Who knew, on Sunday morning as the Baptists sang “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” the events about to unfold before their eyes would be anything but gentle.
Most of the news concerning Marvin Walsh was second-hand. With only 15 folks present at the Lutheran contemporary service, eye witnesses weren’t easy to come by. Truth be told, even most of those present still weren’t sure what had transpired.
There was even more confusion about Juliette Stoughton’s outburst at First Baptist Church. While Jessie warmed up Sarah Hyden-Smith’s coffee, she shared what she overheard a few minutes earlier at another table.
“I heard Vera telling Rita Tate that she was sitting in the second row, right in front of Billy Joe, when the whole thing took place.”
Sarah was on the edge of her seat as she asked, “Well, what did she say happened?”
“Vera,” Jessie shared hurriedly with the morning rush in full swing, “said she could clearly hear Billy Joe say, ‘Sister, what can I do for you?’”
“And what did Juliette say?” asked Sarah, softly so others wouldn’t hear.
Jessie was quick with a response. “Apparently that’s when the music stopped, but Juliette didn’t notice in time. Vera said she was almost shouting to be heard over the organ.”
Jessie started to walk away. The Hoffbrau was packed for the morning rush, and customers were waiting.
“Wait,” Sarah said. “What happened after Juliette shouted?”
Jessie leaned in as she told Sarah the last of what she knew. “Vera said Billy Joe stood there for a few seconds, almost in shock, before saying, ‘Let us pray.’ Apparently, while most of the heads were bowed, church deacons rushed down the aisles in record time, surrounding both Billy Joe and Juliette. The choir quickly started singing ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow,’ and Billy Joe, Juliette and the deacons scurried out through the choir exit.”
It seemed almost like election season as most of The Valley tuned in to 880 AM to listen to “Renderings with Raymond” at noon. It seemed as if the whole Valley was buzzing about what had happened the day before and what Cooper would have to say about the events, especially since he was present at the Lutheran church when Marvin had his encounter with the Devil.
Even Iris tuned in. It was like passing by a car wreck. Everyone looks, even though they really don’t want to see it. As the Monday installment of Raymond’s show began, the song “It’s a Miracle” by Barry Manilow, streamed over the airwaves.
Raymond welcomed everyone to his show and bypassed most of his usual banter to allow more time for his special guest to answer calls from listeners. No one could remember Cooper ever giving up time for someone else to speak. Listeners knew there must have been something extraordinary about to happen.
“We have a very special guest with us today,” Raymond began. “It’s been reported that Marvin Walsh stood toe to toe with the Devil at the Lutheran church yesterday and lived to tell about it, and we’re hoping that’s just what he does today.Let’s open the phone lines.”
The first caller began to speak, “This is Essie Kennemer. I have a question for Marvin.”
“What’s your question?” Raymond asked.
“Marvin, what did the Devil look like? Does he really have horns and a pitchfork?”
“You know,” Marvin answered deliberately, choosing his words carefully, “he doesn’t look anything like that.”
“Well, what does he look like, Marvin?” Essie pressed.
“The truth,” Marvin responded, “is that he looks a lot like Perry Como,” referring to the popular singer from the 1950s. “He was a dead ringer for Perry.”
After that, the phone never stopped ringing. It was one question about the Devil after another.
“Did he try to make a deal with you? Did he smile like Perry? Did he sing that song, ‘Temptation,’ that Perry used to sing?”
Raymond was eating it up. Others were not as quick to promote Marvin to sainthood.
While Brother Jacob sat in his office, shaking his head and listening to the show, Frank Bell, town barber, laughed out loud as he and Sarah listened together.
Iris, sitting in her office at the newspaper, simply shook her head and muttered, “Good Lord. He’s done it again.”
“Lennox Valley: The Book” will arrive in bookstores everywhere June 1. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at email@example.com. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.