by R.G. Larsen
She was the preacher's wife, and she ministered to the needy,
giving to each that which he required and taking from each that
which he was able to give. This often was only a thank you or
a humble nod, but more often than not, it was delivered as service.
Despite the meager support the church gained from its parishioners,
the lawns were always cut, the flowers tended, and the many custodial
duties occasioned by the parish's outreach activities were accomplished.
Tate-McGinnis was too young to be a preacher's wife went the back
fence gossip and much too pretty. She avoided the gossip, the
tea circles, and most of the women's prayer groups, instead throwing
herself into the daily operations of the church. This parish was
but one of five that needed tending. The remaining four were spread
over one hundred fifty miles, all small, rural, and slightly more
prosperous than this one. Her husband spent most of his time moving
between parishes while she managed the home front. His traveling
itinerary had started as a temporary measure by the diocese but
soon became a permanent placement due to marginal offerings and
a shrinking pool of available ministers. Not many would take on
a rural parish where fundraising became a necessary part of securing
She became acquainted with Jim at a summer, church camp activity
and she thought Reverand McGinnis clever and dashing. He certainly
was a change from the young men she had so far met. She and Jim
were wed the next year. Three years later, she wasn't so sure
she had chosen well. The few evenings they spent together opened
and closed with prayer, and there were long periods of dull silence
between. Moreover, there were times when Jim's extreme discretion
seemed more like a lack of energy, times when his resolve, when
it appeared, was more like stubbornness. What worried her more
was his tendency toward stodginess. He insisted that she address
him as James not Jim even when they were alone, and she was alone
much too much. She waited and prayed for change, until she grew
tired of waiting and set about finding answers. God helps those
who help themselves, she told herself.
It was a Sunday morning between services when she spotted the
young stranger. She made him out to be about twenty-two or twenty-three
with nice features and a wiry build. He was her height or less
and some vulnerability was evident in his brown eyes. Kate had
taken a position near the coffee and donuts line between the door
and a deaconess selling tickets to support a coming church youth
activity. Men were coming by regularly for handouts now that some
of the mills closed. Cattle prices were also down and that brought
more drifters, young and old but all with a hunger in their bellies
and tiredness in their eyes. She guessed, correctly, that the
young man was passing through. The young man surveyed the room
from the safety of a wide-brimmed hat and moved closer to the
ticket table. Kate spotted him as he entered, read his eyes, and
now moved closer to him.
you care for a cup of coffee?" she asked. "There's no
charge." The offer evidently caught the young man by surprise,
but he accepted tentatively, looking around, knowing he was out
of place. "It will certainly be a better choice than taking
the ticket money and running out the door. Isn't that was what
you were thinking?" Anger coursed through him, and he stiffened.
She saw the fire flare in his eyes.
doubt that old tight-lipped preacher's wife watching the till
would let me get away with that," he countered, but the lie
showed in his halting rejoinder and in his eyes that now looked
away toward the fifteen or sixteen dollars in the plate. She had
him cold. That was exactly what he was thinking, grab the cash
and hit the door fast. How could she know?
you'll have to excuse us. We're mostly Presbyterians here and
don't smile a lot." Then she laughed and smiled at him saying,
"Now can I interest you in a cup of coffee?" Her voice
was a soft contralto, rich and inviting without any edginess.
He said, "That would be nice, Ma'm, thank you." He was
unsure of himself in many ways but very sure that he liked the
easy warmth of this beautiful brown-haired woman.
She served him a cup in the kitchen along with a number of donuts,
suggesting that he'd be more at ease there and stayed with him
to ensure that he would be. "You made a mistake back there,"
do you mean?" he answered, not ready to admit she had read
his intentions accurately.
old Mrs.Dumfree would have given you the money you required if
you had asked, and you wouldn't have to ask twice. However, that's
not the mistake. She's not the preacher's wife, I am."
The young man's mouth sagged open. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend
any offense. I really put my foot in it didn't I?"
