The Widow of Edenbridge

Short story based on The Widow of Ephesus written by Aristides of Miletus in the 2nd century BC, and thought to be one of the oldest short stories. The original is shown below in italics.

Today Kathleen Phillips was attending the double funeral of her husband and son. Her younger sister, Lisa, with strength and energy drawn equally from stoic duty and the relief that it had not been her loss, had guided her broken sister sensitively through the event. Kathleen and her husband had been the attractive couple: sexy, capable and confident, and their son was a loved and admired product of their perfect union. Even today, though drawn and distant, she looked good. Lisa had tentatively suggested that Kathleen might want to be a pallbearer for her son’s coffin. She had refused, certain that she would fail in some catastrophic way with this unfamiliar physical task. When they arrived at the church, Lisa had introduced Kathleen to a young man who worked for the funeral directors. He was at least fifteen years her junior, somewhere between the age of her husband and her son. She resisted the instant attraction as wholly inappropriate, but he gently and patiently showed and reassured her what a tender thing it would be for her to do, and how she would live to cherish and attach importance to the act. His boss, a man who understood better than anyone the narrow window of availability in which the dead were processed, raised his eyebrows and looked at his watch, observed by Lisa. Kathleen decided that this was the right thing to do and she finally agreed. She wanted to feel his weight one last time. She wanted to be the last one to carry him where he needed to go. After the funeral, she sought out the young man, they walked to the woods behind the crematorium and they had sex, urgently and unceremoniously. She returned to the crematorium later than he, and discovered the next day that he had been let go by the director, who felt that his role in the pallbearing incident had not been in line with the company’s primary ethic of efficiency. Kathleen went to the office with Lisa, who insisted that the young man be reinstated and, furthermore, held up as just the sort of progressive employee that this company, and the industry needed. The director assured the two women that the young man would be re-employed, and that should such an unfortunate event befall either of them in the future, he and his staff would be at their service.

The Widow of Ephesus by Aristides of Miletus

A married woman of Ephesus, famous for her virtue, was so distraught when her husband died that she kept watch in his sepulchre, weeping inconsolably. Several days and nights passed. Word spread of the woman’s virtue. Even her devoted maid could not persuade her to eat or leave her dead husband’s side. Then it happened that some thieves were crucified nearby, a soldier being left on guard at the crosses. Hearing the sounds of the virtuous woman nearby, he left his post and went to investigate. He discovered the woman weeping, went back for his supper, and attempted to persuade her to eat and to give up her vigil. She refused but her maid could not resist some bread and wine. Eventually, since the maid had yielded first, the widow allowed herself to be persuaded too. The widow gradually became aware of the soldier’s handsome appearance and fine manners. Finally, undisturbed by the corpse, they made love in the tomb. Meanwhile, realising that the crucifixes were unguarded, relatives of one of the thieves took his body away. When he realised what had happened, the soldier determined to kill himself. But the virtuous widow stayed his hand, claiming that she would rather see a dead man hung up than a live one struck down. They then carried out her husband’s dead body and hung it up, in the place of the thief, on the crucifix.
Eastenders eat your heart out.


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