Any errors are subsequent to Randi’s editing, all mistakes are proudly claimed by me. All characters and organisations named within this story are fictional and any similarity in names, etc., to real people or organisations are purely coincidental.
When Pastor Paul Reed finished his meeting with Brother David Douglas of the Gospel World Church at its headquarters, Paul felt good. After two weeks on the road visiting various churches that Paul Reed’s church was associated with, he was almost physically done and would be able to fly home the next day, after one more task.
Going home next day would be wonderful as he had not seen his wife for a little over two weeks. Of course, they’d communicated by facetime, phone and text message, but that obviously wasn’t the same as hugging and holding your own spouse and being physically with them and making love with them. He missed being able to physically connect with the love of his life. And he had faith that she felt the same way about him.
As he was taking his leave from Brother Douglas and his lovely wife, Dora, tall and craggy Brother Douglas had took his hand to shake it and stared into his eyes. “Paul, I want you to know that Dora and I really, really value you as a fellow follower of Christ. And furthermore, if you ever need any help or guidance, please know that we are here for you and the services of the Gospel World Church are always at your disposal.”
Paul was taken aback at that remark, but he accepted what was said with warmth and humility.
“Thank you, Brother Douglas, I’ll remember that.”
As Paul stepped into his Uber to head to the airport, Dora Douglas turned to her husband, a questioning look in her eyes. “What’s wrong? Why did you say that to Paul? Was it a prophetic thing that you did just now?”
He nodded and looked thoughtful. His face was craggy and worn by years of exposure to the sun and wind. “Yes, honey. A prophetic thing. I’m not sure why, or how, but I just know that boy will need our help. And real soon, too.”
As Paul paid the driver of the Uber at the airport his cell phone chimed twice, telling him he had a call.
“Hi, Pastor Paul, here,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“Hey, Paul! This is Brad Stoker here at the Central Church. I understand you are coming here today to meet with Pastor Whiteside?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Is there something wrong?”
“Kind of. I’m glad I managed to catch you, Paul. Pastor Whiteside is not going to be available for your meeting, as our church leader over in London, England, has had a car crash. He’s not seriously injured, but he’s not going to be able to perform his duties for a week or so, so Pastor Whiteside has had to take an urgent flight over to the UK to look after things, there.
“He’s asked me to pass on his apologies, but he feels sure you will understand. Of course, you’re welcome to fly over to visit with us, but you might have something else you can do, instead?”
“Thanks, Brad. That’s real good of you. Actually, I’ve been away from home for getting on for two weeks, visiting various churches we are affiliated with, and I’ll take this opportunity to get back home to see my beautiful wife a day early.”
They disconnected the call and Paul went to the desk of the airline on which he was flying. At first he was told there were no seats available on flights to his city, but when she saw the expression on his face (and noticed his lapel pin) the agent smiled at him and said to him, quietly, “Pastor, I have one Business Class seat available on a flight to your city, that leaves in two hours, so I’ll transfer your ticket to that flight and give you a complimentary upgrade.”
He thanked her, gave her a blessing (fairly low key, in case anyone might raise an objection, and get the agent in trouble) and two hours later after going through security he was on the flight home, luxuriating in the plush accommodation of Business Class travel. In fact, after catching up on some Bible reading on his somewhat elderly Kindle, he fell asleep. Not before leaving a voice mail message on his wife’s phone that he was on his way home and would be arriving home at least a day early.
It was another Uber ride from the airport to their home. Their home was within a sort of compound which consisted of the home of Paul and his wife, Sally, the slightly larger adjacent house of his fellow Pastor, Bob Harris and his wife, Kathy.
The church that they both preached in was about half a mile away over lawns that were used for church picnics and big outdoor preaching sessions, though they hadn’t had many of them of late. That was something more common in the era of their parents who had founded the church and built the houses and the church some fifty years previously. They had an excellent congregation and operated a variety of outreach projects within the small city where they were located.
He opened the door of the house, closed it quietly, left his luggage by the side of the door, stepped to the right and on opening the door to the living room, he found himself suddenly watching his best friend and fellow Pastor, Bob Harris, having carnal knowledge of his wife, Sally, over the back of their sofa.
