by Cory Williams

Jack sat in the third row on the far-left side of the sanctuary. Fourth seat, the same seat, he occupied every Sunday morning for the past thirteen years. His dirty ripped jeans were far from his Sunday best, and the blood splatter didn’t help things. It was OK, though. At three in the afternoon Sunday service had been over for hours. Jack was just the last to leave today. He looked towards the empty pulpit. It was eerily quiet in its emptiness. And it would remain quiet until it found a new owner.

The blood of the previous occupant was still running down its glass frame. That’d be easy to clean. The carpet would be the real job. Jack had spent the last forty-five minutes trying to think of another church that had a carpeted stage. He couldn’t come up with one, and he hated the fact.

Jack started to think of the sermons he had heard from that pulpit. It was a distraction from the carpet issue. Surely, he could google how to get blood out of a carpet. Can the police check search history? Jack didn’t want to think about that. He couldn’t afford to right now.

Jack stared at the red lines pin-striping the pulpit. How many times had Jack heard that he was saved by the blood of Christ in this very room? It was the foundation of his faith, but doubts were beginning to creep in. Can blood spilled on a cross erase the sin of blood spilled in a church?

Jack sat in the silence that engulfed the sanctuary and pondered this. He had never experienced silence in this room except during prayer. Jack wanted to pray but couldn’t’ bring himself to approach God in his stained rags.

The silence became distracting. Jack let out a sigh that felt like it had been building up since birth. A single tear escaped his eye and began its downward journey towards it’s suicidal plunge from the jawline. By the time it made its way through his stubble and dripped from his chin it had taken on a pinkish hue from commingling with the foreign blood on Jack’s cheek.

Jack stood up and made his way to the custodial closet situated between the bathrooms. He had woken up this morning believing God could do anything. Now he wasn’t so sure. As he dug the Hoover out of the cramped closet, he wasn’t convinced the blood of Christ could wash him white as snow with the same confidence King David had advertised in the Psalms. Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Rejoice? It sounded more like screaming to Jack. Screams and pleas for mercy.

Jack grabbed a half empty bottle off carpet detergent of the top shelf and gazed at it. He felt a rise within him and felt it grow. He began to find his faith again. He felt more faith than he had felt in the past couple of hours. If God couldn’t wash away his sins, than he would do it himself.