Johnny Mercenary was the type of individual that enjoyed putting people in their place while throwing fire and brimstone their way. He was known in the neighborhood as the crepe-paper-hanger. He seemed to relish gloom and doom. My parents felt we needed to be kind to everyone, including Mr. Mercenary. So, we drove out to his farm every Sunday, after church, to drop off mom’s freshly baked pies. Dad had to tend to something with my siblings, so this particular day, mom and I were on our own.
“Good morning Mr. Mercenary,” mom said, as she balanced the huge apple pie in her hands.
“What’s so good about it anyhow?”
“Kimberly, say hello…”
“Hello Mr. Mercenary.”
“In my day, little girls didn’t need prompting. They had manners and knew what to do without being prodded. I’m telling you….there’ll come a day when things will get worse. You wait and see. Children won’t know their place. You just wait and see! It started already. I see it getting worse every minute of the day.”
My mom’s smile and wink put me at ease before she spoke, “We missed you at church Mr. Mercenary. You know our offer still stands…we’d love to have you join us for services again. If you ever change your mind we’ll gladly come and get you.”
He tapped his cane on the wooden porch and sputtered, “That church has too many sinners in it. There’s Mr. Edwards who thinks he’s so holy. Stands up in his fancy garb and watches to see who’s looking at him. He’s a fake. Like Jesus said, don’t do things so others can see but do things in secret so God can reward you openly.”
“Well Mr. Mercenary, I disagree with you. I believe he’s worshipping God. He’s a good man, and dedicated to the Lord, and his beautiful family.”
He patted the chair near him and my mom sat. “You know what Mrs. Johnsson? You’re a kind lady. You never give up on the no-gooders. And, you’re a woman with a heart for God. But, you don’t know nothing about sinners.”
“Mr. Mercenary, we’ll all sinners…each and every one of us. Jesus Christ died for us, none of us were worthy. But, we’re worthy in His eyes, and that’s all that matters.”
“You know what I heard? Morris Grenard is living with a woman half his age at the end of town. Now, that’s a sinner. Two in fact! I bet they come to church.”
“Mr. Mercenary, you know I won’t engage in gossip. It’s the devil’s playground. Let’s move on to other areas of discussion.”
“You mean like the world, and how it’s going to pot? The economy and how we’re all going to die, or go bankrupt soon? Or the way social security is going to run out?” He finished with, “Or how my house needs a paint job but I can’t afford it?”
“Well, that’s a beginning.” My mom smiled and said, “Mr. Mercenary, it’s not healthy to sit here all alone on this big farm. You need to fellowship with people. God doesn’t want you to sit here all alone. Why don’t you come to church next Sunday, and afterwards our house for a turkey dinner?”
He leaned forward with furrowed brows. “Darn those pigs, they’re making such a ruckus. I told my neighbor to keep them quiet. They’re just a couple of feet from my back door. They’re always running around here. Noisy swine!”
“Mr. Mercenary, did you hear my invitation? What do you think?”
“Mrs. Johnsson, you’re truly the kindest and finest lady I’ve ever known. With that being said, the day I come back to church is the day when pigs might be flying overhead.”
Suddenly, at that precise moment, we heard footsteps overhead, along with a deafening squeal. We turned to the direction of the sound, and there it was—an actual pig soaring through the air! We stared at the pig and watched him land unharmed, and quickly scamper away. While we tried to absorb the sight we had just witnessed, his neighbor came barreling down the road in his pick-up truck.
“Sorry about that Mr. Mercenary. That little scoundrel nephew of mine, took Charley, and climbed atop your roof…he wanted to see if pigs could fly!”
Mr. Mercenary stood up, and slowly walked to his front door, and without looking back, said, “See you next Sunday…”
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