A Game of Halos and Hell-os – A Short Story by Kathryn Lang

Sitting on the front row of an event started as a necessity. My short stature means I see nothing but backs – or I HOPE backs – when everyone else stands up. The location developed into a habit. The habit got me into trouble (as habits are prone to do).

The service started like most. We sang a little. We prayed a little. For a first-timer, I felt comfortable despite the looks I received for sitting on the front row. How was I supposed to know that the first three rows were reserved for the invisible members of the church . . . but that is another story for a different day.

Today, the location I chose and my penchant for inappropriate laughter almost got me excommunicated . . . although I’m not Catholic so I don’t know what it would be for us. Let’s just agree that things did not go well.

The preacher started talking and at first, I was amazed that he didn’t stand up to present his sermon. “Maybe this is the pre-sermon talk.” I thought.

It didn’t take me too long to realize he was standing. As a fellow, height-challenged member of society, I tried not to judge. It was hard. There was a podium just a few feet away. All he needed to do was to stand there.

I tried to focus my thoughts on what really mattered . . . the WORDS and not the man.

“Sin will kill you.” I shook my head to rattle my brain. It seemed so out of place in the moment I knew I had to have heard incorrectly. He glared at me. “Sin WILL kill you.” He repeated his last statement, I assumed to make sure I understood.

He started pacing around the stage – the raised area in front of the church – although I still don’t think stage should be the appropriate term in church. I realized now his reason for avoiding the podium across from him. He bounced up and down with fevered excitement the more he shared. Each bounce sent a wave of jiggling through is round little belly.

I tried not to think of Santa Claus and forced myself to quit reciting that verse from the poem.

He squinted his eyes and leaned in towards the crowd. “If you don’t change your ways right now and quit all your sinful habits, the devil will drag your right down to hell with him.”

I smiled. I probably shouldn’t have smiled seeing as how I was already in his crosshairs, but all I could do was picture myself on a life-sized “Chutes and Ladders” game . . . although I guess it would be called “Halos and Hell-os” cause hello, you are going straight to . .

I covered my mouth to avoid laughing out loud at my new game idea. I tried to rein in my imagination, but it was . . . well, I guess it was straight down the “hellos.” If I smoked, I would slip down a little. If I attended church every time the doors opened, my halo would lift me up three spaces. If I drank beer while watching the game . . . hell-os!

My new game was gaining momentum in my mind, which meant I wasn’t paying attention to the man on stage. He didn’t like that I wasn’t paying attention.

While I had been off crafting my new blockbuster game, he had walked to my side of the stage. Now he stood, not quite looming over me – because . . . height-challenged, remember . . . but I knew he was there. I could tell by the shadow the overhead lights were projecting in front of me.

I looked up. “Sin will kill you.” He repeated his earlier decree to get me back in line. This time I nodded, hoping he would release me from his focus. He smirked and went away.

I reminded myself to stay focused from now on. One more slip and there was no telling how far I would . . . hell-os. I grinned, just barely, and not before I checked to see where he was looking.

He went on with the tirade against sin. It only took a few moments for me to grasp his focus on the “big” sins. Not once did I hear him condemn the people that are speeding or driving while texting, the people procrastinating from purpose, or the people that were choosing not to be in complete obedience to the Word.

As the enthusiasm built in the height-challenged preacher, his belly began to flail in unison with his canter. The faster he went, the faster it went. I became fascinated.

The room seemed to agree with his particular list of “big” sins and the damage they could cause. He stirred the people into a fury of support and the crowd stood to their feet in a triumphant round of “you tell them, brother” “Go on” and “amen.” They all were in agreement about the repercussions that were awaiting those big sin sinners.

He slowed his pace, slowing his belly and releasing my fascinated stare. Around me, the frenzy began to die down. Maybe the march for sin was over now. Maybe we could all finally be safe.

It was time for another song, and then one last announcement. The height-challenged preacher took to the podium for these important words. “Don’t forget tonight’s fellowship supper. There will be plenty of food there, so be sure to join us. I’ll be there. You can tell by looking at me that I like to eat and I’m not about to miss a meal.”

“Gluttony.” I coughed the word from behind my hand, but not quite soft enough to keep the word from being understood. He glared from behind the podium and I wasn’t surprised to find myself . . . hell-os!



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Kathryn writes because she has a story to share – sometimes it is a true life story, sometimes it is a made-up story, sometimes it is a story with a deeper meaning, and sometimes it is a story for fun.

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