She laughed again, a sweet lovely laugh, not at him but enjoying
the situation. "That's quite alright. Everything is fine,
no offense taken." As she turned to get the coffee pot, he
noticed the smooth way she moved and liked what he saw. She returned
in seconds and poured him another cup. He tried to estimate her
age and judged her to be about his own. She sat opposite him for
a while not speaking but without averting her stare. Her clear
blue eyes were focused intently on him. He found himself looking
back into them, unable to turn away. A slight wrinkle appeared
under her eyes as a smile returned to her face. "Look, I
know you can probably use a handout, but I also can see you have
a lot of pride. I can use some help later this afternoon through
early evening. I'm short-handed and have to put on a meal to honor
all the people who have done outreach activities this year. I
can't ask them to help because they are the ones being honored.
If you want to make twenty bucks you can show up about 4:30 this
afternoon at the back door and stay through to help with the dishes,
pots, and pans." There was no immediate response on his part.
"You can eat when they eat, and I'll pack a lunch you can
take with you afterward. You can take it or leave it, but I've
got to know now."
He studied the woman across from him and found her incredibly
appealing. He hadn't been with many women. His came fully awake
as he watched her lips, her eyes, and her hands. There was a strength
and softness there and a beauty he hadn't experienced. He wanted
to do anything to please her and he wasn't even sure why he felt
this way. "Yes, I'll be here," he answered.
understand this is strictly business, no work no pay. I need a
commitment. I have to be able to count on you to do your part."
course, I'm as good as my word."
your name? I guess I better know that much about you."
call me Frank."
I like that a lot. Yes, it fits you well, Frank. I will look forward
to seeing you right here (she pointed to the back door) at 4:30
p.m. By the way, my name is Katherine but call me Kate."
She took his hand to seal the bargain. The warmth from her touch
seemed to last for a long time. He turned and looked as the door
closed behind him, but she had gone to attend to her congregation.
My God, he thought, I'm falling for the preacher's wife. He ambled
down to the rail yards and found a grassy place beneath a water
tower. Sleep came eventually, with a blue-eyed woman floating
in and out of his consciousness saying, "Oh, I like that
a lot, Frank" She was naked next to him. "You can take
it or leave it, Frank, but I've got to know now," she whispered.
was at the church's back entrance at 4:15 p.m. He had washed himself
in the overflow from the water tank, dried himself off, and combed
his chestnut hair with half an Ace comb he carried in his wallet.
He had put on a clean shirt that still showed the wrinkles where
it was folded and stuffed into his pack. The shirt like his jeans
had number of holes and one leg was tattered by the cuff. He had
brushed his teeth several times and inspected himself in the railway
station window before leaving. He stood straightly and knocked
at the back door. He was about to knock for the third time when
the door suddenly popped outward.
well, look at you, Frank, a regenerated man if ever I saw one."
Kate smiled and invited him in. She had managed to go home and
lie down for about an hour, then address all of the letters for
next months Pastor's Convocation. Afterwards, she checked on dessert
that she was preparing for this evening's event. She thought of
the Last Supper and wished this were her last group supper. She
knew it wouldn't be. She showered and changed into some practical
work clothes, called several of the Elders to see if this evening's
program was ready, and asked if they would emcee while she took
care of serving and cooking. They would. Then there was a call
to the Youth Group's leader, Bob. Yes, there would be ten teenagers
to serve food and bus tables. She shuffled through James's closet
for a couple of minutes and, finding what she needed, and loaded
the desserts into James' old pickup truck. She stopped by the
postbox to mail the convocation invitations on her way to the
church, arriving fifteen minutes early to sit quietly in darkened
kitchen, collect her thoughts, and plan her evening.
let Frank in at his third knock. "I guess we'd better get
started, Frank, here's the plan." She explained as he listened.
He seemed quick to pick up on things and needed little help once
everything was underway. Frank had worked almost non-stop for
almost an hour and a half, except for the times he had watched
Kate as she bent to get a pot or reached for something over the
stove. My god she was lovely. She had put on a one-piece cotton
shift over what he guessed was cotton underwear. When she bent
then straightened, her dress would hang up. As she moved away,
each little movement of her buttocks caused the dress to slip
a little until it finally straightened out. He could hardly stand
it. Occasionally she would look his way and give him a pleasant
smile. As she worked in the hot kitchen, she began to soak her
light cotton shift with perspiration. He could see the outline
of her back and ribs, the crease between her cheeks, and a small
damp area that showed through her apron under her breasts. Still
she worked. At about 6:15 p.m. the Elder leading the evening activity
entered the kitchen and whispered something to her. She turned
and quickly rushed back to the little room that held the sinks
and racks for dishes, the room where Frank was currently engaged
with a large pot that seemed to be defying his every effort to
scrub it clean. He didn't hear her coming above the noise of the
kitchen appliances and running water. She moved close to him and
softly said, "Frank." He jumped and was embarrassed
that he hadn't noticed her.
