He had a real gift for basketball, but priesthood called him. Cleansed by Fire. Chapter 2 – 3
March 14, 2013
A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire
Chapter 2 – 3
Frank loved the game, had since grade school. He’d led the Jesuit Prep team in both scoring and assists his senior year. A basketball scholarship had taken him to the University of Texas at Arlington, and by his second season, he had earned a starting position as point guard.
The summer following his sophomore year he felt an irresistible call to the priesthood. After many long conversations with Monsignor Decker, a chaplain on campus, Frank entered Holy Trinity Seminary located on the University of Dallas campus. He had never regretted that move but he did miss competitive basketball.
Father Frank reached the parish’s seven-year-old, maroon Taurus with its crumpled right-rear fender, courtesy of a telephone pole that was surely in the wrong place. He patted the fender.
“You have to wait. If we get a good collection Sunday, the parish might spring for new tires. These are as bald as my dad’s head.
Georgia watched Phyllis Traynor get out of her car and try to lock it when all the materials she tried to balance slipped from her arms and scattered over the drive. She groaned as she bent to pick them up, and Georgia guessed it was out of frustration.
“Here, let me help you with those. Looks like you’ve got your hands full.”
Georgia Peitz stooped and began to scoop up song booklets, paper cups, and napkins, while Phyllis pushed several large bottles of soda back into a plastic bag.
“Thanks, Georgia. I guess I shouldn’t try to carry everything at once.”
“I do the same thing all the time.” She straightened up. “I’ll carry some of this stuff.”
Inside the parish hall, Phyllis put the bag of drinks on a table. “I really do appreciate it. The kids will be here any minute and I still need to arrange the room.”
“Would you like some help?”
Phyllis sighed. “Thank you. I accept. I hardly know where to start.”
“If you’d like, I’ll set up the snack table and get the drinks ready, while you handle the booklets and chairs. Is that what you had in mind?”
Without waiting for an answer, Georgia began to arrange drinks on the table.
“Sounds good to me,” said Phyllis and she began lining up the chairs in two rows, while putting a song booklet on each.
A few minutes later, the kids began arriving, and by ten after seven, eighteen girls and four boys milled around the room.
“Should you get started?” Georgia whispered to Phyllis. “The natives are getting restless.”
“I guess so.” Phyllis glanced at the door. “Usually, I wait ’til Roger gets here but he’s late tonight.”
“Start them on something. You want them to know it starts on time, so they’ll plan to be here on time.”
Phyllis called the group to order and asked them to sing, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, from page nine in the song booklet. In the middle of the song, Roger walked in, surveyed the room, and joined Georgia at the snack table.
At the end, Phyllis looked over and waved to her husband. He acknowledged her, and then said to the kids,
“How many of you guys know Yakety Yak?”
Some hands went up, and other kids called out, “Right on,” “Yeah,” “All right,” and “Great song.”
Phyllis wrinkled her forehead. “Uh, I don’t know it.”
One of the girls in the front row said, “We do. Just give us a start cue.”
Phyllis shrugged and said, “One, two, three.”
The kids started a little hesitantly but by the second verse, they were into it with full teenage enthusiasm.
“Just finish cleaning up your room.
Let’s see that dust fly with that broom.
Get all that garbage out of sight,
Or you don’t go out Friday night.
Yakety, yak (don’t talk back).
Yakety yak. Yakety yak.”
When they finished, spontaneous cheers rang out, hands stabbed the air, there were high-fives, and every face sported a huge grin.
“How ’bout Wake Me Up When September Ends,” one of the boys said.
Phyllis turned and looked at Georgia and Roger. Uncertainty painted her face.
Roger stood. “How about a good, rousing version of Holy God We Praise Thy Name first, and then we can do Wake Me Up When September Ends. How’s that sound?”
“That’s page four in your booklets,” Phyllis said.
At the conclusion of the hymn, Roger stood again. “Before we go on to Wake Me Up When September Ends, how about we try Holy God again, and this time, we add a little harmonizing. We’ll do something simple, like, the guys can take the bass line.”
“We don’t know how to do that stuff,” one of the boys called out.
“Okay,” said Roger. “Let me plunk this out on the piano, so you can hear the harmony line.” He went to the old upright piano. “First, here’s the melody.” He tapped a few keys. “Now, this is what the bass will sound like.”
Again he laid his hands on the keyboard and played a few notes.
“Hear that? Let me play it one more time. Listen closely.” After a few notes, Roger asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“I don’t know,” said one of the boys.
“Tell you what. I’ll stand in the middle of you guys so you can follow me. How’s that sound?”
“I don’t know,” said the same boy.
“We won’t know until we try. Let’s give it a whirl.”
With that, Roger moved over, stood with the boys, and nodded to his wife.
After the song, Roger asked, “What do you think, guys?”
“We weren’t too bad,” a boy with a blond ponytail said.
A petite brunette, with her own ponytail, turned toward the back row where the boys stood.
“You were bad, and I don’t mean good bad.”
“Oh yeah? Think you could do any better?”
“I don’t think. I know.”
Chapters of the serial are published on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday.
You can learn more about Cleansed by Fire and other James H. Callan novels on his Amazon Author Page.