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Keep Your Standards High
by Patricia Backora
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Keep Your Standards High

One would-be pastor did his best to reassure his wife about being interviewed by the top woman of a very ritzy church.

“Just be yourself, dear, and it’ll all work out,” Billy Jo’s husband said sweetly, before heading out the door. “It’s a sin to lie, so don’t be afraid to answer her questions truthfully.”

That afternoon, a grim-looking lady in a gray woolen suit knocked on the door. She wore white gloves. Her hair was hidden beneath a pillbox hat fringed with dark netting. “Hello?” she said somewhat disapprovingly, staring up and down at Billy Jo’s pigtails and red-checked gingham dress. But Billy Jo HAD taken off her flip-flops and was wearing new shoes in honor of the occasion.

“Howdy, ma’am,” Billy Jo said with a toothy grin. “Wanna come in?”

As the lady stepped gingerly into the mobile home, her terrified eyes darted to the right and to the left, as if she feared a mouse might spring out at her. The little home was spotless, but smelled strongly of pine cleaner. There was no carpeting on the floor, only cracked linoleum. Furnishings were sparse. The furniture, what there was of it, looked like recycled odds and ends. From the back room a baby screamed.

“That feisty little critter!” Billy Jo sighed, as she bounded through the trailer to go get him. “I just put Travis down five seconds ago!”

Billy Jo came back with the baby, who was dressed in a faded blue sleep suit. Billy Jo stuck a pacifier in his mouth and held him out to the visitor. “Wanna hold him?”

The baby was in Sister Snoop’s arms before she could reply. He held up his chubby hand and yanked at the netting around her hat, which flopped down on Sister Snoop’s pointy nose.

“OOPS!” Billy Jo cried, untangling Travis’ fingers from the torn hat net. “Sorry about that, ma’am.” Before she could take the baby away he felt wet in Sister Snoop’s arms. She hurriedly handed him over.

“Oh, no!” Billy Jo cried. “That cheap diaper he’s wearin’ is leakin’ like a faucet! Please excuse me, ma’am! Gotta go slap a dry one on!”

Fuming, Sister Snoop pursed her lips and nodded. Billy Jo disappeared, and was back in three minutes flat. Baby balanced on one hip, she shoved a creaky playpen closer to the sofa and set him in it. “Now we can have us a real good visit,” Billy Jo said. “How do you like your coffee, ma’am?”

“Uh…nothing for me, please” the lady replied. “I had luncheon fifteen minutes ago, thank you. And, by the way, my name is Sister Snoop. I’m the Church Committee Coordinator. While I’m here, I plan to share with you our church policy on personal deportment and social etiquette as it pertains to pastors’ wives, our booklet entitled: Whatsoever Things Are Lovely.

“Right pleased to meet you, Sister Snoop,” said Billie Jo, reaching for a handshake. “Hope you don’t mind all the scratches on my hand. I was out pickin’ blackberries for jelly yesterday. If you don’t mind, I’ll go pop open a cold drink and get me a snack. Been runnin’ on empty all morning, and that squallin’ young’un wears me out. Guess you know what that’s like, with you bein’ a busy lady yourself and all.”

Sister Snoop whitened and nodded. She bit her lower lip.

Billy Jo returned to her chair, plopped down and guzzled her can of Pepsi. Then she gobbled a third of her Moon Pie in one bite.

Sister Snoop pretended not to notice. With a leaden look she pulled some notes and a pen out of her briefcase.

“Hopefully, I’m not being too inquisitive,” she began, “but I would like us to get better acquainted. You said your name is Billie Jo and you originally come from Hootin’ Holler, Tennessee?”

“Yes, ma’am. I married me a real live yankee boy when me and Bob got hitched.”

“I see. What, may I ask, are your areas of interest…I mean, what can you do especially well?

“Well, when I lived in Hootin’ Holler, mama taught me how to skin catfish, can peaches and milk cows.”

Sister Snoop made a face and jotted down a few notes. Before she could look up and say something else, she felt something wet licking her face.

“O-o-o-h!” Sister Snoop cried. “Get rid of this horrible beast right this minute!”

“Goober!” Billie Jo shouted. “You git your tail outa this house right now! The very idea, hidin’ behind the couch!”

When the blue tick hound refused to move, Billie Jo chased him out the kitchen door with a flyswatter.

Then Sister Snoop was startled by a loud explosion.

“Shoot fire!” Billie Jo yelled. “I should’a screwed the lid of that dang pressure cooker tighter! My pinto beans blew up all over the place!”

“I could just return later…” Sister Snoop breathed, in stark terror.

“Oh, no, Sister Snoop! You stay put and sit a spell. YOU’RE more important than any mess, and Bob don’t get home for three more hours. I’ll just get me a stepladder later on and scrape alla them beans off of the ceiling.”

She’d no sooner said that than baby Travis threw up all over his playpen.

“Oh, diddley-do!” Billie Jo playfully scolded. “My itty-bitty baby bear had too much puddin’ today. Now let mama get a wet rag…”

“Billy Jo,” Sister Snoop said faintly, “I really must go. But before I leave, I don’t suppose you’re fully cognizant of the fact that you and your husband might be taking on too much responsibility, should he be appointed pastor of our church. We really were expecting the spouse of our prospective pastor to possess certain social skills compatible with the atmosphere of our particular congregation…such as entertaining professional clergy who visit our church from time to time.”

“Oh, but I can entertain folks real good!” Billy Jo grinned.

“Can you be more specific?” inquired Sister Snoop.

“I won me a blue ribbon at the county fair for raisin’ the purtiest razorback hog! And I can play “Dixie” on a Coke bottle. Wanna hear me?”

Sister Snoop coughed. “Ah…I meant, are you adept at conversing with prominent guests and providing refreshments…things of that nature?”

“Refreshments? I found me a new-fangled recipe you’ll just love!” Billy Jo exclaimed. “I cooked up a few for my hubby and he went wild over ‘em. Deep-fried Mars Bars! No kiddin’, you just roll Mars Bars in pancake batter and fry ‘em real good in lard till they’re golden brown, and…”

Sister Snoop was shaking. “I believe I’ve heard enough. There will be no further questions.” She rose up to go.

“Hey, wait, Sister Snoop! I didn’t tell ya my recipe for rooster oysters. When an old rooster can’t cut the mustard no more…”

Sister Snoop ran out of the trailer screaming.

That evening, Bob walked in. “Did ya get the job, Bob?” Billie Jo asked.

Sadly he shook his head. “I couldn’t pastor this church, honey. I just found out they liberalized their policy on divorce.”

* * * * *

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