"I'm really sorry, I didn't know you were here; it's so noisy."
know. I need you to hold things together while I change. They
want me to go out and take a bow when dessert is served. I can't
go like this. I'm a mess." Frank thought otherwise but wisely
said nothing. "I'm going to do a quick change in that room
where keep the supplies. Just make sure no one comes in there,
he said. She leaned over the sink a bit as she spoke to him. He
could smell the perfume of her skin and a faint pleasing scent
of lilac, and he could see the fullness of her breasts under the
cotton dress. She spoke in a gentler voice than that with which
she had commanded everyone else during the last two hours.
appreciate all your hard work, Frank. Now watch that door for
me; it doesn't have a lock." Shivers ran through Frank, but
they were nothing compared to what he felt when the door to the
supply room reopened. The doorway framed her body. She had dressed
in a pink chiffon dress, put on heels, and brushed her hair up
into a roll, putting on a floppy brimmed hat to cover what she
couldn't neatly comb. Best of all, thought Frank, she was backlit.
The strong 150-watt bare bulb from the storeroom shone through
the dress so he could see her lovely shape.
"Well, what do you think?"
think you are just perfect." He felt heat rising to his face
and knew he was blushing. She turned to go out of the kitchen.
He made a quick decision. He knew he could never change his station
or his life fast enough to make any difference, but he also thought
that one way or the other he would have to tell her how he felt
about her. That decision made, he began to attack the pots with
new purpose. He heard a round of applause before Kate returned.
When he observed her return to the kitchen, he put down his pots,
wiped his hands dry, and approached her. They were alone with
only the sound of coffee perking in the background and the low
hum of a refrigerator. He reached out and took her hand. "How
did it go?" he asked. She neither responded nor pulled away.
There was no hint of what she was thinking or feeling as she looked
steadily at him.
she began. He immediately thought he'd gone too far. "I wonder
if you would like to sit and have a bite to eat with me after
yes, that would be great," he said. She left quickly, stopping
to get her shift and shoes from the storage room. In fifteen minutes,
she returned totally changed. She now wore sandals and the plainest
denim smock one could imagine. Her hair was drawn back into a
simple ponytail. She looked clean and scrubbed, fresh but more
matronly. There was little hint of any curves under the shapeless
dress. He noticed that she had removed her lipstick. The smell
of lilac was gone. She served up two portions of everything they
had served the guests that evening and ate mostly in silence.
Occasionally there were interruptions by the gang bussing tables
or checking out after cleaning up. Eventually they were alone.
She spoke first.
is everything, Frank?"
fine, everything's just fine."
seemed a bit nervous a while back. I thought perhaps I had made
you uneasy or said something I shouldn't. I get a little bossy
sometimes. I get too much into that role."
he responded, "you were great, not bossy at all," he
I am bossy. I like to be in charge. It's not flattering I know
and some of the folks around here resent it, but someone has to
keep things running. My husband, James, is away most of the time.
I do the best I can. It often is hard for me. I think about my
responsibilities seriously, you understand? My vows?
I can understand that." He had inched closer to her but now
backed away with talk of her husband and vows. Well, he guessed
that was it for tonight. Force the issue and he's be locked in
a small town jail until he was eighty, unless he was hanged on
the spot. They finished eating and talked of things that neither
of them would remember in the morning. "I guess I'll just
finish up these last few pots," he said, letting out some
breath he'd been holding for too long.
would be just great, I'll clean these dishes up while you do that.
I've got to check to make sure the kids closed the doors on their
way out." She was soon gone about her errands while he hung
some wet towels to dry and took off a plastic apron he had worn
to keep dry. Kate returned just as he finished. "Frank, will
you come with me for a minute?" This invitation was accompanied
by a pleasant smile.
are we going?"
you'll see," she laughed and took him by the hand. They walked
through the empty church. It had grown dark out and only streetlights
shone through the stained glass windows as they went through the
sanctuary and up onto the dais that held the altar. He felt the
warmth from her hand. It felt good. He was afraid she'd let go.
