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Chapter 10: Unca Dave

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Parsonage

A novel about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church, the parsonage, the community.

© 1996 G. Edwin Lint

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"Unca Dave!" screamed Tessa joyfully as she popped off her nap cot and raced across the multipurpose room to meet the young man just striding in the door from the rainwet parking lot. "Hi, Unca Dave!. Let's play horsey. Please, Unca Dave," she pleaded, eyes sparkling and beribboned pigtails flying as she hopped up and down in two-year-old excitement. "Can we please play horsey? Please? Please? Please?"

Dave Court stooped to her level and looked her straight in the eyes. "Let me see what you did this morning."

The little girl whirled and zipped to a nearby bulletin board, pointing a stubby finger proudly at a finger-paint masterpiece of undetermined configuration which had been posted at her eye level. "There, Unca Dave," she piped with resumed hopping, "There it is. That's mine! Like it?"

"Tell me about it," Dave prompted.

"That's Jesus, feeding the five sands," she said with head cocked to one side, as though any adult surely should know that.

"Jesus feeding the five sands?" Dave asked in true puzzlement.

"You know, when Jesus took five biscuits from 'Tuckey Chicken and two pieces of Silver fish and gave everybody supper. Don't you read your Bible, Unca Dave?"

"Every day. Ah! Now I get it. That sure is Jesus feeding the five thousand. Can you tell me one thing about this story?"

"Well . . . ," Tessa mused with thumb in her mouth to aid in concentration, "after supper when the 'ciples took out the trash, it filled up twelve garbage bags!"

"Sure did," Dave agreed as he gave the little girl a quick hug.

Tessa raced back to the middle of the room. "Come on, Unca Dave. Time to play horsey!"

"Not so fast, young lady. Did you wipe off your table when you were done painting?"

"Yep!" she said with more hopping.

"Eat all your lunch?"

"Yep!"

"Finish your nap?" said another voice from behind her.

Tessa whirled and the pigtails flew again. "Aw, Miss Patty. I sleeped all I could. Honest I did. 'Sides, Unca Dave woked me up" she ended coyly and all three knew that wasn't quite the truth.

"Unca Dave better not have woked you up," said Patricia and she and Dave kissed lightly above the little girl's head. "If he did, he won't get any Silver fish or 'Tuckey biscuits for his supper."

"Tell you what, Tessa," Dave said as he stooped down to her level again. "All your squealing and hopping has gotten everybody awake, so you may as well saddle up. But before we all play horsey, you have to ask Miss Patty if it's all right. She's the boss, you know."

"Please, Miss Patty," said Tessa holding up all ten fingers. "Just five minutes playing horsey? Can we, huh? Please?"

Patricia Court looked down at the precious little girl. Not yet three and bright as this year's penny. Strawberry hair, a light brush of freckles over her ski-jump nose, and bright blue eyes which sparkled with both intellect and mischievousness. Why can't Dave and I have a little girl like this. Or maybe a little boy, or maybe one of each-- like Pastor Jim and Debra. Although her heart ached with the need to hold a baby of their own in her arms, the smile never left her face.

"It's all right with me if it's all right with the horse," Patricia answered, looking down at Dave who had already assumed the position.

By now the horse was surrounded by prospective riders. His equine attributes were well known to every two-year-old in the Wesley Day Care. Dave and Patricia loved Tessa as their own but they never showed any favoritism in front of the other children.

"Tell you what. Let's all play rodeo. Want to?"

"What's a rodeo?" Mikey Calvin asked.

"A rodeo is when a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls take turns seeing who can ride a jumpy-horse the longest."

"Are you a jumpy-horse?" asked Tessa.

Dave responded with a couple of loud whinneys and several four-legged leaps about the room. All the kids squealed with glee.

"Tessa goes first 'cause she asked first, but everybody plays and everybody gets a turn. Here's how we do it. Can you all count to ten?" All the kids shouted their assurance.

"Good! Let's practice, and we're going to count real slowly. Now, count with me. One... Two... Three... " and Dave led them in a slow count to ten. Now, while Tessa is riding, you kids count to ten nice and slow, like we just practiced. Got it. Okay, Tessa hop on-- oops. Need a little nose job, first," Dave cracked as he noticed the evidence of Tessa's mild upper respiratory infection descending from each nostril. "Sally, run over to Miss Patty's desk and get that box of tissues, will you?"

