The Prompt for this story comes from storyaday.org, by Julie Duffy. The first paragraph is copied exactly from the prompt, as the challenge is to write what happens next. I had fun with this one, though it was a struggle in the middle. I realized I needed to not drag it out too long, and I wasn’t sure where to take it, until I ended up resorting to the overdone– well, you’ll see. It’s a bit cliche, but I still kinda like it.

Loretta’s face was hidden by the wide brimmed hat boldly covered in ribbons and one rose. Rising slowly from the fourth pew, she raised chin towards the minister and declared, “I object.”

Tom bristled. It was hard enough standing in for Father Joshua without the congregation pulling such stunts.

At least, he hoped it was a stunt. He turned to Loretta, along with most of the assembly. Frank– the groom– glowered. The bride, Willema, stared at the floor, her shame poorly masked through her thin veil. Perhaps this was not a charade after all. “Mrs. Bernard,” he said. “On what grounds do you object to this union?”

“On the grounds that my niece is not chaste, Father, and even now bears the beginnings of a life within her.”

A murmur rose through the congregation, but Tom’s eyes fixed upon the groom, prepared to intercept any sudden retributive act.

But none came. At least, not from Frank. Instead, it was Willema who descended the podium steps and glided to the fourth row, where she turned and stood at the end of the pew.

“Go ahead, Auntie,” she said, fairly spitting out the last word. “Tell these good people what you know. Or rather, tell them whatever lies you think they’ll believe.”

“Lies?” Loretta’s face grew red, and suddenly Tom found himself in a courtroom, sitting beside the witness stand where Willema faced the audience no longer dressed in a bridal gown and veil, but in drab prison garb. Her previously elegant crown of golden braids now hung in stringy locks on either side of her face. Loretta spoke persistently, but it took Tom several moments to attend to the words she repeated over and over. “I object! Your Honor! I object! Your Honor!”

Then a gavel was in Tom’s hand and he struck it against the sound block. “Overruled,” he said.

“You are a terrible judiciary!” Loretta shrieked from the plaintiff’s box.

“I know!” Tom cried. “I’m not supposed to be here. I’m a minister, not a judge!”

And then, he paused, and thought. “Wait a minute,” he mumbled to himself. “I’m not a minister, either. I’m a janitor.”

“I object,” said a voice to his right as he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “We’re custodians, not janitors,” said Loretta, as she shoved a broom into his hands. “But if you don’t get back to work you might not be either of those things for much longer.”

“Right,” Tom said with a grunt. But as he swept, his mind kept coming back to his strange dream, and he began to look at his job in a different sort of light. “What is anyone, if not a custodian? Custodian of souls? Custodian of the law? Custodian of health? Custodian of–”

“What are you mumbling to yourself?” asked Frank, who’d just emerged from the closet with a mop and pail.

“Nothing,” replied Tom. “How’s Willema?”

“Still pregnant,” said Frank, then smiled. “We’re having a boy.”

“Congratulations,” said Loretta. “Now get back to work.”

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