I’m Detective Sgt. Deviled Yeggs. I work homicide in the big city of Tracy. My partner is Jim Wednesday. We are assisted by my nephew, Poached Yeggs, junior detective.
On a slow day in the squad room, I was expecting a visitor. I heard him wringing his hands from down the hall.
“Pastor Tozer, what brings you to the precinct?” If you don’t remember, Rev. Oswald Tozer is the pastor of the First-Third Metho-Presby Church in Tracy on the corner of 2nd and 4th Streets.
“Oh, I was wondering if I could talk to you about a little matter. It might be related to a homicide, but maybe not.”
Jim and Poached got their notepads and pens, but I brushed them aside. “No, guys, I think you need to study that cold case that we were working on. I will talk to the preacher on my own. If this turns into anything, I’ll give you a buzz.” Turning to our guest, I said, “Pastor Tozer, the conference room is free.”
Once in the conference room, I said, “I chose the conference room, because it’s not wired, unless somebody has been playing games lately. If you wanted a greater chance of people listening and even recording the conversation, we would be in an interrogation room. Our captain, Al Hart, is out of town, so no interruptions. By the way, I heard you doing your thing coming down the hall, wringing your hands. I have been wondering about the tunes you play. For instance, was that tune just now Bringing in the Sheaves or simply Ringing in the Sleeves?”
“A pastor never tells his secrets.”
“I thought was a magician never tells?”
“I’m not sure, but I still won’t tell. By the way, I just love your family. You and Glyce are great additions to the Sunday school class you attend. You provide a street perspective, and Glyce provides an academic perspective. Easter is … Easter, normal teen-ager, especially a teen-aged boy. Sophie is a delight, really smart and so polite. Why do you call her Soapy?”
I replied, “It was a nickname that she got in kindergarten from her teacher. It stuck. She is used to it and thinks she’s in trouble if we call her Sophie. But you didn’t mention Blaise.”
“Yes, … Blaise is a handful. He is well behaved, but he seems to know more about the topic each Sunday than the teacher knows. His teacher is at her wits end. Could you get Blaise to dial it down on the philosophical discussions? It is so hard getting good volunteers to teach Sunday school.”
“I could try, but Blaise gets a little stubborn when it comes to intellectual discussions. I know, that’s strange for a six-year-old, but I will talk to him. The problem is, the result may turn out to sound patronizing.”
Rev. Os smiled, “And how are the newlyweds?”
“Jim and Tuesday Wednesday are settling in quite well. Their children, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Wednesday are well adjusted. We’re trying to get them interested in coming to church. With three little ones, I suppose it’s hard. Oh, and Tuesday is expecting. They’ve already picked out a name, Holiday.” I paused, “Is that why you wanted this little conference? I’m sure there are no dead bodies in the church basement. You don’t have any additional bodies in the cemetery, I hope, at least none that are unaccounted for?”
“No, nothing like that. You know that I am retiring.”
“Pastor, we are not even members of the church. We’ve just started going after you called in the missing person report about a year ago. Don’t ask me what you should do in your retirement, please.”
Rev. Os laughed, “You are the only people who attend regularly who have not made suggestions about what I should do in my retirement. And as for Sixteen [the Lost Sheep from No Homicide Today], he is doing well. He will again be the only animal in the creche this year.”
I said, “That’s good. I won’t suggest anything, but what do you want to do once you have retired?”
“My children live in a different state, a couple of states actually. I want to be there for my grandchildren, but I also want to wake up and not have a schedule of people to go see. Don’t get me wrong. I love that, but I also love having an unlimited time to sit in my quiet place and pray. Talk to God and have Him talk to me. To have long conversations, it requires time, patience, and quiet, something that I don’t have in my hectic schedule. I have been meaning to ask, are you interested in joining the church?”
“Well, Pastor, we were wondering about the church’s belief that everybody is predestined to fall from Grace at one time or another. Glyce and I believe that once you have Jesus in your heart, Jesus stays there. Have you ever fallen from Grace?”
“Oh, yes, a long time ago. I was fond of this beautiful girl in school. Everyone said that she was out of my league in every way. She was popular. I was not. She was beautiful. I was rather plain. She was outgoing. I was quiet. She came from a rich family. My family worked for the rich family, but that did not deter me. She loved to ride horses, so I invited myself to join her one day. As we were riding, she jumped a fence. I knew horses, but not jumping a horse over an obstacle. The horse stopped and I kept going. I made it halfway over the fence. I broke my shoulder and messed up a few more things. I couldn’t get off the fence, and it was an electric fence with a weed cutting setting. It was like being constantly tased. My body functions had a mind of their own while I lay there, draped over the fence, helpless. The beautiful girl turned around and got help. But in all things, there is good…”
“What could be good about that?”
“The girl felt sorry for me. She visited me in the hospital. We got to talk to each other, really get to know each other.”
“What happened then?”
“I married her.”
“But your wife is named Joy, not Grace, right?”
“Deviled, I fell FROM Grace. I was riding a mare named Grace. I used to say that I fell from Grace and was filled with Joy, but some folk said that could be taken in a variety of ways. You’re a man of the streets, so you know how I meant it.”
I laughed, “But that isn’t what the church belief means.”
“I know,” he said. “When the denomination split and then combined with its odd ideas, I loved my congregation so much that I went with their vote on the choice of denominations.”
“And now you’re retiring, leaving them behind.”
“Yes, and the denomination doesn’t like you staying around. If I stayed, people would still come to me with their problems, undermining the new pastor. I guess that’s the thing that troubles me, but I came by to ask you a silly question.”
“Deviled, and might I say, it has taken me months getting used to calling you that… The church is on the corner of 2nd and 4th Streets. I have driven both streets. They run parallel, but they intersect. You’ve lived here all your life. How is that possible?”
“Rev. Os, you have a picture in your office. It’s a print of a famous painting, kind of the symbol of the big city of Tracy. In the picture, going toward a setting sun there is a set of railroad tracks. There is a sunflower field to the left and a corn field to the right. It symbolizes Tracy as the starting point to settle the west.”
“I think other cities claim similar things, but what does that have to do with 2nd and 4th Streets crossing?”
“As you look at the rails, where do they meet?”
“They don’t. They are parallel. They stay the same distance apart all the way to the Pacific Ocean.”
“No, Rev. Os, you are thinking too literally. In the painting, where do they meet?”
“This makes no sense. It’s called perspective. To show depth in the painting, the rails meet at the horizon, but in life, they don’t meet.”
“That answers all your questions, Rev. Os. In the big city of Tracy, perspective is more important than what the real world calls ‘reality.’ A cartoon vampire can melt into a puddle of chocolate goo by having his coffin lid opened. Two parallel rails on the track can meet. And a church can be found at an intersection of two parallel streets. And a church family will always be together, at that distant intersection. It’s just a matter of perspective. You will move on to better things. And the church will get a new pastor, but maybe one that can’t wring his hands like you do. But we will always be meeting at that distant intersection.”
Rev. Os, arose, gave me a hug, and started wringing his hands. This time, I could tell what it was, Spirit of the Living God by Daniel Iverson. The choir often sang the chorus at the close of the service. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Our pastor is retiring. He was a great encouragement in me writing these short stories. He said that we had the same kind of ‘odd’ sense of humor. This is my gift to him, and he is allowing me to post it for all to read. We will always be together. It’s just a matter of perspective.