Monday, September 8, 2008

More for Monday

Several people expressed an interest in more details from this week’s Friday Fiction. Since Merrowsong has two other books ahead of it in the Pod series, meaning it’s going to be a while before it’s even considered for publication, I thought I’d excerpt a little more about Leah and the Nickmans.

A Good, Submissive Wife
From the novel, Merrowsong
By Rick Higginson

*** (That same night from the Friday Fiction)

Will turned to his father when Leah left the restaurant table to visit the bathroom. “Well, Pop, what do you think?”

“Nice girl, nice girl,” he said. “She’s intelligent, but quiet overall. Her defense of her sister, while naïve at best, demonstrated a solid family loyalty; that’s a laudable trait and one that will serve her well. Her father is a pastor, so she already has a good idea of what will be expected of her as a pastor’s wife, and based on your observations of her at the Rescue Mission yesterday, she’s not afraid of hard work. Does she keep her dorm room clean?”

“Pretty well; maybe not as clean as Mom keeps the house, but considering she’s also carrying a full class load, it’s much better than most dorm rooms I’ve seen.”

“Good, good. How about cooking? Does she know how to cook?”

“From some of what she’s said, I assume she knows how, but since we don’t have kitchens in our dorms, I haven’t had a chance to see her demonstrate.”

“I see, I see. Tell you what; why don’t you invite her to join us for Christmas, and we’ll see how she does in the kitchen with your mother and sisters?”

“I think she’s already planning on going to visit her family for Christmas.”

“You don’t say. That’s something to watch; if she consistently chooses her family over yours, it’s going to cause problems, it will, it will.” He picked up the menu and looked at the dessert listing. “A good, submissive wife should defer to her husband’s decisions, including over where to spend the holidays.”

“Pop, she’s not my wife yet.”

“True, true, but how she acts now is a good indication of how she will act once you’re married. If she’s contentious about things now, don’t expect her to stop being contentious after the wedding.”

“I don’t think Leah has a contentious bone in her body.”

His father looked over the top of the menu at him with a serious expression. “It’s there, my boy, it’s there, all right. Every woman has a contentious side; it’s part of the curse. It’s up to us men to make sure they stay where God ordained them, and to do that you must be the assertive one. Mark my words, Will; women may say they want a sensitive man that treats them as an equal, but that’s just the devil’s influence trying to subvert God’s order. Deep down, every woman has a spiritual need for the man in her life to be in charge. She may resist for a while, but the sooner you take your ordained position, the sooner she’ll get in line with what God wants.”


Leah washed her hands and looked in the mirror, thinking about the movies she’d seen where someone escaped from a situation by climbing out through a bathroom window. Nuts; no windows.

“Like father, like son,” the old saw went. She could see its application in J.T., who shared a lot of traits with their father, and in Marcel, who was in many ways like Joshua Cardan. Would Will end up just like Pastor Norm someday? At least he didn’t have that annoying trait of repeating random phrases, but the way he treated his mother was not a good foreshadowing of things to come.

Drying her hands, she wished she could be more like Rachel. Her sister might not have outright contradicted the man, but she would have imposed more of herself into the conversations and deflected much of the sexist ideas. Of course, if she had been more like Rachel, she doubted Will would have asked her out in the first place.

On the plus side, she doubted she would ever have to worry about speaking in front of the congregation in the Nickman’s church. While neither man had specifically said so, she had the impression they held to the doctrine that women should not speak in church. On the minus side, Pastor Norm seemed to extend that well beyond the church. Wilma Nickman hadn’t said more than two dozen words all night. Most of the time, her husband spoke for her, answering questions on her behalf, ordering her food for her, and even going so far as to state her opinions as if she wasn’t even there.

If that was what Will expected of a wife, he needed to either change his expectations, or find another woman to marry. She might be terrified of speaking in front of a group of people, but she had no desire to be silenced everywhere.

*** (Just over a week later)

A light knock on her door interrupted her thoughts, and though she didn’t feel much like talking to anyone, she opened her room anyway. She looked at the face outside, and started to close the door.

