Angel Falling Softly

Chapter 9

Every rose has its thorn

Rachel could still remember when they slept in on Sunday mornings.

Once upon a time, even with church running on the early schedule, they didn’t have to get up until seven or eight o’clock. There were so many things a person could do with an extra hour or two of sleep—other than sleep. She was sure she’d conceived Jennifer on a Sunday morning. Maybe if she convinced President Forbush that she became fertile only on Sunday mornings, he’d give her husband an early release, put him in charge of the nursery or something.

She lay in bed waiting for the alarm to go off. Other than daylight saving time, they hadn’t reset the alarm clock in two years. But even this was a big improvement. When David was first counselor in the bishopric, Bishop Ackerlind insisted on holding bishopric meeting at six A.M. in the bloody morning. Good man, Bishop Ackerlind, but he liked meetings too much.

When David became bishop, she’d laid down the law. Short of the Second Coming, he wasn’t leaving the house before six-forty-five. So he moved bishopric meeting to seven, cut it in half, and hacked Priesthood Executive Committee meeting down to thirty minutes as well.

The ward had survived.

The clock radio clicked on. The radio was tuned to KUER, the University of Utah station. Sunday morning they played gospel music from six till nine. Not music she’d ever hear in a Mormon sacrament meeting, but she liked it. It got the blood moving in her veins.

“Yolanda Adams and the Union Temple Concert Choir,” the disk jockey intoned in his low, rumbling voice, “singing the Lewis E. Jones hymn, There is Power in the Blood.

The music started in a slow blues rhythm, the piano leading off, Hammond organ filling in between the chords. Rachel found the tune more familiar than the lyrics. Yolanda Adams began in solo:

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

The choir came in on the second stanza, repeating the last three lines in counterpoint:

There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Yolanda sang in recitative shout and response, “You’ve got to make yourself free from your passion and pride. There’s power in the blood, power in the blood!” The chorus belted out in the background:

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

David climbed out of bed, stretched and yawned, and shuffled into the bathroom. Rachel put on her bathrobe and headed down to the kitchen. She got bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator, the frying pan out from under the stove. Except that today was Fast Sunday. She sighed, put the food back in the fridge, and stowed away the frying pan. She found a mug in the cupboard, ran the water hot at the sink, and added a teabag, herbal orange. There were limits to how far she could take this fasting business, and dehydration was right out.

To be honest, she’d never found much spiritual value in fasting, at least not in the warm-fuzzies department. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe it worked for other people—she was willing to give any faith-promoting rumor the benefit of the doubt. And it wasn’t like she hadn’t given it her best shot. The first time the doctor had used the words cancer and Jennifer in the same sentence, she’d fasted every week until the bishop told her to cut it out.

“I’m doing it for Jennifer,” she’d insisted.

“You’re not exactly being spiritual about it.” He meant she was getting to be a real pain to be around. He was right. Low blood sugar made her grouchy and gave her migraines. Besides, she knew perfectly well what she was doing. If she couldn’t control the world, she’d settle for controlling herself. But God certainly knew the difference between faith and an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Herbal tea, she rationalized, didn’t have any calories.

The bishop walked into the kitchen wearing a white shirt and tie, black pinstriped suit coat, and matching slacks. He hardly ever wore a suit to work, and once a week he really looked fine in one, the junior exec with the power marriage. Well, they could pretend.

“Hi, handsome,” she said.

He kissed her. “You taste nice.”

“It’s the orange.” She put the mug down on the counter and straightened his tie. “By the way, Norma and DeMar are up in Pocatello today. Grandchild number three. So I’ll see you at PEC.”

Since there was no breakfast to prepare, she held onto him a while longer. But they had their morning ritual to attend to. David fetched the scriptures from the hutch. They sat down at the kitchen table. Alternately, one read aloud from the New International Version while the other followed along in the official King James.

It was a practice her husband had first observed when they visited her parents after getting engaged. He confessed to her later, “When I saw your mom reading out of that NIV Scofield Study Bible, making lengthy references to Dummelow, I thought I was marrying into one of those families of Mormon radicals. Next thing, you’d be trying to convince me that women ought to get the priesthood.”

“That’s sweet,” Rachel replied. “Wait till you meet my brother Carl.”

