In today’s Story A Day May story, I’m featuring a house I pass occasionally. It’s kind of Storybookish, so of course I love it.
Everybody tells you that selling your soul to the Devil is a bad idea. They say he’ll trick you, every time.
But here I am, in my dream house. Small, but perfect, and on prime real estate.
Just beyond those trees and a block over was a church. Big church. Lots of members.
The first time I walked in, I laughed as the preacher shook my hand.
“I was afraid the roof would fall in on me,” I said.
He laughed, too, and gave my hand an extra shake before releasing it.
“We’re all sinners, here,” he said. “If we weren’t, we wouldn’t need church, can I get an amen?”
“Amen!” I said.
I attended regularly, and had myself put on the prayer list. I spoke to the preacher about baptism.
On the way home, my vision blurred.
Time seemed to stand still, and hot breath whispered in my ear, “No baptism. You will die first. And the prayers? Effective, but long-term. Again, you will die before they negate your contract; they’re only shortening your life. Have a nice day.”
I went home, took myself off the prayer chain, and swore off church.
Then one morning I woke to the sound of heavy machinery. It was still going when I got home from work. For days.
I ventured out of my little paradise to see what was happening. The church had been demolished. So had the house next to it, on my side of where the church had been. The other houses between the destruction and my tree screen were boarded up.
Serves me right, for never following the local news.
Back home, I learned that the church had outgrown its building and the congregation was tired of paying for increasing upkeep on the crumbling old structure, so they had voted to demolish and rebuild. They had bought the properties adjacent and on the street behind and parallel, and were expanding into one of those Six Flags Over Jesus complexes.
Why had I never heard about this? I work in real estate — You would think a deal of this magnitude would be the talk of the office.
I had been cut out. The boss had given a deal literally in my back yard to his son-in-law, and the whole firm had been sworn to secrecy. Son-In-Law is the old man’s Golden Boy, but they both know who the real star of the firm is, and they didn’t want me to find out I’d been passed over.
The church had a website, of course; it’s how I had removed myself from the prayer chain. I hadn’t looked at it since my withdrawal, but I looked at it now.
There it all was: The decision, the plan for expansion, architect’s drawings, even including my tree screen at the end of the parking lot.
And a number for contacting the pastor and Building Committee during the interim.
I didn’t discuss particulars over the phone — that would have been suicide — but I’m very good with clear generalities.
The next time the pastor and the necessary church officers came into the firm, I was there, papers in hand, my signature already on them.
They read the two pages, signed, Betsy notarized them, and the church’s financial officer handed me a dollar.
They might have to expand that parking lot, or put up another building. I have no family. So the church now owns my property with my having life tenancy.
Just like that, I’m living on holy ground. Just like that, I’m not only free, I’m blessed.
And Satan thought lawyers were tricky.
Thursday doors is the brainchild of Norm Frampton, photographer extraordinaire. Visit his site, enjoy his wonderful photographs, follow his directions, and enter a world of doors.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about a deal gone wrong.