Covid-Mas Tales 3: “To the Water Free”

The third in a series of stories about the holidays and quarantine/coronavirus. We all wish it’ll be gone by the next big day, but we should shelve these stories under “fantasy” to be safe. You can read all the stories in this series at this link. Enjoy!

(Btw, this one isn’t technically associated with the holidays, but it takes place in a church. We can imagine that it’s marking a new holy-day, maybe? Anyway, I liked it and said wth.)

To the Water Free

by William Hopkins

The pews creaked under too many bodies squeezed together. Every shift, every kneel, every stand-up-sit-down brought a chorus of pops and squeaks mixed with groans and wheezes.

“We welcome our new neighbors and friends with open arms!” Minister Ledgar spread one arm wide, the other holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. “It brings us nothing but joy to bring you into our fold and to celebrate our God-given right to congregate, regardless of any earthly institution’s prohibition. We are living under a new Babylon! A new Roman dictatorship! A new heresy that calls itself our government. But we shall overcome!”

The pews let forth a few excited “Amens!” but from most came louder phlegmy breathing and a few coughs.

The front doors opened as Ledgar was about to speak again, showing a family of four in their Sunday best, looking shy and embarrassed behind their white and blue masks.

“Come in, friends,” Ledgar shouted above the mumbles, “Come in! And take off those masks, for heaven’s sakes. You’re among family here. Find a place to sit, come on!”

Three children from the back pews stood up holding hands and went to the new boy and girl, who were throwing their masks on the ground. They shuffled them away from their parents to sit with the other children. The parents shyly squeezed into a spot meant to comfortably hold one. As the woman sat, the older matron beside her stared. The new woman hadn’t removed her mask yet, and the matron grabbed it from the front with her whole palm like grabbing a spider with a tissue and yanked, making the woman’s ears flop and mussing her hair. She threw it on the floor and spat. Then she smiled warmly at the new couple and turned back to Minister Ledgar.

“We will always make room. Isn’t that right, friends? Can’t we accommodate all who seek our Lord’s new communion?” No “Amens” this time but loud moans came from various points in the crowd.

“Let us pray.” The congregation bowed its head and quieted as Minister Ledgar lowered his eyes and raised one arm. “Heavenly father, we offer our joining and our presence in your church as a work of our faith that we will always heed your call.”

One lone “Amen” came from the back.

“We offer ourselves, body and soul, to your will in this lowly world where the works of man have shown themselves deficient in bringing you glory.”

Two “Amens” accompanied a lingering groan from the right that turned into a wail as the Minister continued.

“We offer our joy and our pain. We offer our works, our children, our lives, we offer you all that we are so that we may bring your glory to the world.”

The wail had become a scream.

“We offer every single thought and desire and second of oursel….”

The screaming stopped as a wet pop and splatter echoed through the high ceilinged hall. Minister Ledgar looked up to see that Sister Abigail had erupted into a mass of many-colored fluids now sliding down the walls, pews, and many of the congregation on the right. Silence for a moment, and then the people exploded into shouts and singing and “Hallelujahs”

Minister Ledgar picked up his tambourine and thumped out a beat as he began singing “Springs of Living Water.” Soon the rest were singing along with him, stomping feet and clapping hands. And just as they were belting out “The Saviour now invites you to the water free!” a child near the back also popped, making the other kids squeal and laugh as they forgot to sing for rolling in the mess. But the adults only grew louder.

And as the chorus continued, Minister Ledgar walked toward the doors, taking a moment to shake hands with the new parents and pat the new children on the head before leading his congregation into the street and down toward the town’s central park. It was fair day, and he expected to spread some of God’s love to everyone there.

Will Hopkins online book reviews under a variety of pen names. He is also a freelance copy writer for primarily investment and consulting outlets, so you don’t want to read most of what he spends his days writing. He is from Montgomery, Alabama but currently lives in Nevada.

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