And with that the Most Holy Reverend Elmore
Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven
Praise the Lord! entered the lives of the good folks of the Valley of the
Now it's an interesting thing in this day and age of television evangelists that proselytising for folks to change religious camps isn't a new phenomenon at all. It's been going on regularly since Luther nailed his opinions on the cathedral door back when Shakespeare was still in diapers and with the exception of the addition of electronic whizbangery the method, the message and in particular the collection plate hasn't changed a day.
New Jersey Jack Lazyacre kept a close eye on what was happening in his town, in particular the comings and goings of visitors and new arrivals. A man never knew when an opportunity might arise to turn a profit or develop a lucrative friendship or float a profitable loan. So within minutes of the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! booking in to the hotel Jack was appraised of his arrival, his means of entry to the Valley of the Toenail Ridge, what luggage he had with him, and "you let me know the minute this feller comes down to the bar or the dining room!"
Now in the whole western half of the continental
United States there was probably no more affable, ameanable and friendly
host than New Jersey Jack Lazyacre Esq. His hotel prided itself on fine
victuals, good wine (although of late he'd been experimenting with that
inferior Californian stuff instead of relying on his French suppliers...)
and bonhomie. A guest at Jack's establishment became one of the family
during his or her stay unless they made it know that they'd prefer to keep
themselves to themselves at which time Jack and his staff could out-formal
the lads in Buckingham Palace. So when one of the housemaids ducked her
head around his office door and whispered "that new feller is headin' for
the parlour...." Jack had his coat on, his silk cravat straightened and
was on the way downstairs to make the newcomer's acquaintance.
"Welcome to my humble establishment, sir, I am Jack Lazyacre, the proprietor and manager. Anything I can personally do to make your stay with us more pleasant in any way, sir, do not hesitate to mention to myself or one of my staff!"
There's a certain breed of man who has the ability to see straight to the heart of any matter or any person and the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! was one of that breed. He saw immediately that before him stood a man of good breeding, good education, supreme confidence and, under the right (or wrong) circumstances the temperament and ability to retaliate faster and harder than a rattlesnake. In fact he saw that he was standing in front of a mirror. And being fully aware of the old folk adage "You can't bovine-excrete a bovine-excreter..." he stood, extended his hand and with meekness and humility replied "Good sir, thank you kindly for your most generous welcome. I am a man of the Lord and have come to this delightful place to further His Work and bring sinners to the Rapture!"
Lazyacre, as has been mentioned previously
in these chronicles, kept a close watch on what was happening in the outside
world via regular doses of the Portland newspapers and a monthly
copy of that prestigious journal, the New York Financial Review and so
he was well aware that especially in the South there had been a lot of
carrying-on with folks being baptized in rivers and having meetings in
tents and in general having themselves a fine old time wailing and singing
and shaking and rolling around in the mud all to the Greater Glory of God,
all the while while the more established members of the God-bothering profession
tut-tutted and shook their heads at the way the members of their own flocks
suddenly took it into their heads to shake their arms in the air and quit
coming to Sunday Services 'cos they were just too plumb tuckered out from
carousing with these evangelists on Saturday night. And of course you may
recall that Jack himself had spent a short period in his early history
acting as a preacher man in Davenport, Iowa, so he knew full well how much
sway a sky-pilot could have over folks heart, heads and pocketbooks.
"Well, sir, don't reckon a town can have too many preachers. Reckon I'll have to arrange a get-together with you to meet our Reverend Jeremiah Little and that new Catholic feller in town too."
And with that they parted cordially, Jack to pay a visit on his friend Little and the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! to sit and contemplate, over a glass of fine Madiera sherry, just how he would ensconce himself amongst the good denizens of the town and the Valley.
It has been expressed by no less an intellect than Albert Einstein himself that the speed limit of the Universe is the speed of light. Here was one of the times in his distinguished career that the greatest mind of the 20th Century was wrong. The finite speed limit of the Universe is the speed at which gossip can disseminate around a small community. There is even some evidence to suggest that the last person to hear a juicy item actually heard it fractionally before the person who first heard it. While this may seem to breach the Laws of Causality it is entirely within the boundaries permitted by the Regulations of Gossip which are rigidly constrictured to always disseminate the truth, some of the truth, part of the truth or no truth at all but disseminate anyway. With the result that by the time New Jack Lazyacre had cleared the front door of his hostelery both Rev Little and that Papist feller knew that an interloper was in their midst, there to undermine their Good Work by turning their flocks and income-producers into his flock and income-producers!
The Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord!, following his small prandial repast, took himself for a stroll down the main street of Selbyville perusing the buildings and establishments until he saw the office of the Toenail Ridge Examiner, that bastion of local printed lies, slander, produce prices and live-stock for-sale ads. Old Warren Sterling was the editor of this prestigious journal, dedicated to printing nothing but the truth in all things provided that it didn't step on any toes and met the approval of everyone concerned, otherwise print anything to fill in all the spaces on the broadsheet. So when he heard the jingle of the bell above the front door he limped out from the back room wiping his inky fingers on his apron and, peering myopically from under his green eyeshade at the imposing figure before him said in the best salesmanship manner "Yup?"
Two days later the population of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge, receiving the latest issue of the Examiner saw to their amazement that Selbyville had been chosen by the Almighty Himself to be the venue for the arrival of the next Prophet of the Lord, 'cos it said it right there in that full-page ad and since it was in the newspaper it had to be true! And all that the folks of the Valley had to do to see this wonderful arrival was to present themselves on the banks of Lake Wallace on Saturday afternoon, there to be greeted by the Emissary of the Lord and His coming Prophet, The Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord!
That very morning an unusual meeting took place
in the private sitting room of New Jersey Jack Lazyacre, between Reverend
Jeremiah Little and Father Shamus O'Conner O'Kelly O'Rourke, said meeting
moderated by Jack himself. "Father," said Little, " this charlatan is gonna
lie to our people and take their money and give 'em false ideas and teach
'em that they can reach the Kingdom of Heaven by just faith and belief
with no mention of hard work and donations at all!"
"To be shure!" quoth the good priest. "We can not be lettin' our people listen to this heathen rubbish spoutin' from this con-man! "
But what to do?
Now it's been mentioned a few times in these chronicles that New Jersey Jack Lazyacre was a man of skill and resources. "Gentlemen, let me do a little checking" he said. And with that he lit a cheroot , left the room and strolled up to the Selbyville railroad station and depot, there to have a chat with the surly station-master Joe Dempsey, who, knowing his place in the pecking order, promptly sat down to the telegraph and sent a telegram to a certain member of the State Legislature in Portland. "Joe, lemme know soon as you get a reply," said Jack, and with that, spun on his heel and returned to his office and his guests.
In the meantime Little and the priest had, like two mothers-in-law at a wedding reception, been passing the time of day, and had mutually come to the conclusion that this pagan sitting on the other side of the room wasn't such a bad fellow, at least he didn't have a forked tail visible and if he had horns his flowing locks/tonsure covered them. They compared notes on matters of church administration, how much it cost to put a new roof on the building, what percentage they could honestly keep for living expenses out of the donations, matters of high import to men of good will whose living depends on encouraging folks to reach for their pocketbooks.
When Saturday afternoon finally arrived the good folks of Selbyville and the outer-lying districts had gathered on the grassy banks of Lake Wallace, picnic lunches spread, holiday atmosphere well enjoined, to await the arrival of the Almighty as promised by the article in the Toenail Ridge Examiner. And even though it was Saturday they were still in their Sunday best 'cos it wouldn't do to look down at heel or unkempt before the Lord, whatever might He think? Wouldn't do for the Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent Creator of the Universe to know that the good penitents gathered before Him didn't have clean underwear or a starched collar on. As the sun rose higher in the clear sky the anticipation of the multitude increased, heads turned as one at every arrival of cart or buggy, chins elevated in unison whenever a flock of birds flew over in a cacaphony of wing-beats, Oohs & Aahs of wonder escaped lips when the sound of Gabriel's trumpet echoed across the pristine waters of Lake Wallace until Ken Blunt pointed out that they were actually hearing the whistle of Ol' No. 9 with its combine approaching the Whibley truss bridge. And the same sun started to cause accumulations of sweat in the armpits and a general loosening of collars and doffing of jackets and reddening of faces and regretting of girdles and stays and, never one to miss an opportunity, Chuck Parker from the Saloon hired Chilly John to take a couple barrels of Supremely Healthy, Invigorating, Truly Tasty, Yeasty beer down to the lake to slake the thirst of those awaiting the Second Coming of The Lord. And the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! saw what his advertisement in the Examiner had caused and he saw that it was good,and judging that the mood of anticipation of the good folks was right he took himself from the shadow of the trees on the top of the knoll and stepped out into the sun, his arms raised high above his head, his face raised to Heaven, his white and gold-trimmed robes spreading from his outstretched arms, and in a voice that resonated and revererated around the full circumference of the lake, he toned "Prepare ye the Way of the Lord!"
