The Dancing Girl
By Sydney Gay
For a number of years handsome James Riddle, Pastor of the Catfish River Church, catered to a congregation of six elderly women who adored him, although no one else attended the church. He delivered messages that set their souls on fire. Riddle captivated these ladies, he penetrated their hearts. There is no point being a pastor unless you have the talent to understand how the mysteries of God reveal themselves. Come Sunday Riddle inhaled the heartbeat of the room and waited for the Divine to spill out of his mouth; only in this way could he deliver those glorious words.
Mondays was the obvious day for Riddle to rest, but nay it could not be; every Monday he went to Puck’s saloon to greet drinkers and smokers, Puck’s clientele had to be handled with care; they didn’t relish Bible verses. The pastor had no quarrel with that, why quarrel, God only had to look into Puck’s place to find men who needed love.
Be that as it may the pastor had his own troubles, he was lonely, no tender wife soothed his brow or rubbed his feet. “Oh, well,” he said as he ordered a piece of Catfish River pie, “thanks to God for Psalm 146, it can be read a thousand times and never be boring, “The Lord delights in those who do good.”
Nearby two elderly congregation members Eula and Maggie believed they knew exactly what James needed, and invited him to dinner. Eating homemade gumbo always led to enviable tidbits of Biblical information, oh so exciting, “Please, dears,” James explained, “Saint Matthew was absolutely right, when a man asks for your coat, give it to him, then take off your vest and give him that too.” Oh, so exciting.
The very next day a traveling theater drove into the village The best show in town! Truth be told, the only show in town. The bus parked near the church, three ladies, three French poodles and a Mexican dressed as a lion tamer set chairs upon the grass. Halleluiah, this opportunity may never come again. Pastor Riddle walked over and introduced himself. They poured him a cup of what James supposed to be tea, as it looked the same color as tea. Wishing to appear casual he loosened his collar “Welcome to Catfish River, I was once in show business myself.”
“When was that Pastor?” the tallest women shook the ringlets of her hair, as her hands fluttered in the air.
“Some years ago,” replied the Pastor, “but lucky me, I found a new theater in service to the Lord. Come on Sunday, you won’t be disappointed.” Thinking to himself, the lion tamer will contradict every word, Riddle knew the next sermon outshined all sermons, “please, please, do come.”
“Nah Pastor, we don’t do that sort of thing,” said the lion tamer. “Well, I hope you surprise me.”
On Sunday Miss Dufane, the youngest in the troupe, woke early, while the others slept, she freshened her face, squeezed a bit of lemon on her tongue, stepped into a purple dress, the color of plums, slid on her sandels and headed to church. Stepping carefully over the cobblestones, she noticed a green toad and stopped, “What a little beauty you are” she said, “are you going my way?” The toad followed Miss Dufane through the church door.
“Ah, we have visitors,” Dufane’s exotic fragrance floated toward the air, the toad ducked under a chair, the old ladies sighed, Miss Dufane glided into the pew in her plum purple dress. Pastor Riddle lost his breath. Never in his entire life had he seen someone so beautiful, he coughed and cleared his throat, but immediately forgot the sermon. As if God Himself had altered the plan, Pastor Riddle opened the book of parables, he was on fire, joyously he lifted the bible to his breast, scripture spilled out of his mouth, delight and excitement filled the room, indeed, in that moment heaven opened a door, he read Proverbs 31:10, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown and glory. A woman wise in the ways of God does good all the days of her life, she is strong, her arms are open to the poor, she extends her hands to the needy, she speaks with truth and wisdom, she is to be praised at the city gates, her husband will be respected when he takes his seat among elders.”