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Resignation, Part 29

This is  a work of fiction.  You can find the other chapters  here at my Fiction page.

Bill Johnson pulled into the parking space.  He stared down at the steering wheel for a moment, searching for the words that he would shortly say.  “It should be easy”, he thought as he wondered what he had been thinking for too long.  Doing the right thing, though, was not always the easiest thing.

He got out to of the truck and walked into Grace’s.  The aroma of a multitude of country breakfasts greeted him.  He saw lots of familiar faces as he searched for one in particular.  He wondered how many of them would be walking through some doors to see him in the coming months.  He had tried his best to not think about it, but it was  looming there, hanging over him like a black cloud.  He wanted to make things right with as many people as he could, many who he had hurt or had run-ins with in the past.

Bill spotted Tom Jennings sitting at a corner table sipping coffee.  He began to make his way back there.  He had seen a few fellow church members as he had scanned the room.  He could feel many of their eyes on him as he walked past them.  He wasn’t sure if they really were staring holes into his back or if he was just imagining it.  Just a few short days ago he wouldn’t have cared.  Now it was a different story.  Maybe their opinion of him would change Sunday after the team gave their report.  Included in that report would be the news that Bill delivered, news that he hoped would help heal the church and help it go forward.

Bill reached the table and pulled the chair out.  He sat down and greeted Tom.  A knot formed in his stomach as he thought about the conversations the two of them had been having and the plans they had made.  He was ashamed of himself and wished he could relive those days.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The only thing he could do was to try to stop things where they wer.

“Morning, Bill”, Tom said.  He had a folder sitting beside him.  He was grinning like a possum.  Bill could only guess what was in the folder, but he knew that whatever it was, it was his fault.  Tom was doing the work that Bill had directed him to do.  That meant that whatever it was, it was no good.

“Morning Tom.”

A waitress made her way over to take their order.  Bill ordered some eggs and bacon.  His appetite hadn’t been what it normally was.  He didn’t know if that was the result of the news or of the shame he felt.  Either way, he wasn’t eating much as of late.  Tom ordered Grace’s biggest breakfast available.  He was always a big eater and in some ways it was almost poetic to watch Tom eat.  He entered all of the local eating contests and few people could match him.  Kobayashi was his hero and he dreamed of making it to the National Hot Dog Eating championship on Coney Island.  What really amazed people was the fact that Tom was so thin.  They weren’t sure where or how he packed the food away.

“Bill, I’ve got some pictures I want to so you.”  Tom glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention to them.  He opened the folder and placed it in front of Bill.

Bill looked at the pictures and it was as he had feared.  Tom was good at following orders and he had done his best at digging something up on Tom Davis.  They had felt that he was the best target to start with.  They had wanted to find something to try to force him off of the team.  Bill could tell that Tom was proud of himself.  He would have felt just as smug a week or so before.

Bill closed the folder and looked at Tom.  He felt a sort of pity for him.  He thought about how this man would do whatever he said.  He had never really thought about the power and influence he had over some in the church.  It was almost frightening and shameful.

“What do we do next, Bill?  Do we go to him and force him to resign?  She’s been staying at his place for about a week.  We can’t have our deacons living in sin like that, can we?”  Tom was almost grinning as he said that, a gleeful look that comes with victory.

“We aren’t going to do anything, Tom.”  Bill looked straight at Tom and said this as seriously as he could.  “I want you to burn those pictures.  That is Tom Davis and his sister.  Then we’re calling this entire plan off.  We need to support the search team and try to get the church unified and back on track.”  Bill immediately felt better, the sense of dread departing with each syllable.

Tom sat there looking at Bill with a stunned look on his face.  They had been working together for many month, first in running Donald off and now in trying to control the search process.  He wasn’t sure what he was hearing.

“But Bill, why?  What are you talking about?”

“Tom, it’s this simple.  I have a tumor.  The doctors don’t think I have a year to live.  I don’t have time to do this.  In fact, I have a new perspective and realize how wrong I’ve been.  It’s time to make things right.  In fact, you ought to confess to Tom Davis that you took these pictures and make it right with him.  I’ve already worked things out with the search team.  I’m going to try to do the same with the church on Sunday.”

Tom sat there staring between the folder and Bill .  He finally spoke up.

“So what you’re saying is that because you are sick and may die, you want everyone to think well of you when it happens.  You don’t care about whether we had a pastor who wasn’t doing his job.  You want to leave finding a new pastor to these folks that you’ve said don’t have a clue.  You don’t want to leave things better.  You just care about how people will remember you.  You don’ t care about those of us who placed their faith in you.”

Bill sat there stunned.  He supposed he deserved this.  It was the attitude that he had held and taught too many people in the church already.

“It’s not that.  I’ve been praying and searching the Bible for the past few days.  I realize how wrong we have gone about things.  Do I want to make things right?  Sure.  I want to right the wrongs I have committed.  I don’t care about my reputation.  It will be what it is.  I just don’t want to go out on a negative note.  And that’s where we’re headed.”

Tom reached into his wallet and pulled out some money.  He placed it down on his ticket and began his departure.

“You go ahead and do what you’ve got planned, Bill.  If you don’t have the stomach to see this through, then play nice with the people you were laughing at just a little while ago.  There are enough of us to carry on our plans.  Just stay out of our way.”

Tom Jennings stood up and walked out the door.  Bill just stared down at his plate with tears flowing down his face.  It was the first time he remembered crying in years.

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