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Pastor Pickle the Bible Thumper

by Melissa Martin  
11/29/2011 / Short Stories

"I want all my girls in church together just one last time before I die."

"Mother, please don't start with the guilt." Tess sighed in irritation. "Pastor Pickle is not going to ruin my Christmas! And anyway you are not going to die! And I didn't bring a skirt to wear!"

"Tess, stop calling him that in my house!" her mother rapped the wooden spoon on the sink.

Tess knew how far to push before her mother's wrath was followed by her famous lecture.

"Please Tess, just this one time. Let's all go on Sunday night." Tess' older sister, the peacemaker, made a 'please' face with raised eye brows.

Tess grabbed her coat and whirled out the backdoor into the chilled air. The last thing she wanted to do over the holidays was to listen to Pastor Pickle. He was a sour ole' preacher with vinegar in his veins. And a number one Bible thumper. Tess smiled. She'd nicknamed him Pastor Pickle and the name stuck for years among the church youth.

"Hey, wait up!" Beth, her younger sister, ran to catch up.

"Beth, I didn't bring a dress and I refuse to be in public without my makeup." Tess said. "Besides I'm not in the mood for Bible-thumping tomorrow night."

The fiasco that happened two years ago went into replay. On her seventeenth birthday, Tess waltzed into the morning service in jeans and a sweatshirt. Pastor Pickle almost fell out of the pulpit. As heads turned, Tess heard her mother gasp. A few of the youth clapped until silenced by steely eyes.

"Young lady, get out of my church in those sinful clothes!" Pastor Pickle pointed his Bible and then thumped it on the altar as he quoted a multitude of scripture. "You need to confess and repent!"

Later, Tess felt regret for humiliating her mother in front of the entire congregation, but she had won. No more church. On her eighteenth birthday, Tess moved to the city.

"Tess, mom didn't want me to tell you, but there's a reason she wants us all in church tomorrow. Mom has ovarian cancer." Beth sputtered and paused. "Tess, it's too late for treatment."

"O.K. I'll go." Tess closed her eyes. Grandma had died from ovarian cancer.

Tess washed off her makeup and adorned an outdated plaid skirt on Sunday night. She walked behind her mother and sisters as they strolled up the church isle. Chit-chat filled the air until Pastor Pickle's wife performed her usual piano intro. The church was stuck in a time warp. Tess looked around and saw the same pews, the same hymnals, the same pulpit and altar. The same deacons set on the front pew with the same teenagers in the back pew. But something had changed and was changing. Her mother was dying of cancer.

"Let us pray." Pastor Pickle began the service with the same prayer delivered every Sunday night. He glanced over the pews and saw Esther and her three daughters. His eyes settled on Tess. He smiled to himself. That Tess was a rebellious one!

Tess barely listened to the sermon, but she noticed the absence of shouting and stomping by Pastor Pickle. His voice had softened and not one time did he slam the Bible on the pulpit.

At the end of the sermon, he asked the congregation to gather around Esther for prayer. With tears streaming, Tess and Pastor Pickle hugged.

Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.

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