Some people, when they experience a great loss or tragedy, move closer to God. Others move away.
Jerry was of the latter group. He still played the organ for two separate churches, every Sunday, and sometimes on weekday evenings. But while he played with some skill and sensitivity, he was now immune to the words, the sentiments and beliefs they espoused.
Music was music, thought Jerry. I’m awake on Sunday morning anyway. I have no such instrument at home, but can play whenever the organs are free. It was win-win, as far as Jerry was concerned.
But now, The Church of Perpetual Motion wanted him to dust off their seldom-used pipe organ for a traditional wedding march. He’d had a look at it only once: lots of knobs and buttons, and two short keyboards, all looking very alien and difficult.
But it wasn’t so different, as Jerry learned once he read materials from the library and online. The techniques, the various knobs and octave variations, were easy enough to learn for something as simple as the wedding march; the tricky part was the difference in volume and release.
So Jerry took to practicing on Tuesday evenings, when there was generally nothing going on, except naughty children washing all the pew seats with warm sudsy water.
These were 11-13 year olds, mostly boys, having misbehaved somehow in the Catholic school attached to the church, now doing penance. They were supervised by a pair of formidable nuns, though to Jerry all nuns were formidable, from a distance.
So he played for the bad boys and their nuns, trying to mix it up so as not to drive them crazy. He played the theme from Phantom of the Opera. He played “The Long and Winding Road”. He played Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in C Minor”. He played the wedding march.
If the Perpetual Motion pipe organ was a woman, Jerry was falling in love.
So steady and predictable she was. So even in tone. So flexible, so versatile, so sombre, so joyful, so playful. So soothing, so stimulating. Strangely, inexplicably, like his wife Helene, whom God took away so very young. Life (death) happens, Jerry knew that, but Helene died slowly, painfully, while Jerry, their daughter Elise, their son Noel, and God, watched.
Their prayers went unanswered. Well, says the homily, sometimes the answer to a prayer is “No”. The answer is no?
Lord, spare Thy devoted servant, Helene, that she may share her joy of life and her love of Thee for a little longer. Please, spare her that she may raise her daughter and son in Thy name.
God, they are so young. She is young and has so much to give. Please let her live. Please.
Jerry was startled back to the present by the sudden appearance of Sister Bernice, in a grey sweater and skirt and sensible shoes, looking upon him with soft grey eyes, which reminded Jerry of the eyes of Lily-Rose Roades, who lived next door to him.
“My goodness, Mr Plankton,” said Sister Bernice with a smile. “That was as fascinating, if aggressive, a rendition of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ as any I’ve ever heard!” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright, Jerry?”
“Sorry, Sister, I’m fine, Sister,” said Jerry. “I’m off now anyway, you can do God’s work in peace.”
He packed up his papers and scores and binders and stuffed them into an old briefcase.
“See you Sunday, Mr Plankton.”
“God willing,” said Jerry.