arch.jpgCharles looked up. He always looked up at church, usually at the 8-minute mark in the droning, resonant sermon. The preacher was okay, but had a monotone delivery that could be charitably described as dull.

He’d studied the ceiling in this place so often, he had figured out where the scaffolding must have gone to construct the arches. He wondered if anyone had been killed during the construction, and mused what the view would be like from ceiling height. He knew who he’d shoot spitballs at, and which hats would be festooned with more than just ridiculous flowers and styrofoam birds. The little old ladies with mothball breath and bony fingers, who would always find him running in the narrow passageways behind the chancel and pinch his shoulder to the point of bruising. Also that kid Scott, who had the right answer for everything in Sunday School but knew how to punch you without being caught. He’d get a juicy one with extra sticky goodness.

His gaze traveled from the peak of the arch back to the balcony where mysterious old men sat below the enormous organ pipes. He figured he could crawl inside one of the bass pipes, blocking the sound and disrupting the service – or better yet, fart out a grand baritone at a pause in the liturgy. He wondered how many cats he could stuff into the various pipes, and what would happen if he mashed all the keys while they were inside. His giggle was interrupted by a sharp elbow to the ribs from both sides. His aunts, decked out in polyester skirt suits and overpowering perfume, had no tolerance for noises. They would unwrap root beer candies at the beginning of the sermon, crinkling cellophane in unison for an eternity to avoid making one quick noise.

Smarting from the sore sides, he made a show of paying close attention to the preacher. Hypnotized by the soothing exposition on the punishment awaiting goats, his focus rose to the richly ornamented arch over the pulpit. “That needs a zip line,” he thought. He was transported back to summer camp last year, in which all the campers harnessed into infuriatingly safe rigging on a treetop platform. One by one they would ride a thin steel cable to the other side of a clearing, either hooting like banshees or screaming like girls on fire. He remembered some aircraft cable in the back of Uncle Bill’s shed, and thought it might be enough to stretch from the balcony to the pulpit. Riding down on a hand-held pulley, he’d rescue the congregation from another half hour of sunny Sunday morning spent in this forbiddingly glorious and boring place.  Dropping from the cable at the end of the run, he’d tackle the preacher and take over the mike. “Go do the stuff you heard about last week! And ride bikes!” he’d preach. That would do this stuffy crowd a world of good.