BC, Alberta and Manitoba, respectively.
This story is a fiction based on true experiences passed down from that place and time. Whether it was a Christmas cookie or a Bible (or the Koran, for that matter) or a cross necklace; the danger was real for all those who dared to stand against the will of the state. This is possibly instructive, as some would banish religious symbols-practices-peoples in our free society today. In the 70’s, a friend of mine smuggled Christian Bibles into East Germany. He risked prison but did it gladly, working for a group organized at his Mennonite bible school in Switzerland. Prohibition makes its opponents bold.
I knew then that I wanted to share it as a piece of Mennonite lore. It speaks volumes, in a soft voice, about Mennonite culture and the quiet constancy that is common to many within the community.
I won’t say any more – it’s a short story and I don’t want to spoil it for you! A fiction based on certain historical accuracies, I hope you enjoy it, regardless of your beliefs. I also hope that it adds to your “Christmas spirit” and feelings of thankfulness.
Please see it here on the RED FEZ website. A great place to read, submit, discuss or lurk. 🙂 “Our German Relative” is just one of an entertaining and eclectic mix of stories posted in this Christmas-themed issue (No. 96).
“Red Fez is a melting pot of people interested in creating, sharing and discovering writing, music, art and more.”
The fictional Mennonite community of Hartplatz, Man., has been seen in print and on the wing at several locations on the WWW.
Tell-tales include red wing blackbirds, killdeers, grackles, budgies and pelicans…icing sugar…the smell of an old baseball glove when you hold it right up to your face…the sound a bible makes when it is dropped – for emphasis – on a large wooden desk…followed perhaps by the sound of Grandma shouting at the TV while watching All-Star Wrestling.
Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.
Here is a spotter’s guide:
CommuterLit.com has run three of Mitch’s short fictions: “Encountered on the Shore”, “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. Two more of his stories, “Nothing to Lose” and “Heavy Artillery” (Oct 30) appear on Fiction on the Web (UK) and, “A Fisherman’s Story”, was published in Rhubarb Magazine Issue 39 (Available at better book stores – like Sam’s Place, 159 Henderson Hwy – or ORDER COPIES HERE.)
Literally Stories (UK) published Mitch’s twisted yarn, “Breezy and the Six-Pack Sneaker” as well as his nostalgic walk down a dangerous alley in 1932 Winnipeg, “The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine”, and the contemporary tale, “Frozen Tag”(Oct 27).
“And So Are They All” won second place in the Fiction category in the 2016 “Write on the Lake” writing contest and will be published in the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group’s semi-annual journal, Voices, Volume 16, No. 2. Mitch will present the story at the Voices launch at McNally Robinson book sellers in Winnipeg, on November 20 at 2 PM. Voices will be available online HERE and at McNally Robinson after November 20.
THANKS to the editors and publications who have run my stories so far. I am grateful and always nervous when a story goes, “out there”! I wouldn’t want this to get around, but the truth is, I just make this stuff up!
Let’s keep that last bit between us and the mergansers out in the bay.
allfornow – m
P.S. – Click here to think of springtime.
P.P.S. – If you caught the PUN in the title, you’re better than me. I put it there by accident and then realized it and thought, “sitings, that’s pretty good,” and left it in. Ahhh, the creative process, it’s a sacred trust.
Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016