After nose jobs had been performed on several prospective riders, Dave again assumed the position.

"Okay, Tessa, hop on. Good. Now, lean over and hang onto my hair." Tessa happily buried both chubby fists in Dave's curly perm. "Now kids," he called to the others, "start counting," and he reached back with one arm to keep Tessa safely aboard her bucking bronco.

At the count of one, the bronco began an exciting display of three-legged cavorting worthy of the Calgary Stampede. And as the horse jumped and leaped about the room, sometimes rearing back on his hind legs, the crowd faithfully chanted their slow count to ten. At the final count, Dave reached up to grasp Tessa under the arms and popped her over his head and landed her softly on her bottom.

"Do it agin! Unca Dave," Tessa squealed with more hopping. "Do it agin!"

"We're taking turns, Tessa," Dave reminded kindly. "To the end of the line you go."

Two counts into Tessa's ride, the kids had instinctively formed a line. The little girl now ran to back of the line, ready for a second turn.

Jim walked in during the rodeo and paused to chat with Patricia as he watched the fun. "Dave sure is good with kids. Have you two ever considered his working here full time?

"We both hoped that he could when I took this job but Pastor Clark wouldn't allow two close relatives to work together."

"Was this his policy or the board's policy," Jim asked.

"His, as far as I know."

"Why don't you suggest that Dave apply to be your assistant? This church is under new mismanagement, you know," and he winked conspiratorially

This was the opportunity Dave and Patricia had hoped for when the new pastor came. Dave had quit his elementary education program at Shippensburg University in his junior year because he wasn't sure he really wanted to be a teacher. His experience with Patricia's day care kids had changed all that. Although he was working as a landscape gardener at Rose Hill Nursery, he was taking all the evening and weekend early childhood education courses he could find in order to get his degree. The afternoon rodeo was a blessing for the kids caused by an all-day rain which made outdoor work impractical.

"Can I tell him or do you want to," Patricia asked, her voice suddenly husky.

"I'll get an application from Sandy and you put it by his plate at the dinner table tonight. Think you can keep it a secret until then?"

Patricia nodded, blinking rapidly. "And by the way, Pastor, thanks for inviting Tessa's parents to the parsonage tonight, too. Dave and I know why you did that and we both appreciate it."

Jim turned to walk back to his office and then stopped. "By the way, Patricia, when Dave starts to work here full time, you better limit his rodeo activity or he'll be put out to pasture before you two have a buckeroo of your own." Both laughed.

After each child had two full ten-count rides, Dave lay flat on his back to catch his breath. A couple of the boys considered jumping on his stomach but a warning index finger stopped them instantly. Dave loved the day care kids but he never let them get out of line. They all loved him right back, and respected him as well.

Jessi had eaten early and gone to her part-time job in the Beneton at the Mall but the parsonage dining room was still well-filled that evening. Jim and Debra sat at opposite ends. Dave and Patricia sat on one side with Tessa between them. (Tessa had insisted on being close to Unca Dave and Miss Patty). Roy and Carla Stetson, Tessa's parents, sat on the other side bracketed by Ben and Shelly. After all diners were waiting behind their chairs, Pastor Jim Hogan spoke.

"We have a tradition in our home that the youngest person at the table thanks the Lord for our food. Tessa," the pastor said with a smile, "You're the youngest so that makes you the designated pray-er."

"Quiet on the set! This is a prayer!" barked Ben through cupped hands. A crossfire of cautionary parental glances forestalled any further directing from Ben's corner of the table.

"Ready, Tessa?" asked Debra with a smile of encouragement.

"Bless this bunch, as we munch, on this lunch, Amen." piped Tessa without hesitation.

Ben and Shelly high-fived each other behind the Stetsons' chairs with many poorly-suppressed giggles. Debra was sure she knew where Tessa's prayer had originated. Dave Court knew, too, and said with mock severity. "Okay, you two. Thirty-nine lashes with a wet noodle for contributing to the delinquency of a minor!"

