Washed in the Blood ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(I posted this story previously in a different version.)
The funeral was Saturday the twelfth. Vincent spoke to no one for several days, but on Wednesday the sixteenth he received an unexpected phone call.
“Am I speaking with Vincent Spearman?” a resonant male voice asked.
“Yes,” Vincent said. “Who is this?”
“Vincent, this is Dr. Nesselrode. Dr. Timothy Nesselrode. I’m the pastor at your mother’s church. I wanted to call and see how you’re getting along since the funeral and ask if there’s anything I might do for you.”
“No, I’m fine,” Vincent said. “I don’t need anything.”
“It’s hard to lose a loved one, I know.”
“Your mother was a highly esteemed member of our congregation. She will be sorely missed.”
“Yeah. Thanks for the kind words.”
“Now, listen, Vincent! I’m going to be in your neighborhood later this afternoon and I was wondering if I might drop by 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 do it today. I might not be here tomorrow.”
“Fine! I’ll be there in, let us say, 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. Vincent opened the door as far as the chain would allow and peered out, seeing part of the big face of the reverend Timothy Nesselrode, Doctor of Divinity.
“Vincent?” the reverend Nesselrode 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 Nesselrode said, laughing heartily. “It certainly is lovely to see you again! How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Vincent said.
“May we sit?”
Vincent led the reverend Nesselrode into the living room and watched as he placed himself in the middle of the couch and sprawled his big legs. Vincent sat in the chair across the room in front of the window with the closed drapes and looked warily at the reverend.
“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.”
“It’s to help people like you work through your feelings of loss in a group setting with others who know and understand what you’re going through. The group meets twice a month, on alternating Fridays. I believe this coming Friday, the 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. Dress is casual.
“I don’t think so,” Vincent said. “I would never be able to talk about…”
“I understand what you’re saying, Vincent, but I hope you’ll keep an open mind. I think it might help you. The people in the group are very lovely, very understanding people.”
“I’m sure they are, but talking about my ‘feelings’ in front of a roomful of strangers is not my idea of a good time.”
The reverend Nesselrode put his fingers over his mouth and sucked air in through his nostrils. He knew he was taking the wrong approach. Some people are just difficult to reach, but he had a very good record of breaking through.
“Your mother spoke of you on several occasions,” he said.
“She was worried about you. She was concerned that, after her passing, you’d be all alone. There’s no other family, I understand.”
“I have some cousins living up in Minnesota. Or maybe it’s Montana. One of those.”
“No family living nearby?”
“How are you managing with the household chores all on your own? Things like cooking, laundry and house cleaning?
“I manage. I’ve always looked after myself.”
“Eating a healthy diet?”
“Don’t get me wrong, Vincent. I’m not trying to pry into your affairs. 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 need anybody.”
“Well, you’re lucky. Most men are helpless without a woman around.”
The reverend Nesselrode narrowed his eyelids and took a couple of deep breaths. “You’re about forty, aren’t you?” he said.
“It’s not too late for you to have a family of your own.”
“We have many lovely single ladies in our congregation who would be happy to meet you.”
“Why would they be happy to meet me?”
“It would be so easy for you to meet them, Vincent. The women in our church, I mean. All you have to do is come to our next social mixer. We have one for middle-aged people—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. You would fit in either category.”
“I wouldn’t know what to say to people like that. I’d just be looking for the first opportunity to leave.”
“I know. You’re naturally shy. I understand that, but I hope you’ll at least think about what I’m saying to you. The message is this, Vincent: it’s no good being alone. You don’t have to be alone in this world.”
“Maybe I like being alone.”
“If you want to know the truth, Vincent, I think you’re saying that because you just lost your mother and you’re in a fragile emotional state.”
“I’m not. In a fragile emotional state. I knew for a long time my mother was dying. I was prepared for it.”
“Even though your mother is gone, you still have a life.”
“All right. Well, thanks for dropping by!”
“What plans do you have for the future?”
“I don’t have any.”
“Come, now, Vincent! You must want something out of life.”
“To be a better person, I suppose.”
