Jimmy Johnson ran as fast as he could to Charlie's backyard.
"Guess what I saw on the new pastor!" Jimmy huffed and puffed.
"What?" Charlie, busy putting air into his bicycle tire, didn't even look up.
"I saw a tattoo on his back! He was cutt'in wood and I saw it! He didn't see me but I saw a tattoo. I swear it!" Jimmy crossed his fingers over his heart.
"You're lying. A preacher ain't supposed to have a tattoo." Charlie stood up and hopped on his bike.
"I ain't lying!" Jimmy yelled.
"Well, how in the world did ya see the preacher without his shirt?" Charlie asked.
"I told you he was cutt'in wood without a shirt and I saw a big tattoo on his back! Momma sent me over to take some raspberry jelly to Mrs. Maple." Jimmy jumped up and down and waved his arms.
"Let's go tell Curly and Red!" Jimmy exclaimed as he hopped on the handlebars. Charlie pedaled down the dusty country road like a demon was chasing him.
The tattoo story spread through the small town like wildfire. The women at the weekly quilting circle chewed on the tittle-tattle a while. The men at the local fire station speculated on the story.
After Bertha, the church organist took hold of the gossip the tattoo became a picture of a naked lady with a serpent twirled around her.
"Maybe, it's a tattoo of Eve in the garden of Eden," stated Sally, the church secretary.
"The Bible says that tattooing your body is a sin!" Martha exclaimed and the other women murmured amongst themselves.
Two days later Ralph, the head elder, called a special meeting. The men met after closing time at Bailey's grocery store.
"Men, we need to get to the bottom of this. If our new pastor has a tattoo, we are in trouble." Ralph raised his Bible into the air. Ralph and the elders agreed to make a visit to the new preacher's house.
On Saturday night, the three elders stood on the new preacher's porch. Ralph thumped on the door. Mrs. Maple, the preacher's wife invited the trio in and hurried to make a fresh pot of coffee.
"Pastor, we have a problem." Ralph scanned the new preacher's torso as if x-ray vision would expose the shameful tattoo.
"Would you gentlemen like some of Maple's homemade apple pie before we talk about it?" The new pastor smiled. He was a handsome man with a full set of teeth.
"No we wouldn't, thank you. We need to get right to the problem. Pastor, do you or do you not have a tattoo on your back?" Ralph eyed the new preacher and smacked his hand down on his Bible. "We need to know right now."
"Say that again." The new pastor appeared stunned.
"Do you or do you not have a tattoo of a serpent and a naked lady on your back?" Ralph's voice tone rose as he continued, "Tattoos are sinful and if you have a tattoo, then you should have told us before we voted you in as our new pastor."
"What?" The new pastor appeared confused. "What are you men talking about? A tattoo. Who said I have a tattoo?" After a few moments of silence, he continued, "If I have a tattoo does that mean I cannot be your pastor or anyone's pastor? What if I got the tattoo before I found Jesus? Would that matter? What if it was a tattoo of the cross? Would that matter?"
Ralph stood up. "Please take off your shirt and show us your back."
"Men, please leave my house. I need to talk with my wife and pray about this situation." The new pastor stood up and walked towards the door.
"Pastor, you can't preach at our church tomorrow or ever unless you tell us about the tattoo. We have to protect our children from sin. Now, if you had the tattoo before you found Jesus, then the church board will vote on it. Be ready to tell us the truth tomorrow or pack your bags." Ralph's sighed as the elders muttered. "I'm calling a church board meeting at 7am at the church tomorrow."
The new preacher and his wife starred at each other. A few tears misted Maple's eyes. With head in hands, the new preacher sighed. He smiled at his wife and she smiled back. He chuckled and then she chuckled. Laughter erupted.
"Honey, we knew being a pastor of a little country church in the middle of nowhwhere would be difficult at times. We could pack up and leave tonight. We could stay with my parents for a while." The new pastor kneeled on the floor for prayer and Maple followed.
The next morning, the new preacher and his wife arrived at the church early. They knelt at the altar for prayer and paid no heed as the board members shuffled into the side room.
Promptly at 7 o'clock the new pastor walked into the meeting room. As he unbuttoned his shirt, he looked each man in the eye. Two of the younger deacons dropped their heads. He pulled out seven stones from his pockets and placed a stone in front of each board member.
"Ralph, John, Earl, Roy, Joshua, Caleb, Sam. Let him without sin cast the first stone. Then I will take off my shirt." The new preacher knelt down on the carpeted floor.
The two younger deacons left first, and then one by one the men left until only Ralph was left. The new preacher stood up and starred at Ralph.
"Pastor, you're not Jesus. He was sinless." Ralph retorted and slammed his Bible.
The new preacher took off his shirt and turned around. Then he walked out of the room and hugged his wife. They walked out of the church holding hands.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.