Orville Heckaman wiped sweat from his brow, standing up from his cramped position on the sawdust-covered floor. Removing his work gloves, he ran his left hand over the surfaces of the podium, stopping occasionally to sand any rough edges with the sandpaper in his right hand. Then he dusted the entire piece with a soft cloth.
“Danny! Come and help me move this thing, will ya?” shouted Orville.
It took the combined strength of the wiry father and muscular son to shift the cumbersome piece in place on the old quilt they used for their special varnishing jobs.
“Wow, Pa! This looks good! Ya gonna varnish now?”
“Not enough daylight left. Best tackle it at first light tomorrow. Hey! I can smell your Ma’s stew and biscuits and my belly’s hollerin’. Why don’t you wash up at the pump and tell your Ma I’ll be in for supper in a few shakes?”
After his son left, Orville stealthily scrambled up the loft ladder. He paced five feet north and then four east where he located a loosened board. Familiar with this handmade ingenious cubbyhole, he quickly retrieved his “rainy day” stash of some of Mollie’s egg money he had managed to pilfer over the last few weeks. He had promised to stay sober while he did this job for the Reverend, but when he went into town early tomorrow morning for varnishing supplies, he would just get a little nip at the saloon.
Hearing his youngest son’s whistle close by, Orville nimbly descended the ladder, cash in hand, and frantically scanned the shed for a temporary hiding place. Grinning as the idea struck him, he rushed over to the almost-finished podium, sliding the money into a tiny drawer he had mounted on the backside of its cupboard shelf. This was his private trademark--these little inventive crevices he would build into each of his pieces.
“You coming, Pa?” little Matthew asked from the doorway of the shed. “Pa? Pa! What’s wrong? Ma, come quick--something’s wrong with Pa!”
. . .
The volunteer church janitor paused in his cleaning long enough to gaze pensively at the sunlight filtering through the church’s colorful stained glass windows.
‘Another hot one today,’ he grimaced as he made his way, dust cloth in hand, through each row of pews.
Alternating straightening hymnals with brushing off the pew cushions, Wendell expertly polished the pew backs with one hand as he made his way to the front of the sanctuary, softly whistling a new praise song from yesterday’s service.
“Better is one day is Your house, better is one day in Your house, better is one day in Your house than thousands elsewhere”, he kept time in his heart to the beat. “You’ve sure taught me that over these sixty plus years I’ve been worshiping at this church, Lord! I’m so happy I could retire from my regular job and spend time here!”
Wendell paused and knelt at the altar, the praise in his soul overflowing into a prayer of thanksgiving. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added,
“Lord, you know how much we could reach out to the neighborhood with a gymnasium. There’s so many young people wandering around and getting into trouble! There’s no decent place for them to play sports. I know You probably don’t have much use for lotteries and all, but if only. . .”
Wendell sighed as he rose, his eyes raising to admire the massive preacher’s pulpit that he had purchased thirty years ago at an estate sale, noting that the professional varnishing job he had hired done had been well worth it. Mounting the three steps to the platform, his foot caught on a microphone cord, landing his body into the pulpit that was precariously balanced on a cart. Acrylic lecterns now being the rage because they were thought to be less intimidating to newcomers, this old pulpit was going into storage downstairs. A loud crash echoed throughout the church as Wendell’s girth tipped the thing over, his other foot catching on a small cubbyhole drawer that had come loose.
The 1895 Indian head pennies and 1867 three-cent nickels were sold to collectors, and the money procured from them paid for a state-of-the-art gymnasium/fellowship room that has continued to minister to Wakeland Community Church’s neighborhood and beyond. The church addition was dedicated in Wendell’s name and the pulpit has a place of honor there.
Wendell claims it was quickest answer to a prayer he ever had.
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