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Blood of the Lamb

Blood of the Lamb image 1

Blood of the Lamb ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

Clifford Vale’s mother died and was buried alongside his father in the cemetery on the edge of town. There was a space for Clifford on the other side of his mother if he wanted it, but he was going to have to make up his mind about it because that part of the cemetery was filling up fast.

The day after the funeral, the minister from his mother’s church called Clifford and asked if he might drop by and see him. Clifford reluctantly agreed, promising himself to allow no more than ten minutes for the minister’s visit.

When the minister arrived, he was all hearty good cheer. He clapped Clifford on the back after pumping his hand. “Well, well, well!” he said in his booming baritone. “It’s so nice to see you again!”

“You saw me yesterday at the funeral,” Clifford said.

“So I did! So I did! Haw-haw-haw!”

Seated in the chair in front of the window, in which Clifford’s mother always sat to watch her police dramas and soap operas, the minister crossed his legs primly and cleared his throat. “I wonder if I might trouble you for a spot of that sherry your mother always kept in the house?”

Clifford went into the kitchen, found the bottle of sherry that his mother kept in the cabinet behind the cereal boxes and cake mixes, and poured a little into a tiny glass. Before replacing the cap, he took a drink from the bottle and spit it out into the sink. He had forgotten how awful it tasted.

He took the glass back into the living room and handed it to the minister. “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” he asked, hoping to spur the conversation along to a speedy conclusion.

“I wanted to see how you are getting along after your great loss and to see if I might be of any help.”

“I’ve never been better.”

“It will seem very strange, I’m sure, to find yourself all alone now with your mother gone.”

“She was old. She had a bad heart for the last twelve years. I had a long time to get used to the idea that she would die.”

The minister laced his fingers over his belly and smiled his satisfied smile. “Your dear mother and I had many long talks, not only about spiritual matters but also about personal ones. I counted her among my closest personal friends.”

“It’s funny she never mentioned it to me.”

“Yes, she told me all about how she believed she would never have any children and then suddenly, in her mid-forties, you came along.”

“I never knew why she bothered.”

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

“And you hardly even knew your father.”

“He died when I was in second grade.”

“She raised you alone, the best she knew how.”

“We managed. She was always able to give me what was needed.”

“May I ask if you and your mother were close?”

“We shared the same gene pool. We lived in the same house together.”

“Of course, but did you share with her your deepest personal thoughts and fears?”

“No, we never talked about anything like that. She had her life and I had mine. We usually never talked about anything other than ‘what’s for dinner?’ or ‘what happened to my favorite pajamas?’.”

“You’re—what?—about thirty-five?”

“If I haven’t lost count.”

“And you never married?”

“No.”

“Your mother worried for you.”

“Why?”

“She worried that you were never washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”

“Never what?”

“It would have meant so much to her if you had become a certifiable member of the church and attended services with her regularly.”

“Yes, but I never did, though, did I?”

“Why is that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t like hypocrisy, I guess.”

“Can you explain to me what you mean?”

“No.”

“She also worried that you were rather aimless in life, had no real goals or ambitions. She would have liked to see you settled down with a family of your own before she died but, alas, it was not to be.”

“Alas?”

“Every mother wants her to see her son become a useful and productive member of society.”

“What are we talking about here? Having children?”

“Don’t you think every parent wants to see his or her bloodline carried on to future generations?”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

“Yes, your mother loved you very much, but she feared for you.”

“She never told me that.”

“No, she wouldn’t. That was just like her. She wouldn’t have wanted to upset you or hurt your feelings.”

“You didn’t know her at all. She cussed me out every chance she got.”

“But the good news is that it’s not too late.”

“Meaning what exactly?”

“I’m here today to invite you to become a member of our little religious community.”

“What?”

“Join the church, become washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and mix in with our wonderful young people. Attend Bible study and prayer meetings. You might even want to join our choir if you have a passable singing voice and, if your speaking voice is any indication, I believe you would.”

“You’ve thought it all out, haven’t you?”

“We have many fine single women in our congregation. I would be more than happy to facilitate an introduction.”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” Clifford said. “When hell freezes over and I grow horns on my head.”

“I would expect you to be recalcitrant. It’s only natural. New ideas—new ways of looking at things—are hard to accept.”

“I’m going to have to bring this conversation to an end. I have some things I wanted to do today.”

“But that isn’t the real reason I wanted to come to see you today.”

“There’s more?”

“Excuse me just a moment.”

The pastor leaned forward in the chair, put his hand to his eyes as if to shield them, and began moving his lips. Clifford realized after a while that he was praying.

After two minutes the minister stopped praying, looked at Clifford and smiled. “I’m sure you probably don’t understand, but I was just petitioning heaven for guidance.”

“For what?”

“On how to handle a delicate matter.”

“How about if you handle it someplace else?”

“Now that your mother has died, I suppose this fine old house now belongs to you, her only surviving family member.”

“Isn’t that the way it works in your family?”

“May I ask what your plans are?”

“Why should my plans concern you?”

“There are about twelve rooms in this house, aren’t there?”

“If you count the two tiny rooms in the attic.”

“Isn’t that rather a lot of space for one single young man?”

“Just what are you getting at?”

“Are you planning on selling the house?”

“No, I’m planning on living in the house.”

“Your mother was a very giving woman. She always helped out when help was needed.”

“I think I see where this is going.”

“Would you consider—has it ever occurred to you that you might donate this house to the church?”

“Now, why would I want to do that?”

“It would have made your mother so happy!”

“Then why didn’t she do it herself before she died?”

“I broached the matter with her on a couple of occasions. She told me she would think about it but she never acted on it. She simply deferred the matter to the future but that future never came.”

“She wasn’t in the habit of giving away houses and neither am I.”

“We could draw up a legal agreement with our attorneys whereby you could continue to live in the house for a year, rent-free.”

“That’s so generous of you!”

“The church board meets on Tuesday. I would love to be able to tell them you agreed to the donation. We could draw up the papers right away. Make it as easy on everyone as possible.”

“Goodbye,” Clifford said. “Thank you for stopping by to see how I am. This is where I would hand you your hat if you had worn one. Don’t let the door hit you in your rather large ass on your way out.”

“So am I to take it, then, that you are refusing to make the donation?”

“Just let me ask you one question.”

The minister smiled, believing he was gaining ground. “Certainly. What is it?”

“What kind of a fool do you take me for?”

“I have to level with you,” the minister said. “I have a personal stake in the matter.”

“Why should I care about that?”

“If I’m not able to deliver the house to the board on Tuesday, they’re going to vote to have me transferred to another district downstate that I don’t want to move to.”

“You have a safe trip home, now.”

“I’m not going to consider this matter at an end,” the minister said, standing up. “I think you just need time to consider my proposal. You know how to get in touch with me if you should happen to change your mind.”

“I won’t.”

“I’ll be stopping by again in a few days.”

“I don’t know if my mother ever told you or not, but I always keep a loaded gun in the house in case of break-ins, and I don’t mind using it.”

The minister opened his mouth to speak again but Clifford took him by the arm and propelled him to the door. He opened the door with his free hand and shoved the minister through it. The minister turned and raised his hands in what Clifford supposed was a gesture of appeal, but Clifford slammed the door in his face. He had never thrown anybody out of the house before and he liked the way it made him feel.

Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp

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