Her village had run out of eligible bachelors, so Jenny found a man in the neighboring town.

“He won’t do,” friends and family predicted. The village matriarch Rose, however, insisted he should be given a chance. Jenny’s ill-fated wedding went ahead as planned.

Rose sat in the front pew, as usual. Her stage whispers were loud enough to carry through the sanctuary for everyone’s benefit. The priest paused respectfully whenever she spoke.

“Lovely peonies, just like at our wedding, Joe.”

The crowd hummed happily, hanging on her every word.

“He’s not a patch on you, Joe. You were so handsome in your uniform.”

The softly buzzing crowd agreed.

Finally, the words Jenny was waiting for. “I now pronounce you man and wife.” The priest was relieved. His part of this travesty was done. He could go home soon, perhaps avoid the inevitable showdown.

At the reception, Jenny managed to keep smiling, but her new husband Jake was full of questions.

“Who was that mad woman talking to an empty pew?”

“You must mean Rose.  She was talking to Joe.”

“Who’s Joe?”

“Her husband. Died on their wedding night fifty years ago. Terrible tragedy.”

“She was talking to thin air!”

“We can all see Joe. I guess you can’t?” Jenny sounded a bit regretful. Jake had seemed so promising. 

“You people are crazy. I’m packing up. Going back to my own town.”

“Too late.” Jenny sighed.

The crowd swarmed over and surrounded Jake, buzzing angrily. They formed an unbreakable circle moving slowly inward. Jake sputtered and spun around and finally staggered, unable to stay on his feet. When he crashed to the floor, Jenny sobbed, but not for long. In her village, widows were revered, wives respected, old maids reviled. And men were expendable.

She would sit in Rose’s pew for the funeral and begin her training. Later, Jake would be by her side. She did hope his face wasn’t swollen from all the stings. She wanted him handsome and docile for eternity, like Joe.

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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
4 months ago

How strange that Jenny married in order to become a widow! A society of widows sounds very macabre. Love the twist to your story, Fuji.

Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
4 months ago

OMG! I do love it so much! I liked the echoes of the Wicker Man in it, as well as the symbolism. Obviously Rose is the Queen Bee in a society of women where man aren’t essential, as they are so disappointing and unable to see beyond the realm of reality. Well done, Fuji 😊 

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Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
Reply to  Fuji
4 months ago

Oh, the 70s one for sure! Christopher Lee was immense as Lord Summerisle! The latest one was very disappointing and they kind of changed the story, although Ellen Burstyn was the only cherry on a very bad cake!

Susan Dawson
Susan Dawson(@susan-dawson)
Reply to  Fuji
3 months ago

Yes, I am like you. The fun of writing the zen garden stories is getting all the parts of the prompt into one story, like a puzzle

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
4 months ago

Oh! Poor Jake. Great story and its symbolism. I was always amazed knowing such a good writer as you, Fuji. You are one of my favorites, my idol, and my inspiration in writing. You are really good at making up a story that does not reveal the hidden meaning until the end. Hats off to you and Greene, who knew right away what you were implying. Great work.

Susan Dawson
Susan Dawson(@susan-dawson)
3 months ago

I enjoyed this, Fuji, as always – enjoyed trying to decide half way through if these were bees or people and happy to settle on neither/nor

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
3 months ago

So cleverly written, Fuji. I’ve always felt that a baying crowd is like a swarm of bees. An intriguing, chilling story. Loved it!

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Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
3 months ago

Wonderful story, Juma. Memorable. I have my mother’s and grandmother’s old photo albums with many wedding photos similar to yours and I’m sure I will remember your story every time I look at them.
I think Jenny was in a win-win situation. Jake understood and they lived happily ever after or, if not, she became a widow and the next ‘Rose’.  🌺 

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