After meeting Carl once, David had done his level best to avoid ever meeting him again.

They were presently working their way through Isaiah, dense going no matter what the translation. David glanced at the clock. “I’d better get going.” He got up from the table, leaned over, and kissed her forehead. “See you at church.”

He picked up his briefcase and left. Rachel replaced the bookmarks and then flipped back through the pages to Job. She had developed an affinity for the last ten chapters of Job, even more so in the King James Version. Perhaps that was because the poetry of the language pretty much disguised the fact that for all the grief they give Job, Elihu and God don’t come up with much of a philosophy of suffering. She always imagined Robert De Niro as God, saying to Job at the beginning of chapter 38, “You talking to me, Job? Huh? Are you talking to me?”

Basically, God’s philosophy was: “I’m God. You’re not. Trust me on this.”

Nevertheless Job was somehow reassuring. No reasons, no answers, no profound philosophies of life. But Job gets his reward anyway. As if Job had his lawyers sue God and they settled out of court, big time. New house, new family, a whole bunch of sheep and camels to boot. Hey, sorry for the trouble. The moral of the story: complain hard and long enough and maybe the check won’t bounce.

She closed the book and put the bibles back on the shelf.

The bishop glanced at his itinerary, tugged at his necktie. With nine people stuffed into his office—his two counselors, the elders quorum president, high priest group leader, Young Men president, the ward clerk and executive secretary, and his wife representing the Relief Society—it was getting stuffy. Stuffy meant it was time to get it over and done with.

“Brent, you still need the Scout fundraiser totals, right?” Brent Millington was the Young Men president. “Catch Glen after church before we start tithing so he can print it out for you. And make sure he deposited the fundraiser checks against the Young Men account. He’s still learning the ropes.” He paused, shuffled his papers, and said, “All right, anything else?”

“Fast offerings,” said Bill Garner, the second counselor.

“Right.” Back to Brent: “Can you cover half the routes before church?”

“I’ll round ’em up.”

Brother Ellis, the elders quorum president, said, “I heard someone moved into the Lindstroms’ place.”

Brother Garner said, “Sister Gunderson’s been trying to rent it out for a couple of weeks now.”

The bishop’s wife said, “LaDawn told me she has a new tenant.”

Everybody turned. Other than to explain Norma’s absence, Rachel hadn’t spoken up till now. A good Relief Society president knew more about what was going on in the ward than anybody else, including the bishop. But Norma was out of town, and so was Mary. And so here she was filling in.

“It’s a single woman. LaDawn didn’t think she was a member. That’s just her impression, though.”

“We’ll have to make sure someone stops by and says hello.”

Brother Clark said to Brother Ellis, “Hey, Troy, hear that? She’s single.

The bishop said to his wife, “Did Sister Gunderson say how old she was?”

“Mid-twenties.” No need to add attractive.

Troy said, “Okay, okay, you talked me into it.”

Rachel didn’t think Troy Ellis was the best person to head the welcoming committee. The bishop didn’t either. “Hold your horses, Troy. We’ll let the Relief Society handle this one.”

After the prayer everyone but the bishop’s wife filed out. The bishop kicked a jam under the door to let in some fresh air. Rachel said, “You’re going to be through at three, right?”

The bishop barked, “Todd!”

The executive secretary stepped back into the room. He opened his three-ring binder and shook his head. “Nothing three to six. Interviews at six-thirty, seven, seven-thirty.”

“There you go.”

The same routine every Sunday. Odds were fifty-fifty he’d be home on time.

The shower was running when she got home. Laura was up. Good. What else? Make a few calls, make sure Amy Lewis had the Relief Society lesson ready—

The doorbell rang.

She opened the door. Gary Reed and Kyle Matheson stood there in their Sunday best. Kyle was Laura’s age, Gary a year older. Kyle said, “Hi, Sister Forsythe.” Gary handed her a fast offering envelope.

She looked at the envelope. Across the flap she’d written the month before, Pay with tithing. Glen, the ward finance clerk, was supposed to pull all the pay-with-tithing envelopes, but he was still learning the ropes. She said, “How about I keep this, okay? I’ll give it to the bishop.”

“Okay,” said Kyle.

Rachel closed the door and tossed the envelope on the coffee table and went back to the kitchen. She put on an apron and got the roast out of the fridge.

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