Resurrection Diaries Entry 8: Kids In The Closet

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Entry 8: Kids In The Closet: Monday July 18

A new work week. My first full one at Resurrection. I cornered Larter this morning and asked him about the playground. He acted like he didn’t know anything about it.

“I’ve only been here five years myself. And I’m not sure how much property the church owns back in those woods. The playground you found could belong to the city.” He went on to tell me that on my downtime I could read up on the church’s history in the library. “You do have the key, you know. There are a lot of records in there.” And as I was walking off to get to work, he thought of something else. “There is a woman who serves as unofficial historian of the church. Her family has been involved here since the early 1900’s, I believe. I could give you her phone number if you’d like to talk to her.”

I told him that would be good. Then I thought of something else I wanted to ask him. “Hey, remember that stray dog that hangs around?”

He chuckled. “Thorn in my side. That dog has been running around here for as long as I’ve been a member. He doesn’t seem to bother anyone, though. Just gets into stuff. I don’t think he bites or anything.”

“Thanks, I needed to hear that. I usually don’t like dogs, but he seems okay. I was just concerned, that’s all.”

“Oh yes, well, he’s fine, I think. Nothing to worry about.”

I nodded. “I guess I better get to working then.”

“I’ll bring you Mrs. Shiflett’s phone number before I leave. You’ll like her.” He grinned as if there was a private joke in there somewhere. I almost asked him what it was.

It was late in the afternoon when I heard the kids overhead again, just like the other day. I was fixing some mop water, when I heard the running in the hall upstairs. I went to check it out.

As I reached the top of the stairs, I could not only hear their shuffling feet, but their voices as well. There was a girlish giggle coupled with a boy’s laughter. When I entered the hall, I saw them right away. They were at the other end of the corridor, a young boy playfully chasing a girl around the far corner and out of my sight.

“Hey,” I yelled. “You kids aren’t supposed to be up here.” I could hear their giggles. I walked down the hall and rounded the corner, expecting to run right into them from the sound of it. But they weren’t there. The hallway was empty. “Okay, ya’ll come out now. You need to play outside, not up here.”

I heard another giggle, this time followed by a “shhh”, and it was coming from one of the rooms. I headed towards the sound and threw open the door.

It was a recreation room. There was a pool table in the center, a dart board on one wall, shuffleboard on the floor, and boxes of board games set against an old piano that looked like it had seen its better days. There were other smaller rooms branching off from this one, but I could see no one.

“Okay, I know you are in here. Come on out and let’s all go downstairs. You won’t be in any trouble.”

I checked the rooms. They were set up like classrooms. But they were empty. I was alone. And then I heard something. It was the sound of something falling over, like a box or other object. It had come from behind a windowless door in the corner. I walked over and grabbed the doorknob. It was warm. I turned it and yanked the door open.

It was a closet. Boxes were stacked up inside. Church robes and jackets hung on hangers. But no kids. I looked behind and all around me. I was fairly certain those kids couldn’t have got past me, but maybe they had.

I got ready to close the closet door when I noticed something on the floor right beside a box of cobwebbed hymn books. I reached down and picked it up. It was a small silver chain, an anklet with a heart. I turned the charm over in my hand. On one side was engraved the letters, “MM”.

When I went back downstairs, I looked for Larter to tell him I thought some kids had been upstairs again. I didn’t find him, so I pocketed the anklet and got back to work.

Now as I sit and write this, the anklet is here on the table before me. I think tomorrow if I get a chance, I’ll look in the church records and see if “MM” is a member. Then I can return the anklet and tell them politely not to be playing upstairs anymore unless there is a church activity going on.

The pastor’s words come back to me. “They should be playing in the playground.” And I wonder for just a minute, does “MM’ ever play there? But I’m too tired to think anymore. It’s been a long day.

Donna is in bed, sleeping peacefully. I should be in there with her instead of writing about mischievous kids and hidden playgrounds…

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Resurrection Diaries Entry 7: The Playground

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Entry 7: The Playground: Sunday July 17

The church lot was full this morning. It looks like attendance is good at Resurrection, so I guess if there were any bad things or scandals, it must not have been too awful. Yesterday’s warning from the waitress was probably just local superstition. We didn’t attend the services though. Instead, I fixed breakfast for Donna and I, a Sunday tradition in our marriage, and we had a quiet meal together.

