Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
- TITLE: 'In and Out' Ben
By Gerald Dean
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Had it been solely his decision, the Reverend Michael Stott would have displaced old
‘in and out’ Ben many years ago, but as curate at St Edmunds Anglican Church he
didn’t have the final say in matters of hiring and firing church staff. Much to his
aggrevation, he was always outvoted on the church board of directors whenever Ben’s
retention fell into question. The board knew only too well that finding a replacement for
Ben would be nearly impossible, and that although he didn’t always perform his duties
as organ pumper faultlessly, a below par pumper was better than no pumper at all.
Under these circumstances, it was easy to forgive Ben on the occassion he fell asleep
at his post, causing a particularly fine rendition by the choir of ‘Breathe On Me Breath
of God’, to trail away into the distance like a love sick cat.
These thoughts were whirling around in Reverend Stott’s head when Mrs Wogan the
cleaner came brusquely into the office.
“ Good morning Mrs Wogan” said Reverend Stott, with exaggerated politeness.
She was Irish, and of small, and distinctly bird-like appearance, and for someone
professing to be Christian, of an unexpectedly mean disposition.
She gave him a sideways glance, and begrudgingly chirped.
“Good morning Reverend Stott, what a fine morning we have, to be sure”
Reverend Stott was acutely aware that she knew he wasn’t exactly a paragon of virtue.
One particularly dark moonless night she had caught him slipping out the back door of
the ‘Dog and Whistle Inn’ in the next village. Her suspicions were aroused when she
noticed his hands thrust deep into his clothing, and were confirmed when she heard a
distinct clinking of wine bottles, coming from under the raincoat which covered his light
For Mrs Wogan to be aware of his indiscretion was one thing, but for her brother Ben to
know, was quite another. It seemed of late, that at every opportunity, Ben was
reminding him that ‘his sins would find him out’ as if he was obliquely referring to some
secret he knew. The Reverend Stott understood that drinking wine was not a sin, but
nonetheless felt very uneasy and compromised by the situation.
At that moment Ben entered the church office looking for his sister.
“Have you ordered those missing screws for the organ yet Rev”? he enquired.
Reverend Stott had completely forgotten.
“Sorry Ben, havn’t had time yet” he said defensively.
“Careful Rev, your sins will find you out” chuckled Ben.
‘That’s it’, thought the Reverend Stott, ‘I must do something about that man’.
As if by divine providence, the very next morning he came across an advertisement for
a used electric pump for church organs in the local paper. Why hadn’t he thought of
that before: a mechanical replacement for Ben. He obtained approval from the board.
It was ordered and quickly delivered. A large gleaming black machine, installed into
the Reverend Stott’s office, which was next to the organ. Ben was informed that his
services would no longer be required. The matter was settled.
That night there was a choir rehearsal, ideal for testing the new pump. Wearing a self
satisfied grin the Reverend Stott eased back into his leather button back chair. Ben
wouldn’t be around to trouble his conscience any more.
Melodic tones of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ resonated through the church. ‘Perfect’ he
thought, ‘the pump is working’. Time to celebrate.
He reached into his desk drawer for his hidden bottle of white merlot and poured
himself a glassful. He rested the opened bottle on the electric pump positioned on the
floor behind him, and pushed back hard once more into his chair. The chair moved,
knocking the bottle over, spilling its contents into the grill on top of the pump. There
was a blinding flash, a bang, and a smell of burning rubber The organ started slurring
its notes, then droned on disconcertingly for a few seconds, the choir valiantly trying to
keep up, before dying completely with a terrifying scream.
The Reverend Stott didn’t sleep much that night, and only just arrived in time for the
Sunday service. Word had already got about, so he sidled in trying to look as
inconspicuous as possible. He crept into his office past the rear of the organ. There sat
Ben, breathing heavily, working the bellows.
“Morning Rev. In and out, in and out”, he said, smirking triumphantly.
“ Didn’t I say your sins would find you out?”.
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