Blood of the Lamb ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
The funeral was on Saturday. Vincent spoke to no one for several days, but on Wednesday afternoon the telephone rang.
“Hello,” he said sleepily.
“Is that Vincent Spearman?” a deep voice asked.
“Yes,” Vincent said. “Who is this?”
“Vincent, this is Timothy Nestlerode. I’m the pastor at your mother’s church.”
“I just wanted to call and see how you’re getting along since your mother’s funeral and to ask if there’s anything I might do for you.”
“I’m fine,” Vincent said. “I don’t need a thing.”
“It’s hard to lose a loved one, I know.”
“Your mother was a highly regarded member of our congregation. She will be sorely missed.”
“Thanks for calling.”
“Well, Vincent, I’m going to be in your area later this afternoon and I was wondering if I might drop in and have a few words with you.”
“I promise I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”
“Well, I’m pretty busy today.”
“Would tomorrow be better?”
“No, we’d better get it over with today. I might be going out of town.”
“Fine! I’ll be there in about an hour.”
After he hung up the phone, Vincent brushed his teeth and put on his shoes and sat nervously in his mother’s wingback chair waiting for what’s-his-name to get there. He couldn’t think of any reason why this man who preached his mother’s funeral would want to talk to him. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. He would hurry it along as much as possible. Why did people always want to bother him?
Thirty-eight minutes after the phone call, there was a loud knock at the front door. He opened the door as far as the chain would allow and peered out, seeing part of the big face of the reverend Timothy Nestlerode, Doctor of Divinity.
“Vincent?” the reverend Nestlerode shouted. “Is that you?”
Vincent undid the chain, opened the door all the way and allowed the big man to come into the house.
“My goodness!” the reverend Nestlerode said. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Vincent said.
“Might we sit?”
Vincent led the reverend Nestlerode into the living room and watched as he placed himself in the middle of the couch. Vincent himself sat in a chair across the room in front of the window and placed his ankle across his knee.
“What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” he asked.
“I want you to know that we offer grief counseling at the church,” the reverend Nestlerode said. “Open to the public and free of charge.”
“Yes, if you want to talk about your feelings of grief in a group setting.”
“Yes, people who are experiencing the same kind of loss as you are.”
“The group meets twice a month, on alternating Fridays. I believe this coming Friday, day after tomorrow, is their night to meet.”
“Please feel free to attend if you’re up to it. The meeting begins at seven o’clock.”
“I don’t really like meetings,” Vincent said. “I don’t have anything to say.”
“Well, I’m sure the group will put you at your ease. They’re very nice people.”
The reverend Nestlerode leaned forward and locked his fingers together contemplatively. “You mother spoke of you on several occasions,” he said.
“Why would she do that?” Vincent asked.
“She was worried about you.”
“You’re about forty, aren’t you?”
“What does my age have to do with it?”
“She was concerned that, after her passing, you’d be all alone.”
“Isn’t that right? You have no other family?”
“I have some cousins living in Minnesota. Or maybe it’s Montana. I get those two mixed up.”
“But no family nearby.”
“You see, most men your age have a family of their own, a wife and children.”
“You made it all the way through high school?”
“Don’t get me wrong, Vincent. I’m not trying to pry. I just wanted to let you know that we have many lovely single ladies in our congregation who would be happy to get to know you.”
“Why would they be happy to get to know me?”
“It would be so easy for you to meet them. All you have to do is come to our next social mixer. We have one for the middle-aged—widows and divorcees and people like that—and also one for younger adults—people in their twenties and thirties who may have made a poor choice the first time around and are looking for another chance.”
“Another chance to do what?”
“What I’m saying is it’s no good being alone, Vincent.”
“Not everybody is the same.”
“I’m sure that’s true, Vincent, but I hope you will at least think about what I’m saying.”
“The message is this: you are not alone.”
“What are your plans now that your mother is gone and you live in this big house all alone?”
“Yes, what are you planning on doing now?”
“I’ll do what I’ve always done, I guess.”
“Are you able to take care of the housework on your own? The cooking and shopping and laundry?”
“Sure, I’ve done those things all my life.”
“I just want you to know that if you need help we have ladies in the church, volunteers, who will come in a morning or two a week a help out with laundry or household chores.”
