Good morning, y’all. As predicted, the Republican Congress decided not enough people have died due to gun violence. Once again the Congress passed on the idea that anyone, no matter how crazy, should be denied access to weapons of mass destruction. To heighten the experience, they’ve sent out Skeletor, disguised as the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, to express his grief for all of the public officials inconvenienced by the most recent shooting. The fact that he can’t erase the smile off of his face should tell us something, I’m just not sure what.
Having a smile on one’s face leads us back into the telling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. Elder Cheatum is collecting his thoughts on the front porch of the rectory when he awakens with a jolt. He hadn’t even realized he had fallen asleep. The Elder is amazed that the glass of sweet tea he had been sipping is still in his hand, though the ice has completely melted. He slowly raises his head from its position on his chest, hoping to not make the crick in his neck any worse. There were still a couple of more days to go in Summer Revival 2010, and the Elder needed to remain in good health to the finish. The Elder went in to the Rectory to check if any of the other committee members were hanging about.
Truthfully, he went in to use the bathroom more than anything else. He didn’t know if young Tory from “Happy Johnny” knew anything about the fragging of Viet Nam days, but there was no point in taking the chance. The Elder vowed to use only the indoor plumbing until he heard that a favorable resolution had been worked out with the port-a-potty company. Returning from the bathroom, Elder Cheatum noticed his partners, Elder Diggum and Elder Wiley playing Whist with Reverend Daniel.
“I thought you needed pairs to play Whist, it looks like you’re one short.” Elder Cheatum said as he took his usual spot at the table.
“Reverend Daniel is teamed with the Holy Spirit, but you can take his place now that you’ve awoken from your nap.” Elder Wiley said. “It must be nice to be able to sleep during the day, on the job.” “I was thinking about taking your pulse there for a while.”
Elder Cheatum grinned at the good-natured kidding and responded, “And I’d have sued you for practicing medicine without a license if you had.” “I guess I’d have to hire a different attorney to pursue my regular attorney.”
Elder Wiley looked shocked and responded, “And what gives you the impression that I couldn’t defend myself while give you the very best of prosecutions?” “I’m hurt that your opinion of me has sunk so low.”
“Boys, boys, boys”, said Reverend Daniel, “we’ve got some serious business here and you all are acting like you’re in a frat house, or something.”
“Speaking of serious business, how’d it go with Happy Johnny?” Elder Cheatum asked.
“Fine, fine, I had to twist his arm a little harder than I wanted, but, I got the balance of the week for free, and the Winter revival at half price.” Reverend Daniel replied. “I don’t feel guilty one bit for taking that young feller’s ignorance and parlaying it into a blessing for the church.” “No sir, not one bit.”
The cards flew around the table until about 4:30PM when the Ladies Auxillary came in for their dinner preparations. Between Whist tricks, Elder Cheatum had told the other players the latest about the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone. It was determined that Reverend Daniel would be standing in the on deck circle if Hap was unable to go on. Everyone wanted to hear Rocky Rhoades speak in front of a large crowd before making the decision of who to offer the job to.
For Reverend Rhoades to have that opportunity, the group needed to keep the schedule as it was. The lineup for tonight was Rocky Rhoades opening for Hap T. Johnstone in Tent One, Al DaBino opening for Dale E. Bread in Tent Two, and Brighton Early opening for Bill Foldes in Tent Three.
“Alvin, I’m going to need you down in Tent number three to make sure that Bill Foldes doesn’t have anything funny up his sleeve, if you know what I mean.” said Elder Cheatum.
“Indeed, I do.” replied Elder Wiley. “I’ll give him a good frisk before he takes to the stage.” “Should I give him any scary lawyer talk, or do you think he’s already got the fear of the law within him.”
“Do whatever you think is best.” Elder Cheatum said. “We need him to go on, so don’t paralyze him.” “Why don’t you play good cop and maybe we’ll get two more good performances out of him?”
“Ok, good cop, I guess I can do that.” replied Elder Wiley, “Let’s get something to eat.”
Tonight’s dinner, provided by the Ladies Auxillary, was the most scrumptious chicken and dumplings ever. The sides were fried okra and squash casserole. Cornbread was provided to sop up the gravy from the dumplings. Apple pie and vanilla ice cream made up the dessert. Again, Hap T. Johnstone was missing, but the rest of his entourage was in attendance. Ms. Leer was once again sitting with the Reverend Dale E. Bread. Elder Cheatum casually walked from table to table, playing toastmaster, until he stopped next to Ms. Leer. “How are we all doing?” the Elder asked, and looked straight at Ms. Leer. The pair answered in unison, “Just fine.” But it was Ms. Leer’s answer the Elder had come to hear.
Crystal replied “Fine”, once again to let the Elder know that he could count on Hap living up to his contract that night.
“Good, good, glad to hear it.” the Elder said. “You all have a blessed evening.” The Elder threw back the good wishes over his shoulder as he went to make his rounds prior to showtime. Promptly at 7PM, the lights throughout the parking lot flickered and the hymn, “All Are Welcome” starting playing over the loud speakers. Elder Cheatum walked quickly to Tent number one and slipped into the last row as Reverend Rockefeller (Rocky) Rhoades bounded onto the stage.
Reverend Rhoades was born to a wealthy, upper crust family that had migrated to America in 1640. The Rhoades family stayed primarily in the New York state area and Rocky was named after one of New York’s most famous residents, John D. Rockefeller. Rocky was born in Ithaca, New York, while his father was Dean of the Divinity school at Cornell. Rocky’s exposure to religion growing up was varied and, at his Dad’s insistence, even handed. Rocky could quote from the Koran as well as the Talmud and the Bible. He even had a fascination with Eastern religions, particularly the concept of reincarnation. Something that was alive after death and still interacting with the earth bound plane led Rocky into Pentecostal Evangelism. The fact that the religion was considered to be “extreme” by his father may have set Rocky on his path.
Rocky was a firecracker on stage, size and dress. He stood five feet six inches tall in his shoes with the big lifts. For his night in front of the big crowd, Reverend Rhoades had dressed in a red and white plaid jacket with red pants. The Reverend’s outfit was not Georgia red, but Alabama red, and Elder Cheatum knew that the crowd knew the difference. The wrong color would reflect poorly on the Reverend’s sartorial choice.
His choice of dress was not the real problem, though. It was the voice. Elder Cheatum had never heard the word “y’all” sound like finger nails raking across a blackboard until that night. Not until Reverend Rhoades stepped up to the microphone and said “How are y’all doing?” It was a voice that said, “I live so far up north I get my mail in Canada”. Elder Cheatum tried to follow the sermon, tried to give the fellow a chance, but there was no getting past the voice.
While waiting for the Testament of Faith the Elder amused himself by wondering if the Reverend carried a box to stand on as he traveled about the country. Some pulpits are taller than others; it would be hard to reach an audience that couldn’t see you. Finally, the Testament of Faith and altar call arrived. The aisles were bereft of afflicted seeking the healing hands of Reverend Rocky Rhoades.
Elder Cheatum surmised that the path ahead for the Little Church of the Valley would be “too Rocky” with the Reverend Rhoades in the driver seat. “Too Rocky”, Elder Cheatum thought, almost as good as “Too Early”. The Elder stepped outside of the tent to catch a breath of fresh air before the next act.