He shouted: “What are you doing?” He rushed forward, he noticed that Sally gave a yelp of pain as Bob’s member was suddenly removed from her anus.
He had no idea what he should do, remonstrate with his former friend or physically assault him?
He had, however, in his distress, forgotten about Bob’s prowess as an exponent of the ancient Japanese martial art of judo. He’d been a member of the USA Olympic team when he had been a theology student.
Suddenly Paul found himself in a chokehold. He could not breathe and he sensed that his blood supply to his brain was also being cut off. He felt his consciousness fading away. There was a roaring noise in his ears, his vision became blurred and he stopped being. He simply stopped being.
When he regained awareness, he found himself lying on the sofa. Someone had removed his shoes. His jacket, he noticed, was hanging on the back of a chair and his tie and shirt collar had been loosened.
He felt dizzy, he had a headache and his throat felt sore.
“I am sorry you had to see that, Paul,” his wife spoke. There was what sounded like genuine sympathy in her voice. But there was something else, too. Something patronising, perhaps? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant.
“Yes. We wouldn’t have wanted to hurt you like that for the world” said his former friend, Pastor Bob, insincerely.
Sally added: “We wanted to tell you about what was happening tomorrow or the day after, but your early arrival has foreshortened our timetable.”
“What timetable?” asked Paul, mystified.
He sat up, even though it made his head swim.
“Paul,” said Sally in tones that dripped arrogance and condescension, “the situation is that I deserve more than to be just the wife of a mere pastor like you. I am now the wife of the Prophet Bob.”
Paul said: “What on earth? Bob’s a prophet? And have you forgotten that Bob is already married to Kathy? What’s Kathy going to say about this ‘situation’, as you put it?”
Then he heard another voice, the voice of Bob’s wife, Kathy, as she walked into the room from the kitchen. “Oh, Paul, you don’t need to worry about what I think. I already know. I’ve known for a couple of months.” She sounded resigned to the situation.
She approached Paul and gave him a drink from a glass of water. “To be honest, when they approached me and told me that Bob was a prophet of God, and as such, was to be blessed with having more wives than other men were allowed to have, I wasn’t keen on the idea, but when they explained it to me I knew that it was going to be all right and that it was the will of God.”
Paul was having problems getting his head round these new concepts. He was also having some difficulty speaking as his throat was hurting. “So, when do I get served with the divorce papers, Bob?”
“Oh! There’ll be no divorce for you, Paul. At least not in the physical realm! There has already been a Spiritual Realm divorce. According to the Empyrean laws you and Sally are no longer man and wife. She is now my second wife.”
Paul wiped his hands over his face. “But that means Sally and I can never make love again?”
Sally looked at him. She continued to speak to him in tones that could only be described as arrogant and condescending: “Why, of course not, Paul! That would be adultery and we cannot have that kind of thing going on!”
“But we planned to have children, you and I?”
“I know we did, honey. But when I do have children they will be fathered by a prophet and not a mere pastor.”
Paul noticed that the expression on Kathy’s face was not altogether approving of what Sally had just said, but she was apparently keeping her own counsel, at least for the moment.
“So, if I want children, I’ll have to find another wife? Is that what you’re saying to me? What you’re trying to tell me?”
Bob shook his head. “No, Paul, sorry, that is not ordained of you by God at this moment in time. You cannot have a physical divorce because the Empyrean marriage that I have with my two wives is too sacred to be revealed to mere human eyes. Therefore I am sorry, but you cannot take another wife.”
At that point he gave a nod to Sally and they, hand in hand, departed from the room. Over her shoulder Sally said: “We’re going to continue what your early arrival brought a stop to. But in order not to rub it in, we will go over to the Prophet’s house and continue it there.”
This left Kathy and Paul in the room.
“Paul, I know that this is not what you agreed to when you got married. H-e-double hockey sticks, it’s not what I agreed to, either. But it’s the will of God and we can’t go against the will of God, can we?” said Kathy. There was something in her tone of voice that Paul realised had been lacking from his own wife’s voice. Empathy. This was just so wrong!
