This story is by Melissa Bisbano Guckin and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I have been called evil too many times to count. Self-righteous, hypocritical people who judge without knowing. Ignorance is frightening.
Do what you want; and it Harm None. That’s been my mantra for quite some time now.
“You have to believe in something”, my mother would always say. “Educate yourself and follow your truth; your path.”
Too bad too many can’t or won’t stick to their path. Meddling and nosing around, intruding on my life, a topic which they know little to nothing about. As they stand on their fictitious pulpits masquerading as pure; they cast judgement on all that is different from their own beliefs.
This was a practice I knew I needed to rectify.
It was a Sunday morning. I sat at my usual table outside of my now former favorite little Bistro. With my face to the sun, I basked in the warmth and reflected on the past week and contemplated that which was upcoming. My waitress- who was not my usual- appeared hesitant to approach my table. Trying at all cost to not make eye contact with me, she would scamper past, head down when waiting on others in the proximity of where I was sitting.
“Miss?” I sought after her attention, my hand raised like a child requesting permission to use the school bathroom, “Miss? Excuse me?”
Disregarding my request for service, she quickly turned on her heel to go. I heard an audible gasp at the same time and turned my attention to the group of women sitting three tables away from mine. They were all staring at me with what I believed to be disbelief for the lack of service I received.
“We’ll pray for you.” hollered one woman as the group held hands and nodded in agreement.
“For shoddy service?’ I mused to myself, “Well ok- a bit extreme but whatever makes you happy.”
My waitress appeared moments later, meekly following behind a well dressed gentleman whom I assumed was her manager.
“Abigail, is this the woman you say threatened you?”
“Mmfh.” mumbled Abigail
‘’Thr-threatened you!?” I started incredulity, “How on earth could I have threatened you? You never even came to my table!” I demanded.
“Ma’am I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I can not have anyone threatening and intimidating my staff.”
Astonished by the accusation, I stood to leave but not before demanding to know just how I was to have threatened her.
“We saw the whole thing,” bellowed the leader of my self-proclaimed prayer group, “She cursed that poor girl, flicked her wrist…..sent that poor child in a tailspin she did!”
“Oh for Christ sake,” I began in an attempt to explain, “ I was simply trying to gain the girls attention for service.”
“DON’T you DARE take the Lord’s name in vain,” screeched the ringleader of the woman’s pose.
Abigail whimpered and cowered at the outburst.
“There there my child, she can’t hurt you.” spoke the woman folding the waitress into her bosom for effect.
“I assure you all I had no, nor do I have any intent on harming this girl. I simply wanted more coffee with my danish.” I sighed. “This has all been a terrible misunderstanding.”
“YOU’RE A WITCH! A DEVIL WORSHIPPER!” hissed the woman so close to my face I could taste the garlic that was in her lunch.
And there it was. Fitting that the waitresses’ name was Abigail because we were now on the newest Witch hunt. It was hard to take her seriously.
In amused disbelief, I turned to the manager searching for some relief from this woman’s verbal assault but to no avail. He stood there listening to the half truths of ignorance being hurled at me as a crowd of inquisitive onlookers gathered around.
Preparing to leave as asked, I sat instead. I decided I was not going to give into the instructions and be intimidated for the actions of a raging lunatic.
“…..you think you can keep us living in fear but we will NOT go quietly. You will be exposed for the demon that you are and for the terrible things you do to us all.” continued the crazy woman.
That one made me chuckle a bit. I’d been called a devil worshipper before, sure, but never a demon myself directly.
“And just what exactly is it that I do to ‘you all’?” I mimicked , stood again and looked around at my accusers who looked stoically thunderstruck that I dare speak directly to them. “I fail to see how a coffee and a danish in the middle of the day brings pain and suffering into any of your lives.”
“Nobody?” I continued, careful to watch the tone and volume of my voice and extra care to my sometimes animated gestures, “You are not the first , nor will you be the last to accuse me of this. You are not originals in your incapacity to think beyond what you know and ignorantly cast judgement on what you do not.”
“Did you just call us IGNORANT?” demanded voices in the crowd
“I’ve just been called a devil worshipper, a Christian manifestation to which I do not even believe in, let alone worship. If perhaps the small-minded uneducated zealots such as yourselves would look past fear and your own truth and tolerate that perhaps there could be other ways that do not take away your rights or freedom I and others like me could be finally left in peace.” “Instead,” I continued, “I am harassed once again in an establishment for making a simple movement that is made by hundreds of people daily- with no recourse- but because of my beliefs, I am ostracized.”
“I want to go home,” I heard Abigail mumble into garlics breast, “Mom?”
“MOM??” I lashed, “Mom? Are you kidding me with this? You’re her MOTHER? What kind of a game are the two of you playing? Noticing the panic in those around me, I evened my tone. “Are you in on this? “ I questioned the manager who stood especially quiet throughout this whole ordeal.
“I had no idea.” He stated to me as he turned, brow furrowed, towards my accusers. “Ma’am, just what is the meaning of this? We do not take to false accusations and insulting our customers lightly. You came to me with talk of a threat now I am to understand it is you who is doing the threatening.”
“I am not threatening her, it is she who…” began the woman looking nervously around in search of support from the crowd.
“Mom, stop!” exclaimed Abigail,“Enough, it’s over. I’m sorry,” said Abigail approaching me, hand extended, “My mother’s bright idea to extort money, I told her I wanted no part of it.”
I said nothing
“She said she knew of the local witch that everyone knew of but never spoke and that if I could get her to ‘curse’ me…we could sue her for pain and suffering.”
Again, I said nothing, only stared at the young woman in utter disbelief.
“I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive me” The young woman continued.
“Oh, I will forgive you,” I started, keeping sure that my gestures and tone stayed even,”but not before I explain what a dangerous game of which you have embarked. First, let me begin by saying that not all like me are like me. Some will practice on the side of darkness and therefore be not of the forgiving nature and you would then pay the price. I,however, do not practice that way. ‘And It Harm None’ are words I take to heart. Second, I do not know what you think it is I do believe in, but might do you well to educate yourself. I do believe in God. In fact, I believe ‘my’ God is also ‘your’ God. In my beliefs there is THE ONE- God. Although there are others that I call Gods and Goddesses, “your” Jesus among them, for He is also my Jesus. I come from a place of kindness and forgiveness as I have learned in my practice. That being said, if you still believe our Gods are different, this is where they are the same, they are both forgiving therefore if I AM indeed wrong in my beliefs, yet live my life good and kind, hurting no one, then God will forgive me. That is all the redemption I need. So yes, I will forgive you.”
Abigail smiled and tears of gratefulness streamed down her cheeks as I turned toward her mother.
“You, on the other hand,” I sneered at crazy garlic breath, “ better start praying for yourself.”