Eric was frosted.
The new young Bishop had not asked him to narrate the Christmas program. For the first time in twenty-seven years, the Bishop had not called on him, with his trained voice, to read the verses of Luke and introduce the Elders, the women, and the children each in their turn. For the first time in twenty-seven years, Eric would be sitting in the congregation for the Christmas program.
If he bothered to attend at all. He was that frosted. Maybe he’d just sit home and wrap the grand kid’s Ipad and Leggos. Maybe he’d get a six pack and watch the Redskins and Giants game on TV. He was that ticked off. He didn’t see any point in sitting for an hour listening to something he knew by heart already.
Every Sunday since Thanksgiving, Eric had been expecting the new young Bishop Fredning to ask him to narrate. But he didn’t. Then it was the week before the big day, so Eric thought he would just ask for the script so he would know when each of the songs and piano recitals came in.
“Oh,” Fredning said, “Well, Say. Listen. Sister White asked to narrate this year. I thought it might be nice to hear a woman read the scripture.”
Eric felt himself flush. It wasn’t just his face turning red, but his whole body suddenly fired up, and he felt sweat begin to form under his arm pits.
But he didn’t say anything. Anything he said would not be something he wanted a Bishop to hear. Most of what he was thinking should probably not be thought much less said in the chapel, either. Anything on his mind at that point would probably require a serious apology and confession and repentance. He’d be damned if he’d give young Fredning the pleasure.
Then on Monday, after a night and most of a day of Eric’s stewing and considering apostasy, Fredning called. “Listen, Eric,” he said. “I understand you write poems.”
“Yeah?” Eric said. He tried hard to remain civil. It was difficult, but the recognition that he was the best Cowboy Poet in Last Lost Valley County, if not all Montana helped keep him from launching into the offensive.
“Well, say. Listen. I understand you have a nice cow camp Christmas poem.”
“Yeah?” Eric said. It was one of his best. It had been published in the Cattle Call Monthly several years ago.
“Well, say. Listen. Would you mind if I read that poem to close out the Christmas program?”
This is not the exact question that Eric had been expecting. But it was almost good enough.
“Well,” he said, feeling a modicum of harmony beginning to restore itself in his life, “If you give it proper attribution. Of course, it can be part of the program.”
Maybe he would go on Sunday. He’d miss the first half of the Redskins and the Giants, but he would be home by half time. He’d already bought the six pack. He was of two minds about whether using it up now he had it would require repentance. Finally, he came to the conclusion that young Fredning could get along just fine without carrying that burden.
It promised to be a fine Christmas Sabbath.