“Yes, they’re older women, retired, with plenty of time on their hands. They like to help out bachelors and widowers. People like yourself.”
“Do they get paid by the hour?”
“They don’t get paid at all. They’re Christian ladies. They like to help out where help is needed.”
“Well, not quite like Superman. Superman’s a fictional character. These are real people.”
“So, shall I send someone out for you?”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t really need any help like that.”
“Well, I’m happy that you are getting along so well,” the reverend Nestlerode said.
“Yeah, thanks for stopping by.”
“We’re having a special prayer meeting on Saturday evening for people like you.”
“People like me?”
“Yes, the theme is going to be ‘succor for the lonely’.”
“Yes, ‘succor for the lonely’. The meeting starts at seven o’clock. We’d be happy to have you join us. Dress is casual.”
“So you’ll come then? To the prayer meeting on Saturday evening?”
“I don’t think so,” Vincent said. “I’m planning on being out of town on Saturday.”
“All right. Well, if you should happen to change your mind, please feel free to come anyway. I think you’ll find it very enjoyable.”
“Okay, but I won’t be there.”
“There are times in life where it’s a good to keep an open mind.”
“I know that.”
“You seem to be opposed to everything I’ve said.”
“Maybe I just don’t like your church.”
“I find that difficult to fathom with your mother being the devout church member she was.”
“She only got that way after she got old. She was afraid of dying and going to hell. When she was young, she was pretty wild.”
“Well, she was washed in the blood of the lamb. All her transgressions were forgiven.”
“That’s the message: no matter what you’ve done, you have only to ask for forgiveness and forgiveness will be granted.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Was that all you wanted to talk to me about?”
“Just one more thing.”
“Yes, your house has many rooms.”
“Fifteen,” Vincent said. “I used to go through and count them every day when I was little, as if the number might change.”
“Does a young man living alone really need fifteen rooms?” the reverend Nestlerode asked.
Vincent shrugged and wished the man would go away and leave him alone.
“This house would be ideal as a halfway house for young runaways or recovering drug addicts.”
“Yes, a place for people to stay a few weeks or a few months while they’re trying to get their lives in order.”
“I wouldn’t want that in my house,” Vincent said.
The reverend Nestlerode threw his head back and laughed uproariously. “No, you don’t understand. You wouldn’t still live here.”
“Where would I live?”
“We’d acquire the property from you and in return we’d swap you for a smaller house, more suitable to your needs, or a nice apartment in town.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, it’s something to for you to think about, anyway.”
The reverend Nestlerode stood up from the couch. “Well, I must be running along,” he said. “I have other calls to make. I’m so glad we had this little chat today and I hope I’ve given you something interesting to think about.”
Vincent also stood up. “Thanks for coming,” he said.
“Would you like to pray with me before I go?”
“Well, here’s my card. If you ever want to call me for any reason, day or night, don’t hesitate to do so. And I hope you’ll think about coming to Sunday service or any of our activities during the week. I know it would have made your mother very happy for you to become active in the church.”
Vincent took the card and put it in his pocket. “You think you knew my mother but you didn’t,” he said. “She wasn’t what you think.”
“All right! Well, so great seeing you again!”
After the reverend Nestlerode was gone, Vincent triple-locked the door, turned out the lights and went upstairs. He went into his bedroom, locked the door and pulled the curtains closed.
In his dresser drawer he kept a small gun that fit snugly into the palm of his hand. He picked the gun up and looked closely at it as if seeing it for the first time. He hadn’t fired the gun in a long time but he knew it was loaded because it was always loaded.
He stood in front of the mirror and watched himself as he pointed the gun at the side of his head. Then he lowered the gun and inserted the barrel into his mouth. When he saw how silly he looked, he took the gun out of his mouth and turned from the mirror.
“Such a cliché,” he said.
Standing halfway between the bed and the dresser, his back to the mirror, he pointed the gun at his chest where his heart was beating and pulled the trigger. Feeling surprise more than pain, he fell to the floor on his back. When he looked down and saw the blood that was pouring out of him, he said, to anybody who might be listening: At last, I am washed in the blood of the lamb.
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp