***Posted for Patty Wysong's Fiction Fridays. For more great fiction, click here: http://pattywysong.blogspot.com
Pastor Jim looked down at his Dockers to make sure they were zipped, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw that they were. Why is the entire back row laughing? He had just reminded the congregation about the revival next week, and he knew that wasn’t funny.
One chuckle after another began to spread throughout the pews. Did I put the wrong shoes on? “Tonight we’ll have a potluck following the”—Is that Ruth Stanley snickering? Now I KNOW something is wrong—“a scrumptious potluck following the service.”
As the nervous young pastor continued the announcements, he mentally reviewed his mentors' warnings of common embarrassing situations in ministry. No ink stain on my shirt…maybe my hair is sticking up. While delivering the attendance numbers, he combed his fingers through his hair.
By now, the entire back half of the room was whispering among themselves. I’ve GOT to keep going. Something must have happened in the back. Focus, Jim.
He took a deep breath and persisted. “Now I’d like to ask some of our long time members, Steve and Judy Patterson, and their beautiful daughter Hannah, to come and join me at the pulpit.”
The family came forward reluctantly. Darling nine-year-old Hannah covered her mouth with her hand, probably to hold in her giggles. Her little cheeks were as red as the roses on her dress. Steve Patterson looked terribly grim, while Judy had her head down. They’re acting weird, too…
Pastor Jim wrapped his arms around them as they turned toward the congregation. “Everyone knows this precious family, the Pattersons. They’ve been on the front lines of this church for many years—long before I came into the picture. Only God knows why Steve’s job is taking them away from us. We’ll miss ‘em dearly.”
Oh, good, everyone has stopped laughing, but nobody’s looking at the Pattersons either. What on earth is going on?
Clearing his throat, the pastor bravely carried on, though his voice began to squeak every third word or so. “If you’ll notice in your bulletin that Ruth Stinkelman has coordinated a Parting Party for the Pattersons. Thank you, Ms. Stinkelman.”
Now where did Ruth go? I just saw her before the service.
The cackles began again, but this time it was mainly the younger folks. Most of the adults were hiding behind their church bulletins. Steve Patterson gave the pastor a darted, angry look. Mrs. Patterson proceeded to hang her head, but little Hannah’s shoulders were giggling up and down.
The young pastor’s frustration finally came to a head. “Could somebody please tell me what is so funny?” He was visibly distraught.
Suddenly, a paper airplane landed smack into his forehead and crashed onto the floor next to him. “What in the blooming world?” the pastor snapped.
Steve Patterson picked up the makeshift jet, aka Second Baptist Church’s bulletin, unwrinkled the wings and sternly pointed to the ink circle on the announcement page in front of him. Little Hannah’s laughter could no longer contain itself, and her mother’s head, hanging moments before in embarrassment, began to bobble a little bit, too. Steve’s glare burned a hole in the side of the pastor’s face.
In a matter of milli-seconds, Pastor Jim’s face flushed several shades of red. He began to read from the bulletin: “Ms. Ruth Stinkelman has offered to host a—a—Parting Party…”
His eyes were wide open while glaring at his mistake, and the only sound he could hear was the thumping of his heart as it raced out of his chest. He couldn’t believe he had inadvertently replaced the ‘P’ in ‘Parting’ with a big, fat, ugly ‘F.’
The silence in the room haunted Pastor Jim, but he knew he must somehow break it. I just want to crawl in a hole and die. “I’m—I’m so terribly sorry…I…”
Little Hannah stepped forward to comfort him in total sincerity. “Oh, don’t worry, Pastor Jim, I’m sure doing the bulletin is a great big STINKY job.”
Hannah’s dad released a snort and a wheezing chuckle. Pastor Jim was stunned to see the whole congregation cracking up, including Ruth Stinkelman, who was fanning herself with her bulletin.
Looking down at the typo again, he shook his head back and forth. I’m probably never going to live this down, but…if I can’t beat ‘em, I may as well join ‘em. A big grin lined the Pastor’s face as he finally accepted the humor in it all.
Then the Pattersons gave him a Parting hug—‘Parting,’ with a capital ‘P.’