Parakeets in the Choir
Minnie adjusted her pink peacock hat looking discreetly into the small pocket sized mirror held at waist level beneath the pew tops. She had arrived early padding quietly to her prominent place on the front right of the sanctuary. With social seniority over the other minks, she was always seated first. Her husband, Chauncey, usually came along later preferring to chatter with the boys at the side door until he heard the first hymn.
Minnie was a no-nonsense mink with little patience for irregularities. She expected her pew to be vacant and cleaned and for the service to start on time. She demanded a noon departure. Her prayer requests were always read first from the pulpit. When she stood for a hymn, everyone else stood. When she spoke, which wasn’t often, everyone listened.
Minnie liked jewelry. She wore a thick set of iridescent pearls, hand-harvested in the Persian Gulf, about her flaccid neck. Blending smartly with the white speckles on her dark brown fur, the nacreous pearls added a particular distinction to her demeanor. She was often seen touching the pearls during the service as if they were prayer beads, which they were not.
She had a black onyx ring on her left paw which she had picked up while visiting relatives down in the Gulf of Mexico on a worldwide romp several years back. She also had several gold bracelets. She enjoyed competing with the golden candlesticks that bedecked the altar in front of the church.
Minnie always asked her husband during the offertory for the checkbook. She spoke just loud enough for others to hear. “Chauncey, darling, the checkbook please,” she would say.
“Oh. Right, Sweetie. Here it is,” replied Chauncey always quick to oblige his wife.
“How much should I write it for Chauncey, dearest?” she would ask. “Is a thousand enough?”
Chauncey, who neither made the money nor had permission to spend it, usually just nodded politely. “That’s fine, Sweets,” he would say.
Then Minnie would scrawl out the zeroes with large sweeping strokes and hold the plate a few seconds while she placed her check on top of the other small bills. A flutter of impressed sighs would rise from the ranks about her, and the plate would pass on to the single mothers and blue-collar fathers sitting further back.
Minnie didn’t like surprises, which made the service last week all the more memorable. Just as the first hymn was beginning, a group of visiting Bolivian chinchillas hopped up the center aisle of the sanctuary looking a bit lost. Neither comprehending the rules of prestige nor having an understanding of a church pecking order, they excused themselves politely and stepped right past Minnie and sat down in her pew.
The choral director nearly swallowed her tongue. The congregation gasped in between the second and third verses of “Rescue the Perishing.”
These chinchillas were from one of the poorer barrios of a Bolivian ghetto. Their mottled gray fur was streaked with dirt and full of field burrs. Their large ears sagged. They looked tired. They had a slight riverbank odor.
Minnie squirmed the entire service long. She squeezed toward the center aisle side of the pew and never once greeted the visitors. When church ended, she went immediately to Mr. Barret, a long railed weasel who had been the head usher at the church longer than the polar ice cap had been frozen over.
“Mr. Barret? What is the meaning of this, this outrage?” snorted Minnie, pearls flipping and jiggling on her taut neck.
“What’s that, Minnie?” asked Mr. Barret feigning ignorance. “Something bothering you?”
“You know what’s bothering me, Mr. Barret. How could you let those cheap chinchillas get down as far as my row? Why didn’t you put them in the back with the rodents? Such a breach of protocol is very grave, Mr. Barret. Very grave.” Minnie wasn’t smiling at all.
Mr. Barret fought back his nervous giggle that weasels have. “I don’t know how they slipped by me, Minnie. I will certainly do better next time.”
Minnie was not impressed. “I hope so,” snapped Minnie her tail whipping about with a fury.
The chinchillas never came back.
The offering was down a thousand dollars the following week.
“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5)).