Paul slumped back against the sofa. “But what about me? What’s to become of me? It’s fine for you and Sally and Bob, you have each other to love, but I have nobody to love me. Nobody at all. Nobody to care about me, nobody to cuddle with, nobody to make love with. I have nothing. I went from being a happily married man to ... a nothing! A cypher!”
“Oh, Paul! That’s not true! I still love you as a brother. We all still love you, but as a brother. Look, I know this is hard for you to understand and it must have been very upsetting when you found them together like that, but we do love you. And God loves you, too. You know that, don’t you?”
“This has changed my relationship with God,” he said, his voice still rasping a little.
“Oh, no! Please don’t tell me that this has cost you your faith! Don’t you believe in God anymore?”
“Yes, I still believe in God. It’s just that now I somehow can’t quite grasp the concept that God believes in me, any longer. After all, why did he take my wife and my future family away from me, if that’s the case?
“I think that he must be punishing me for something very bad that I did. But I can’t think what it was.”
He began weeping, with his head buried in his hands. Kathy was conflicted. She knew her husband and her best friend were now enjoying making love next door in her house, though it wasn’t exclusively her house any more, and that her friend Paul was undergoing terrible agonies and a crisis of faith that were none of his fault and not of his making.
She suddenly decided to sit beside him and cuddle him to her to try to give him whatever limited comfort she could. It was little enough and barely sufficient, but it was the best she could do under the circumstances.
When he had stopped sobbing she asked him why his voice was sounding so scratchy. When he told her about it being the result of Bob’s chokehold she was mortified. “Oh, Paul! I’m so sorry! You caught him having ... making love, with Sally and he ... attacked you? That’s wrong! I am going to have words with him about that!” Paul shrugged. Her remark had meant very little to him, to be honest. She’d have words with her husband for throttling him? “Thanks, whatever”, went through his mind.
She encouraged Paul to go to bed and she gave him a sleeping tablet to take. “It’s okay. It’s what the Doctor prescribed me when I first found out about Bob being a prophet. I had problems sleeping for a while. I brought them with me. I figured you might need their help, like I did.”
Paul thanked her, let her out of the house and locked up. Sally had her own key and if she didn’t? What of it? She’d be able to stay with her new husband, he thought bitterly.
He swallowed the tablet and retired to bed. He soon fell asleep as the tablet did its job.
When he awoke the next morning he felt weird, but his throat was no longer in pain. He went through his morning routine and walked down into the kitchen. He noticed on the whiteboard an instruction in large, bold lettering: “Your turn to preach today. The theme is forgiveness.”
Strange. He hadn’t realized that it was Sunday. He must have lost a couple of days, somehow.
He looked at the wall clock. It was late, the church service would commence at 10.30AM.
Fortunately the church was close by. He wondered where his former wife and her two ‘companions’ were. He was alone in the house. He didn’t like to think about what that meant.
When he arrived at the church he walked in and noticed that every pew was full and that everyone was staring at him. Almost as if they knew what had happened to him. He didn’t recognise any of them.
He gave two prayers, a silent one, for himself, and then a vocal one to commence the service.
“Welcome to this service of the Midvale Church of God. The theme of my sermon this morning is forgiveness. If you’ll all please turn to Psalm 103:10-12 in either your Bible, your tablet, your e-reader or your Smartphone, please read silently along with me. I...”
He paused, because for the first time in his life as a Pastor, he realised that he didn’t have the attention of his congregation. They were looking one to the other and whispering, but soon the whispering became louder and angrier, but he couldn’t quite make out the words of what they were saying. It became like the buzzing of a hive of enraged bees.
Eventually a man who he didn’t recognise who was in the front row stood up and pointed behind Paul: “Look. Just look behind you, man. See what they are doing to you, behind your back?”
Paul’s head whipped round and he saw that, unnoticed by him, Bob, Kathy and Sally had sneaked in behind him and were sitting on the chairs behind him on the stage. They were not doing anything in particular that was outrageous but it was obvious they were together and in the Biblical sense of the word, too.
Paul sank to his knees behind the podium and let an anguished howl escape from his mouth.