The Old Church Steps




            “Well, now, I’ll tell you about that man.  I knew the first time I saw him he’d be the one for us.”


            “Aldie, don’t tell that story again; there’s no way you could have known that.  You hadn’t even spoken to him, let alone hear him preach.”


            “John, you know a lot about those books you teach at school, but you don’t know people – not like I do, anyway.”


            “You’re going to tell it, aren’t you?”


            “I said I would, and I will.  I was sitting right here on these steps with Jack and Sis and you, John, and Aunt Minnie and Malcolm and we were talking about the man they had coming to preach for us that day when I saw him come walking around the building there.  He had on a gray suit and black cowboy boots and there was just something about the way he walked that told me he’d be a good one.  Malcolm, you remember what I said, don’t you?”


            “I do, Uncle Aldie – you said he’d be a good one.”


            “Why do you encourage him, Malcolm?”


            “John, he said that.”


            “I know, but the fact that he turned out to be a good one really has nothing to do with a gray suit and cowboy boots.”


            “I didn’t say his suit or boots did it, I said I could tell he’d be a good one by the way he walked.”


            “You hoped he would be.”


            “Ain’t what I said – I said he would be.”


            “Could it be that, in hindsight, you know he is now?”


            “That is true too, but I knew he would be beforehand.”


            “Maybe you just wanted him to be.”


            “That’s true – but it ain’t what I said.”


            “You’re hopeless.”


            So the conversation went, every time the crowd gathered on the steps of the old church building – so named because the new building sat only a few feet from the old one.  The men, and some ladies also, would gather on the steps and porch of that old building sometimes two hours before Bible Class or worship and talk.  It was, in many respects, seemingly as important as the real occasion for which they assembled.  Stories were told, decisions made, hunts planned, and memories made.  Ray and Lois sometimes came, as did Myrtle.  Chubby visited often, but never Carolyn.  When Radford was out he came too – but not Delia.


            “Brother Aldie, tell me about that old store and big house at the corner down there.”


            “Well, that was the old Temple Store.  Back when this here place was a town – or right near a town – that store was its heart.  When the War broke out, old Mr. Temple would float credit to all the ladies whose husbands were gone to war.  He was the only one out here with money…”


            “Aldie, I wish you wouldn’t tell that.  Those people are long dead now.”


            “John, if you want to tell a story wait your turn.  I’m telling this one.”


            “But Aldie, what good is served by rehashing old rumors.”


            “Ain’t a rumor if it happened, and I know it did.”


            “How do you know?”


            “I seen it.  Anyway, old Mr. Temple probably fathered…”


            “Come on, now Aldie, we’d better go in.  It’s about time to start.”


            So it was.  Handily.  The tale would be picked up again at another time and the same objections would be registered but eventually the tale would be finished.  We all knew the end of it, and the question was asked as much from habit as anything else.  It was what we did – the main thing we did – socially, anyway.  No harm was intended, and so far as I know none ever inflicted.  We loved those little visits.  Visiting on the old church building steps.


H. L. Gradowith


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