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Chasing Claire

by Jan Ackerson  
9/25/2006 / Short Stories

Claire was awake, but her eyelids were too heavy and dull to open. She flung one weighted arm toward the middle of the bed: still empty. Tom would never sleep there againhe was honeymooning with Jessica. Younger. Slimmer. Blonder.

She rose and made coffee, a melody buzzing in her ears like a persistent insect. The newspaper contained the usual: Mideast violence, rising gas prices. Claire plodded to the bedroom and pulled on gray sweats.

The song grew louder, crowding out thought. Fourteen notes, over and over. They nearly drowned out the television news. Just as well; the perky newswoman annoyed Claire. Must she always smile?

Although it was Saturday and she had a list of chores, Claires leaden arms made housework wearisome. She tried to read, but was stymied by the melody in her head, insistent and unchanging. With a frustrated cry, Claire stomped to her car and drove to a store that sold keyboards and electric guitars.

She sat at a keyboard and attempted to pick out the notes. D-E-D-B, then G-E-D came fairly quickly, but Claire struggled to find the next note. She played the sequence again, then stared at her fingers, willing them to continue.

Can I help? The womans badge read ANGIE, on a treble staff.

Claire sighed. Its this song. Ive had it in my head all day, and I dont know what it is. Im going insane She played the seven notes again.

Oh, I love that song! Angie sat beside Claire. Is this it? She played the entire song, in lovely simple harmony.

Claire listened with closed eyes. When Angie finished, she realized she hadnt been breathing. Yes. Thats it. What is it?

Angies eyes sparkled. Ive known that hymn forever. Its Rock of Ages.

A hymn! Claire couldnt have been more surprised if Tom had walked into the store and kissed her. She murmured her thanks and hurried away, driving randomly until the sight of a church caused her to brake suddenly and veer into the parking lot. She sat very still, long-dead memories resurrecting themselves.

Seven years oldsummer with GranGrans crackly singing while she slices cucumberspatent leather-clad feet swinging from a wooden pewMom looking tired and sad when she comes to Gransslapping the Noahs Ark coloring book from her hands... Why are you filling her head with this nonsense, Mother? Running up the porch steps to see Daddyhes gone, hes never coming back

Claire had never since been in a church, save for a few awkward weddings where she sat stiffly, the pew pressing into the backs of her knees. Now she found herself inside this church, flipping through a hymnal for Rock of Ages. Therenumber 189.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

The words made no sense. Claire had an absurd mental picture of Gran, hiding behind a boulder. Nonsense. She gathered her keys and purse and prepared to leave. The hymnal lay open on the pew.

From behind her, a male voice spoke. They dont sing that one much any more, do they?

Claire looked into a pair of smiling gray eyes. Im sorryI was just leaving.

The mans gesture took in the entire room. Whats your hurry? The teeming hordes wont be here until tomorrow. Why were you looking at Rock of Ages?

I was just chasing down the melody. I couldnt get it out of my mind.

Sounds to me like a melody was chasing you.

Oh, for Petes sake. Listen, reverend, its a pretty song, and you have a pretty church. Lets just leave it at that, shall we? Dont bother trying to save me. Im beyond redemption.

She stood to sidle past him, and he handed her a card. If youre ever being chased again, feel free to run back here.

Claire shoved the card into her purse and spent the rest of the evening clear-headed. The melody was gone, but some of her heaviness seemed to have left with it. She fell quickly asleep.

When she woke, there was a distinct picture in her mind: Gran in her blue dress, her spotted hands holding a yellowing hymnalstanding on tiptoe to see the wordswords that make her miss MomCome home, come home, ye who are weary, come home

I am weary, thought Claire. I want to come home. Exasperated and amused by her own folly, she dug in her purse for the card from the gray-eyed pastor. She would call him, she knew, some day soon.

Jan is a Christian who has traveled through sorrow and depression, and has found victory and grace. She dedicates all writings to her Heavenly Father. Check out Jan's website at
Copywrite Jan Ackerson--2006

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