Dynamic Duo and Clarence
one of my two sisters, is just thirteen months younger than I.
Growing up, we were about as close as a brother and sister could
be. Obviously, this means we fought like cats and dogs. We did
spend a bunch of time together, and in our younger years we sat
together in church, planted right between Mom and Dad. By not
incurring the wrath of our father by entertaining ourselves too
noticeably, we survived hundreds of sermons without detriment.
What we did notice over the long years of endless droning about
Hell and Damnation were the idiosyncrasies of the people around
us. Ronda and I spent countless evenings mocking our fellow Christians
(when Mom and Dad werent listening) and giving them nicknames.
At eight and seven years of age, we did not know too many adult
names, only what we picked up at family dinners, so our private
There was, of course, Stinky. Every congregation has one. Stinky
was a congenial greeter who made sure no one escaped his crushing
handshakes. His effervescent personality and uncanny ability to
retain enormous amounts of data on every single member of our
church made him an ideal fixture at the main doors. It didnt
hurt that he had the appearance of a lovable, huggable grizzly.
(Stinky had lots of haireverywhereand substantial
bulk.) Stinky was an endearing presence.
Theres that scrawny Allstun boy. Flora, you need to
feed that boy. Put it there, son, he would growl while sticking
forth a mammoth paw. Great job at the game yesterday.
Stinky had the genuine talent of crushing a hand right to the
point of permanent injury before releasing. His iron grip would
always be accompanied by some personal compliment or anecdote
about things that I could never figure out how he knew. He had
the annoying tendency to draw a person close when engaging in
his greeting mantras, and that is when it hit. A repulsive, nauseating,
fermented odor would discharge through the gray-speckled, tangled
beard that covered his face. (I could always tell what Stinky
had for breakfast.) I learned quickly to hold my breath when under
the odoriferous onslaught. Mom would often reel for several moments
after a Stinky encounter.
Tabby was a tiny lady, probably around thirty or so, that always
dressed in orange. With a pensive countenance, purplish tint to
squinted eyes, and quick, graceful, feline movements, she was
the spitting image of one of our cats. Ronda firmly believed that
she was a cat-woman and studied Tabby intently during service,
hoping she would betray her identity with an audible purr or regurgitated
hairball. We pondered how she would land if pushed off the church
roof. Alas, that scientific opportunity never came to fruition.
Yes, we christened a Bertha, Queeny, Boobs, and Scarecrow. We
secretly raked Snake, Willy, and Gassy (guess why) over the proverbial
coals. Even Pimple Boy and Crying Cora could not escape our avid
Brother William we did know. At an age that had to rival Methuselah,
Brother William was a distinct and powerful presence among the
congregation. Being a former preacher, he was supremely knowledgeable
about the Bible and was constantly bombarded with questions of
a spiritual nature. With a gleaming bald pate, piercing blue eyes,
and shriveled, prune-like body, Brother William had a predatory
demeanor. When I was a little younger, I thought he was the actual
Holy Ghost. Frankly, he scared the crap out of us.
Sonny, he would begin with a nasal resonance, have
you been good and saying your prayers?
Yes, Brother William, I would dutifully reply.
Only good boys that love the Heavenly Father and Blessed
Jesus can go to Heaven, he would continue in the typical
lesson he administered to anyone under thirty.
Yes, Brother William.
Bad boys burn forever in Hells fire, you know?
Yes, Brother William.
Patting me hard on the head with his skeletal hands, he would
always finish, I will pray for your soul, son.
Thanks, Brother William. Thanks indeed.
Sister Frances was another character known to all in our church.
At least ninety, Sister Frances always perched herself on the
front pew, right in front of the pulpit, straining to see and
hear the pastor not six feet away. I kind of felt sorry for her.
Usually sitting alone, hidden by enormous glasses and an ill-fitting
gray wig, she was a debilitated shell of a woman. Unlike Brother
Williams popularity, I do not remember Sister Frances talking
to very many people. Even my sister and I in our ignorant youth
felt pangs of pity for her.
