Normally, a pretty heavy eater -- remember, he is 6'7" and weighs 281 pounds -- he gazed at his breakfast as if it were a chess board and it was his move.
At the same time, he tried not to appear ungrateful for the spread his faithful friend Tally had gotten up early to provide for him: a toasted slice of pumpernickel with a thin overlay of wasabi, a side of dates, and a mug of hot Rwandan Ekshtuti Rare Reserve Blend Dark Roast coffee tinged with the orange of buttermilk Howard preferred as a "creamer."
During his commute to Medford School, Howard reviewed his lesson plans for the day, playing them over and over in his head, remembering the wise aphorism he learned from his cellmate Rufus: "If you prepare, you won't despair."
Howard's lesson plan was to ask the students what they wanted to do. They were 4-year-olds, for God's sake!
He began his class with the time-honored name game: He would call on a student at random, and the kid would tell the class her name, how she spent her summer vacation, when or if she was/were potty trained, and whether or not she still believed in Santa Claus.
The third kid (isn't it always the third?)* was one Delbert Stoker, whose dad pastored Medford's megachurch, Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church.
Howard once attended Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church with one of his more religious abductees, as soon he was assured that no members of Medford's police department would attend the service.
"This must be what heaven is like," he remembered muttering at the time.
There were four services to choose from at Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church.
First, a 7:30 a.m. service for "old coots," as they were affectionately called, who preferred to sing out of hymnals published before or during the Eisenhower presidency, who enjoyed dressing up for the occasion as a humble nod to the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and who preferred not to include dance as a part of the service.
The 8:30 a.m. gathering was exclusively for those gifted with glossolalia. Should a non-glossolaliac show up accidentally, he could still worship with the help of an interpreter who, synchronized with the rhythm of the seemingly arbitrary ejaculations of the faithful, gracefully danced and swayed on the dais.
The 9:30 service was the most popular of them all, and the place was packed with the young and the hip, all come to praise the Maker in whose noisy image they believed themselves to be created. They imagined the Creator of the Universe as a bud, a mate, a friend, a besty, if you will, who favored spiritual purity over formal dress, hence the men worshiped in pleated shorts, golf shirts and beach sandals, the women in spaghetti-strapped peasant blouses and shorts for whom the knees were only a rumor.
|Woman at 9:30 service|
When the church of Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church moved into the K-Mart building, the congregants happened upon a still functional blue rotator light, similar to the ones atop cop cars.
Previously used by the failed retail giant to signal brief markdowns -- called "blue-light specials" --, the church quickly converted the light to a "Come to Jesus" flasher. When, for example, a sinner heard the Lord call him to His flock and headed toward the altar, a deacon would turn on the spinning blue light to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there was the 11:30 service conducted in French.**
So, yes, Howard knew about Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church and its pastor D'andre Stoker, and thus worried that the kid Delbert would be one of those know-it-all bible-thumping students he had heard about from religion professors he'd met in stir (most of whom were busted for stealing Gideon bibles out of motel rooms, then selling them on the street and to university book stores).
Will D'andre live up to the negative hype and turn Howard's Pre-K class into a living hell?
And will Howard leave the teaching profession before the sun sets on his first day? And if so, will the police be involved? Stay tuned!
*See "The Three Little Pigs," for example.
** Due to Medford's location, i.e., a few miles from Townsville
*** Blue light picture thanks to https://jeneanebehmeswritings.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/kmart-blue-light.jpg