Good morning, y’all. While we try to escape the bone crushing heat, and thanking our lucky stars we’re not retired in Phoenix, watching CNN around the clock becomes our number one past time. The focus in Orlando right now is to see how much signage Disney can throw up to make themselves look like responsible citizens. Responsible but irresponsible, if you know what I mean. A child waded into a lagoon at a luxury resort and was killed a horrific death in front of his parents, and Disney doesn’t want to appear responsible. That’s irresponsible, right?
Speaking of irresponsible brings us back to the retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the sixth and final day of Summer Revival 2010. A groggy group of committee members were sitting about the kitchen table of the rectory waiting for the caffeine of the coffee to raise their blood pressure and spirits. As Mulva Lite counted the cash, and rubber banded and labeled the stacks, the Elders sipped their coffee and tried to find words sufficient to break the silence.
Elder Diggum broke the ice, “I’m for withholding Hap’s share of yesterday’s gate, what say you?” As he looked around the table at the other members of the committee.
“Well, I think we might have a legal struggle with that one.” Elder Wiley replied, “I think we’re on firm ground for not paying him his fee tonight, and probably his cut of tonight’s gate, I just don’t think we could win a claim against last night’s revenue.” “He did make it to the end of the service, more or less.”
“Yeah, I don’t see too much good publicity in stiffing a preacher that has a mental breakdown on our watch.” Elder Cheatum said as he headed back to the coffee pot. “I think we should be fair with him up through last night, and then call it even.” “We could suffer lost revenue when it gets out that he won’t be here tonight, so I just say we call it even.” “If Hap wants to sue, well, we’ve got a pretty good story to tell ourselves.”
Reverend Daniel placed his cup on its coaster and asked, “Does anybody know how Hap’s doing?”
A look around the table revealed blank stares until Mulva Lite looked up from her counting and said, “He’s resting comfortably.” “Annie Howe and a couple of the Ladies Auxillary went to take him flowers this morning.” “Annie’s niece, who is a nurse at the hospital, said; ‘he’s resting comfortably’.” “He’s not strapped down or anything, and he’s in a regular room.” Mulva continued, “He’s not allowed any visitors right now, but maybe later.”
“Well, good, good, thank you for the report sister Mulva.” Reverend Daniel said as he picked up his cup to facilitate having its contents warmed by Elder Cheatum. “I think Elder Cheatum is correct, we need to be fair with Hap, but not unfair to ourselves.” “We’re traveling into uncharted waters here with a new preacher and all.” “I am reminded of 1Timothy 5:8, ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’” “We should be sure that our little family is strong and will survive any missteps we may make in this transitional period.” “Which is a good time for you to give us your report sister Mulva, if you’re ready.”
Mulva looked up from her end of the table and the neatly stacked piles of cash and checks. “I think I’m ready, let me just put this last entry in the computer.” Mulva made the entry in the laptop that she had purchased, and, “more or less” donated to the church. She still maintained the hardback ledger books, as the church had done since 1902, but now she could print out her reports and spreadsheets. Mulva was also more confident of the computer’s math skills than her own. These were smart businessmen, the Elders, not someone you’d want to give a false report to.
“I’ve double checked my numbers, because there was such a variance, but the church’s share of the collection, even after paying “all” of the ministers, was fifty eight hundred dollars.” Mulva said. “Concessions were over eleven thousand dollars again last night.” “I’m projecting profits from concessions to be about eight thousand three hundred dollars.” “We’ve already reached our goal of fifty thousand dollars of profit for the revival, and we’ve got one more night to go.” “I’m so proud of the Ladies Auxillary, I could just bust.” Mulva let out a big breath like she had served every fruit cup, poured each Pepsi Cola, and dug one more XXL T-shirt out of the box herself.
As Mulva looked about the table for approval, Elder Cheatum broke the silence. “I think I know why the collections were up so much.” “Last night was the first time Hap asked the audience to give.” “I kept wondering about that, I watched him every night, and last night was the first time he asked the congregation to dig deep.” “The only thing I could come up with was that Hap figured the congregation would have more money for his autographed stuff and personal healings, if they didn’t leave it in the collection plate.” “I hate to think ill of someone, but that’s the only rationale I can come up with.”
“Well, that’s a clear violation of his contract, if it comes to it.” Elder Wiley said. “I’m with Buster on this one.” “I say we just call it even and move on.” “Speaking of moving on”, Elder Wiley continued, have we got tonight’s lineup squared away?” “Also, do we have an official story?”
Elder Diggum seemed to revive as if coming back from a coma and said, “I’m going with epileptic fit brought on by some over the counter medication he was taking for his rash.” “I’ve alerted the Ladies Auxillary and all of the volunteers.” “I think we can post on the billboard in front of the church that we’ve chosen our new minister, and he’ll be in Tent number one “, Elder Diggum continued. “People might not miss Hap one bit if Reverend Bread is on his game.” “Besides, he’s going to be warmed up Reverend Daniel, so I think the people will feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth.”
“The kind words are appreciated, sir”, said Reverend Daniel, “now that you mention it, it might not hurt me to prepare a little bit.” “I think I’d like to go read the Bible a bit in my bedroom before lunch, if that would be be ok?”, the Reverend said as he stood up.
Just then there was a knock on the door, and all of the males answered in chorus, “Come in.” Crystal Leer was pushing open the rectory door. A very disheveled Crystal Leer. She looked about the room before settling on the face of Elder Cheatum. “Can I see you for a moment, in private?”, she asked.
“Sure, why don’t we just talk on the porch”, the Elder said as he headed towards the secretary/assistant. The Elder motioned Ms. Lite to a rocking chair but she refused.
“I’ll just take a moment of your time.” she said, “Hap’s done.” “I don’t mean for this revival, I mean, maybe forever.” “His addiction to painkillers has just taken over everything”, “The doctors are saying that was what caused the rash and the seizure.” “I knew I signed on for a lot when I took on this position, but I didn’t sign on for this.” “I’d like to collect what you all owe Hap so I can pay everybody before sending them off.” “Would that be possible?”
“Yes, of course, that was our agreement.” the Elder replied. “But you know we won’t be paying his fee or commissions for tonight, right?”
“Sounds perfectly fair”, Ms. Leer replied. “I’d like to pay the group and then I guess I’ll have the boys move the vehicles to the Hospital parking lot.” “Would that be ok?”
“It’s ok with me, if it’s ok with the hospital.” the Elder said. “Now that I think about it, they might like the advertising.” “Somebody famous staying in their hospital.” “Have a seat here and let me get your money, cash right?”
“Yes, please”, Crystal said with a smile, as she sat down in a rocker. The Elder returned in a couple of minutes with an envelope containing twelve one hundred dollar bills.
“I rounded up a little”, The Elder said as he handed her the envelope. “You all will stay for lunch won’t you?” “It’s already being prepared.”
“Why yes, thank you” Crystal replied, “that’s very nice of you.” “I know the boys will be sad to be leaving.” “They all claim they’ve never eaten so good.” As Crystal stood to go, she looked out across the valley spread out before her from her vantage on the porch of the rectory. “You’ve got a real special community here.” “A person can do a lot worse that living in Nunsuch.” As Crystal Leer headed down the steps, she threw back, “See you at lunch”, over her shoulder. Then she was off, trying to settle scores for another.
Elder Cheatum decided to sit and rock awhile before lunch. There was nothing to do inside but beat a dead horse, he reasoned, and they’d done enough of that already today.