The Reverend Fiona Marie Tolliver Claiborne Anderson stood at the mirror in her office bunching her hair this way and then that. What she needed was a haircut, but with another kid on the way, expensive hair cuts were out of the question. Besides, no one in this teeny town knew how to cut her incredibly fine dirty blond hair. Straight and stubborn, it refused to take any curl with out expensive perms and without a good cut, it just looked messy until it was long enough to make into a pony tail or a bun. Right now, in the “in between” stage, she was tempted to take scissors to it herself, but prayed for God to put some patience into her soul. Just wait. Another month and it won’t look like a stubby little paintbrush stuck on the back of her head, but an elegant little ponytail. Or so she hoped.
It was the second Sunday of Lent and she sighed to herself as she pulled the purple stole out of the closet to place over her black robe. Since she was in the 8th month, the robe wouldn’t zip, but she would hide the gap with a surplice. It was hot already, as Easter was going to be late this year and another layer of fabric so late in the pregnancy was sure to make her sweat gallons, but she’d be damned if she was going to buy a “maternity cassock.” As if they even made such a thing!
There was a knock at the door. "Yes?"
It was her usher chair, Tom. "Fiona, the air-conditioning isn't working. It's almost 82 in the sanctuary. I've gone ahead and opened all the windows and put out the fans."
She sighed. She and her board of Trustees had an uneasy alliance. At least she still didn't call them the Board of Dis-trustees. They were supposed to get that condenser unit fixed. Instead they took the easy way out and did it themselves and now, of course, it was broken again.
She leaned forward scrunching her eyes at her reflection. She had already begun to perspire. Her face was particularly blotchy this time around. Well, 42 was reaching the limit of when a woman should get pregnant and she really was uncomfortable this time. There was a another knock on the door.
“Mom! Mom! They are waiting for you!” It was Josh, her first born. At 24, he was a graduate of that fine institution called by some “The North Avenue Trade School” or Georgia Tech by others and had just started seminary in Atlanta, at Candler School of Theology. She was so proud of him. His Dad and her Dad were proud of him as well. Of course, her Dad though that her brother Greg was going to be the minister in the family, but he instead pursued architecture, earning quite a good living designing churches in the booming Atlanta area. And Josh’s Dad was proud, although he admitted it was going to be strange to have a grandfather, a father, a son and an ex-wife serving as pastors in the same conference.
Josh was going to assist today in worship, helping his increasingly uncomfortable mother finish out this last couple of months and then helping the substitute pastor who would take over the charge so she would have time with the baby. She opened the door and lumbered out. Her ankles were swelling so badly and she had bought a pair of slip-on Birkenstocks to help support her failing arches. Josh took her arm and they traveled around the building to the front door to meet up with the acolyte and process down the center aisle. The acolyte was one of the Jones’ twins – thankfully not the one with ADHD, but the one who thought he was “Goth.” Today he was wearing eyeliner, ankle high Converse All-Stars and tight black jeans with the Acolyte robe, but at least they weren’t the flashing athletic shoes his twin preferred. Or those Wheelies! She would never forget the Sunday he skated down the aisle before worship. It somehow reminded her of that little “Jesus on Wheels” she got during seminary. Who would put wheels in the heels of shoes anyway??
She heard the pianist and the organist playing ever so slightly out of sync and she signed again. Miss Maude didn’t like the new pianist Jane and was making Jane’s life miserable. Miss Maude studied for a couple of months at Julliard back in the 1960’s and never let you forget it! Miss Maude really was very good; this out of sync playing was her way of protesting the new pianist – who was selected by the Music Minister over her niece Darlene. Fiona closed her eyes and prayed one of those “arrow prayers” – “God save me from passive aggressive little old ladies!” She breathed deeply and began to sing “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” as she processed down the aisle. Porro! As her favorite seminary prof would say – Onward!
After the final hymn and the procession to the parking lot, she turned back to go the church to get out of the robe. She was convinced that the robe would be dripping wet by this time and by the time she finished shaking the hand of the last parishioner in line, she felt quite “moist” as her grandmother would say. She grabbed the handrail firmly to heave her bulk up the steps and greeted the Tom and the altar ladies who were cleaning up after the service. She had just turned to go back to her office when she heard a tremendous commotion.
“He’s daid! Bubba! He just up and died! He daid! Do you hear me, daid!”
The tenant of the parsonage next door, John Austin Boudreaux had run into the sanctuary. John Austin had been on a bender the night before and it showed. Thin and as sharp faced as a possum, his shirt was open and flapping, stained with unknown substances and the confederate flag tattooed on his chest waved as he gasped for breath.
“Well, aren’t you gonna do somfin’?” He ran back out of the sanctuary and down the gravel driveway to the parsonage. Those in the sanctuary stood in stunned silence for a moment and then Fiona rushed into action.
“I’m on it! Tom!” she shouted, “Call 9-1-1 and get the first responder team out here! Josh, you’re with me!”
“Fiona! It’ll be 20 minutes before they are here!”
“Tom! Just do it!”
Fiona didn’t know it but her world was a fixin’ to change.
Copyright 2007, Theresa P. Coleman
All rights preserved. Like in Formaldehyde.