These two pillars of our church had something in common. They
were the shouters in our otherwise tranquil house of worship.
Many a sermon was interrupted, energized, and sometimes halted
by the emotional bursts of these two stalwart Christians. Glory!
would escape the parched lips of Brother William, and Amen!
would explode from the sagging mouth of Sister Frances. Sister
Frances would never initiate the outbursts; she would instantly
follow the exclamations of Brother William. So the Glory!
and Amen! would come in rapid, and very thunderous,
succession. Because of this connection between the shouters, Ronda
and I promptly started referring to them as the Dynamic Duo, a
gift from our respectable collection of comic books.
Eventually, that wily sister of mine discovered the triggering
mechanism that sent Brother William into verbal spasms. Any mention
of the Blood of the Lamb or just Blood
launched the sonic assault. At first, as always, I didnt
believe her, but sure enough, after a couple of lengthy sermons,
the mention of Blood was followed by the familiar
Glory! Amen!. Whats more, Brother Bogle, our
pastor at the time, apparently aware of this information, would
size up bored audiences and throw out a Blood or Blood
of the Lamb every now and then to liven up the party. Since
Brother William did not adhere to the THOU SHALL NOT SIT IN ANOTHERS
SEAT commandment, the initial blast came from myriad directions.
My family would locate Brother William immediately upon entering
the sanctuary so as not to be blindsided.
Enter Clarence. Well, I still do not know what his name was, but
to Ronda and me, he was a Clarence. Clarence was an older gent,
probably around sixty or so, that sat at the far left of the pew
directly behind us. A pudgy fellow with thick glasses, Clarence
always appeared unkempt and tired. I say tired because much of
the time that the preaching was going on, Clarence was fast asleep,
giving his unconsciousness to God, glasses dangling from his nose.
Ronda and I would sneak furtive glances over our shoulders to
glimpse this slumbering enigma only to receive sharp, disapproving
stares from Grandpa and Grandma and a painful pinch on the upper
thigh from Dad.
In those days my sister and I were not exposed to profanity very
often. The television and the music of the 70s were kept under
the illusion of control, and my parents just did not use that
much improper language around us. The few times I tempted fate
with a hell or damn or even darn
introduced me to the culinary horrors of Ivory soap. I was lucky
if I could sneak by a subdued butt or muffled idiot.
Needless to say, I was astounded one Sunday morning when a booming
piece of profanity reverberated around our sacred sanctuary.
It was an ordinary Sunday. Pastor Bogle was telling us what bad
sinners we all were, Ronda and I were engaged in a covert game
of I-Touched-You-Last, Dad was clipping his fingernails, Mom was
scouring the church looking for fashion blunders, and Clarence
was sawing logs. The sheep were in the meadow and the cows were
in the corn.
Pastor Bogle, annoyed at the lack of attention he was receiving,
decided once again to tap into his faithful arsenal. We
are all washed in His Blood! he bellowed to his inattentive
As expected, the Dynamic Duo unleashed the Glory! Amen!
to stir the Lords Spirit, but instead a resounding SHIT!
followed the echoes of the Dynamic Duo, as well as a muted thump.
Clarence was stirred from his sleep right to the sanctuary floor.
After the rude awakening, the involuntary utterance of horrific
scope could not be contained, nor what followed. With his arms
and legs tangled in comedic pose, silence fell for all of two
seconds before chaos reigned. My sister and I laughed until we
cried, at least half the congregation guffawed uncontrollably,
Brother Bogle just stood there with a dumbfounded look on his
face, Dad struggled mightily not to laugh, Mom giggled through
tight lips, Grandma looked as if she would commit murder, Clarence
regained his seat with beet-red cheeks, but the Dynamic Duo resumed
their attentive postures, waiting for the next opportunity to
serve the Lord.
Allstun is a farmer and teacher in extreme Southeast Missouri.
He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a major
in mathematics and minors in science and English. He has been
writing essays and poems for years, but only for his students.