Good morning, y’all. It’s another hot one here in the mountains. We were thinking about a trip down to the Georgia coast to see if we could get a little breeze mixed in with our sweltering air. It doesn’t look like our busy schedule is going to permit a trip at this time. Bad weather is being promised for Tuesday, and I’m looking forward to it. Sounds funny, looking forward to something referred to as bad.
Things looking bad leads us back into our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. Elder Cheatum started his walk around promptly at 4PM on the fourth day of Summer Revival 2010. The Pepsi Cola routeman had indeed gone back to town and brought a second load of co2 and syrup for the tagalong trailer that served as the church’s drink concession booth. Elder Cheatum walked past the “fruit bowl” concession to see the Ladies Auxillary wrapping rubber bands around the outside of the fruit cups, creating a tight seal of the Saran wrap to the Pepsi Cola cups. The cups were placed on the bottom of the washtubs and the first layer of ice was poured in. Another layer of fruit cups were placed in the washtubs, and then covered in ice. Hopefully the rubber bands would prevent the seepage of previous nights.
Elder Cheatum moved to the T-shirt concession to see the new girl, Lavonia, he thought her name was, applying face paint to a little girl. Curious, the Elder moved closer for a look. On one cheek, Lavonia had painted a cross with a golden halo outline. On the other cheek, Lavonia had blacked the cheek to use white paint to paint “Jesus loves me”.
“Impressive”, the Elder commented, “how much are you charging?”.
“Three dollars a cheek”, Lavonia replied, “two cheeks for five dollars.” “I think I can do about fifty cheeks an hour, if the conditions are right.” “This is my niece, April, she’s going to be my walking billboard.”
“Pleased to meet you April”, the Elder said before turning back to Lavonia. “I think your production estimate might be a little enthusiastic, I can think of some pretty long Bible verses.”
“Oh, my yes”, giggled Lavonia, “the customers are limited to four words, so they can be like, ‘Jesus loves me’,’Pray continuously’ or such, or they can be the Bible verse, like ‘John 3:16.'” “That way a bigger message can be delivered in a smaller space.””What do you think?”
“I think that’s brilliant, Lavonia, we are blessed to have you join us.”
The happy feeling was broken by the roaring of the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone’s Cadillac Escallades returning to the parking lot. The Cadillacs pulled up next to the tour bus and the group poured out and rushed into the bus. Never being one to put off difficult tasks, Elder Cheatum walked in the direction of the tour bus. The Elder knocked on the door of the tour bus and was greeted by one of Hap’s burly security guards.
“I need to see the Right Reverend”, the Elder said.
“He is indisposed”, the guard said and began to close the door.
“I have the Reverend’s fee, and I need to get his signature.” Elder Diggum replied. The guard turned around to get further instructions from inside the bus. The guard left just enough space in the doorway for the Elder to slip through, and the Elder took his chance. With the speed of a mongoose, there he was, in the inner sanctum of the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone. As his eyes adjusted to the dim of the bus, the Elder could make out the Right Reverend stretched out in a Barcalounger, covered more or less, in a white silk robe. What the Elder could see of Hap’s exposed skin made the Elder recoil. The rash was on every exposed portion of the Right Reverend’s skin. The rash now had little pustules rising up like tiny mountain ranges on the terrain of Hap’s body. The Elder had seen some ugly things in his line of work, but this was right up there.
“There’s no way you can work like that,” the Elder began, “we’re going to have to juggle the schedule to continue without you.”
“Like Hell you are!”, Hap Johnstone said as he slid out of the Baracalounger to a standing position. “I’ve preached with a temperature of 105 degrees and more broken bones than I can remember”, “Only the Good Lord himself will take me out of a lineup!” Hap pressed his nose to within an inch of the Elder’s, “Are we clear on that?” Hap hissed. The Elder backed up a step, more out of fear of the contagion than a fear of Hap himself.
“Hap, I don’t know if you’re thinking clearly on the matter, have you looked in a mirror?”
“Looked in a mirror, looked in a mirror, Hell’s bells I’m living in this skin, do you not think I’ve noticed something is wrong?”, Hap replied.
“Well, have you been to a doctor?” the Elder continued, “I can refer you to someone in the area if you like.”
“I’ve just come back from one of y’all’s quacks, a lot he knew.”
“Well, what did he say?”, the Elder inquired.
“He said I’m having an allergic reaction, and that I need to change my habits just a bit.”
The answer posed more question for the Elder than he planned on sticking around to have answered. “How do you plan on going on tonight?, the Elder asked, “How do you not make people feel like they’re going to get something from you that’s worse than what they’ve already got?” “For a ‘healer’, I gotta say, you’re not looking very good.” “In fact, the tribulations of Job come to mind.”
“Don’t you worry about my tribulations”, Hap sneered, “I’m going on tonight if it hairlips the Pope!” “Now give me my fee, let me sign that little book of yours, and get out of here so I can prepare for the best show ever.”
The Elder handed over the fee and the ledger and Hap signed with a flourish and pushed the book back at the Elder. “Now, give me my space, I’ve got to start getting ready.”
“Ok, Hap, but one complaint, just one, and you’re done.” “Also, we’ll keep your share of the collections tonight to offset any other loses we might incur due to your inability to live up to your contract.” Before Hap could respond, the Elder slipped out of the door and headed back to the rectory. The committee needed an update on this last development.