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.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Short Fiction--Iron John comes to Willowdale Church (ii)

Yesterday, Frank Knol, full of enthusiasm having been at a camp celebrating men and maleness, returned to his church steering committee, sure that Willowhaven Church had to change with the times. Only one member, the only woman, sort of gets what Knol is saying and thinking. 

In the second half of the story, Knol unveils his dream.

"I think we here at Willowhaven ought to dream," Frank said. "I mean, are we so caught up in tradition that we can't change?"

"What, pray tell, is the dream?" Mona said, pulling her coat up around her shoulders.

"I didn't assume you'd like it," Frank told her. "But I want you to remember how we supported you."

"Me?" Mona said.

"Women," Frank hissed. Both hands, open palms, came up in front of him. "I propose we turn the youth room into a place for men‑‑open every night. Put a neon sign out by the basement door. A couple of tables. Short beer and wine list.

"A bar?" Mona said.

"A man wants needs a place like that, a place where everybody knows his name," Frank said.

"Cheers!" Butch said.

"Yeah, Cheers," Frank said. "A men's place."

Nausea inched up the back of Mona's throat. "You know, there are women in Cheers," she said.

"But they work there‑‑think once," Frank said. "What I'm saying is that in churches today‑‑and Willowhaven is no exception‑‑there's no place for Iron John."

"I thought he went to Westminster Pres," Butch said. "He used pitch for ‘em at least."

Frank stopped, shocked. "You mean they beat us to it?"

Mona reached over and grabbed Butch's wrist. "He's talking about the hairy man," she told him.

"The hairy man?" Butch's eyebrows furrowed. "In church? We got to have a place for a hairy man, is that it? Is that what I'm hearing here?" He wasn't angry yet, but he was well on his way to being annoyed. "We ought to have a bar down here for this hairy man‑‑is that it, Frank? Is that what you got in mind?"

“For too long, men have learned about being masculine from their mothers‑‑"

"This hairy man a preacher, is he?" Butch said.

"He's not a preacher," Frank said. "He's a prophet."

The only prophet Butch knew was Billy Graham.

"He says we have to go down into that dangerous water and bring up what we've lost‑‑we've got to rescue Iron John," Frank said.

"The hairy man," Mona corrected.

"Someone here give me a break and tell me who on earth is the hairy man?" Butch said.

Frank threw up his hands. "He's locked up in the castle, and the Queen's got the key."

"Where's the castle?" Butch said. "And what on earth does this have to do with Cheers?"

"Doesn't anyone here understand?" Frank screamed. He tried, quickly, to calm himself. "That water is feminine, see, Butch?—and we have to fight through the feminine to the Iron Man down below."

"Is this a war?" Butch said. "Are we talking war here?"

Mona put her hands up over her face.

"No!" Frank screamed. "It's the feminine in us!" he said, "not them," pointing to Mona. "The woman in you," he said, turning his finger toward Butch.

"You're saying I got a woman in me?" Butch said.

Frank stopped and sat back. He looked around—first at Alan Simpson, then at Butch, then threw a token glance at Mona, whose eyes were firmly placed on the ceiling lights. "Doesn't anyone here understand what I’m saying? We're talking major cultural movements here, and the church is‑‑as always‑‑" he stared at Butch, "Neanderthal."

Mona kept her lips sealed to avoid emitting steam. Alan Simpson was petrified, and Butch just shook his head.

"I've had it with the church," Frank said. "Ten years I've come to Willowhaven, but no one ever listens to my opinions. The place is medieval," he said. "I'm serious." He slammed his fist on the cushion. "If the church doesn't get the men, it'll be the end of civilization as we know it!"

"This hairy man," Butch said, "--what is he? He a Baptist?"

Frank's eyes fell. He pulled a hand up to his face, then stood, buttoned his coat with one hand and straightened his tie. "Listen," he said. "You're supposed to be long‑range here, aren't you? This is the planning body of this church, and I'm offering you this idea. Turn this youth room into a place for men. What better place for men than a church?‑‑that's what I'm saying. Let them come down here and find what it is they're missing‑‑"

"How is it exactly I got a woman in me?" Butch said.

Frank never skipped a beat. "What I'm saying is, take the lead here for once. Let's be a church and minister to men." He stared at Alan. "I got a vision here of the church that takes hold of culture with a vengeance in its teeth‑‑"

"That's it," Butch said. "We lost this dog somewhere in the woods. I was with you during that part."

Frank Knol closed his eyes, took a series of heavy breaths drawn deeply and with great difficulty from the pit of his soul. "Butch," he said, "it's a bloody thing for each of us to have to reach into that pond and find Iron John back again." He rolled up a fist. "But it's got to be done, and we can do it. We can take it back!" he said.

Butch grinned. "Oh, you're talking softball?" he said. "I'm tired of it too‑‑Willowhaven always gets pounded in that church league. I'm tired of that too."

That was it for Frank Knol. He stared, silently, at the ceiling, as if pleading for patience, then he raised his hands. "I'm leaving," he said, relatively composed. "I can't even talk to you. I'm taking my membership elsewhere." Without looking at any of them, he lifted his chin proudly and made an exit from the den of lions who hadn't so much as laid a paw on him.

Willowhaven, that night, lost a ten‑year member.

Once Frank was out of the youth room, Mona exhaled so deeply that the picture of the missionary family on the bulletin board across the room trembled visibly on its single tack.

"Did you understand any of that?" Butch asked her. "I didn't catch a word." He shook his head as if clearing his vision. "What I want to know is‑‑where on earth did that guy go skiing?"

The End


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