A light went on in Chuck Rowan's head. It would serve these people right if they had to go out and hunt for a new principal at this time of year!
As if scrubbing and painting and patching the battered old schoolhouse all summer hadn't been enough, Brother Gregory, the board chairman, had just informed him that he, Chuck Rowan, had to conduct the choir!
It would be a long cold day be fore he would lead a choir. Be sides teaching a full load he had to drive the school bus, supervise the janitor work sometimes doing most of it himself and make most of the repairs. Where could they find another teacher who would put up with all that?
He worked paint thinner into his hands. He was hungry. He realized he should have been thinking about Bonny and the dinner she was preparing, but he wasn't. Instead he was disturbed and ready for a showdown.
He gobbled his dinner. Instead of putting on his loafing clothes he took out a dress shirt and his new black shoes.
"Where are you going?" asked Bonny.
"Nowhere . . . maybe, but ... I just might go over to Brother Gregory's house . . . later on."
"Because I am simply fed up to here with the demands these people are making."
"Is there something new?"
"Yes. He phoned this morning and told me that the board has decided that I should direct the choir next year."
"But you couldn't do that!"
"Right. And that's why I'm about an inch away from taking the whole mess and dumping it into his lap."
"You mean quitting?"
"But, Chuck, it's the middle of August. Where will you get a job at this late date?"
"I'll call Bill Harrigan down in Tidewater. I've got a hunch that he might need a teacher."
"Oh, honey, another move. I can't say that I blame you, though. It wouldn't be fair to the kids to have a choir director who doesn't know his job."
Chuck picked up the phone and dialed the number of the Tide water Conference office. He knew that it was probably closed, since it was Sunday, but it was worth a try.
The connection pinged right through and he soon had his man on the line.
"I don't blame you for wanting a new job, Chuck, but I can't hire you until you quit up there. I've got a place waiting for you, though, whenever you disconnect yourself up there."
"That's all I wanted to know, Bill. 'Bye, now."
Chuck smiled. "Well, honey, here I go."
It hardly needs to be noted that Brother Gregory was unhappy to hear the news. He showed certain signs, in fact, of "losing his cool."
"You'll be blacklisted for this, Rowan! You and I had better have a little talk with Elder Wolfson down at the conference office."
"Fine, let's do it tomorrow morning."
Not only was Elder Wolfson, the educational superintendent, present, but also Elder Brand, the conference president, who spoke first.
"Have you asked yourself what other conferences will say when they learn you have broken your contract?"
"Yes. If they learn the circumstances I'm sure they'll understand."
"Sir, I have been pushed beyond reason."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, being told that I've got to conduct the choir is only the latest in a series of demands."
"Tell us about them."
Chuck told. He mentioned the time Mr. Gregory promised the fourth-grade class that he would buy enough of the candy they were selling to make sure that their room would win no matter what the others did. When that word got around the candy sale was destroyed. They had expected to buy a new encyclopedia with the proceeds, but Brother Gregory said the school couldn't afford an encyclopedia, anyhow.
Then there was the time when Mr. Gregory had tried to force Chuck into appointing his son a delegate to the Bible Camp. The result had been that no one went.
"Are these things true, Mr. Gregory?"
"They have been twisted, Elder Brand."
A long discussion followed. Chuck was even more determined to leave when it was finished.
"Chuck, a man's word should be as good as his bond. You gave your word, and my counsel is that you stick by it."
"I gave my word to teach under certain conditions. The conditions have changed, and I no longer feel bound."
Bill Harrigan was true to his word. He found Chuck a place in one of the nicest schools in his conference.
Chuck and Bonny had to rush, but they managed to move and find a house and get settled be fore the first day of school. They liked the new situation. Chuck threw himself into his work with a zest that he had lacked during the previous year.
He often wondered about that black list, though. He had dreams of solemn assemblies and of his name appearing on the rolls of the reprobate.
"Lord," he would pray, "I may have been too rash. I thought it was right. Help the brethren to understand."
George Chipton taught in the room next to Chuck. He dropped in for a chat one day.
"The brethren will never give you a job again when they learn you have jumped a contract," he said. He told of a cousin of his who had been asked to teach driver training. She had no preparation for it, so she quit. She had never been offered another place.
It sounded bad. Chuck mentioned it to Bill Harrigan when he came to visit the school.
"George's cousin can't get a job because she isn't willing to work where there are openings. The schools nearby don't need the qualifications she has," Bill explained.
It helped, but it didn't stop the nightmares. In some of them Bill Harrigan took a call and the new superintendent had a knitted brow. Maybe there was a black list, and maybe Chuck Rowan's name was on it.
It was a frosty morning of the first year in Tidewater. The air was clear and the sky was blue. Chuck walked to work. He enjoyed the sting on his cheeks and the vapor from his breath.
He noticed an unfamiliar car parked in front of the school.
He recognized the license plate.
It was from the State where he had previously lived.
There was a man waiting by the car. His figure had a familiar look. It was Elder Brand, the conference president who had warned him of the consequences of quitting.
He had been hunted down. Now he was going to be served with papers and to be forced to listen to an unpleasant tongue lashing. Rashness had caught up with Chuck Rowan.
Small talk over, Elder Brand explained that he was on his way to a meeting at the General Conference.
They Were seated. Chuck was determined to take his medicine like a man.
"Chuck," the minister said, "I was hard on you. I was new in the conference and I couldn't imagine that the things you told me were true."
Could this be real? Were there conference presidents who would go out of their way to help a man keep his self-esteem?
"I have found out that the situation was even worse than you described. Brother Gregory is no longer the board chairman. If you ever need a recommendation for a job, please feel free to use my name."
Chuck couldn't find any words. He just smiled. A tear began to form.
"Well, Chuck, you've found a nice place here." Elder Brand put out his hand.
Chuck took it and gave it a vigorous shake. The elder turned and went out to his car.
Chuck got up and followed him. He gulped and called out: "Did they find anybody to ... take the choir?"
Elder Brand turned.
"Oh, yes, my wife volunteered. She's having a great time."
Chuck went back inside. He dialed his home.
"Is something wrong?"
"No. I just wanted to let you know that if there is a black list, I'm not on it."