Sometimes, in stories, there’s a haven. It can be physical, like Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s house in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Hannah’s cottage in The Witch of Blackbird Cove. Or it can be emotional, like Fezziwig’s ball in A Christmas Carol. A friend and I were reminiscing not long ago about our graduate student years. “Your apartment was so great,” he said. “It was such a pad.” A pad, for any non-decrepit person who stops by this blog, was a slang term, in the 1960s and hanging on into the 1980s, for an apartment of some character where friends would congregate. I love that I once had a pad.

The Lutheran church I grew up in had a big downstairs room where the Sunday school classes met. You know that room: one big open space that can be divided with partitions that slide in tracks across the floor. Maybe there’s a small stage at one end, as there was with us. Behind our stage was a room that barely held a couch, a couple of chairs, and a table. That was our hangout during our years of Saturday morning catechism lessons. My current church has a much bigger youth room, with several indestructible couches and multiple chairs, and slightly outdated but still working technology. I hope the kids love it. I hope they’re territorial about it.

I think – I’m pretty sure – I think it’s in The Music of Failure, by the Midwestern writer Bill Holm, that the narrator and a friend explore a long-abandoned church somewhere on the prairie. The narrator turns a corner and finds himself staring at an elderly couple standing by the organ, heads together, conferring over musical scores. They look up at him; he blinks; they vanish.

Why do they stay in their long-abandoned church, by the soundless organ?

Well, why would they want to be anywhere else? Maybe they should vacate their church once for all; maybe the next life is better spent reposing upon the bosom of God; but then again, maybe that’s exactly what they’re doing.

December 2, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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