 

Later on we decided to take a walk through the neighborhood. Just a little weekend leg exercise. The neighborhood seems pretty typical. Small ranch style houses, even smaller yards. I noticed here you could lean out your window and practically touch your neighbor’s house. Some houses had garages, others kiddie pools. I noticed children playing in the street as we walked. Girls playing hopscotch, boys street football. It was then I realized there was no playground here. Kids were playing in the street because they had nowhere else. So what had the pastor meant about the playground?

When Donna and I returned to the house, the dog was back again. He wasn’t on the porch this time though. He was just on the edge of the woods that lined our “backyard”. Our lot is bigger than most of the others in the neighborhood. It stretches far behind the house, ending in a line of trees that separates the church property from the next neighborhood over. The dog stood under these trees watching us.

“You think maybe we need to call the pound about our friend?”

“No, I think he’s harmless, hon,” Donna replied. “Probably belongs to someone around here.”

I looked at the dog. He wasn’t big, just an average size animal. A little bit taller than my knee and seemingly well fed. His coat was tan and a little mangy, as if he’d been crawling through brush and bramble.

“She says you’re okay,” I called out to him, before following my wife inside. But as I took a bottle of spring water from the refrigerator, something about the dog began to nag me.

“Honey, I’ll be back in a minute.” I went out the back door and there he was, still standing at the woods’ edge. He looked right at me, barked once, and then wandered into the woods. A little voice in my head said, ‘follow the dog.’

He went through the brush, and I followed, shoving vines and stickers out of my way as I went. We emerged onto an old trail that went in two directions. Each way disappeared around a bend. The dog went left and I was right behind him. The trail had grown over in places. I could tell nobody used this path much anymore, except maybe rabbits and dogs.

He kept a good pace. I picked mine up a little in an effort to catch up to him, but the faster I walked, the quicker he trotted ahead. He disappeared around a curve in the path and when I came around it, I noticed the trail had ended in a small clearing. But the dog was nowhere to be seen.

The clearing was dotted with clumps of bushes and brush. Vines and kudzu hung from trees, creating canopies in which you could almost hide. In the middle stood a gazebo, grown over with all this foliage. I stepped under it to get a closer look at its framework, but looking more closely, i discovered it wasn’t a gazebo at all. It was a jungle gym, what we as children called ‘monkey bars’.

I looked around the clearing. I approached what I had first thought was just a clump of bushes. It wasn’t. Closer inspection revealed it to be pieces of a swing set, discarded and left to be swallowed up by nature. And not far from it, the bare remains of a sandbox pit, now hidden by weeds. Suddenly it hit me. I’d found the playground.

I heard the dog’s bark behind me. I turned around and there he was, sitting on his haunches in front of something half hidden by a thick stand of trees. I walked over and the dog moved away, keeping its distance. He’d been sitting in front of an old sliding board. A covering of vines and leaves had protected most of its surface it seemed. The steps were rusted, but the slide itself still had a little shine left to it. I could see there were words etched in the metal, most likely carved by kids with pocketknives, rocks, or some other sharp instrument. “Billy Cobb is a loser,” read one. “Jason was here” declared another. At the bottom of the slide a scratched-in confession read “Tommy + Mischa” and I smiled at these mementos from someone else’s childhood.

For a moment, I stopped to wonder what their lives had been like. I imagined at one time this was a popular place to play. But it sure didn’t look like kids played here anymore. It had been abandoned for a long time, left here for the woods to swallow up and claim.

So, now I have to ask myself, why is it here like this, forgotten and unused?

I don’t know, but I aim to find out.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 6: Waitress Beatrice

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Entry 6: Waitress Beatrice: Saturday July 16

Donna and I went downtown today. Resurrection church is in a small neighborhood about a ten minute drive from the heart of Kingston Corners.

The downtown area itself is nice, almost like a picture postcard of small town life. It’s not exactly the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, but the people do behave friendly and familiar as if they’ve known you their whole lives.

In the shops, Donna bought a few things for the kitchen, as well as a picture frame to put a collage of photos in. “Now we’ll just have to take some pictures,” she laughed.

