The Parsonage

The Parsonage

Seven-fifteen a.m., August 26 the anniversary of his father’s death

forty-five years ago, he was abruptly awakened from a steamy,

sweaty sleep to the sounds of the local high school

band director’s baritone voice alternately rising to alto and

 

lowering to basso profundo as he screamed mercilessly at the

hapless teens in ill-fitting uniforms and lugging instruments

too big for them south on the street just beneath his bedroom

window. He thought he had seen the band director in a liquor

 

store just beyond the boundary west of the dry town. Then, as if in a panic,

the band members began playing – very, very fast, very, very loudly and very,

very badly.  He understood why the director was beside himself.  It was Thursday

and they had to perform the next evening during half-time at the first football

 

game of the season. It was the town’s people’s weekly social event of events.

It had been a recent move following ten years in one town and seventeen

in that southern state of mind at least seven generations deep to a smaller

northern town whose culture of uptight, upright people whose roots only

 

went back two generations.  Their grandfathers had been uptight, upright

religious fanatics in Europe and he was to learn that the country they left was

really happy to see them go as they all got on the ship and sailed west. If

nothing else, they were industrious if not particularly productive. They rose

 

early to punch the time clock and retired early and in between sometimes

smiled at each other’s faces, lowered their eyes most times even before

meeting others and then looked suspiciously at each other’s backs and never,

ever said hello first.  He went into the bedroom reserved for his son who was

 

off at college only three miles away but who only came home on school holidays.

He had a clearer view of the band from there. He was upstairs in this huge house.

Clockwise from his and his wife’s bedroom at eight o’clock, southwest to his son’s

at ten o’clock northwest around to the bathroom due north to an empty room at

 

one o’clock northeast, across the stairway at three o’clock to his daughter’s bedroom at

four o’clock southeast.  Two closets due south separated her bedroom from theirs.  His

daughter’s room was newly painted pale green at her request; it was an artificial way of

trying to make the move easier and bring succor and assuage  guilt-ridden parents for

 

taking her away from her friends of ten years, but for however nice and comforting the

room may have looked, he could still hear her through the two closets crying while lying in

her new big fluffy bed. Her school was just across the parking lot and local girls who had

known each other all their lives and were BFF stopped by each morning on their mothers’

 

orders to walk her to school. Each afternoon she walked the eternal path westward to

what was now supposed to be her home.  Downstairs there was a big foyer at six

o’clock due south, a big, formal living room in which the furniture they brought looked

small.  It was directly beneath their bedroom. The big, formal dining room adjoined

 

the living room and off the dining room between twelve o’clock a.m. and p.m.

was a small kitchen with a small family room directly north where they spent

most of their time huddled together watching T.V. when the three were

home which after his evening meetings was every night.  In between

 

the kitchen and family room was a cabinet. That would be three o’clock east.

On the top shelf pushed way to the back behind closed doors was the bourbon

and vodka. He and his wife drank white wine, which was kept chilled behind

a lot of food containers in the refrigerator.  He always carried the empties in a

 

brown paper bag to a dumpster at a grocery store in the next town. One night in the

middle of reruns of the Rockford Files, their daughter stated sarcastically and accusingly

in her best and deepest southern drawl, “Y’all drink every night.”  He and his wife argued

a lot and sometimes she would storm off to the pastor’s study that was converted into an

 

art studio four o’clock southeast just next to the three o’clock southeast stairway and

downstairs half bath under the stairs. She sat for long periods of time staring at her easel.

He felt bad that his daughter had to witness such times. The basement was dark and

dank.  One room at six o’clock south was where they had deposited coal years before.

 

There was still some soot on the walls and floor and a chute at seven o’clock

southwest just above the foundation. The walk-in attic was 360 degrees huge.

Dead center was a big, old T.V. antenna, a remnant from the days when

previous occupants had to close thick drapes to watch television surreptitiously .

 

On the floor beneath one badly screened crevasse where walls and the roof met but

parted as the house settled years ago was a pile of bat crap.  Two weeks earlier a bat

had buzzed him as he lie in bed. He jumped up, grabbed his tennis racket, turned

on all the lights in the huge house and opened the door downstairs three o’clock east.

 

The bat flew out. In three days he would have to preach his fourth sermon about the love

of Jesus at the church only a block away directly west in a town his son had derisively and

with a bit of pain called “Beaver Cleaver-ville” into which the family dog would periodically

and resolutely escape. He could get pretty far on those short little legs. The dog was one

 

determined, head-strong, beagle-dachshund mix.  He’s had the run of the neighborhood

before. Sadly, he was often just a poor old scapegoat. Within ten minutes of

his departure neighbors would call to say exactly when the little dog left the yard and in

what direction he was headed. Sometimes the little guy could be found forlorn at the

 

pound. As he moved toward the twelve o’clock north bathroom, he thought about

raising a fist skyward right through the huge bat crap attic, past the giant antenna

and cursing God for taking them away from their old Kentucky home, not that it was

always heaven there, but he knew it was his decision to follow what he believed

 

was “The Call.”  He took a leak and stepped into the shower.  As the water

poured over his head he, too, cried.  He dressed hurriedly and walked west

to the church right on time because he knew the wives of time-clock

punchers were watching him through their partially opened blinds.

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