“Leah, please wait; I won’t come in, and all I ask is one minute,” Will said.

“What do you want, Will?”

“I didn’t tell the Dean it wasn’t you in class on Friday; your instructor told me, and the only person I said anything about it to was Rachel.”

“It doesn’t matter at this point who figured it out. It was a pretty dumb idea in the first place, but that doesn’t change that it’s over between us.”

“I kind of figured that, but I wanted to apologize anyway and ask your forgiveness. I’m sorry. I let the thought of you being alone down there with him fill me with jealousy and anger, and in response I did a lot of stupid things that ruined it for us.”

She shook her head. “It was already over for us before Friday, Will. It was over before dinner with your parents was finished.”

“Huh? What are you talking about? I thought the evening went well.”

“Maybe for you it did, and maybe for your dad it did, but I spent that whole evening looking at your mother and thinking that was going to be me in a few years. I watched how you and your father treated your mother, and I kept coming back to the thought that Daddy never treats Mom like that, Marcel’s dad never treats his wife that way, nor does Marcel treat his mother that way. I decided that night I wanted someone who would treat me the way my dad treats my mom, and the way Marcel’s parents treat each other.”

“It’s the Biblical order of things; Mom accepts that.”

“She may accept it, but if you spent any time looking into her eyes, you would see that she doesn’t like it. My parents’ marriage conforms to the Biblical order, too, but Mom has her own mind and her own voice. God didn’t give those to her just so she could act stupid around Daddy; He gave her those so she could be the helpmate God intended for her to be. Many times she has raised questions and objections that Daddy hadn’t considered, and in so doing helped him avoid making a mistake. Can your mother disagree with your father, Will?”

“Pop won’t tolerate anything less than proper submission from her.”

“Too bad for both of them, and too bad for you if you cannot take this piece of counsel from a woman. Don’t repeat your father’s error. Find a wife who will be a helpmate for you, not a mindless servant.” She stepped back from the door. “I forgive you, Will, though I cannot speak on Rachel’s behalf for what you did to her. I’ve given you your minute and more, and I think it’s time we just said good-bye.”

*** (Christmas Day, a few weeks later)

Will Nickman sat in the living room, glancing through the doorway into the dining room of his parents’ Oregon home, where early preparations for Christmas dinner were underway. “Do you ever think, Pop, that maybe we should help out around here more and not take Mom so much for granted?”

“Not at all, not at all,” his father replied. “It’s the natural order of things; the home the way God intended. The only true domestic harmony is found by everyone staying to their proper place. We men should be in charge, doing work in the garage or in the yard, and women should be in submission, taking care of the home and cooking the meals.”

“I’m just not sure I’ve ever seen Mom enjoy the holidays, though. It seems like for her they’re just a whole lot of extra work.”

“Ah, but there is joy in a job well done, there is, there is. Your mother cooks an excellent Christmas feast, and for her to see people enjoying that, well, that’s about one of the greatest feelings a woman can have.”

He stood up and turned towards the kitchen. “Maybe I’ll see what I can do to help with dinner.”

“Sit down, boy, sit down. The best help we men can be is to just stay out of the way. Your mother has your sisters to help her, and they have that God-given knack for domestic things that we lack.”

“Maybe, Pop. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?” He entered the kitchen and found his mother standing at the cutting board, dicing apples. “Mom, I’d like to help with dinner. What can I do?”

She turned surprised eyes on him, and he looked into them with a new perspective. Leah had been right; there was resignation in his mother’s eyes more than there was agreement. She had accepted her lot in life, but she had never learned to like it.

He lowered his voice so only she could hear him. “I lost Leah, Mom, because she wouldn’t accept being treated the way Pop and I treat you. I don’t ever want to lose someone like that again. I can’t change Pop, but I can change me. What can I do to help?”

It was the first time he could remember his mother smiling in years.
(What did Leah do that made him so jealous, and just exactly how stupid did he act? Does Will win Leah back with his new perspective? What does the story hold for our characters? These questions, and more, are answered in the pages of Merrowsong.)

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