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Authors: Don Childers

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Three Cans of Soup

BOOK: Three Cans of Soup
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A Christmas Story

Don Childers


Published by Price World Publishing

1300 W Belmont Ave Ste 20G

Chicago, IL 60657-3200

Copyright © 2012 by Don Childers

All rights reserved. Neither this book, nor any parts within it may be sold or reproduced in any form without permission.

eISBN: 9781619842380


This novel is dedicated to my wife and best friend



Table of Contents





















































“Three Cans of Soup-A Christmas Story”


The figure was dressed in black: black pants, black sweater, black jacket, and black stocking cap and with a black scarf wrapped around his lower face. He looked like a commando or ninja except that his movements were not limber, but was those of a person who was in need of more exercise.

It was cold this December evening. His breath made a fog and was coming with more frequency. Slowly, he approached the stone edifice of Central Church. Looking around and seeing no one so late at night, he quickly moved around to the side of the church and then to the more modern educational building. Feeling his way along the wall, he came to a window that was open a few inches even in the cold.

“I knew she would forget to close it,” the man mumbled to himself.

Pushing the window open, the man struggled to get through the window even though it was low. Putting his feet on a table just under the window, he accidently knocked pictures and a vase to the floor. At the crash he froze. Did anyone hear? After a few moments, his breathing resumed a more normal pace.

Reaching into his pocket, he extracted a small flashlight. He made his way to the door and it opened into a hallway. He seemed to know his way around the building, for with no hesitation he turned to the left and proceeded down the hallway to two double doors. Pushing the doors open, he entered what was obviously a much older building. The smell of aged wood greeted him as he quietly made his way to two great wooden doors. Carefully opening the old doors, he found himself in the sanctuary.

Central Church had a long history. Its stone edifice looked outdated compared to the more modern educational building and offices that were attached. The sanctuary was classic. The wooden pews had been improved with cushions over twenty years before. The altar was large with a massive pulpit on one side and a lectern on the other. In the middle was an altar table used for communion, decorated with a crèche. Other things in the room betrayed the contradiction of changing times. A modern sound system complete with a retractable screen mixed modern and classic. The drum set pushed to the side revealed that, at times, a more modern beat greeted worship at Central Church.

Overlooking it all was a huge wooden cross. The story was that it was made from the wood from of the original church building that was replaced in the 1940s by the stone and wooden structure of the present. On the cross beams of the huge cross was a huge wreath, beautifully decorated, looking out over the congregation.

Without hesitation, the man opened a side door and extracted a long step ladder. Carefully placing the ladder in front of the cross, he slowly climbed to the top. Carefully lifting the great wreath, he discovered its weight made him lose his balance and he dropped it. Again he froze as the noise seemed to be so loud it could be heard all over town.

“No sirens or lights,” he thought to himself with relief. Climbing down, he picked up the great wreath and carried it down the aisle, out the great doors and into a lounge directly across from the sanctuary.

The lounge was beautifully appointed. A bronze sign hung on the wall announcing that the lounge was a gift from Benny and Rose Lewis. It was called the Rose Lounge in honor of Benny’s wife. Beautiful couches and chairs were arranged around the room. A white grand piano was tastefully set to one side. Dominating the room was a great fireplace of native stone. It was in the fireplace that the man placed the wreath. Taking out lighter fluid he had in his pockets, he generously doused the wreath and with a shout of joy, hurled a match into the fireplace. The resulting explosion was a bit more than he had anticipated as flames erupted and began to devour the wreath. Black smoke began to fill the room. Realizing that he had forgotten to open the damper, the man, with panic rising, reached through the flames to push the damper open, burning his arm in the process.

As the smoke cleared the room, an odor remained as the plastic and glass ornaments on the wreath melted or shattered. After a few moments, the man retreated from the room, rushed back down the hallway, went through the double doors and stopped at a closet. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a set of keys and opened the door. Taking a sheet of poster board and some markers, he rushed back to the lounge. By now the wreath was almost totally consumed.

“Why didn’t I think of this before?” he thought to himself. “This is no time to be a coward!” Acting quickly, he wrote a message on the poster board. Then he retraced his steps, climbed out the window, and made his way home. Once home he changed clothes and poured himself a drink. Sitting down, he felt very good about everything.



“One Year Earlier”

When Reverend Bill Thompson and his wife Sharon, along with their dog Jerry, moved into their new home it was the answer to prayers and dreams. For Bill the move to Central Church was the culmination of years of waiting for his turn to finally move up in the denominational structure. For Sharon the move marked the first time she could use her history degree; she had been hired as a teacher at the Maysville Community College.