"My brethren and my sistren, I am The Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! and I stand before you today to lead you into the Path of Righteousness and free you from dependance on the worldly chattels that burden your lives and cause you worry and pain. Listen to me and learn how the Lord Himself wants you to hear His Word and forsake the evil belongings of this material Golgatha, how He wants you, through me His Emissary, to give up your worldly ways and donate your filthy lucre to the poor and devote yourselves to the Holy following of His Holy Word!"
Well, Gentle Reader, there are those folks
in the world who are endowed with that ability known as the Gift of the
Gab, folks who really can sell refrigerators to Eskimos, folks who can
sell an itinerant a million dollars worth of life insurance, folks who
can convince an illiterate to buy a full set of Encyclopaedia Brittannica,
and before the assembled multitude of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge stood
just such a man.
Words flowed from his mouth like nectar from a hive, each morsel sweet and seductive and addictive, each ear into which each word flowed hungry for more of the melifluous offerings of this self-proclaimed man of God. And before half an hour had passed the good folks of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge knew their destiny, which was to forsake their material possessions and lead a righteous life in the teachings of this man, and so holy and righteous a man was he that he offered to take their burden upon himself, to receive their belongings and make sure that they got delivered to the needy, those poor folks in the world that didn't have any worldy possessions at all. Sort of like the folks in the Valley of the Toenail Ridge were gonna be after The Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! got through with 'em, come to think of it.........
Up the back of the crowd, in the shadow of the trees where the forest swept down to the pristine waters of Lake Wallace, New Jersey Jack Lazyacre listened to the utterings of the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! with a jaundiced ear and a critical eye. Beside him and shaking with fury and envy was the Reverend Jeremiah Little and that Catholic feller too, although the good Father was shaking with disbelief rather than fury as the utterances of the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! spread across the heads of the crowd and reached the trio.
"My children!" quoth the Most Holy Reverend
Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven
Praise the Lord! "Come with me to the lake and immerse yourselves in the
cleansing waters of God's Creation! And leave your pocketbooks and wallets
and watches here in this pile so they don't get wet!" he cried. "Put your
faith in the Lord and your bodies in the water and it will wash away your
"Well, gentlemen," said New Jersey Jack Lazyacre "I reckon it might be about time for us to make our presence known and protect the belongings of these good folks while this feller is gettin' 'em soaked, what do ya say?" and with that he stepped from the cover of the trees and ambled down the slope towards the gathered multitude. "Folks!" he called as he neared them. "Before you all divest yourselves of your valuables and git yourselves wet I reckon I need to tell ya about a Western Union wire Joe Dempsey just delivered to me. It's come from the State capital and has a little bit of information about our good Reverend Lutschke here. Reverend, you want to come over here and have a look at its contents? Seems to me its mighty important to you and your future, in fact I reckon it might even determine whether you even got a future."
Well, Gentle reader, it's a well known fact that when a man feels the grip of exposure tighten around his regenerative appendages he suddenly sees the world in total clarity. Thus it was that the Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! quickly stepped to the side of New Jersey Jack Lazyacre where he cast an eye over the contents of the wire. "Sir," he whispered in an aside to Jack, "I would be mighty appreciative if you could see your way clear to not announce the contents of this missive to these people and perhaps provide me with a means of rapid egress from this town as soon as possible. While I deny every one of these imprecations contained in this defamatory screed, in particular that item regarding the seven freshman young ladies from St. Margaritas-ante-Porcus Young Women's College of Divinity and Weaving and what is alleged to have occurred in the hayloft with the German Shepherd, I can see clearly that the evidence is not in my favour and may cause these good folks to look upon me with a jaundiced eye. I can see you are an experienced man of the world. I give you my word as a gentleman that I will never set foot in this part of the globe again, so help me, God. Your assistance, sir, I implore you."
Thus it came to pass that in the fullness of
time the good folks of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge learnt that the
Most Holy Reverend Elmore Lutschke of the Holy Most Blessed Church of The
Gateway to Heaven Praise the Lord! had had an urgent call to
attend to a flock in a far off place and that was why he had had to depart
from his gathering so quickly, without even so much as a goodbye or a bye
your leave. It left a few folks wondering just what had happened to their
insight of religious fervour but a lot of the remainder maintained that
glow of the Holy Spirit long enough for that Catholic feller and the Reverend
Jeremiah Little to step in and carry on the good work, especially in regard
to helping the members of their respective congregations in parting with
the root of all evil in a good and holy way. Before too long, Little's
church had a new roof and his parlour had a new settee and that Catholic
feller, who had taken a vow of poverty as well as chastity found his conscience
sorely pressed as he tried to abide within the letter of his vows.