“We’ll have to get us a camera first,” I added with a smirk.

At the hardware store we picked up a light for our outside porch. There’s one there already, mounted right by the front door, but it gives off little light. This one should shine out in the yard. Donna spent about half an hour agonizing over which shade of baby blue she wanted for our back room. Finally she selected something called “angel blue”. I told her that sounded appropriate considering the wallpaper we were replacing.

“I could always paint it devil red if you prefer.”

“Angel blue is fine,” I grinned.

We ate at a nearby diner for lunch. A place called “The Counter”. It’s appropriately named for it’s really nothing more than a lunch counter and a few booths, but the food is excellent. The waitress asked us if we were new in town.

“Is it that obvious?” I asked. I went on to tell her I worked at The Church Of The Resurrection and asked her if she’d heard of the place. She nodded.

“Everyone’s heard of Resurrection Church,” she spoke a little softer.

“Why?” asked Donna. “Is it the only church in town?”

“Oh no, There’s several churches around.” She paused for a moment as if choosing her next words cautiously. “But you be careful up there.” Then she walked off leaving us confused and curious.

Before we left, I approached the waitress again. I looked at her name tag. “Excuse me Beatrice, what did you mean about being careful up there?”

She gave me a sideways glance, as if she was checking to see if we were being watched.

“Bad things have happened at The Resurrection,” she replied.

“What kind of things?”

“I can’t rightly say. There’s been so many stories over the years, I don’t know what’s true and what is talk. Just be careful, sir.”

No matter how I tried to coax her, she wouldn’t give me any details. All this unnerved Donna quite a bit and we discussed it on the way home. In the end, I convinced her not to worry.

“It’s just small town gossip, nothing more,” I reasoned.

“I hope so. I really want this to work for us.”

“It will.”

Still I wonder what the stories were Beatrice had mentioned. She had said to be careful. What could be so dangerous about a church?

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Origina text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 5: Reverend Chiles

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Entry 5: Reverend Chiles: Friday July 15

It’s been extremely busy today. I spent most of it trying to get all the floors clean before Sunday services. I’ve swept and mopped so much yesterday and today that I’m surprised my arms don’t fall off. I’m wondering how long it’s been since they had someone here to take care of the place.

I got to meet some of the other church elders. They are all quiet and reserved, not as outgoing as Larter. The pastor, a Rev. Chiles, is a little more talkative than the rest. He sprinkles “praise His name” frequently in conversations. He seems like a nice guy, but I can definitely hear the fire and brimstone in his voice. He has what my mother would call a “preacher’s voice”, both strong and with authority.

I mentioned to Larter and the Pastor about hearing kids running around upstairs yesterday. They gave me slightly curious looks.

“Well, we do have our doors open all day long to whomever wants to come in, praise His name,” replied Rev. Chiles. “But the children usually stay outside on the playground.”

Larter cast him a barely noticeable glance. “I don’t recall hearing or seeing any yesterday,” he added, “but it is possible. The Sunday School classes are up there. Who knows what youngsters will get into?”

I shrugged. “If I run across any kids up there in the future, should I get them to play outside then?”

The pastor nodded his head. “Yes. Children don’t need to be upstairs…except on Sundays, of course.”

Later, I looked for the playground that Pastor Chiles mentioned. I didn’t notice one on the church grounds the other day when I was taking a look around. I didn’t find it today either. Nothing. Not even one swing or sliding board. I walked around the entire church twice and didn’t see anything. Maybe the preacher was talking about a playground down the street at a park or something…

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“Resurrection Diaries” By Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 4: First Day Of Work

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Entry 4: First Day Of Work: Thursday July 14

My First day on the job. I went over to the church around 7 AM. Larter was already there and waiting. He must be an early riser. Started off sweeping floors. I can tell I am going to need to come up with a cleaning schedule as big as this place is. It seems I could sweep all day long and never finish. Good thing Larter gave me that map. You could get lost going to the bathroom around here.

People moved in and out of the church all day. Some came in to pray, others to meet with church elders. I thought children must have been playing upstairs, for I heard their footsteps running across the floor above me, but when I went to check, no one was there. I guess something like rowdy kids running around is to be expected when the church is open.