"Honestly," said Patricia to Debra, "I don't know which of these children is the most disruptive. Yours or mine!" Everyone laughed as the men helped the ladies and children to be seated. Except Ben. He was a man of six and didn't need any help from anyone.

The dinner hour passed pleasantly with everyone contributing to the various conversations, including two-year-old Tessa and the twins. Carla Stetson made a special point of commenting on Wesley Day Care.

"We want you all to know how pleased we are with your day care program. When Roy was transferred here from Pittsburgh, we were so worried about Tessa. She was in a couple different day cares out there and she didn't seem to like either of them. And then when we started coming here to church in January, it just seemed natural to put Tessa in your day care. And she loves it! Mr. Court, she must have talked about your rodeo for thirty minutes non-stop when she got home this afternoon."

Dave grinned with satisfaction. "First, 'Mr. Court' is my dad. My name is Dave. And second, we'll gladly take all three of these kids off your hands when you get tired of them. Right, Patty?"

Patricia's eyes were bright with unshed tears but she smilingly nodded her agreement. Later in the kitchen, Debra told Carla that Patricia and Dave had been trying to have a baby for over a year without success.

Back in the dining room, Ben suddenly announced, "Got a riddle everybody!" Ben was famous for his riddles and parsonage life always stopped until his latest one was solved. "Who's the smallest man in the Bible?"

"Zaccheus," called out Tessa, surprising both her parents more than a little.

"Nope." Although she was wrong by Ben's standards, everyone commented on what a good answer it was.

Several other names were guessed but non satisfied Ben.

"I know," said Jim. "Bildad, the Shuhite!"

"Bill-who the what?"

"Bildad, the Shuhite," repeated Jim. Bildad is one of the men who tried to make old Job feel better when he was having all his troubles. Since he came from a land called Shuha, he's known as 'Bildad, the Shuhite'."

"Not him," and Ben shook his head emphatically.

"Who is it, Ben?" asked Shelly a little petulantly. She was just a little tense about all the attention her brother was getting. "We give up."

"The smallest man in the Bible," announced Ben importantly, "Is the Roman guard who went to sleep on his watch. Fooled ya! Fooled ya!" and he hopped off his chair in preparation for a victory lap around the dining room table.

"All persons in their seats get a piece of cherry-cheese pie," called Debra from the kitchen door." So much for victory laps.

After the meal was finished and the dishes rinsed and racked in the washer, Jim called everyone into the living room for family worship.

"I understand the ladies have challenged the men to a game of Pictionary, and I think the kids are anxious to go out into the family room and mess around. But before we do all that, I want us to have a time of Bible reading and prayer together. I think I'll read the story of another little man in the Bible, besides that Roman guard who went to sleep on his watch. This is the story of the little man who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus. Who was that little man?"

"Zaccheus!" all three kids chorused.

"Right! And by the way, parents, I'm reading from the Living Bible for the benefit of our young listeners." After the Bible reading, Jim asked for volunteers to offer sentence prayers. Everyone prayed with the exception of Roy Stetson, who had been rather quiet all evening. Tessa astounded everyone with her prayer.

"Dear God, please help Unca Dave and Miss Patty get a little girl just like me. Amen!"

"Out of the mouths of babes," murmured Debra to Patricia who was again close to tears.

The men lost the game of Pictionary by at least eight spaces.

"All right, Pastor," said Dave, "get out the Rook cards. The ladies may have won the game of chance but we're going to win the game of skill."

The men lost the game of skill by over one hundred points.

 

That night, in their somewhat-cramped town house bedroom, Patricia indicated to Dave her trip to the gynecologist had been a source of good news and that things were finally okay again. It had been such a long time. Swiftly their love smoldered into desire and then flamed into the white heat of passion. Later, as they relaxed in each other's arms, they talked about Pastor Jim's sermon the previous Sunday night. "I like what Jim said about how the only sin two people who are married can commit in the privacy of their own bedroom is the sin of selfishness. Oh, Dave, I love you so much. And thanks for being so patient with me all these months. I thank God a thousand times a day for giving me a husband like you."

