Friday, April 24, 2015

A clean sweep (#FlashFictionFriday*)

“Pastor! Could you come over here, please? I need to show you something.”

Hazel Snitzer was in her late 70s. She and her husband, Earl, had been long-standing members of the Fynder’s Community Church. For decades, they, along with a few other relatives and close old friends, made up the core membership of the church they all always referred to pointedly as “their” church.

Hazel was standing near the entrance of the fellowship hall that opened into the foyer of the sanctuary where double doors were propped open. Something behind one of the doors, in a corner, was the source of her agitation.

Pastor Smalley finished up his conversation with a visitor before going over to hear what was only one of a litany of endless complaints. Most were directed toward his sermons, usually that they were not “convicting” enough. By that, Pastor Smalley knew  she meant harsh and accusatory -- toward anyone different from her.

“What can I do for you, Sister Snitzer?” The church was a throwback where all of the elder members insisted on being referred to as “Brother” and “Sister.”

“Just look,” Helen said while pointing to the corner. “Can you see the cobwebs and dust? That janitor just is not doing a good job. I’ve been keeping an eye on this corner for weeks, waiting for him to clean it. And just look! It’s filthy! What are we paying him for?”

Pastor Smalley sighed. He placed a hand on Hazel’s shoulder to gently guide her toward the sanctuary as he spoke softly, “I’ll speak to Joe. I’m sure he just missed this one spot. See how nice the sanctuary looks? I need to get to the front so we can start the service. Thanks for being so observant.”

Helen fussed her way with Earl to “their” seats in “their” pew as Pastor Smalley moved to the pulpit and the organist began to play.

Joe Hardy was the janitor. Cleaning the church was one of three jobs that took up almost all of his time. Joe had approached the pastor when the previous janitor had quit, asking if he could take on the job part time. Joe was a widower with three kids and always stretched thin financially. Pastor Smalley was happy to help Joe out.

Joe was a hard worker. He cleaned the church in the evenings after he’d finished his two other jobs.

After the Sunday morning service, Pastor Smalley found Joe doing a quick clean-up of the Sunday school area. He took Joe over to the corner and showed him the dust.

“I’m so sorry, Pastor,” Joe said. “I cleaned that corner just last night and for some reason dust seems to accumulate there. I know it looks like cobwebs, but I assure you it’s just dust blowing in from somewhere. Guess I’ll make a point to get here a little earlier on Sunday mornings just to make sure this one corner is clean.”

“I’m sorry to bother you with something so petty,” said Pastor Smalley with a sigh, “but you know how fussy some of our ‘Pillars’ can be.” He looked at Joe and winked. Joe knew exactly what he meant and knew he had a good ally in Pastor Smalley.

Like many other small-ish churches, Fynder’s Community Church had its “Pillars.” They were the older, long-standing members, a few who had been with the church since its founding. While it was not an official title it was one these who had been “in the way” since the beginning would not eschew. Being called a pillar would be a point of flattery, and in their minds, both appropriate and deserved.

They believed that they were the dauntless essential few who held the church up and together. There was no detail of the church business or the business of its members that was too small for attention to be paid it by the Pillars. This was, as far as they were concerned, their duty and purpose on this earth.

Only through their diligence the church and its people stayed on the straight and narrow. The Pillars believed it was through their measure, assessment, and usually uninvited advice mostly proffered on the sly through hint and subtle suggestion under the guise of “spiritual encouragement,” that any member of the congregation would be found acceptable to the Lord on that great and glorious day of judgment.

Each Pillar took great pride in their tireless work cultivating, pruning, and correcting, knowing with a solid firmness in their hearts that they would receive a special reward in the sweet bye-and-bye. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it. So they thought and so they believed.

As Pastor Smalley and Joe were discussing the problem corner, the final few post-service lingerers left the building. These were the Pillars, always the first to arrive and the last to leave. It was in the casual chit-chat of these times that they were able to do most of their shaping up of the congregation.

They stood in a group on the sidewalk in front of the church, out of earshot of any left behind in the church, sharing the latest gossip, synchronizing rumors, and strategizing how to best address arisen issues.

Down the street, a semi truck with a flatbed loaded with steel girders, rumbled toward the church which was located on a main street of town. As it approached, a little too fast, several tires on the right side burst all at once, sending the truck careening out of control directly toward the Pillars standing like a clutch of bowling pins on the sidewalk in front of the church.

No Pillar was spared.

The investigation into the accident was never able to determine what caused the simultaneous blowouts.

Months later, just prior to the Sunday morning service, Joe was cleaning the dust from the troublesome corner, chatting with Pastor Smalley recalling the tragic day.

“Well,” sighed Pastor Smalley, “I guess you could say the Pillars have fallen.”

“Yes,” replied Joe as he stood, holding his dustpan and whisk, “but the church is still standing, and standing strong.”

Pastor Smalley and Joe stood silently for a moment looking at the clean swept corner.

“Yes, it is,” said Pastor Smalley, responding to Joe's observation. “Indeed it is.”

* It’s flash fiction Friday! (To learn more about FFF, click here and scroll down.) 
Flash fiction is nothing more or less than a very, very short short story. This one is a little over 1000 words. What do you think? Know any Pillars? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I hope the church was a beneficiary in each of the Pillars' wills so the Pastor could raise Joe's salary!


Like? Dislike? Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Please share your thoughts on my post below. I want to know what you think. But be civil.