“Well, that’s a step in the right direction! You can be a better person by becoming a church member and attending regular services.”
“If you want to know the truth, Mr. Nistlerod, I don’t think I’m ready for this conversation and I don’t think I ever will be.”
“We’re having a special prayer meeting on Saturday evening that you might find enlightening. The theme will 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.”
“Am I the sucker?”
“So, will we see you at the prayer meeting on Saturday evening?”
“No. I won’t be there.”
“Vincent, sir, if you’ll pardon my saying so! You haven’t been receptive to anything I’ve said. I feel I haven’t been able to get through to you.”
Vincent laughed, recalling his mother. “She always said I’m stubborn. Of course, she was stubborn, too.”
“I find your resistance difficult to fathom with your mother being the devout Christian she was.”
“She wasn’t really a devout Christian. She pretended to be devout because she was afraid of dying and going to hell. When she was younger, she was a big-time liar and whore. A champion sinner!”
“Well, I don’t know of her distant past, but I can assure you she confessed all her transgressions to the Lord Jesus Christ, whatever they were, and was forgiven. She was washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”
“Do you think she believed that?”
“I’m sure of it.”
“She had you fooled, too, then.”
The reverend Nesselrode took a handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose loudly. There were tears of frustration and failure in his eyes.
“There is one more topic I wanted to broach with you today, Vincent, but I don’t know if now is the proper time.”
“Don’t hold anything back.”
“I’m going to make you a proposition and I ask that you give it serious consideration.”
“What kind of proposition?”
“You live all alone in this big house. It has how many rooms?”
“And how many bedrooms?”
“Why does one young man living alone need a house with fifteen rooms and six bedrooms?”
“I think I’m beginning to understand,” Vincent said.
“There’s no other way to say it than to just come right out and say it,” the reverend Nesselrode said.
“You want me to donate my house to the church.”
“It would make an excellent halfway house.”
“Halfway house. A place for troubled young offenders to stay while they’re getting their lives in order.”
“Are you out of your mind? I don’t want people like that in my house!”
“Oh, no, no, no! You don’t understand! You wouldn’t still live here! We’d swap you for a smaller, more modern house or a nice apartment in town.”
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, you know that? You come here pretending to be concerned for my welfare, and all the time you only want me to give you my house. I see right through you!”
“Please, Vincent, don’t think of it in those terms!”
“I warned my mother about you church people, but she wouldn’t listen.”
“I’m afraid you have the wrong idea, young man. I have nothing but the best intentions toward you. I just thought we might come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I merely wanted to propose the idea to you and see if you might be receptive.”
“No, I’m not receptive!”
“Very well. I see where we stand. I thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and I apologize if I offended you. Would you like to pray with me before I go?”
“Well, I’ll be running along, then. I’ll leave you my card in case you have any questions about any of the things we discussed today.”
The reverend Nesselrode took a card out of his wallet and put it on the lamp table by the couch and then stood up and quietly went out the door.
After the reverend Nesselrode was gone, Vincent triple-locked the door, closed all the curtains and went upstairs. Across the hallway from the top of the stairs was the room that had been his bedroom all his life. He went inside and closed the door and locked it.
He pulled a .45 caliber handgun out of the dresser drawer, held it in his hand and stood looking at himself in the dresser mirror. He pointed the gun at his temple and then inserted it in his mouth and after a few seconds withdrew it.
Turning from the mirror, he pointed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger without hesitation. The blood poured from him, soaking his shirt, pants and shoes. After teetering backwards and forwards for a few seconds, he fell to the floor, pulling the bedspread off the bed and covering himself with it the best he could.
“Oh, God!” he said.
He knew then that there was someone else in the room with him. He thought at first it was his mother but when he lifted his head up and looked toward the door he saw it was an oddly familiar man.
“Who are you?” he asked, but before the words were out of his mouth he knew it could only be the Jesus Christ, the one and only, come to wash him in the Blood of the Lamb and take away all his sins. It might be seen as a miracle, except that there was no one there to see it. In the last few seconds of his life he became a believer.
Copyright © 2020 by Allen Kopp