Good morning, y’all. While we wait for the next mass shooting, and, I hear one was averted in California, some Democrats are calling on their counterparts in the Republican party to act with courage and defy the NRA. Of course they won’t, courage is the first thing removed from a Republican candidate, along with the will to serve the public. Meanwhile, the press has to blame someone for our lack of safety, so they ask the question, “Is President Obama too aloof?” Too aloof, well I guess so. I know I prefer a leader that runs through the woods like his hair is on fire every time somebody pushes the hot topic button. In that regard, the press will love having The Donald for president, until he shuts them down.
Speaking of shutting things down brings us to the retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. Lunch was being finished on the fifth day of Summer Revival 2010, and Elder Cheatum watched the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone’s secretary head towards the preacher’s tour bus before slipping along beside of her.
“Haven’t seen Hap, how’s he doing?” the Elder inquired.
“He’s resting”, Ms. Leer replied, “He should be just fine for tonight.”
“Oh really”, the Elder said, hardly containing his sarcasm. “I’d say he was so sick that he forgot about his share of the gate from yesterday, in fact, from what I know about Hap, he must be on his death bed.”
“No, no” Ms. Leer replied, “he’s just resting, he’ll be raring to go tonight, you’ll see.”
“Well, why don’t you come back over to the rectory with me so I can give you his share, I’m sure that will pick up his spirits.” The Elder said as he gently grabbed Crystal’s arm.
“Uh, ok, but I can only stay a minute, we’ve got a lot of preparation to do before tonight’s sermon.” Crystal said as they changed course towards the rectory.
“Fine, fine, won’t take but a minute.”, The Elder promised.
As they entered the rectory the Elder stepped aside to allow Crystal to enter the door first. When she passed, the Elder noticed a bruise on her left cheekbone, close to her eye.
“Why don’t you have a seat here while I get your money.” the Elder said, motioning to one of the wingback chairs in the living room.
Crystal sat down on the edge of the chair, able to pop up and leave at a second’s notice. She looked about the living room making note of the opposites of style. Old, old furniture was mixed with a couple of new pieces, a new TV, a new stereo, and what looked like a whole house sound system. There were pictures of people on the wall, plates, and a couple of religious paintings. “Jesus Knocking at the Door” was the most prominent piece of art. The Elder returned with an envelope and Crystal rose to leave.
“Sit for a minute, we need to talk”, the Elder said.
“But I need to get back.” Crystal said as she took a step towards the door.
“I need to talk to you for a minute, or, when you go back, you can give Hap the news that his services are no longer needed.” , the Elder replied.
Crystal dropped like a rock back to her chair and watched the Elder as he sat down in the matching chair across from her.
“First, that bruise on your cheek, that looks fresh, where did that come from?” the Elder queried.
Crystal involuntarily touched her cheek before answering. “Oh, this, I opened a cabinet door right into my face.” “Pretty clumsy thing to do, I know, I guess I’m just clumsy though.” Crystal flushed as she looked at the Elder.
Elder Cheatum looked at Crystal and said, “Sure, sure.” “Now, Ms. Leer, I want to know exactly what is going on with Hap’s physical condition.” “If you attempt to lie, or give me a silly excuse like a cabinet door, we’re done.” “You and Hap can pack up your sideshow and leave this valley forever.” “When I get done telling the people I know, what I know, I doubt Hap will get hired to say the blessing at a soup kitchen. ” “Do we understand each other?”
“Yes sir.” Crystal replied meekly.
“Now, once again, what is the cause of this rash”, the Elder asked as he leaned forward in his chair.
“Well sir, let me first say that Reverend Johnstone has suffered with a back problem for some time now.” “He was prescribed pain medication, which he takes everyday.” “When we got here for the Revival, Hap discovered he was out of medication and we went into town to get his prescription refilled.” ” The pharmacist at the Walmart wouldn’t refill it, and the doctor at the minute clinic wouldn’t give Hap a new prescription.” Crystal took a deep breath and pressed on.
“We were forced to buy Hap’s medicine on the street, but I think there was some problem.” “I’ve been trying to figure this thing out, and near as I can tell by Googling everything, we think Hap got ‘Oxy’codone, instead of ‘Oxy’contin.” “The rash started coming right after Hap started taking the new pills.” “We were hoping it would clear up right away, but it hasn’t.” “We can’t go to a hospital here because Hap’s afraid his secret will come out.” Crystal said as she looked down at her hands crossed in her lap.
“His secret, the secret that he’s a drug addict?”, the Elder asked as his voice was rising, “it should come out.”
“No, no, he’s not a drug addict, he just takes a pill to calm his nerves.” “Hap’s secret is that he’s deathly afraid of snakes.” “Taking these little pills is the only thing that gets Hap through the Testament of Faith.” “If the secret gets out, Hap would lose about half of his bookings.”
“Ahhhh”, said the Elder, “now tell me again about the bruise.”
“Crystal bit her lower lip as she started, “Hap hit me.” “He was real upset I wasn’t waiting for him in the wings when he came off stage last night.” “I told him I went ahead to get his bath ready for him, but he didn’t believe me.” “He said some horrible things before he hit me, but then he apologized after.” “He’s under a lot of pressure, and this rash thing, well…., he’s just not himself.”
“Ok, Ms. Lite, thank you, I appreciate your honesty.” “In fact, there’s nothing I value above honesty.” The Elder stood and reached out his hand to help the young secretary/assistant/scheduler/chef to her feet.
“This is what we’re going to do.” “We’re going to walk you back to the bus, and I’ll be there to explain your tardiness, if necessary.” “For now, your secrets are safe with me.” “In return, if you don’t think Hap is going to be able to go on tonight and deliver a sermon at least as good as last night’s, you are to notify me immediately.” “We would rather juggle the schedule and disappoint people a little bit; rather than put a drugged out ophiophobiac on the stage.” “That could ruin it all for everybody.” “Too many people have worked too hard to let Hap Johnstone screw it up.” “Are we agreed?”
“Yes sir,” Crystal said as they headed out the door. “I’ll let you know as soon as I can if I don’t think Hap will be able to go on.” They walked in silence to the tour bus. When they arrived, Elder Cheatum stopped Crystal from entering and pounded on the door of the bus.
“Hap, I’ve brought your money.” The Elder called out. “Sorry to keep your secretary so long, we had some trouble reconciling the collections.” “Ms. Lite was kind enough to wait while we sorted it out.”
The door opened a peak, and a disembodied voice called out, “Appreciate it, see you tonight.” Crystal slipped through the crack in the door and shut it quickly behind herself. The Elder stopped and listened for a minute, but there were no alarming sounds coming from inside the bus. Satisfied that his ruse had succeeded, Elder Cheatum went back to the rectory. He needed to rock a while.