Despite that distraction, the church is pretty quiet. I ran the vacuum cleaner in the sanctuary, a vast auditorium where the main church services are held, and it seemed so loud, almost deafening. When I shut it off, I could nearly hear its echo.

I went home for lunch and noticed the dog from the other day was on the porch again. He was just standing there, silent, almost like a sentry on guard. “Shoo,” I said and waved my hand. He bounded off the porch and took off, running playfully across the parking lot, as if I’d just told him to go chase a cat or something. I shook my head and went inside. Donna was scrubbing the kitchen floor. I greeted her with a kiss and told her I chased off the mutt again.

“Maybe he’s got a crush on you,” I told her.

“I don’t need any dogs,” she replied. “I have my prince.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

I went back over to the church later and finished up the day cleaning the bathrooms. Larter came by and gave me a set of keys on a ring. They were all labeled: Front Door, Library, Kitchen, Side Entrances, Custodian Closet, Back Door, Cellar. I kind of wondered why they need a locked door to the cellar. Or why they even needed a cellar at all. I’ll have to ask Larter sometime or maybe just check it out myself.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 3: Meeting Larter

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Entry 3: Meeting Larter: Wednesday July 13

I woke up this morning to the smell of breakfast cooking. Donna had already unpacked all the kitchen boxes and was proceeding to turn the place into home.

“Our first meal in our new home,” she said, handing me a plate of bacon and eggs. I have to say it was very good.

The cottage is nice. It’s been well taken care of, though I can tell it has been around awhile. It has a porch out front, and I noticed some of the boards on the step could need some replacing. It’s a small place, yet big enough for us, with a bedroom, a bathroom, a combination kitchen/dining area, and another small room that may have been used as an office at one time. This room is in particular need of a new look, for it has been wallpapered with biblical scenes. I noticed quite a few depicting Jacob’s wrestling the angel. On closer inspection, we learned it’s not really wallpaper though. Its pages torn out of books, maybe illustrated bibles. It’s very disarming to walk into the room and be bombarded by all these erratically plastered images. I’m sure Donna will do wonders with it. She is very good with things with that. She’s already mentioned taking it all down and painting the walls baby blue.

After breakfast, I decided to walk around the church grounds and check it out. In the daylight the place looks quite massive for a small town church. Kingston Corners has a population of a couple thousand. It looks like they could house every one of them in here. The church’s architecture is not modern, but almost medieval in its design. Old gray brick, sharp edges and corners, I’m surprised there aren’t stone gargoyles on the roof. The place seems more suited for the Bavarian Alps than Virginia. If it weren’t for that towering steeple and cross, I’d say it reminds me of a German castle more than anything.

I could see the building has some wear and tear to its stonework, blocks cracked or missing, replaced by recently set cement. But whoever did the repairs got it to match closely. The surrounding yard is in a pretty sad state and is going to take some work to get back into shape. The invasion of crabgrass and kudzu seems to have consumed nearly everything in sight, including the church building itself. On one side of the church, the vines have begun to climb up the wall, and are nearly to the roof. Lots of outside work here, that’s for sure.

While I was checking the building out, Larter showed up. He’s a very likable fellow, not at all what I expected. With my dealings with him on the phone, I took him to be an “all business, no fun” kind of man. I was way off the mark, though. He’s a gentleman not much older than myself, with a big toothy smile and a firm handshake. Just the kind of person you would expect to be greeting you on a Sunday morning with a happy “God loves you.”

He took me inside the church and gave me the grand tour, explaining along the way my duties and things that need to be done eventually. Despite things he pointed out that are in disrepair or need cleaning, the place is nicely kept. We went through the entire church, bottom to top and back down again. The sheer size was almost overwhelming. No wonder they are paying me a nice salary to care for this place. It’s going to be a ten-hour a day job from the looks of it.

Finally, after the ‘tour’, we walked back over to the cottage and he handed me some papers that were basically a list of my duties and a crudely drawn map of the church and grounds.

“In case you get lost,” he chuckled.

I put the papers in my pocket. “When do I start?”

“We have prayer meeting tonight, so you can start tomorrow morning.”

Donna came outside to the edge of the porch. “Hi,” she said to my new boss.

“You must be Donna,” he replied, grasping her hand and shaking it firmly.

