A Second Chance -- Chapter 24

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A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

TUESDAY, May 16, 2016

Classes Tuesday morning were beyond special. English and History were project periods, and in between the students were expecting boring Math classes. But the teacher, Mr. Hughes, said that they had also completed all the coursework required the provincial standards. Instead of the optional extra unit the Ministry recommended, the instructor announced that he wanted to try something new as well.

He had heard about the movie project in the other two classes, and really couldn’t work in a way to bring math directly into their projects. But he had spent the weekend building a Movie Game. As he explained it, each team, the same ones as for the video project, would create a budget for a Hollywood Blockbuster movie. The groups would choose the genre for the film: rom-com, farce, drama, musical, action, space, horror, or cartoon. Each genre had a set number of shooting days, and a rate for shooting. Space and action movies had higher production costs than rom-com, due to animation costs, for instance, and musicals were expensive due to the numbers of cast needed.

The groups would also choose their cast, selecting six stars. Mr. Hughes, the teacher, had found a website that gave the fees that each star gets. To get a really big star, you had to pay a big salary. But each star had a ‘gate factor,’ so if you scrimped on the cast, you wouldn’t sell as many tickets. Mr. Hughes suggested picking one really big male star, and one really big female, with the other four being lower levels.

You also had to pick stars that fit your genre. If you picked an actress who only did rom-coms, and put her in an action movie, there was a flop factor. You would roll a die, and if it hit a 4 to 6, she did well in the new genre. But a 1 to 3 and she flops.

There were several other variables. Filming in Hollywood, Vancouver, New York, Toronto or on location all had associated costs. Hollywood was the highest cost, but your stars would cost 10% less, because they could work near their home. On location was most expensive.

The groups would spend one period making their choices, and then another hour doing calculations to try and calculate costs and revenues for their picture, based on the defaults. (Of course there was math involved. It was the math game). Then a third hour would come add the variables into the game. There would be a series of dice rolls for almost every option, and this would multiply or cut into your costs and revenues. As the dice were being rolled, the groups would have to make calculations on how well their movie did.

It was the dice that really controlled the game. If you rolled 24 sixes in the various elements, you would win even if you made pretty terrible choices all the way through the process. And all ones would mean that the movie that seemed like a sure hit would come in as a flop. Of course, it would be almost impossible to know how the dice would land, so each group would have a good chance of winning.

The game would run once a week for the rest of term, with a new movie each week. The only prizes were bragging rights, and in a grade eight class that was a rich prize. The best thing was that the English and History teachers had agreed that the game would only run on Fridays. The other four days of the week would have no math class, so students could work on their films for three consecutive periods, and then play the math game during the three periods on Friday.

Of course the students all loved the idea, and were abuzz with ideas when the bell rang and it was time for the History class. They had worked on the video in English first period, and were supposed to be back at it for the third period. Not having to break for math in the future meant they would be able to get much more done working straight through.

As she walked to History, Rachael wished that she had young, innovative teachers like Mr. Hughes when she initially had gone to school so many years ago. Then, everything was out of the book, and teachers didn’t seem to want to take chances like Mr. Hughes was. No doubt he would present the game to other teachers in Professional Development days in the future if it worked. And she didn’t see how it couldn’t work. His plan was going to force the students to do percentages, statistics, and countess calculations. But they were going to be having fun doing it, because of the game element. To her, it was a sure-fire winner.

The result was that about half of the History class wound up with the students talking about the Math game rather than their projects, but Mr. Churchill had been expecting that, and didn’t get uptight about it. Eventually Rachael got the girls thinking about the video, and making plans.

On the weekend Mikki had gone to the cenotaph downtown, and confirmed that Cpl. Stiller’s name was on it, and in a location near the bottom of the list, so that Grandpa (all the girls were calling him that now) could reach out and touch it. She said that the light would be best in the early morning, and suggested a Sunday at about 6:30 a.m. That was early enough that they would be no traffic noises, or onlookers to bother them. She suggested that they plan three hours, from 6 to 9, which would barely allow Rachael to get back in time for church.

“Rachael said this was only going to be 90 seconds of the video,” Carly noted. “How can it take three hours to shoot 90 seconds?”

“You would be surprised,” Larissa said. “When I was modeling, there were hours of setup for a short shoot. And they would take hundreds of the same shot, over and over again.”

“I expect I will film it at least four times,” Mikki said. “I will want different angles, so we can edit together. And we can’t be sure how Grandpa is at speaking his lines. He is a great speaker when he is sitting in his chair talking to us, but you never know how someone will react when they are in front of the camera.”

“I’m hoping we don’t have to give him lines,” Rachael said. “I will stand off camera, and ask him a question, and just let him talk naturally. I think that will be the best way. And then we can edit all the takes together and get all the best parts. My voice asking the question will be edited out. Carly or Larissa will speak the lines that frame the scene, depending if this is the start or the middle of the video.” Carly was going to introduce the video at the start, and sum it up at the end, while Larissa was going to be the on-camera hostess, leading Grandpa through the scenes.

The bell rang with the girls busy discussing the project. They hadn’t even noticed the time, and had to hurriedly move their desks back into position for the next class. Then it was off for lunch.

At lunch they heard from some of the other groups. Leon’s group was not using Carly’s idea: apparently Mr. Churchill had offered that to another group. His group was going to do a movie about the Ingersoll Big Cheese. This was a historic event when the Ingersoll dairies of the time had made a massive wheel of cheddar that weighed about four tons. It was sent to a fair in New York State, and then to Liverpool, where it got publicity in all the newspapers there. It established Ingersoll as a cheese-making center. The highlight of their video was that Neal, who was on the team, planned to draw several cartoon montages to show the cheese being made, backed up by exhibits and photos borrowed from the local museum. It sounded like their video could give the girls some competition for best in the class. Robert and Tony were the other two boys on their team.

“Oh, Mom wants you to come out to the farm again on Saturday,” Robert told Rachael later in the lunch.

“I don’t think I can,” Rachael said. “I am supposed to look after my little brother Bobby. It is one thing to take a day off for something like the farm, but I can’t make them have to work around my fun again. Tell her I can’t, as much as I would like to.”

“Okay,” Robert said tentatively. “She was pretty insistent that you come, for some reason. I’ll tell her you can’t.”

After lunch, Science and French followed. These classes had not completed the provincial requirements, so there were no projects offered. In the double science class Rachael was bored, so she wrote a little story she thought would work well for the bakery. It went like this:

Love Bread

We used to call this seven-grain bread, because it contains flour from seven different grains. But someone pointed out that the main ingredient in it is Love. We put Love into all our baked products, as you might guess, but this bread is just crammed with Love. So we have decided to rename it Love Bread. We hope you will buy a loaf or two, and give some Love to your family.

In French Mme. Lafleur did stop by and ask Larissa if she had any videos from French movies or TV. The girl suggested Les Aventures de Tintin, and said she had a couple of DVDs of that. Apparently these would be shown in the last week of classes, when the teacher knew that more strenuous learning would not hold the attention of the students.

After school Mikki zipped out right away, rushing to get to Xcuts to help Ariel. Larissa and Rachel walked over to the elementary school to pick up Marc and Bobby for the walk home. At the bakery she stopped in to show her Mom the story she had written about Love Bread, and Maria decided to use her executive powers, in Geoff’s absence, to post the story on the bread display. If Geoff liked the story, he could print out a better copy on his computer tomorrow.

On the way home Rachael popped in to check if Ariel and Mikki were all right. If anything, there were more girls in the shop today, since the high school student from yesterday’s style had caused almost as much of a sensation in the high school as Carly’s had in middle school on Monday. Most of the girls were opting for styling during study periods, or lunch, rather than wait three weeks for an after-4 appointment.

Rachael stopped by with Gary and handed him another sandwich, chatting with him for a minute, and then the group went to Grandpa’s. The boys went and got Miss Lajoie to let them take the dogs for a walk, and a play in the yard, while the girls went in to interview Grandpa about the movie. He recounted some of the stories. Larissa was most interested in the stories about his actions in France, but Rachael had him tell of the liberation of Holland, where the people had been starved by the Nazis at the end. Rachael knew that there were a lot of Dutch immigrants to the Ingersoll area after the war, and this would make the story interesting to them.

Rachael made it home at 5:45, leaving just a half hour before dinner. She found the front porch stacked with empty boxes. Geoff had gotten all the boxes from the bakery, as well as more from the grocery store, and carted them to the Cartright house so that the family could start packing for their move to Grandpa’s.

Maria made it home at 6:15, and by then Rachael had made a quick dinner. Sloppy Joe’s, to Bobby’s delight, made with buns that Maria had bought at the bakery and brought home with her.

Bobby was reading his library books, and Maria and Rachael were starting to pack in their respective rooms when the doorbell rang. Bobby ran and got it, then ran back to report that “a man was here to see Rachael.” Both women came down.

It was Mr. Maclean, the church deacon. Maria invited him in. He immediately noticed all the boxes piled up. “You are moving?” he said.

“Yes, we will be moving down the street in a short time. There is a new owner of the house, and we can’t afford the rent.”

“Do you know what the new rent is?” the deacon asked.

“Probably $800 a month. That is more than twice what we were paying,” Maria said.

“That is actually fairly reasonable for a house. I wonder if you could give me the name of the owner. The church has just hired a young pastor to take over until Rev. McNaughton is well enough to resume his duties. Of course, he will continue to live in the manse, so the new pastor will need a place to live. The presbytery will finance the cost of the rent for us: our church could never afford it. Do you mind if I call the new pastor in to see the house? She is in the car.”

The word ‘she’ caught Rachael’s attention. When the woman came into the house, she was wearing clerical robes. She was about 25 or so, clearly just out of the seminary. She was rather plain looking, with light brown hair that hung down to chin level. She had a longish face, and a prominent chin. Her skin was nice though, and her dark brown eyes seemed friendly. The robes concealed her figure, but she seemed thin, and probably small-breasted. She was about Maria’s height, 5’5”.

Her name was Helen McFarland.

“What a sweet little house,” Helen said as Maria took her through the house. “I wonder if the church can get it for me? It will depend on if they want a lease or not. We need something month-by-month, as we don’t know how long I will be here. It is my first job, other than a few replacements for ill pastors.”

“I’m sure you will do fine,” Maria said when they finished the quick tour, and got back to the living room, where the deacon and Rachael had stayed.

“Mom, the deacon wants me to come with him to the hospital,” Rachael said. “Rev. McNaughton got out of intensive care this morning, and he has asked to see me. Should I go? He was pretty upset with me the last time we were together.”

“It will probably take an hour,” the deacon said. “The pastor has not yet met his temporary replacement, so I asked Miss McFarland to accompany us, for propriety reasons. He did not sound as though he was angry with your daughter. In fact, he seemed very interested in talking with her.”

“But what if he gets angry again?” Rachael asked. “That can’t be good for his recovery.”

“Well then, you will just have to be careful not to get him angry, won’t you,” Maria said. “Off with you then. We will see you when you get back.”

At the hospital Rachael was amazed at the number of flowers that were filling the Reverend’s room. Apparently he was well loved by his congregation. She felt sad that she hadn’t brought something. A plate of cookies might have done the trick.

“Where is she?” she heard the pastor’s voice as the deacon and Miss McFarland entered the room in front of her. “This is not the right girl.”

“This is your new replacement, Miss …”

“There she is,” the pastor said as Rachael stepped up next to Helen. “You two leave. I need to talk to the girl.”

The deacon hesitated, until he saw that remaining was making the pastor upset. He led Helen out of the room, closing the door behind them. The pastor calmed down immediately.

“Please sit, my dear,” he gestured to the bedside chair. “I think we have a mutual friend, and I didn’t want the others to overhear. They might put me in the nut house.”

He then described the visitation he had seen when he was unconscious, as Rachael had performed CPR on him. When he described his Angel John, Rachael was sure it was the same St. John as she had met.

“I have never been there,” Rachael said, “but I think you were at the gates of heaven. I do recognize the angel who spoke to you. He told me he was St. John.”

“Yes, yes,” the pastor said excitedly. “He told me to call him John. He also told me to listen to you. ‘She has wisdom beyond her years, which are greater than they appear.’ Confusing, but I feel I need to listen to you. I didn’t listen in church on Sunday, and now look where I am. At least there aren’t so many machines hooked up to me as there were in that other place.”

“The ICU? Yes, but they kept you alive,” Rachael said.

“You kept me alive, I was told,” the pastor said. “Why did you do it? I was arguing with you one minute, and the next you are giving me CPR.”

“You don’t deserve to die, if we can help it,” Rachael said. “Only the Lord decides when it is someone’s time.”

“John was right, you do have wisdom beyond your years,” the pastor said. “If I had died then, I would not have gotten into heaven. My late wife was there, and told me so. I need to finish up some things here first. Will you help me?”

“Of course,” Rachael said. “What sort of things?”

“Well, I guess I need to apologize to those two … men. I called them sinners, and now I have been told, just as you told me, that they are children of God, and deserve to be treated better. Do you know how I could contact them?”

“I do. They have a little shop a few blocks from the church. They are open Tuesday to Saturday. We could go visit them next week, or later if you are not up to it yet.”

“I will be ready. They say they will probably release me on Thursday. I will be at church on Sunday,” he said. He reacted to the alarm in Rachael’s face. “Oh, not to lead. They have brought that other girl in to do that. But I will attend the service, even if it is just to sit on a chair somewhere. Bring those two others in.”

Rachael went to the door, and found the other two outside. They each had a cup of coffee in hand, so they must have found a machine. She ushered them in.

“You were introducing this young lady to me, Maclean, when I rudely interrupted. If you could continue?”

“Yes. Erm, this is Helen McFarland,” the deacon said. “She if recently ordained, and had excellent marks from seminary. She is willing to fill in for as long as we need.”

“Humpf. It might be a while,” the pastor said. “I think young blood is what our old church needs. I might just transition from sick leave to retirement. Reverend Emeritus has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Tell me girl, what is your position on homosexuals in the church?”

Helen only hesitated for a minute. “It is a sin. The Bible makes that clear. But I feel that they should be welcomed into the church. All of us are sinners in one way or another. Excluding them is wrong.”

“You are wrong,” the pastor said. “It is not a sin. I have that on highest authority.” He glanced skyward. “They are loving people who deserve the same respect and dignity as every other congregant. Can you live with that?”

“Yes sir,” Helen said. “I have wrestled long hours with this question. Are you sure?”

“I am. I heard it from an Angel of the Lord himself,” the pastor said. “When I was unconscious, I had a near death experience, and went to the very gates of heaven. The Angel there told me to listen to the advice of Rachael here. As she quite succinctly explained to us last Sunday, most of Leviticus no longer applies. I want our church to be open and caring, welcoming all. Race, gender, sexual orientation should not be barriers between man and God.”

Helen smiled widely. “I can do that.”

The deacon, however, was more hesitant. “Are you sure about that Thomas? There are a lot of older members in the church who may object. We cannot afford to upset the ones who provide the church with the most funding.”

“I would rather offend a few people here than offend God almighty,” the reverend almost shouted. Rachael reached over and touched his shoulder. He turned and smiled at her, and calmed himself. “We might lose one or two families to another church,” he said. But I intend to ask those two young men to come back to our church. I pray that they will forgive me and come.”

The deacon did not look convinced, but didn’t say anything else. His task was to manage the church budget and property, while the pastor looked after things spiritual. If the pastor did something that threatened his revenue stream, he would have to do with less. Making do with less had been a part of his job since he volunteered for the position four years earlier.

On the ride back to drop Rachael off, the girl had an idea. “Deacon Maclean,” she said. “Has the church found a caretaker yet?”

“No dear, not yet. There don’t seem to be many out there who are interested in a part time job that is only eight hours a week at minimum wage. We do need to get someone soon. The congregation are starting to complain about the condition of the church. I’m going to have to mow the lawn myself on Friday.”

“What time will you be there?” Rachael said. “I have someone who might be able to handle the job.”

Shortly thereafter, Rachael got off at home, and headed in, managing to get a half hour packing done before she saw her brother standing in his underwear outside her door, holding the second Harry Potter book. “Momma says she is too busy to read,” he said softly. “Are you?”

“I’m never too busy for you, Bobby,” she said. “You hop into bed, and I’ll be there in a minute.” She watched as he ran to his room. She was amazed at seeing him so scantily clad. He looked so much thinner than he had a month ago. He still was overweight, but no longer was it obese. And with all the running around he was doing with his new friends, he would definitely soon be in shape. She then squeezed one of her love handles. If only the same could happen to her. But as she did so, she realized that the love handles were no longer as big as they had been.

Dear Lord

Please bless everyone. Our new pastor seems to be a good fit for the church. But she seems to have a sadness about her. Please let her be happy here, as long as it lasts. Thank you for allowing Rev. McNaughton to live. He is loved, and now he seems willing to change with the times. I think he might be a great pastor serving you. And please let everyone be happy, and full of love.

Amen



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