Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Adventures of Pastor Bob - Ep. 8 - Loose Change

Bob looked in his wallet and handed the pimpled faced pre-teen behind the counter a $20 bill. He looked at it and said to him, “Dude, do you mind if I give you three dollars in change because I don’t have enough ones, and my manager is, like, well…” Bob, being in a hurry, nodded his head and then like accepting a huge piece of communion bread, cupped his hands to catch his bounty. The change hit his pocket with a thud and Bob could instantly feel the weight. As he sat down at the booth the change slapped the plastic bench and made Bob sigh with disgust.

It had been one of those weeks. Well not ‘one of those weeks’, worse. It was Hell Week. Yeah, some call it Holy Week but let’s face it. If you have ever donned something called a ‘vestment’ you know this is a week that only crap happens upon crap and yet you still have to usher in the holiest week of the year. If it was going to go wrong, it would, because if Jesus was going to die on Friday, all clergy were going down with him.

For Bob it started off just like that. The palms weren’t even cold in the refrigerator yet when he got the call that someone’s half brother’s second cousin died and they wanted him to do the funeral. They wanted it on Wednesday at 1:00 pm at funeral home. The deceased had been a member of the church since he was five and only graced the door frame twice in the last three decades. So naturally, being committed to this religious institution the Funeral Home was the most logical way to still drive the current pastor nuts.

Bob had already sat through two hours of talks with the family trying to learn a little about this person’s life. He had stayed up late bouncing back and forth from his Maundy Thursday sermon and the stranger’s eulogy. When he woke up on Wednesday morning he was already exhausted and it was only Wednesday. He searched for a suit to put on but found that the only one left was the one his grandfather had given him when he went off to college. When Bob put on the pants he knew that his belt would work overtime trying to keep these up because they were a size too big. But Bob thought, “I don’t have a choice and plus I’ll be in my robe for most of the time and no one will notice my pants are too big.” It was just one of those weeks.

As Bob swallowed his hamburger in that plastic bench he ran over his eulogy and everything seemed to be in order. It was just another run of the mill funeral. Nothing flashy, just in and out and on with life…okay maybe not the right phrase to use here. This was not Bob’s first rodeo, he confidently looked at this event as a duty of the parish and part of the divine calling he accepted many years ago.

The beginning of the funeral was uneventful. Bob prayed with the family in the room they were waiting and lead them into the service. The introduction and the prayers all were going fine. A family member gave a nice talk and the funeral director did a great job hitting play on the CD player to pipe in a country song Bob had never heard of before. When the music stopped Bob opened his Bible to John 14 and read the selected verses commonly read at funerals.

After a quick prayer Bob started into his eulogy. He acknowledged the pain of the family, the grace of God, and the life of the man in the coffin. As he did though he realized something was happening. Only fellow ministers understand but there is a moment when a whole conversation can happen in one’s head while your mouth is moving and talking at the same time. This was happening with Bob.

With a quick reach in through the pockets of his robe, Bob felt that his oversized pants had come loose. The little silver suit pant hook failed him. That weird off center inside the pants button had failed him. The only thing that was saving his waistline was his tightened belt. Through this all, Bob kept eulogizing.

While giving hand gestures with one hand and his other hand inside his robe, Bob attempted to put the silver hook back over, but his belt kept getting in his way. Bob kept eulogizing. He had a thought that his belt could hold them up but the four pounds of change that made up his three dollars was thinking differently. As Bob progressed with the eulogy, his pants kept a steady pace in a southern direction.

Bob was faced with a perplexing decision. He could: A) attempt to place both hands under his robe and fix everything. But then it could look odd has his hands disappeared in the middle of his meditation. B) Use one hand to try and tighten the belt or C) pray to the living God that they stay up until it was over. Bob choose option C until it was obvious his pants were not going to outlast the service. Option B was Bob’s next choice and with careful consideration to his angle towards the crowd, Bob reached into his robe, grabbed his belt and loosened it.

As he attempted to find the next hole up the belt slipped from his sweaty hands and landed two notches looser. As Bob got ready for round two his three dollars lost their battle with gravity and his pants hit the floor with a loud and dull thump. Bob, being the professional he was, never lost stride with his eulogy and his face never showed any hint of emotion or panic. He kept on eulogizing.

Now Bob’s choices were a little different. He could reach down a pull his pants up, fix them, and keep going but that might lead to some questions after the service. It looked like no one really noticed what had happened, therefore he could simply slip out of his shoes and the put them back on, minus his pants. His traditional black robe covered everything but the last two inches of his legs. Surely he could exit the chapel, shake hands with the family and come back to retrieve his pants as they entered the limo to go to the graveside. With all these thoughts happening in milliseconds in Bob’s head, the decision became clear.

Without missing beat Bob slipped his feet out of his shoes and pants and then back into his shoes. Without even batting an eye Bob stood there pantless under his preaching robe. He wrapped up the eulogy and said the benediction. As he stepped down from the pulpit he laid his hands on the head of the coffin and said a little prayer, like usual. He walked to the back of the chapel and shook hands as people filed out, like usual. The only difference between this time and every other time is that his pants were still in the pulpit preaching a sermon of wonder and disbelief of what just happened.

As the last person exited the chapel one of the funeral home suits came up to shake Bob’s hand. Bob did so with a smile and then leaned in to hear what the suit was about to say. “Here, slip them back on in the bathroom before you head out to your car.” In a fluid motion and using the guy side hug as a reference, Bob somehow got his pants from behind the suit’s back to behind his very own back. He darted into the bathroom and covered up his checkered socks and boxer briefs.

After the committal, he walked around and thanked the funeral home suits for their part in today’s service. When Bob got to the man who had retrieved his pants he thanked him once again and said, “I bet this was a first for you! It was a first and last for me, I tell you.” The suit looked at Bob and replied, “Well it wasn’t the first time I had to pick up a pair of pants from behind the pulpit but it is the first time my tip for doing so was all in dimes.”

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