The church was built in 1907. The well was dug in 1903; ten foot wide, thirty foot deep, and dry as a bone for all anyone knew.
Evening folks, said Pastor Scott; spoke soft, some said, for a preacher man. It was hard to hear the pastor, at times, over the whir and the hum of the insects.
It was barely a month since hurricane-like winds leveled much of the town. Power lines fell, trees were uprooted. It passed over Wilmore and Carthica Springs, but the storm tore the roof off of houses in Onewell.
On Wednesday there was always a potluck supper; a picnic potluck supper this Wednesday, what with the church in repair from the storm. Maxine brought a dish of hot turkey puffs. Turkey and cheese in crescent roll dough. Lucy brought her apricot fluff. It always went first. Everyone loved the apricot fluff.
Fred Ewell took a bite from a turkey puff. He made a face; they all noticed Fred had dirt on his boots. Fred was usually so fussy about those boots. He put the turkey puff back on the tray.
So much was gone in the town of Onewell. Businesses, homes. And faith was lost in times such as these; instead of their regular bible study, the pastor suggested they have a meeting. Give people a chance to unburden themselves. The pastor was young, and new to the town. New to the Onewell Baptist Church. Some of the oldtimers—Burt Scofield, for instance—viewed Pastor Scott with a jaundiced eye.
Amen, said the pastor, closing the prayer. He looked at his flock.
Who wants to start?
Lucy coughed. Burt Scofield grunted.
Margaret Weideker raised her hand.
Did anyone try my cherry pie?
I did, said Nona. It was delicious.
Tommy Snider chimed in.
I had me couple of pieces, he said.
You always make a good pie, said Nona. I can’t make piecrust to save my soul.
Margaret Weideker beamed. The secret, she said—
I’m sure it’s a wonderful pie—the pastor broke in—but I think we’re drifting here a bit.
Women narrowed their eyes. The men looked down at the grass. At their boots.
Someone else? Anything you’d like to talk about. This has been very hard on everyone. Trying times for us all.
Endtimes, Burt Scofield said.
Burt had twice been the mayor of Onewell. Pastor Scott tread lightly here.
I know things seem bad, very bad, right now. But perhaps there’s another…
No sir. Endtimes. That’s what it is.
Margaret Weideker raised her hand.
Why don’t you like my cherry pie?
Maxine looked down at the half-eaten crescent roll.
Didn’t care for my turkey puffs either I see.
Seems to me, Burt Scofield said, weren’t long after you come, that storm went through. Left your place standing, I notice. How you explain that, Pastor?
Did you even try my apricot fluff, Lucy asked.
Pastor Scott could barely speak. His mouth was dry. The air was thick and the whir and the hum—
Looky there, Burt Scofield said. Been drinkin’, Pastor?
Nothing but trouble, Fred Ewell observed.
It’s there in the Bible, Tommy chimed in.
Endtimes, said Mayor Burt. Endtimes unless—
The mayor leaned over and whispered to Fred. Fred leaned over and whispered to Tommy. A big, strapping lad, he was known in those parts for his wrestling prowess; everyone said Tommy had Olympic potential.
Margaret Weideker turned to Maxine.
Could you make those with puff pastry? Instead of crescent roll dough, I mean.
Maxine smiled. I don’t see why not…
Thirty foot deep, maybe dry as a bone; faith, they knew, without works, is dead. It echoed and seemed like it went on forever, over the whir and the hum of the insects.