Kenny still remembered how happy he was as a child when he would run up the stairs to the front porch of Elm Avenue Presbyterian’s parsonage when he’d come to spend a month with his grandparents in the summer. He’d climb up the five steps in three quick leaps to the big Victorian house porch and stretch on his tiptoes to take the front door knocker in his hands and give the door a big couple of knocks knowing a month of fun was ahead of him. He remembered, too, when he took his wife, Phoebe, up the steps to show her the house for the first time when he was interviewing to be the pastor in Thomasville. Kenny looked, then, on the house remembering the summers spent there, but Phoebe saw a beautiful place that, if they were trying to buy a home, would have been three times what they could afford. This night, though, as Kenny came up the stairs he took each one like he was carrying ten pound leg weights on each ankle.
He opened the front door and turned and slowly closed it behind him, hoping not to wake his children. He sank into his chair like a sulking teenager, and when Phoebe heard him she came into the big living room, carrying a letter and opened envelope, and sat on the couch opposite the chair.
“Are the twins asleep?” he asked.
“They’ve been in bed for a half hour now,” she said, “I told them you had a meeting that might be late and you wouldn’t be able to read to them tonight.”
“So, how did the meeting go?”
“Not good,” Kenny said, “We talked for an hour and half about the dwindling attendance and offering. It was a lot of finger pointing. Finally Skip Perry said if things don’t change they’d have to change ministers. They’re giving me a six month probationary period to turn things around.”
“And if they don’t they’ll send us packing?”
“Well, the Presbytery will probably step in and advocate for us, but it’s looking like we could be going out the same door the seven other pastors who came after Grandpa went through.”
“Well, I think we both knew where this was all this was going. Your meeting probably just made it only a little clearer.”
They sat in silence for a few seconds and Phoebe said, “We got another anonymous letter.”
“Oh geez. What is it this time?”
“I hadn’t opened the mail when you were here for dinner. I opened it up after the boys went to bed. It’s the same handwriting as the others. I guess someone saw me pulling the weeds in front of the house in my shorts and tank top. They didn’t think that was appropriate attire for Elm Avenue’s pastor’s wife. It said Mrs. Long wouldn’t have been seen in public like that when she was the pastor’s wife.”
“Oh, please. The thing they didn’t know,” Kenny said, “is my grandma would sit out back in shorts and a t-shirt in the evenings with grandpa. She’d drink a beer and cuss the ladies from church she didn’t like.”
“She must have kept a different public image than me.”
“I think people remember the idea of them differently that who they actually were. Grandma wasn’t all prim and proper.”
“Well, I guess my gardening attire doesn’t live up to the memory. So do I keep the letter with the others?”
“I guess so.”
“Kenny, I need a break from this. I love you, and that doesn’t change, but I need some time away. I think I’m going to take the twins to my parents for a couple of weeks. It’s summer and they’ve got the pool the boys can play in, and I’d just rather not think about this stuff for a little while.”
“You’ll come back?”
“For God’s sakes, yes, I’ll come back. I love you, and we’ll get through this. I just need to get away for a little bit. I know you need to deal with this; you don’t want to give up, but I just don’t want to worry for a little while about what nasty letter we’re going to get in the mail.”
Late that night, as Kenny got frustrated with turning back and forth in bed, not able to sleep, he grabbed his phone off the nightstand. He typed a message to Mike: “I still think the monster & treasure story is a fairy tale but I could use a break. If u want to go looking for a treasure I’d b happy 2 tag along.”
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict