Chapter 37 The Gong Show Act 2
Miss Delta Magnolia Whormseldeussen rose from her bed at exactly 5:00 A.M. the Sunday morning of August twenty-eight, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and twenty-four. She usually arose at 5:30 A.M., Monday through Sunday, but today was a bit different. After the same morning ablutions she had performed for over eighty-five years, she broke her fast in the same manner as she had for the last seventy years.
Her repast consisted of a large glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed. One slice of well buttered toast, topped with her own fig preserves. Along with this she had a bowl of buttered grits topped with crumbled bacon. Because it was Sunday, however, she allowed herself the luxury of brewing a small pot of coffee, where on any other week day morning, she merely had tea.
This Sunday was special because she was going to be the substitute organist at the Willowbranch Baptist Church for Mr. Edwin. She would show those Baptists a thing or two! That Mr. Edwin was entirely too modern in his teaching approach to suit her. Why, she should know! Her dear poppa, who taught her himself, was an organist in the old country before he came to America, met mama and settled here in Florida.
Poppa had studied with a teacher who was a student of a teacher who had met the immortal J.S. Bach himself. Why, poppa had played the finest organs in some of the most renowned churches of his native Germany. Yes, those Baptists would get a dose of good old fashioned Lutheranism this morning!
Miss Whormseldeussen prided herself on many things. One was her ability to teach. She had been a high school teacher for fifty-five years and had taught mathematics to a few bright children and a great many dull children. Another thing she prided herself on was her independence. She had never needed a man in her life! There could never have been a man such could measure up to poppa, anyway.
The other thing she was proud of was her fashion sense. Why, they stopped making sensible clothes for women about the year 1910. She would not be caught dead in one of the new frocks grown women were wearing today. And the way the young girls dressed was simply an abomination! Yes, she would stick to the kind of clothes that were dignified and modest, yet highly fashionable. These were her thoughts as she dressed for the day at hand.
She was quite confident that she could just step right in and play that Baptist organ. Well, she thought, it ought to be in good repair, at least better than the last time she had occasion to play it. That was at Amy McDuff's wedding. It was in dreadful repair then, but they were supposed to have completely refurbished it recently.
Miss Whormseldeussen arrived at the Willowbranch Baptist Church at precisely 10:00 A.M. for the 10:3O A.M. service. She went straight to the organ. There to meet her was a young man who introduced himself as Jimmy Day.
She inquired: “Are you any kin to Bobby Day? If you're not, you're still the spittin' image of him!”
“Yes ma'am. He's my father.” Jimmy answered politely.
“Well! I can see that I'm going to have as much trouble with you as I did with him! What do you want with me?” She fixed her icy stare on him.
“Mr. Edwin said that I should show you through the organ,” Jimmy began.
“Now see here! I was playing the organ before your daddy's daddy was in diapers and you want to show me a thing or two about an organ? Who does Mr. Edwin think he asked to play for him, anyway?”
“Well, Miss Whormseldeussen, there have been some major changes to this organ recently.” Jimmy tried to explain.
“Nonsense! An organ is an organ and so it shall always be! You just go on your way. I am going to go over the hymns and the anthem. You're wasting my time! Be off with you now!” Miss Whormseldeussen turned her back on him and began to gather the music.
Jimmy stood with his mouth agape for a moment. “OK!” he thought to himself, “She can find out about the new electric action and that gong on her own. Darn! If dad had not raised such a ruckus when momma told him that Mr. Edwin asked me to substitute for him, I'd be playing the service and everything would have been all right,” Jimmy fumed to himself as he left the choir loft to find a pew.
When Miss Whormseldeussen did finally get everything together and the roll top on the console open, she sat for a moment in complete bewilderment. There was something wrong here. Something terribly wrong. She began a check list in her mind; “Lets see, I've opened the console, I've selected the stops. Now, what's wrong here. Oh! I don't know how to turn the thing on! Let me see, there must be a switch here somewhere . . . ”
Jimmy sat watching her from the pew. Looking for the pastor, she turned around and saw him watching her. She turned back to the console. “No, I just can't ask that presumptuous boy anything, but I have no idea how to switch this organ on. Time is ticking away, it is now 10:15, the prelude must begin in four minutes.”
She was beginning to feel panicky when the minister came by to check on why the substitute organist had not yet met with the choir to go over the morning anthem. She took the opportunity to ask how the organ was switched on. Just before he hurried her off to meet with the choir, he showed her the switch which was out of sight, under the key desk.
Five minutes later, winded from hurrying, she began her prelude. The choir marched in and sang the call to worship.
“My these Baptists like fast music!” she thought.
A prayer. A hymn. A scripture reading. A soloist. Another prayer. Another hymn.
“Goodness, these Baptists surely do pray and sing a lot!” she mused.
An offertory prayer. Time to pass the plate.
“Oh! I'm supposed to play something for that, too?” she scrambled to find her music, knocking the hymn book onto the pedals just as the preacher said 'Amen.'
This made a most comical grunting noise. Titters of laugher came from the congregation. This unnerved her and distracted her attention. Nevertheless, she began to play.
Her thoughts became a complete jumble as she played, “My this music certainly sounds strange. It looks strange! Is this the piece I selected? Oh my! The music is upside down!”
With one hand she tried to keep playing, which meant that she only succeeded in holding a horrible chord that sustained such foreboding that the minister actually turned in his seat to glare at her. Finally, with music upright, she tried to judge where she left off. She couldn't so she just started in the middle and played to the end. She was so relieved to be done with it that she made an audible sigh that was echoed by most of the congregation.
Next, the Doxology. At least she had that memorized! Then came the anthem, just before the sermon. A lovely and quiet arrangement of 'In the Garden.' The piece began with a lilting arpeggiated figure which led to the first verse. Each succeeding strain seemed to get quieter and more peaceful. Finally the last chorus. 'And the voice I hear . .. ' All the stops had been subtracted, save for the soft and lovely Flauto Dolce' 8' and Flute Celeste 8', bringing the beautifully rendered strains to an end. The choir now seated and her job done, Miss Whormseldeussen reached for the button to cancel all the stops. Just as she pressed it, to herself she wondered; "Why is it on the wrong side and why is there no label on the button?"
In reply the organ loudly sang out, “GONG!”