"Mega-dittos," said Dave as they brushed noses. "And incidentally, there was no sin on your side of the bed tonight."

"None on your side, either," Patricia said as she nestled in the curve of Dave's body and went promptly to sleep.

Not too far away, Carla finished tucking Tessa into bed and stooped to kiss her good-night. "Is Jesus going to give Unca Dave and Miss Patty a little girl, like I prayed tonight?"

"We all hope so, Sweetie." Patricia had confided in her that night that her doctor had proclaimed the end of a year-long insidious vaginal infection. "Ready to pray?"

Tessa promptly folded her hands and prayed extemporaneously for her Daddy and Mommy, for Ben and Shelly with whom she had great fun that evening, and, of course, for Unca Dave and Miss Patty with another plea for a new baby in the Court household.

"Can I have a story, Mommy?"

"Move over so I can lie beside you," agreed Carla. "How about the walls of Jericho?" Tessa nodded, but she only lasted for two and one half circumnavigations of the mighty walls before her sleep-laden eyelids came tumbling down for the night.

Carla switched on the night light, turned off the bedside lamp, and walked down the short hallway to the other bedroom. Roy was spread-eagled on the bed, sawing redwoods.

The young wife bit her lip in disappointment, turned off the light, and silently got dressed for bed. Roy never missed a stroke.

In the parsonage, the grandfather's clock in the living room chimed through its Westminster top-of-the-hour melody. On his way to the master bedroom, Jim looked in on Jessi, who's door was half open. She was reading with Jars of Clay's latest CD playing softly. "Night, Babe, I love you," he said softly as he blew a kiss across the room.

"Love you, too, Dad," she smiled and air-mailed a kiss right back.

"Missed you at dinner tonight. Did you nuke the leftovers when you got home from the mall?"

"You bet, and I also got an instant replay of Ben's latest riddle."

Jim groaned. "Have a good sleep," he said as he continued on to the twins' room.

For some strange reason, Shelly was sleeping on the top bunk and Ben was on the bottom. Probably some kind of scam Ben had worked on his twin sister. She could use the extra ladder work, though. As is often the case with young children, the girl was a little taller and heavier than the boy, though they were both exactly six years and seven months old. Both were sound asleep but each got a kiss on the cheek and a whispered I love you.

In the master bedroom, Debra was reading as the bed-side Sony softly spoke of today's news and tomorrow's weather.

"What would you say if I told you I was feeling very unselfish tonight," Debra whispered with a slight lowering of her lashes.

"I was wondering when you were going to bring that up," Jim said with a grin. "A pastor always likes to know that his sheep are walking in the light." Jim locked the hall door, got undressed, and walked into the bath to vigorously brush his teeth.

In a few moments, the pastor's wife was nowhere to be found. Gone was the mother of three. Gone was the caterer who could prepare and serve a full-course dinner for the Board and still smile sweetly at her guests from the opposite end of the dining table. Gone was the intelligent and communicative Bible teacher who could rightly divide the word of truth to a group of gum-chewing junior high kids.

In their place was a sleek, softly-purring tiger.

Later, as they half-listened to Jay Leno turn page one of the "New York Times" into a rather funny monologue, Jim hoped that he had helped his Sunday night congregation become somewhat more aware that human sex can be totally fulfilling as well as totally sanctified.

"You know, Debbie, one of Satan's foulest weapons against born-again Christians is the notion there may be something slightly slimy connected with good sex in a male and female marriage relationship. And I think the demons throw an illicit lust grenade into the bedroom of every up-tight, shriveled-up, taboo-bound Christian couple they can find. Including parsonages. Remember that evangelist we had at Ashtabula who said Satan had assigned a lust demon to every evangelist and pastor in the evangelical movement? I think that's true. And only by the blood of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the guardianship of the Holy Angels will any of us survive.

"Good night, tiger." Debra snuggled closer and purred deep in her throat.

The last thing Jim remembered before sleep was a soft growl and a gentle nip on the lobe of his left ear.

Parsonage Table of Contents
Links to Other Resources

Disclaimer
About the DiskBooks copyright
How to Download DiskBooks Files
Return to Parsonage Home Page
Return to DiskBooks Home Page
How to Order Disk Copies

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