The chairperson of the Benevolence Committee was venting like an overheated boiler about to break loose from its mooring. Yanking off her apron Retha hurled it into the pantry. Her eyes locked on the chocolate chip cookie platter on the serving table. “I’m declaring war. There’s either an unholy ghost in this church or a sneaky thief stealing cookies when my back is turned.”
Last week half-a-plate of lemon squares disappeared. The funeral before that it was most of Helen’s date-bars. And now this, when Clyde Smith’s family and close friends would soon return from his graveside service to eat a meal in the Fellowship Hall.
Valerie pulled the sink plug and watched the soapy suds swirling down. “Chill, Retha. If we need more deserts, I’ll run to the In-And-Out. It won’t take ten min...”
“Oh, we have plenty of pie and other things. That’s not the point. This has got to stop. I’m going to catch that thief if it’s the last thing I do.
“That preacher is going to get an ear full from me. If the church won’t install security cameras, you can chair this committee, Val. I’m tired of this nonsense. I’m going to doctor up some cookies with Ex-Lax. I bet’cha that will stop them.”
“No… don’t go there girl. Don’t even think it.”
”I met Pastor Mike in the hall this morning and tried to speak to him. I couldn’t believe it. He just puffed out his cheeks, raised his eyebrows, looked at his wristwatch, wheeled and trotted away yanking his cell phone out of his pocket. He never said a mumbling word, just waved a pudgy hand over his shoulder.”
Valerie opened the oven door and decided the rolls were ready to come out and have their tops brushed with butter. “You better not set your hopes on that camera, Retha. I’m not chairing this committee, either.”
“Then a cookie Armageddon it is.” Hearing voices approaching in the hall, Retha retrieved her apron and put it on along with a smile. “Let’s do it. Let’s get the hot stuff on the table.”
When the meal was over and clean-up about finished Retha pointed to a door in the middle of the wall behind the serving table. “What’s in there?”
“I think it’s a storage room. I’d guess the custodian might keep something in there.”
“It’s always locked. Do you think the thief sneaks in through that door?”
“I never ... If it’s not a closet …”
“Isn’t the pastor’s study office somewhere on the other side of that wall? I wonder if that’s a back door to …?”
Valerie snapped her fingers. “You know, he’s only been here about three months. I don’t remember any problems before he …”
The following afternoon Retha was sitting in the pastor’s office and quickly unloaded. “Sunday we observe The Lord’s Supper. The scripture warns, unless we confess our sins and have a right relationship with others, we are not to partake of it.”
Pastor Mike nodded, smiling. “Bless you, Retha, that’s what the scriptures say. Is there something you want to tell me?”
“You are a cookie thief and you need to stop your sinful thieving.”
“Well, bless my soul, Retha. What makes you think that?”
“Don’t dodge it, pastor. You need to confess and quit it.”
“Retha, the scripture says a workman is worthy of his hire. Surely a cookie or two…”
“More like half a platter. I just want to know why?”
Pastor Mike clasped his hands together, massaging his thumbs. “Okay, Retha, I confess. I’m a cookie-aholic. Fact is, give me a plate of cookies while I’m preparing a sermon and I’ll give you something worth hearing. I definitely have a weakness for cookies of any kind. But, Linda can’t tolerate sugar so we never have any at home.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” Retha squinted, sighing, noticing the golden dust motes floating in a shaft of sunlight. “Pastor, I came here on the war path. But I think I’d better make peace with a man that loves cookies and preaches a good sermon.
“How about we make a deal? You leave the cookies alone that I need for funeral meals, ‘cause I never know how many people are going to show up, and I’ll put a cookie-jar in your office and keep it stocked. Agreed?”
“Oh, absolutely. Communion is on.” The pastor raised his palms outward, grinning sheepishly. “Tell me Retha, how’s the best way to get powdered sugar out of coat pockets?”
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