The Preacher and the Carp
My friend Jake and I were talking the other day about things we like to do. We talked about hunting, fishing, eating, drinking, dancing, and several other things. As best as I can recall, we didn’t mention work a single time. We tried to top each other’s fish stories as fisherpersons will, but all of my stories paled in comparison to Jake’s story about the preacher and the carp.
When Jake was about 12 years old, he and his parents were regular and faithful church attenders. The church was a very conservative, fast-growing one. In fact, the church was growing so fast that the members decided to erect a new building to house the increase. Since the membership was multitalented, rather than hire a contractor, the members built the new structure themselves. The congregation labored on Saturdays and on Wednesday evenings after prayer meeting. Jake’s family were active builders.
The Reverend Bolivar T. Singletary, IV oversaw the whole project. Brother Singletary was a very large, very stern man. By large, I mean he was about 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed upwards of 400 pounds. By stern, I mean his demeanor terrorized all the kids and most of the adults. When he spoke he thundered with the voice of God. He tolerated neither foolishness nor weakness. In a word, he was scary.
One Saturday Jake’s mother was being a joyful builder and lifted some construction material that was far too heavy for her. She “threw out her back,” as we say here in the south, and had to go to the hospital. The next day when Brother Singletary was thundering his sermon, he mentioned Jake’s mother by name and, instead of expressing sympathy for a sister injured doing the work of the Lord, he berated her for her lack of faith. This annoyed young Jake. He loved his mama and thought no one ought to mess with mama.
This was not the first time that Brother Singletary had annoyed Jake. There was the time Jake brought his pet hamster, Pat, to church. The hamster rode in Jake’s shirt pocket. This was not a problem as long as Pat was curled up sleeping. However, when the cute little critter woke up and decided to explore the premises, all hell broke loose, as they say.
Pat walked over to Deacon Jones, who was sleeping on the front row and climbed right up his jacket so he could get a good look at the deacon’s moustache, which reminded Pat of a fellow hamster. Pat’s whiskers tickled deacon Jones’s whiskers and the deacon opened one eye to check on things. As it turns out the eye he opened was about 6 inches from Pat. Several things happened in rapid order. Deacon Jones was certain a large rat was attacking him and in a very loud voice called on two out of three members of the Trinity for assistance. It sounded like he was cussing. He later said he wasn’t.
The deacon’s outburst so frightened poor little Pat that he sought refuge in a nearby shelter-looking area, which turned out to be under sister Monica Durbin’s dress, to which he gained access by climbing up her leg. Sister Durbin responded by shooting straight up in the air and speaking in tongues. She suddenly switched back to English and began confessing her sins, which were surprisingly numerous and uncommonly interesting.
Brother Singletary thundered at poor Jake for more than an hour regarding the hamster incident. This annoyed and, to a certain extent, frightened Jake. Clearly, such repetitious effrontery could not pass unrequited. Jake’s revenge came about in this fashion.
One Saturday Jake and his two best buddies, Clyde and Woody, were fishing in the quarry, which was right next to the church. They were very successful, if you use my fishing experience as a yardstick. They caught 5 large carp all in the 5- to 6-pound range. The fish were so big and pretty that the three buddies felt it would be a shame to kill them. They decided that the fish would be quite happy living in the church’s very new, very large baptismal pool. They loaded the fish in a wet burlap bag and ran to the church as fast as 12-year old boys can run carrying 25 to 30 pounds of fish. They put the fish in the nice warm baptistery. The carp seemed to like their new situation and settled down on the bottom of the pool to take a nap.
As it turns out, there was to be a baptizing the next day. Brother Singletary wore his long flowing baptismal robe, which the good sisters of the church had made out of two bed sheets, none of the robes on offer in the Church Supply Catalog being long enough or wide enough to cover his large Reverence satisfactorily. When the time for the baptism was at hand, Brother Singletary slowly and majestically descended into the water. He had just raised his arm to invoke the Almighty when the carp woke up and, fearing that their domain was being invaded by some demon catfish, began making a serious attempt to hide. What would you do if 5 big carp swam up your dress? The Reverend tried to thunder, but out came a very high-pitched squawk. Arms flapping as if he could truly fly away to glory, the Reverend leaped as high as he could under the circumstances and fell spread eagled, parting the waters and creating a great tidal wave, which could not be contained by the glass in the front of the baptistery. The overflow splashed unceremoniously over the head of the sleeping Deacon Jones, who spit and sputtered in terms invoking all three of the Trinity again, plus a few folks not even mentioned in the Bible. It took all of the choir and the piano player to free the Reverend from his predicament.
Shortly after the carp incident, Jake and his family moved to another town where they continue to live under an assumed name.