The Last Pea Shooter

by Linda W. Curtis

The organist thought he’d been stung by a bee when it hit. Whap! Right on the cheek. But nothing amiss and his attention went back to catching his cue to play. It was forgotten until the next week, when whap! Right below his glasses. Only this time, he saw what it was, a little gray-green hard pea that bounced off his face and onto his sheet music holder. He picked it up in his fingers and looked out to the congregation, all in rapt attention to the message of the week. No facial giveaways.

He said nothing, but the following week, when the reverend opened his mouth for “Hal” of “Hallelujah” the poor man choked, coughed, and then croaked something into a tissue. The organist immediately knew what had happened and scrutinized the congregation for a child or teenager who would engage in such a prank. He saw nothing.

It was time to do something, but what? Churches did not have surveillance cameras, but they did have the 21 pairs of eyes in the choir. Even better! The choir usually sat in the front rows and walked onto the platform to sing before sitting back down. But If they faced forward to the congregation, they might see the motion of the hand to the mouth, or whatever projected the pea. It was a plan. It was time to talk to the reverend.

The reverend was aghast, and thought the organist had gone overboard mentally, but then remembered  when he opened his handkerchief, there sat the little green pea. “Who would do such a thing?” he asked. The organist who had taken college Psychology 101 said, “Someone seeking negative attention. If feeling lost and lonely, even negative attention or the chance of it is better than nothing.” The reverend understood.

The next week, the choir had been clued in and sat in chairs facing the congregation. Two new hidden cameras took images of the congregation on the right and left sides. What to look for? No one knew, except that if the organist or reverend cleared their throat loudly, they were to watch for immediate facial expression that would quickly fade to blankness.

Two singers saw it, a small corner of the mouth smirk, then nothing. They could hardly wait to confirm it on the two cameras after the service. Expression confirmed, this was truly forensic religion. As for for the identity? The organist couldn’t believe it. It was not a church member, thank goodness, but a bachelor who lived in the assisted living apartments downtown. No one knew him well, so they decided each one would chat him up, unsuspiciously, the following week and try to understand his prankster behavior.

The organist was not as kindly in his thought and had planned to fight fire with fire. He was ready the next week, unaware of the choir’s interest in the man. He had his own shorty pea shooter and was hopeful he could shoot the perpetrator before he or the reverend were whapped again. It was simple, he would sneeze with the loaded shooter in his handkerchief, hopefully in a moment of distraction.

There it was, the next service, the distraction perfect, the pea shot perfect, the eyes popped on the bachelors head as the pea imbedded in his forehead. That’s when he knew, and his eyes rose and their eyes met. Gotcha. This time, the organist made a slight smirk, then quickly his face went blank and he looked away.

After the service the bachelor hoped to make a fast retreat but the choirs’ strategy was to detain him and profile him before he could leave. The amazing skill of the choir director had him volunteering to work on the hymn selection with several others and before long convinced him he was needed in the choir. They had already collectively discussed how to fit him in and decided he should be placed between the choir’s retired school teacher and garage mechanic, just in case. With encouragement, the prankster found his voice, long lost in the aloneness of his life, and he contributed new notes of “diddly-doo” and “rah-ta-dah” in choice places. The congregation seemed to enjoy his antics, now confined to the choir, and it fed his spirit.

Linda Curtis Dec 1, 2014

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