Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

"'Ven vill I zing?'"--a story (ii)


Ray checked with the preacher, who sat speechless, rehearsing the same imaginary try-out Ray had already thought of--the two of them sitting in a Sunday school room listening to the old man "zing."  

And when he finished, what on earth would they say? "Sorry, Mr. Roels, but dat voice of your ist kaput?" How could he say no?--did the Lord cut monotones? How about this: "We have standards here at Fair Haven." I'm sure that would go a long ways with a man of Roels' ilk, he thought.

"Put him off until March and hope he high tails it back north," the pastor said.

"That's a lie," Ray said.

Pastor Tom shrugged.
 * 

The committee was far less hesitant. Angie Donnelly, who threatened every other month to leave for the sprawling church with a coffee bar a half-mile down Scottsdale Road, thought it backward, even gauche--"he's got this thick accent?" she said, as if it were a virus. Marty Postman thought a cappella seemed almost monstrous. "On that song?" he said.

"Seriously, what am I going to do?" Ray asked them.

"Say no," Angie said. "We simply can't have it.”

"Why not?" Ray said.

"Well, because. My word, nobody even knows this guy. Maybe he's a murderer. He's been in this church for a month already, one of a hundred winter visitors, but we don't have a clue about him--and 'The Ninety and Nine'--" she lowered her eyes. "It's unseemly or something, isn't it? I mean, it could be embarrassing. 

Embarrassing, Ray thought, is a crappy word somehow for worship.

"Can't you just tell him no?" they said. "What will people think? We're not American Idol."
*

He would have said no. 

He thought it all through later, how maybe if, on his way over to this Roels guy's trailer, he hadn't seen Tattoo World on the magazine rack where he'd bought gas and thought the whole culture gone nuts; how maybe if he hadn't heard some syrupy radio minister promising "dreams beyond your imagination" once you gave your life to Jesus; how maybe if Mr. Roels and his wife had lived in some mountain mansion instead of a 12-footer with rutted skirts; and how especially if the old man himself hadn't greeted him the way he did, pulled himself up from old steel lawn chair rocker, hobbled over to the car, stuck one huge fat hand through the window, then cracked a purebred smile from a face rutted with lines, and said "So," with a memorable grin, "'ven will I zing?"

If all of that would have happened, he'd have listened to his own better judgment and said no.

Instead, the answer came without hesitation as if his decision were a mandate from a voice far beyond his own, as if the choice were not his or the Pastor's or the worship committee's, so pressing was the old man's resolve. 

Ray stepped out of the car.  "Sunday," he said, simply giving in, "this coming Sunday. I was scheduled to zing myself, but I have 'dis problem with my throat." 

 A white lie. But when he left, he felt as if he'd had no choice.
________________________________ 

Tomorrow: "The Ninety-and-Nine" at Fair Haven.

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