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Thick as Thieves

A hilarious short story of three mischievous brothers, vacation bible school, and an episode that will forever be remembered by fellow congregants. This one will not disappoint!

Looking back, that summer of 1992 was where it all started; it was the peak of Florida's summer, and there I was, smashed in the middle of the back seat begging for recompense from an AC that sputtered and gasped like an old woman in a constant state of shock.

Humidity will lead a person to do some rather, well…unconventional things. It certainly doesn’t bring out the best in people. I mean, how could you be expected to follow societal norms, in church no less, when the only thing offering salvation is one of those big paper fans secured to a popsicle stick? And the printed image of Jesus walking on the water while I was sweltering under the rafters certainly seemed unfair. I suppose it was only a matter of time before my brothers and I got up to no good.

After the end of vacation bible school, we were ferried back to the church for one of those renowned potluck dinners. We always knew to avoid the yellow casserole dishes and pitchers, as they belonged to Ms. Mary. You see, Ms. Mary’s eyesight had been declining for quite some time. And that led to never being able to trust whether the proper ingredients made it into the finished product.

There was that time she brought a couple pitchers of sweet tea, but she must have grabbed the Morton’s salt instead of the sugar canister when she made it because as soon as Mr. Michael took a swig of that, he spewed it out across the room like a whale gushing from its blowhole. Poor old Ms. Loretta happened to be an innocent bystander and boy did she look like she took a trip under the Niagara Falls after that incident. And of course Ms. Barbara, who did not like Ms. Loretta, whispered a little too loudly that it was about time Ms. Loretta was born again and washed in the water. Me and my brothers were sitting at a table behind Ms. Barbara and being children and all—we thought it was funny and started snickering. Well, we did until we got thumped upside the head by Momma.

My brothers Samuel, Peter, and I were thick as thieves. I think Momma named us as she did after a prophet, a disciple, and the first man (which would be me) because she thought we’d be closer to Jesus, or something like that. She was always saying “Y’all need Jesus.”

On this particular potluck night, us three had finished eating. We avoided Ms. Mary’s cupcakes, whose white frosting looked suspiciously like mayonnaise. Momma was stuck talking to Ms. Esther who could talk the right ear off a donkey, so we were able to sneak out from her all-seeing eye.

Searching for a cool breeze and finding none outside, we entered back inside through the sanctuary. There was a rather large open space in the wall behind the preacher’s pulpit which was where the baptismal pool was located so that the whole congregation could watch the sins just come slap off. Going up and around to the baptismal pool, it seemed like a good idea at the time to take a little dip.

Samuel had the foresight to tell us that we should take our shirts off and just go in with our shorts on. Peter found an old box fan in the corner and plugged it up so that we could have some ripples on the water. Then we all stood there, waiting for someone to make a move. Apparently because my name was Adam, I was voted 2-1 to be the first one in. And boy did I lead that scrawny flock through the Red Sea towards freedom. After his initial splash into the water, Peter decided to get behind the box fan so that he could talk into it and be the voice of God saying, “LET MY PEOPLE GOOOO!”

We were having ourselves a good ole time, until we heard a voice yelling, “ADAM, SAMUEL, AND PETER! WHAT IN TARNATION DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!” Yep, that was the voice of Momma, which put Peter’s attempts of being the voice of God to shame. We had done it now. And right next to Momma was Ms. Esther and Reverend Matthew. One look at Momma’s face, and we knew we wouldn’t be doing anything for a month of Sundays and we probably wouldn’t be able to sit down for that length of time neither.

Except the strangest thing happened—Reverend Matthew’s face went from shock to puzzlement and then….to amusement.

The Reverend broke the silence after Momma’s rebuke and said, “Well now, Ma’am, while we must not encourage such behavior, we ought not discipline them too harshly. After all, they are acting out a story in the Bible. Perhaps the children’s bible study would enjoy some reenactments of other…hmm…less watery scenes.”

And for the rest of that summer and fall, the three of us had to read story after story and reenact them over and over again in all the different classes. And when Christmas came, we were cast as the three kings because everybody knew we needed some Jesus and would need to travel however long it took.

I think back on that now and wonder at the wisdom Reverend Matthew had, and how he turned good natured fun that did not reach any threshold of being appropriate into saving grace.

My only hope is that as I begin to lead my own congregation today with this sermon, that I am blessed with such prudence, mercy, and wit.

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