Once I had looked up the word sabbatarianism I came up with this. It's a bit darker than I meant it to be
Ezra has a lot of scars. You can’t see them, even if you knew where to look. Maude’s words have cut Ezra so many times he doesn’t even know he’s bleeding anymore.
“Ezra! How could you do this! I expected you to act like a man, and yet you can’t do one simple thing like stay in your room and be quiet! You’ve embarrassed me in front of the entire town!”
He was seven. He woke from a nightmare where he was being chased by the devil on a black horse and screamed so loud the poker game that was being played downstairs disbanded. The sheriff, his deputy and the mayor were all seen leaving the premises. Their wives were not at all happy. Ezra and Maude left town.
Black horses still cause Ezra to shudder twenty years later.
“Ezra! It’s unbecoming of a gentleman to smoke out of doors! Your father would never have been caught acting in such a manner! I’m glad he died before he could see you act so slovenly.”
He was ten. Ezra had gone outside for a cigarette because Mr. Perkins wouldn’t follow him to the balcony. Mr. Perkins smelt like boiled cabbage and stale urine. Mr. Perkins had tried to touch Ezra Down There, but Ezra had stamped really hard on the old man’s foot like the girls at “The Horse and Pelican” had taught him and slipped away.
He wanted to be a gentleman but there were too many rules to remember. He knew his father would have known everything. His father wouldn’t have embarrassed his mother all the time. His father wouldn’t have wanted a son who embarrassed his mother all the time.
For the first and only time Ezra was glad his father was dead.
“Ezra, will you stop being so be ridiculous! We’re doing this, and we’re doing this tomorrow. I won’t allow you to ruin this for me! You were always soft for a pretty girl – what would your father say?”
Ezra was twenty-three. Tomorrow was Christmas. Tomorrow he had planned to ask for the hand of the local preachers daughter. He had first seen Mary-Lynn fifteen minutes after Maude had dragged him off the stagecoach. He bought the young woman a blue ribbon for her hair four days later.
He knew that if Maude could listen to him, she’d understand why they couldn’t do this one con. Ezra had never asked his mother for a favour – she wouldn’t, couldn’t disappoint him this one time.
But Maude couldn't listen if Ezra didn't speak up.
“Mother, I really don’t think-“
“That’s exactly right. You don’t think. Christmas Day is the perfect day for this. Everyone in town will be at the church. We’ll be gone and halfway to Patience Hollow before they even know the money is missing. Don’t act like you care for Christmas – you’ve never cared for the day before.”
“Well, while it's true I've never been accused of sabbatarianism, even I have limits. Mother, this is a nice town. With nice people. You’ll have to do this job on your own, as I’m not helping you. Just this once – please Mother – not this town.”
When Ezra was four his mother slapped his face. The tone of her voice on this Christmas Eve hurt more than that remembered punishment.
“Yes, Ezra. This town, this people. And if you decline to help your mother I shall leave you behind. Why must you hurt your mother by being obstinate? Ezra, you’re being selfish.”
Maude turned her back on her only child.
The next morning Ezra woke to find her, and the four thousand dollars the town had saved to build a new school, gone. Mary-Lynn, her father, and the entire town ran Ezra out of town sun-rise on Boxing Day.
Ezra made sure he never put a return address on any of the letters he wrote his mother.
When Ezra was twenty-eight he found himself in a town called Four Corners. The editor of the local paper reminded him of his Mother – the days when Maude was proud of him for doing something well and gave him rock candy and hugs – and he missed his mother for the first time since Mary-Lynn tramped the blue ribbon into the mud.
The next time Ezra wrote a letter to his Mother, he added his address.