Author's Note: Written for the Village Square forum's writing contest with the theme childhood.

I notice I use Carter stories for a lot of these contests, but that's just where the inspiration seems to come from. Other inspiration came from Dry the River's song Bible Belt, memories of exploring abandoned houses, my own church's current struggles, and waking up two days ago to my living room being filled with light. As for the title, it comes from an old poem I wrote years upon years ago whose theme I felt was echoed in this story.

I do apologize for the rather abrupt ending, though, but I had trouble thinking of how to tie it all together. Still, I hope you all enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon nor its characters.

-/-

He Eats Spider Webs

Mornings were such a beautiful time of day, especially in the quiet of the church. He loved to sit in one of the many empty pews to watch the light of damn slowly creep through the stained glass windows, but on the off chance that it rained, he found he also enjoyed seeing the tiny droplets race down the uneven surface. He could even remember a time when he used to think the patterns they made looked very much like the trees in his family's churchyard.

That day, however, the sun was shining bright, and all the church seemed to glow as it filled with warmth. The preacher felt no need to even light the candles which lined the walls, and without anyone else being in the sanctuary, he found himself walking idly up and down the center aisle. While he walked, his black robes billowed around him, and if it were not for the smile that continued to rest comfortably on his lips, he might have been a blight on the building's grand image.

It had not always been so impressive a sight. Why, he could still remember the day he had been sent to the small country village when he was no more than a young man of twenty or so and the place was a mere rumor. The town had been more lonely then if his memory served him as well as he thought it should. However, it was the state of the local church which had saddened him the most.

She was tired, he could tell. Her walls were gray, the plaster chipped in some places and dissolved in others, and the weight of her wooden roof had proved to be too much for her to bear. Surprisingly, the windows were the sole thing that were still secure. He had immediately thought of their existence as a miracle of the Goddess herself, but he was unsure if the rest was not too far gone for salvation.

Despite his understandable doubts, the young pastor had rolled up his sleeves that day and began what was to be his greatest life's work. Asking the grizzly carpenter was out of the question since, as it was it was, he struggled to find so much as a single day's meal. The funds from the head church were meager, and there were times that he was resigned to forfeit his own earnings to buy even the most basic of necessary materials.

Maybe that was what had made him appear so unusual to the other villagers.

The man smiled to recall the night he had found himself huddled in the empty doorway trying to take shelter from a sudden storm. As he had to disassemble what was left of the roof to rebuild the walls, there was no place for him to wait it out. Even in summer, the rain made him shiver while it pounded against his bare skin and sunburned shoulders, and he found himself questioning his reason for being there at all.

After all, none of his new neighbors seemed to care if their church stood again, so it was hard to find a reason to go on sacrificing. What did he owe this town? No one had so much as offered him a kind word since he came, and yet he continued to work tirelessly day after day without complaint. Did they ever think to thank him or even just pass by?

"Father?"

He glared up from his dusty knees to find a couple waiting there. At least, they looked to be a couple with the man standing over the girl and holding an umbrella for her, but his apparent lack of emotion made it hard to tell. She, on the other hand, had a remarkably sweet face and brown eyes, but what took the pastor by surprise the most was the warmth in her smile.

"Oh, hello," he began, clearing his throat and coming to stand. "There's no real reason for you to call me Father, I'm afraid, but do feel free to call me Carter."

"I'm Elli," she said, "and this is Dr. Timothy."

"Just Trent will be more than enough," the other man assured him. "I might have my doctorate, but I'm hardly a professional." His voice was soft but firm as he spoke, yet it was clear he thought very little of himself. Not that it distracted from his overwhelming presence. "I'm sorry we haven't introduced before today, but our clinic here is very busy."

"We were wondering if you'd like to come inside with us," the young woman continued. "Being out in this storm can't be good for your health."

Carter remembered little of his visit, aside from the delicious muffins Elli had offered him, but his first meeting with them had sparked a passion in him. He could only guess that it was their own strong sense of duty that enabled him to find the strength to finish what he started. What had seemed impossible was no longer so far away, and when he had at last completed his task, a year had not even passed.

The church, which had been all but a forgotten ruin, was given sturdy walls and a sound roof while the formidable windows that had impressed so greatly stood even stronger than before. They glittered like precious gems that first morning as their light danced on the wooden beams and stone floors. Even without having furnished the place, he could imagine what was to still come, and he struggled to keep his pride from overwhelming him. It was the first time he felt as though he had earned the title of Father.

After all, she was his child.