Good morning, y’all. We awaken to the news that a pop singer has been shot to her death in Orlando. No reason is given, just a crazy person who had access to guns. If I were a cynical person, I would be happy that he saved the state the expense of a trial by killing himself, but that is the low road. If we “did unto others” as we should, the young man would have gotten help, and both of the people would still be alive. At some point we have to realize it’s cheaper in the long run to help the troubled, rather than arm them.
Speaking of being troubled leads us back into the retelling of the history of the Little House in the Valley. It is Thursday night of Summer Revival 2010. Elder Cheatum is calling an emergency meeting of the Elders to deal with a two-pronged attack on the church’s viability. First, lifelong member, Hugh Morris appears to be dead as a result of the “healing” he received at the hands of Reverend Bill Foldes. Second, the hands of Reverend Foldes are wired with electrical contacts that have been used to provide shocks to the people seeking his blessing. Elder Cheatum sees liability issues for the church that stretch to the Second Coming and beyond.
As the other Elders arrive at the rectory, Elder Cheatum instructed the young reverend to remain silent until everyone had arrived. Reverend Daniel Hawker is the last to arrive. His comment, “My stars and garters!”, seemed to encapsulate the moment without taking the Lord’s name in vain. Elder Cheatum quickly related to the group that Hugh Morris had apparently died after being shocked by Reverend Foldes. The Elder looked at the young reverend and said, “You may now, speak”. Reverend Bill Foldes opened his mouth and let it flow.
For fifteen minutes, without pausing, or taking a breath, the reverend rationalized every action of his life. Reverend Foldes had severe daddy issues. “He was never good enough in his daddy’s eyes”, “Never worked hard enough, never sacrificed enough”. The son, “Had it too easy all of his life.” The young reverend had wanted to show his daddy that he could get his own church before he was thirty, something his daddy had not done. Reverend Foldes finished his life story with, “I never thought it would hurt anyone, I never meant to hurt anyone.” After his confession, all of the steam had been let out of the young reverend. He started pulling the wiring and battery pack from his body and then set the contraption down on the kitchen table. “Can I go now?”, he asked.
“Hell no!” was Elder Cheatum’s quick response, followed by “Sorry, Daniel”. Reverend Daniel forgave the misstep with a wave of his hand.
“You set in that chair over there and don’t move until we tell you to, got that?”, Elder Cheatum pointed to a chair in the kitchen. “Your stupidity, your lack of faith, your weakness, has placed this church in a very bad position” “We’re not leaving this room until we have a plan for counteracting your actions.” Elder Cheatum watched Reverend Foldes sit down in the chair before turning to the committee seated around the table. “Has anybody got any ideas?”
Elder Wiley rocked back on his chair, “First rule of damage control, assess the damage”, “Do we know for sure that Hugh is dead?”, “Second rule of damage control, limit the damage” “I’m assuming that the young feller is done using that apparatus and that he doesn’t have any backups stored anywhere?”
All eyes land on the young reverend, who responds, “No, that’s the only one, and I’m done with it.” “OK”, Elder Wiley continues, “Third rule of damage control, control the message”, “Who all knows about this mess?”
Elder Cheatum responds, “I think we’re it.” “I got young Edison there out of the tent as quick as I could.” “I don’t think anybody saw or heard anything.”
“Good”, Elder Wiley looks at Reverend Foldes and continues,”Have you knocked anyone else out with this contraption?” “Has anyone complained to you about being shocked?”
The young reverend starts to get out of his chair to explain his position better, but is stared back into seating by the collective looks of disapproval from the group. “No, nobody has complained” “I just added the new battery pack tonight.” “I wanted to really impress you all since it was my night in Tent number one.”
“Well, you did that”, Elder Wiley responds, “In ninety years we’ve never come across anyone this stupid, I’m sure everyone is as impressed as I am.” Elder Wiley turns back to the table. “Daniel, I think you ought to call the hospital and see what you can find out.” “Inquiries from you will look better at this point than from Buster, Barry or me.” Elder Wiley is referencing the first names of his partners in the local funeral home.
“Ok”, Reverend Daniel responds, “I’ll go and do that now.” Daniel heads out to the porch to make the call in private. He returns in a few minutes and exhales a great sigh before announcing, “He’s alive, the old coot is still alive.” Sighs are exhaled all around the table, and the young reverend releases a small whimper from his spot in the kitchen. “They say he’s resting comfortably right now, and should recover fully.” “That is, as fully as a seventy year old man with a pacemaker can.”, “Did you all know Hugh had a pacemaker?” Reverend Daniel looks all around the table for a response. Everyone responds, “no”, and Reverend Daniel takes his seat at the table.
Elder Wiley spins his chair around to address the young reverend, “It appears you may have dodged a bullet young man, in more ways than one.” “Right now I am of the opinion that you should return to your room and spend the rest of the evening in deep reflection.” “The apparatus will remain with us, and you will be searched before being allowed back on the stage.” A collective, “What?”, emanates from the table, and Elder Wiley raises his hands to quieten the group. “Hear me out”, “Our best course of action is to act like this never happened”, “If Hugh doesn’t suspect anything, and no one else complains, we’re all just going to develop a case of selective amnesia.”, “We’ll send this one back to his daddy with instructions to not let him out into the wild again until he’s got better sense.”, “Does anyone have any better thoughts?”
The group looked at one another. Elder Cheatum spoke first, “It’s true, we’d probably have to cancel the rest of the revival if we lost two preachers.”, “I think we might be able to cover losing Hap, but I don’t think we could cover the schedule with just four preachers.”, “I was counting on Daniel filling in for whoever filled in for Hap.” “I say we go with the plan, it gives us plausible deniability.” “From this day forward, we never speak of the matter again, agreed?”
The Little Church in the Valley’s highest officials nodded their heads in unison, and the matter was concluded.
“Oh my Lord, I forgot about Hap”, Elder Cheatum says as he jumps out of his chair. “You, you come with me.”, he says pointing to Reverend Foldes. The two conspirators get half way across the parking lot when Elder Cheatum stops and grabs the young reverend by the arm. “You’ve been given a second chance, I don’t know why, but don’t blow it”, “Remember this night for as long as you live, and remember you were given a second chance to do good with your life”. Elder Cheatum gave the young man’s arm an extra squeeze and pushed him in the direction of the travel trailers set up at the back of the lot. “Now, go and get some rest, you’re going to have a big day tomorrow.” Elder Cheatum headed to Tent number one, crisis number two.