She smiled. “And you must be Mr. Larter.”

“Oh please. No need to be formal. ‘Big Dummy’ will do just fine,” he laughed. “I was just showing your husband all the work we have for him to do. I don’t think I’ve managed to scare him off just yet.”

“Well, he doesn’t get scared away easily, just look at me,” she joked.

He seemed not to hear her quip, instead his eyes were focused on something behind her, causing us to turn and look. It was a mongrel dog on the porch between her and the door. Its eyes were focused intently on Larter.

Donna stamped her foot on the porch. “Shoo!”

The mongrel took off and ran off into the woods behind the house. 

 “I don’t like those strays either, “ Larter said. “They get into everything. Well, I must be going.” He reached out, shook my hand again, and gave a quick nod to Donna. “We’ll look for you tomorrow, Paul. It was nice meeting you, Donna.”
“Likewise,” she replied with a genuine smile.

I helped Donna finish unpacking the last of the boxes. I fixed us some lemonade and we sat on the front porch to watch the sun set. It’s beautiful out here. Kingston Corners is surrounded by mountains, a small strip of valley that is yet untouched by the expansion of big city life. You can actually hear the birds singing, and the shadows of the clouds against the mountains give those hills a faded blue look. Compared to where we came from this place seems to appreciate a quieter way of life. I think this is going to be a really good thing for us.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 2: Arriving

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Entry 2: Arriving: Tuesday July 12

I got up early this morning. Will and I went to pick up the moving van. It took us an hour or two to load everything, but by 9 AM we were ready to go. Will had agreed to drive the truck for us. I’m not very good with a straight drive. I offered to pay him since he was laid off also, but he wouldn’t hear of it. It was decided he’d drive ahead of us and we would follow in our family wagon. Donna and I had spent all night packing. We only had about four hours sleep. At least she would be able to catch some z’s while I drove. Lucky thing…

We said some tearful goodbyes to Sadie and Jack. Or at least Donna did. In a way I am going to miss the company of her father, but Sadie is a whole other story. You know all those bad Mother-in-law jokes you hear? Well, in her case, they are all true and I could tell she hated to see her only daughter go.

“You better take care of her and not let one harm come to her head,” she commanded. I just nodded with a forced smile. She gave me one of those half-hugs that seem to say, ‘I don’t really like you, but I have to do this for my daughter’s sake.’

On the way out of town, we stopped at Matt & Susan’s. We couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to our best friends in the whole world. They are the only ones I truly hate to leave behind.

Susan said to Donna, “Keep in touch. And don’t wait until you’re pregnant to call us.” I rolled my eyes. Susan’s been trying to get us to start a family for some time. I keep telling her they have enough kids for all of us. Three children in four years. Talk about a busy couple…

Before we left, I told them they’d have to come visit after we got settled in. Matt gave me a big bear hug.

“You just call us, buddy. We’ll be there.” Knowing Matt, he’ll be true to his word, too.

The drive itself took the rest of the day and some of the night. It was dark by the time we arrived at the church. In the glare of our headlights, we made out a tall steeple upon which sat a cross rising into the night sky. The front of the building was almost entirely stained glass. Pulling into the lot and driving around to the side, we could just make out the true size of the building in the dark. It appeared to be two floors, but the gabled roof made it seem taller. It reminded me of the Catholic church in my hometown, St. Michael’s. That reminds me, I don’t even know what denomination this church is…Hell, they could even be devil worshippers, for all I know…Just kidding, of course.

We pulled our car around back, following Will’s truck, and there it was: our new home. The porch light was on. Just as Larter had said, the key was under the mat. I could tell Donna liked it.

“This is soooo cozy,” she exclaimed, followed by excited statements of being able to do so much with the place. I left her to her talking, as Will and I unloaded the truck. We just threw everything inside, not bothering to arrange anything just yet. It was too late in the evening for that and I was pretty bushed. We just wanted that truck unloaded as quick as possible.

Will left only a few minutes ago, right before I sat down to write this entry. He’s on his way home now. I’m going to miss him and the good times at work. As for Donna and I, we are in our own home at last. I think we’ll just curl up together and sleep on the floor tonight. We can worry about arranging and unpacking tomorrow. It’s been a long day.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.