MitcHELL

Cole Hardman
Jun 8 · 4 min read
artwork by Graham Hardman — https://instagram.com/graham_hardman/

INT. UNITED METHODIST CHURCH — NIGHT, SEPT 23

Shelly and Leo, both balancing whip-cream covered slices of persimmon pudding on styrofoam plates, stand awkwardly near an exit in the reception hall of the United Methodist Church at the corner of 8th and Warren Street. The whole of the hall is filled with meandering festival-goers who have been drawn a few blocks from the whirling neon lights on Main Street by the promise of persimmon pudding, which is arranged arround the room in disposable pans placed on foldable plastic tables.

Shelly takes a bite of her persimmon pudding and looks at Leo, who finishes his pudding and starts to scrape the whipped cream off his plate with the side of his fork. Leo licks his fork and laughs.

SHELLY
(daringly glaring)

Don’t laugh at me.

LEO

I’m not — it’s just that this

is all so weird, you know?

Shelly puts her fork on her plate next to her half-eaten slice of pudding.

SHELLY

Are you done?

LEO

With what?

SHELLY

You said you wanted

to take a little break — but we’ve been here

for twenty minutes, and you’ve ate more pudding

than I’ve had all week.

LEO
(futilely scraping the
last of the whipped cream
from his plate)

I’m almost done.

SHELLY

Be done

when I get back.

Shelly throws her plate of pudding in a nearby trashcan and heads towards a restroom across the way, leaving Leo all by his lonesome in the room of people tasting pudding and unfamiliar churchgoers. One of the middle aged men in the room, Mr. Brannaham, the preacher, spots Leo standing by himself and walks over to strike a conversation.

At first, Mr. Brannaham looks like he might move to shake Leo’s hand. But then he thinks better of it.

MR. BRANNAHAM
(indirectly embarrassed)

What brings you here?

Leo doesn’t notice at first, and the Preacher tries again.

MR. BRANNAHAM (CONT’D)

Which one’s your favorite?

Leo stops scraping his plate and looks over. Mr. Brannaham smiles. The way he is dressed —worn but well maintained pastel golf shirt, cream khakis, and cheap black sneakers — instantly tips Leo off to who he is. Of course, the big badge with “Hi! I’m the Preacher,” written on it doesn’t help the attempt at small talk.

LEO

You mean the pudding?

MR. BRANNAHAM
(slightly sarcastic in a
way you might not expect a
preacher to be)

That’s what we’re here for.

LEO

I like

them all about the same.

MR. BRANNAHAM

But is that good

or bad?

Mr. Brannaham laughs in a deflated sort of way, as if he is inviting Leo to pick up the slack.

LEO

It’s good, I guess.

MR. BRANNAHAM

It’s not the best

there is, though — I can guarantee you that.

Mrs. Chapman makes the best pudding in town

every Sunday for our after service

lunches. I don’t know why she never enters

the pudding contest, but she’d win for sure.

LEO
(eyeing the door of the
women’s restroom)

Would she?

MR. BRANNAHAM
(maybe emboldened by the
Holy Spirit)

You should come by and try it soon,

if you don’t believe me.

LEO
(playing it well)

Oh —

I don’t think I could. My family’s Baptist,

see, and they’d disown me if they saw me

here right now. I only came with a friend

to see if we could find someone we know.

MR. BRANNAHAM

Who?

LEO

She’s in your church —

MR. BRANNAHAM

So I might know her.

LEO

It’s Hannah Holland?

MR. BRANNAHAM
(remembering)

Her father died last year.

LEO

That’s her. Has she been by?

MR. BRANNAHAM

I haven’t seen her

all week.

LEO
(looking for Shelly again)

That sucks…

Mr. Brannaham, perhaps taken aback at the informality of Leo’s language, lets a pause settle like a cobweb on the conversation. After a moment, when it looks like Leo might leave, Mr. Brannaham dusts the silence off.

MR. BRANNAHAM

You know, we’re not that kind

of church…it was Hannah’s mom who changed my mind

about Hereafter, for Hannah’s sake. And now

it seems silly to think that any harm

could come from such a helpful app.

LEO

Well, I’ve guess I always thought it was trash.

Not the church — Hereafter. I’ve always been

a Baptist first, is all.

MR. BRANNAHAM
(confused into believing a
comedian is an ally, and leaning in
closely to confer)

After what happened with that boy last week,

it might be worth considering how good

Hereafter is again. The thought of a kid

putting their mind inside the app on purpose…

but I think that God will see to it that the app

does his people more good than harm.

Shelly walks out of the bathroom, looking flustered and ready to leave. She glances at Leo from across the room and walks over.

LEO
(shocked at his own
unfinished self as Shelly
is walking over)

I wish

I had your type of faith.

SHELLY
(to Mr. Brannaham)

Have you seen Hannah?

We thought that maybe she might be here tonight —

we’ve been looking everywhere.

MR. BRANNAHAM

I can’t say

that I have.

SHELLY

That’s fine. Will you let me know

if she shows up?

Before the Mr. Brannaham can say anything, Shelly turns to leave and exits out the nearby door.

LEO
(apologetically)

Don’t worry — she’ll find her.

Leo follows Shelly out the exit.

CUT TO:

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

Cole Hardman

Written by

I’m an engineer with a passion for poetry and literary theory. Find more at: http://poetwithnoface.com/

Lit Up

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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