Ashes & Alms


Ashes & Alms - A.M. Leibowitz
Editions:Kindle: $ 0.99
Pages: 42

In her teens, Jo spent a summer as a missionary in Chicago. After forty years, two divorces, and a daughter who won’t speak to her, a postcard arrives in the mail. Now Jo must decide if she wants to attend a reunion. Going means seeing the woman she once loved and finding out if all they had was one summer or if there’s a chance to start over. It also means facing the other women on her team. Maybe it’s time for Jo to reconcile all her broken relationships.

(Part of Never Too Late - a collection of nine stories featuring LGBTQIA characters over the age of fifty)

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Phil, Jo’s only remaining friend from her missionary days, was waiting for her at their favorite diner. It had been a few weeks since they’d been out for coffee, and she was looking forward to catching up. She slid into the booth beside him. The server caught her eye and came over. Once Jo had ordered black coffee and a breakfast combo, she turned her attention to Phil.

“I’m going to Chicago next week.” She cleared her throat. “For a reunion.”

Phil’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, really?” His mustache twitched with his poor attempts to conceal amusement. “How did that come about?”

Jo stopped herself from reacting. Phil was one of the good ones; he understood better than anyone what the big deal was. He’d been there.

“Annie sent me a postcard.” Jo let it sink in.


With a snap, Phil closed his mouth. He said nothing. After all, what was there to say? He could tell her it was a bad idea, which she already suspected. Or he could tell her it was a good idea, which she might not believe. He had no stake in it. The three boys from their church who had been on the trip—Phil being among them—were not invited.

Phil scratched his beard. “Okay,” he said.

“That’s all? ‘Okay’?” Jo frowned. “Aren’t you going to give me your expert opinion on the situation?”

“No.” He picked up his coffee cup and took a sip just as the server brought Jo hers. He set the cup back in the saucer. “You’re an adult. You make your own decisions.”

Jo stirred sugar and cream into her coffee. “You think I shouldn’t go.”

“I never said any such thing.”

“Did you keep in touch with anyone from back then?” Jo asked.

“Here and there. I don’t know if I’d be any more welcome than you are, especially after leaving the ministry.”

The server delivered their food, and they were quiet for a few minutes. Jo thought about what he’d said. She remembered Phil at seventeen, the way adults had described him as “gifted” and “full of holy boldness.” There’d been no question then on where he was headed. Even the other kids called him Preach.

“That’s what I’m worried about. All their perfect lives with their perfect children and grandchildren. Happy, smiley pictures of them at their kids’ weddings and cuddling their grandbabies. Celebrating all their accomplishments. And here I am, chief among the sinners.”

Phil laughed. “You’re hardly Saint Paul, and I doubt their lives are perfect. What makes you think they’ve lived that way anyhow? The difference between you and them is that you’re honest about who you are.”


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