By Sharon Poppen
The farmers and their families had gathered for Sunday worship. Their white-haired pastor gazed trancelike out at his congregation. Young Reverend Edwards, who would someday take his place, sat attentively at his side. A visiting minister was at the podium. His theatrical voice rang out in an accusatory tone.
"Why are we weak? Why do we listen to the reproductive and nourishment parts of our body rather than our spiritual ...
Maintaining a look of rapt attention, Clare, the President of the Ladies Society, tuned the speaker out and concentrated on the profile of Reverend Edwards. Though she was old enough to be his mother, there had been an energetic attraction with their first handshake. That energy was now being charged each Wednesday when the young reverend stopped by to pick up items donated for the poor. Clare's eyes traveled from his thick blond mane, down the flawless nose that so often brushed against her skin while his enchanting lips suckled at her breast. His robe covered a six-foot frame that was devoid of body fat. As though he felt her inspection, Clare watched him turn and scan the congregation. She returned the brief flicker of acknowledgement she read in his eyes with a subtle grin. She blushed with concern that her fellow churchgoers had noticed her slight shudder of anticipation, then Clare tuned back in on the visiting minister.
"Because it has become the fashion of our times to act like simple bunny rabbits with regard to what was intended as a means to create beings in the image of ...
A few pews away from Clare, Stacy felt her mother's body twitch. Her mother had jabbed at her dad in an attempt to stem the snore that was sure to follow the nodding of his head. Stacy smiled and almost hugged herself as she focused on Reverend Edwards. She wondered if he ever slept. He was very busy, yet always found time for her. Almost daily, they were meeting in the children's Sunday school room where the small cot made it necessary for them to entwine their bodies as close as possible. She touched her ring finger remembering the pledge he'd given her over a year ago. As soon as she graduated high school, they'd make their love public and he'd marry her. But yesterday, he'd told her parents about a wonderful nursing school up state that he'd found for Stacy and he was sure church funds could take care of the tuition. Stacy wondered about this change in plans, but the same glance from the altar that had assured Clare, now warmed Stacy's heart. She just knew he was taking care of what was best for their love.
"Retribution will be swift and condemn all who fail to obey God's word in matters of the flesh."
Across the aisle from Stacy, Lila shushed her six-year-old with a stern glance, then looked toward the altar just in time to be included in Reverend Edwards assuring scan. She beamed for a moment. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough. Tom, Lila's husband, was the church accountant and took the collection money home each Sunday to count and record. Reverend Edwards picked it up each Monday morning after Tom left for work and the children for school. Lila would never forget the morning he'd spilled his coffee and their first kiss while cleaning up the mess. She nearly giggled remembering last Monday. They’d stayed in bed so long, that he’d nearly forgotten to take the money when he left. Tom snorted at the preacher’s last words, which earned him a jab from Lila.
Tom quieted, then risked a glance at Clare's husband who nodded and patted his breast pocket. Noticing the glance between the two men, Stacy's father cleared his throat and elicited a slight nod from Tom. Three other men in the congregation cleared their throats.
A year later, the elderly Pastor was alone on the altar. He voice shook with genuine concern along with its aged timbre. "It has been a year now since the disappearance of Reverend Edwards. Let us all pray that he may still be found alive. But in case the young man has been taken from this earth, let us pray for his soul. In God's name, let us pray."
Amid the responses from the congregation came sniffles from several women and a resounding "Amen!" by several men.
The Pastor went on. "On a lighter note, we must also thank God for the bumper crop some of our members have had this year. They attribute it to a special fertilizer developed by cleansing a devil from their midst. Praise be to God."
Sharon Ann Greene Poppen is the married mother of 2 children, 3 stepchildren and 5 grandchildren and resides in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Her published work and other acknowledgments include: a novel, a serialized western, awards such as Arizona Authors Assoc. – Abby awarded 2nd place for Unpublished Novel; Arizona Authors Assoc. – Part of Him awarded 2nd place for Short Stories; National League of American Pen Women - Soul-Making Literary Prize 2000 – Short Story Honorable Mention. Contact Sharon.