“Where are the McLains?” asked old lady Chadwick. “They haven’t been to church the past three weeks. They’ve always been so faithful. Never miss a Sunday unless they’re out of town. I saw their car sitting in their driveway on my way to church this morning.”
Apparently everyone but old lady Chadwick knew why the McLains weren’t in church that Sunday or the following twenty one Sundays, but no one wanted to tell her. Everyone in the church knew why the McLains weren’t in church. Everyone in town knew why the McLains weren’t in church. Even those who lay moldering in their graves, under the spreading branches of those infamous trees surely knew why the McLains weren’t in church.
Even old lady Chadwick knew. Asking was just her way of trying to find out who else knew. Now you too will know, now that the reason for the McLain’s absence also lies moldering in his grave, under the spreading branches of those trees, under the gravestones he knew so well.
As the story goes, it was a sunny day, perfect for playing hide-and-seek. Amelia wasn’t very good at the game. Wherever she hid, her sisters and brothers always found her. Ah, but on that day she had found the perfect place to hide. No one would ever find her.
Her brothers and sisters looked everywhere.
“What has happened to Amelia? Did someone kidnap her? She never finds good places to hide. Something terrible must have happened to her.
“Wait. Maybe she hid behind the church. Let’s check. Oh look. The basement door isn’t locked.”
“Let’s look in the basement windows and see if Amelia is down there.”
“What are they doing, Johnny?”
“Let’s get out of here fast. That’s not Amelia. That’s Bobby Jo and the preacher man.”
News Spreads Fast
Mother was at home, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Amelia had tired of hiding and was also at home.
“Mother, mother, we must tell you what we saw when we were hunting for Amelia. We looked in the basement windows of the church.”
An hour later mother was on the phone with her trusted friend.
“What did they see, Mildred?”
“They got an eyeful. What they saw no child should see. Bobby Jo and the preacher man were in the basement of the church. She was on her lunch hour.”
“They saw those two…?”
“Say no more, Mildred McLain.”
“You must not tell anyone.”
Before suppertime everyone in the church knew. By the end of the following day most everyone in town knew. By the end of the third day the phone company was smiling. In those days they charged high prices for long distance calls.
What lay above the basement room of that little church? – The altar, the place meant for repenting of one’s sins.
What happened long ago beneath the altar of that little church? – That place meant for repentance saw so much sin.
What secrets lie a moldering in the grave? – One less as of today.
Only he remains a moldering in the grave. And so it shall ever be.