Good morning, y’all. The pictures coming from Italy are heart wrenching. What would be a mild earthquake by California standards has leveled a city in central Italy. The city suffered a smaller earthquake a few years ago and was supposedly rebuilt to current earthquake proof standards. I am assuming there will be an investigation launched and criminal charges leveled at some point. Or maybe not. Anyway, I can now cross off another spot listed as a top ten spot to retire. Waking up with my penthouse apartment in the basement does not seem like a viable plan, even if the prices have never been better.
Speaking of viable plans brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Elders had just settled into their corner booth for their weekly unofficial meeting of the church leadership committee when they were joined by Bubba Hawker. As the Elders tried to think of a polite way to extricate themselves from the situation, they each reflected on Bubba’s history.
“Contrary to Evangelical belief, sparing the rod just might be the best parenting”, thought Elder Wiley, “Especially if the rod is going to be used against the child’s head”.
Bubba had his best chance for a normal life when DFCS came out to have a look at his living conditions. Bubba had been eight or so. In spite of all of the signs of physical abuse, it would have been very difficult for the DFCS agent to remove Bubba from his home. Bubba was the son of a well respected preacher in a small community where everyone knew everything about each other. More importantly, no one told anything about a member of the community to an outsider. No one was willing to collaborate any stories about Bubba’s living conditions. The grammar school teacher that had called DFCS to investigate the issue was gone the next year. Everyone learned a lesson from the experience, and everyone went on minding their own business.
Bubba had learned to endure his lot with a grin on his face, much like he was displaying to the Elders as he sat across the table from them at the IHOP.
“How he manages to keep his pancakes in his mouth while grinning in his toothless countenance is a mystery”, thought Elder Cheatum, “I guess his table manners were taught to him with as strict a dictum as his Bible verses”.
It is a pastor’s fate to break bread with as many members of his congregation as he can. Spewing food while asking the faithful to dig “just a little deeper” each Sunday would not have a positive result when the collection plate was passed. As a result, Bubba’s manners were sound. In fact, if it were not for the fact that “good sense had been beat out of him”, as Granny Waller used to say, Bubba had all of the tools to be a great pastor.
Enhancing his resume for taking the reins as pastor of the Little Church in the Valley was the fact that Bubba had been handling snakes as far back as anyone could remember.
“His daddy probably put one in the crib with him”, thought Elder Diggum.
It was common knowledge that the snakes had always responded well to Bubba. Even Old Ben seemed to up his deportment a notch when Bubba was in charge.
Rounding out his qualifications, Bubba had a beautiful deep bass singing voice. It was the deep bass of a three pack a day smoker, without the occasional rasp and coughing. One could assume that Bubba’s deep voice would carry a sermon well into the rafters, even at the Crystal Palace. Additionally, Bubba’s knowledge of the hymnal was complete. His knowledge of the hymnal had allowed him to elevate his status to acting choir director when Ophelia Bottoms had been temporarily cast out. The Elders were aware that the temporary elevation in status by their moving Ms. Bottoms away from the clutches of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread had been one of the reasons that Bubba felt that he was once again on a career path to becoming a pastor.
“I’m just guessing, but I bet that Bubba has a couple of dozen sermons memorized from his years of hearing them repeated in church”, thought Elder Cheatum, “I’m sure that in his mind, Bubba thinks that he is the ‘total package’”. “I bet Bubba thinks that he should be the one making the altar call each Sunday”.
Resigned to having breakfast with Bubba, the Elders channeled their thoughts and conversation towards non-controversial topics.
“What brings you to town”, asked Elder Diggum, “in fact, how did you get to town?”
“I hitched”, grinned Bubba, “it’s easy”.
“Well, I guess everybody has to come to town sometime”, said Elder Diggum, “you didn’t just come to eat breakfast did you?”
“No, I came to see Reverend Dale”, replied Bubba as he wiped his mouth with his napkin, “He’s working at the Walmart and I’ve never seen a preacher work at a Walmart”.
The Elders were barely able to hide the looks of shock on their faces, even if Bubba had been able to draw facial clues. How was it that the ‘least informed’ among them had the latest news.
“How do you know this”, asked Elder Wiley.
“I seen him”, answered Bubba, “first time, was last week when I came to town for new shoes.” Bubba promptly brought his new Skechers up to table level for the Elders to see.
“There he was at the front door, smiling, saying ‘Welcome to Walmart’, ‘Welcome to Walmart’, ‘Welcome to Walmart'”, Bubba seemed to be caught in a loop.
Elder Wiley broke the loop by asking, “Did he recognize you?”
“I reckon; he said ‘Welcome to Walmart Bubba”, replied Bubba, “he didn’t call anybody else by name.”
Bubba gave a wide toothless grin to express his celebrity at being recognized by a Walmart greeter. Bubba placed his knife, fork and napkin in his plate, signifying that he was done.
“You go on Bubba, we got this,” said Elder Cheatum as he picked up Bubba’s check.
“Thank you very much sirs”, said Bubba as he rose to leave, “Any of you all heading towards Nunsuch?”
“Not until Prayer Meeting tonight”, replied Elder Diggum, “we’ll see you then.”
“Okay, bye”, replied Bubba, and he was gone.
“Well, the question of the day is, what the heck is going on with Reverend Dale”, blurted out Elder Wiley, “Being a greeter at the Walmart ain’t going to pay the rent, and that’s what we all should be concerned about with this latest bit of news”. “Is he trying to shame us in to paying him more money, or has his congregation gotten too old for him?”
It took a second for the other two Elders to catch the implication, and Elder Cheatum was the first to speak.
“If we are all painfully honest with ourselves, Reverend Dale’s skill set seems to lend itself to being a gigolo”, chuckled Elder Cheatum, “I just don’t know how much work there is in our area for the trade”. “I’m equally unsure as to whether a hard working gigolo would make enough to support his brood”.
“Barry, why don’t you slide by Walmart and confirm the story if you can without being noticed”, asked Elder Cheatum.
“I’ll do it”, interjected Elder Wiley, “Barry is as inconspicuous as a trailer carrying a ‘Wide Load’ sign.”
“Well, thanks, I think”, said Elder Diggum, “I do have other things to do today.”
With a heartfelt, “See you in church”, the three friends left the parking lot to attend their duties for the day.