February 26, 2013 by jmar198013
About ten minutes after I left the Blue Plate Café, my cell phone rang. It was Doyce Dean, one of the elders at Bacon Lane First United Primitive Christian Church. Doyce, a retired electrician who worked for Steed-Ramrick for 30 years, was responsible for getting me hired on at Bacon Lane after it was discovered that their octogenarian preacher had been recycling the same thirty sermons for over twenty years.
“Calvin, are you alright son?” he asked, his twangy west-Tennessee tenor sandpapered by years of swallowing tobacco juice.
“I’m great, Brother Doyce,” I lied. “Never been better.”
“Cut the crap, Calvin,” he said accusingly, “I just got a call from Herb Sharp and he played me a tape of you cussing him out and saying you’re not a preacher anymore. Do you mind explaining that?”
They’d been taping me in the restaurant! It was then that I realized that I’d underestimated the rapaciousness of which my brethren were capable. I had just been assuming I was dealing with a bunch of misguided good old boys. My exchange with Woody Dupree two days prior should have tipped me off to the fact that I was dealing with something other than a bunch of frightened villagers coming after the Frankenstein Monster with lit torches. There are plenty of them too, but I suddenly saw all so clearly that there’s also a lot of guys at the top who are encouraging the fear and feeding off of it. Guys like Sharp and Dupree, in other words, are not True Believers. If there’s anything I can convince you of, patient reader, I hope it is that.
“That was taken totally out of context!” I protested. “They were trying to blackmail me!”
“Um, right,” said Brother Dean. That’s when I remembered that Sharp and MacDoogan had called the Bacon Lane elders the night before and sowed seeds of doubt about my mental stability. I could tell that my assertion that they were attempting to extort me, combined with the tape of my meltdown at the breakfast table, wasn’t helping my case. On the other hand, Brother Dean is one of those tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist guys. He believes the world is ran by the Club of Rome, that the government is trying to poison us with fluoride in our drinking water, that the Holocaust and the moon landing never happened, and that the real culprit behind 9/11 was the Jews. How could a fellow who believed all that stuff not believe that I was being railroaded? Seems like it’d be right up his alley, really. “Were they also trying to blackmail you when you cussed out Mack Snipes?” he asked.
“I never did that!” I cried.
“Well, Herb told me that you said,” and then his voice tapered off into a whisper, “He told me you said you were going to whip Brother Snipes’ ass.”
“I didn’t say that,” I replied, “Brother Snipes did.”
“He threatened to whip his own hind-end?”
“No,” I explained, “that wasn’t it at all. He was speaking metaphorically. He was referring to Balaam’s ass—you know, the donkey? Remember, Balaam whipped the donkey? It’s just the way he said it, it just sort of came out wrong.”
“Calvin,” said Brother Dean, “you are either crazy or a liar or both. We’ve gotten no less than five phone calls and ten e-mails about your disrespectful, foolish, and unbalanced behavior at that lectureship this week.”
“What have they been saying?”
“You’ve argued that Hell isn’t real, you were seen eating breakfast with that apostate Beauregard Jones, and you’ve been rebuking every elder you meet. Now I’m getting phone calls telling me you’re acting all unhinged and cussing up a storm.”
“It’s not true!” I objected.
“Calvin, I heard a tape of you saying the ‘d-word’ this morning,” retorted Brother Dean.
“I told you that was taken out of context.”
“Calvin, unless you’re quoting Mark 16:16 from the King James Version, there is no appropriate context for that word. Now you listen here, Calvin, we’re real disappointed in you. Especially me, because I stuck my neck out for you to get you this pulpit here at Bacon Lane. The other elders didn’t want to hire you. They said you were green, seemed soft on sin and denominational error, and that you dress like a sissy. I told them you were a good boy, just a diamond in the rough. Well, I’m through defending you. You’re fired, Calvin.”
“But, Brother Dean . . .” I began.
“Don’t ‘Brother Dean’ me!” he spat. “Until you repent, you’re no brother of mine.”
That hurt worse than anything I can remember ever hurting before. I don’t recall being circumcised, but I bet that hurt less than being un-brothered by Brother Dean. In my shock, I began to waver. “And if I do repent? What then?”
“You’re still fired,” he said. “We have lost all confidence in you. You are an ungrateful, unprofitable servant. I just talked it over with the other elders. You get one month’s salary, and a week to move out of the parsonage. And we will be explaining quite frankly to the congregation why you’ve been removed from the pulpit. Also, we think it best that you not show up for worship Sunday morning, or any Sunday morning hereafter. We don’t want you traumatizing the flock.”
“A month’s salary?” I cried. “One week to find a place to live?”
“It’s better than you deserve, Calvin,” he said. And then he hung up.