He didn't want the hand holding to end, vows or no vows. "I
come here often at night, when the church is quiet and everyone
has gone home. Isn't it beautiful?" She had turned to face
him now, and he took her in his arms and kissed her. He felt her
respond as he kissed her neck and shoulders. He reached toward
her hips as she embraced him. She pushed his hand away, saying,
"No, Frank, please, no." He reached again and managed
a caress before she again moved his hand away. The third time
she didn't resist but began undoing the buttons on the front of
her smock as he continued his advances. As the dress fell from
her shoulders, she kicked the dress away. "Hurry, Frank,
In a moment they were locked together on the altar in a naked
embrace. He hadn't noticed in his passion that she had hooked
her right leg behind his left knee and her right arm around over
and around his left arm. Suddenly she rolled and thrust quickly,
grabbing his free hand by the wrist, flipping him on his back.
She pinned his hand with all her might to the floor and began
to rock up and down on him. She moved her left hand up to pin
his other wrist. He was surprised by the move and by her strength.
When he went to move he found it difficult and yielded to her
passion and to her resolve. She rose up, locking her elbows, still
rocking with a gentle rhythm and her breasts were in his face.
"Frank, don't stop." Then she began to buck harder and
harder, taking him places he had never been. When she was ready
and sensed she couldn't wait any longer, she thrust up and down
with increased force until they finished. She held that position
while she kissed his neck and face and lips repeatedly.
Just as suddenly as their tryst began, it ended. Kate rose and
grabbed her smock. "You stay here and wait for me. I'll be
right back," she smiled.
are you going with my clothes?" he asked.
don't move. Lie there; I'll be right back. Oh, if the light in
the vestibule comes on it's the night janitor. He never comes
in here, but don't make a sound to alert him. I'll send him home
tonight, and I'll be right back with your things. Trust me Frank.
I'm not going to forget about you. You were wonderful."
She disappeared and Frank lay quietly down on the altar, naked,
thinking about all that had happened. He thought it was the most
wonderful night of his life. He began to grow uneasy when she
didn't come back after five minutes. After ten minutes, he began
to worry. At fifteen the light came on in the vestibule so he
flattened himself on the floor, spread-eagled behind the pulpit,
and silently waited. Finally, the door to the sanctuary opened
and Kate reappeared carrying his things.
"Where have you been," he demanded, "I was beginning
to think you left?"
you," she laughed. "Your old clothes were tattered.
These are your size and clean. You can keep them. I made you a
nice lunch to take with you. Here's your wallet that was in the
pocket, and here's the twenty I promised you." He reached
for her but she stopped him. "I'm a married woman, Frank,
just take these and go, please. Use that side door. It will lock
go or you'll miss the train that comes through. It's a northbound,
comes through about eleven-fifteen." She gave his hand a
friendly squeeze then hurriedly left the sanctuary.
Kate fussed with items in the church office for a while afterward,
warmed by her effort and pleased with the relaxation that settled
over her. She made a note to herself to have the custodian bring
the unused mats from the kindergarten class up into the small
room in the church attic for next week. Before she closed up and
headed home to shower, she paused, wondering what it was that
got to him. Was it her blue shift or the way that it clung to
her body? Perhaps it was the Chiffon see-through with the light
behind her? Maybe just her stare? She thought a bit then decided
that it might have been when she dabbed a little lilac on and
leaned over to tell Frank to watch that door. "Who knows?"
She thought to herself. The best part she thought was when she
left him on the altar stark naked. She had gone up the stairway
from the hallway to the choir loft and watched him for a long
time. When he got restless, she had flicked on the light in the
vestibule. That had kept him in his place. She liked the sex and
she liked being in control. She even liked Frank. She took his
shirt and trousers with the tattered trouser leg (she could still
smell his scent on them) and hung them on a hanger in a little
closet under the staircase next to eight other pairs, also not
her husband's. On one wall of the office was a framed quote: "The
Lord Answers Prayer." On the opposite wall rested another:
"God Helps Those Who help Themselves." Well, sometimes
both, she thought. Tomorrow there would be a crew of roofers in
for a week to redo the entire south wing, and she was already
making plans for them.
G. Larsen was born in San Francisco. He received
his BA from S.F. State and MA from U.S.F. He currently lives in
Santa Rosa, California and writes short stories and novels.
The Preacher's Wife
© 2005 by R. G. Larsen
All rights reserved.