Bill was fifty years old, Sharon two years younger. Bill was displaying some of the signs of middle age like graying hair, but anticipating this move had spurred him to exercise. He had lost weight and trimmed up. He still loved chocolate éclairs but now ate them sparingly. Sharon was also trim, energized by her new job as a history teacher. Her dark hair had the early streaks of gray, but these were easily covered over.

The oldest child, Robert or “Robby”, lived in St. Louis and worked as a driver for UPS. He was their oldest, and Bill continued to be disappointed that he had dropped out of college after only two years. Robby was tall, slightly over six feet and loved the single life. His life was filled with friends and living in St. Louis was exciting. His father, however, was also disappointed that Robby had no interest in the church. They had gotten into many arguments, ending with Robby usually storming off in one direction and his father in another. He had not yet figured a way to tell his father that he was interested in religion, just not his father’s. He was engaged in a study of Buddhism.

Lisa, Bill and Sharon’s daughter, had just begun at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She was her father’s girl. She worked part time at a local bookstore and no sooner had she settled into the dorm than she began attending a local church. She was athletically inclined and already had a boyfriend. She loved movies, books, and was really into Praise-style religious music.

So it was that for the first time Bill and Sharon were alone. Except, that is, for Jerry and a cat, Pepper. They were excited about their new home. With the kids away, Bill and Sharon now each could have a study. For the two of them it was their first “home” after having lived in church-provided housing throughout Bill’s ministry.

Maysville was a typical Midwestern community. It was a historic community having begun as a wild river town located along the Missouri River. With a major highway cutting through the town and a railroad, the town had had a rich future at the turn of the twentieth century. Politics led to the relocation of the main railroad line toward Kansas City, leaving Maysville to decline.

With a population slightly over forty thousand, the community still had vitality along with its history. The city boasted a thriving community college, and a rejuvenated area around the courthouse square that hosted quaint shops and a fairly new Starbucks. Recent industrial openings had led to a construction spurt and new homes. The city had all the challenges of most cities, including drugs, crime, and the growing problems along River Avenue. Recently, a casino had been built on the west end of Front Street promising to renew what the locals called their Skid Row. The one bright spot was the Second Street Mission, which provided hospitality to the increasing numbers of homeless people and transients who made their way into Maysville.

Moving day was all that Bill and Sharon had imagined and dreaded. Because of the changing weather in early December the moving van was late. When it finally arrived, flurries of snow were beginning to fall. Bill and Sharon wondered at the sanity of a December move in Missouri, but opportunities often did not occur on a time schedule.

Throughout the day church members arrived with food. Most had remembered that Sharon was vegetarian. Bill had tried to set the stage by pointing out that they could not disappoint members by not accepting or eating all the fried chicken or barbecue that would arrive. The only problem was that but for a few exceptions, most of the food was vegetarian.

Within an hour of the van leaving, Rose and Benny Lewis stopped by. Even though they did not hold any “official” positions, most people in and around Central Church knew that they pretty much set the agenda. The previous minister had discovered that the hard way.

Benny was medium height and trim for a person in his early seventies. His white hair gave him a distinguished look of wisdom. He had made a small fortune in real estate and development. They lived in Rolling Hills, which was a new “gated” community east of town near the new country club. Not only were they generous to Central Church, but their giving to the District level of the church, especially to new church development, had resulted in recognition throughout the denomination. Benny had served on the district church board and was close friends with District Minister Dr. Richard Pearl. It was the generosity of the central church toward the district level that meant that any pastor of the church would have immediate access to the district minister. This was something Bill had never had before. Already the Dr. Pearl had contacted Bill and invited him as soon as it was convenient to join him for lunch in Kansas City.

Rose was in her late sixties but, like Benny, did not look it. Her access to the very best of care had had its effect. Her eyes sparkled with self-assurance and her demeanor was more akin to nobility.

Benny and Rose brought a gift of wine and bread as they greeted the new pastor and his wife. Sharon gave them a quick tour of their new home, after which Benny motioned for Bill to join him in what would become Bill’s study. Bill pulled some boxes off of the couch and the two sat, sipping their wine. Outside, Jerry, a black lab, was exploring and announcing to the neighborhood that a new dog was in town. Benny frowned slightly and related that he had once had hunting dogs but kept them in a caged area. The two engaged in small talk for a time.

BOOK: Three Cans of Soup
9.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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