The Naked House
by James Dona
The scandal really started while the good people of Carters Crossroads were listening to a rousing sermon by Parson Cagel. His subject was the fall of Jerico. He stomped back and forth across the stage, illustrating the army of people following Joshua around the walls, when, just as he reached the part where the horns blew, The little crossroads church shuddered as though to illustrate the walls falling down.
The parson didn't seem to notice, as he continued his rousing sermon. But a few whispers started in the back rows and worked there way to the front of the Church.
"That felt like an earthquake."
"We never have earthquakes in North Alabama."
"But that felt like one."
"Couldn't happen here."
After the sermon, people gathered on the lawn and continued their discussion... not of the sermon, but of the earthquake.
"Jason Roof says that surely was an earthquake, and he should know, after spending all those years in California where they have such things."
"Jason Roof? Hah! He sure is uppity after going to college out there on the Left Coast."
"Still, he should know what an earthquake feels like."
Just then a teenager came running up to the crowd. "Come see what happened to Widow Squires' house! That old brick house down the next block? Her front wall just went and fell out into her yard. The inside of her whole house just looks naked!"
The crowd started down the street to see for themselves. As soon as the house was in sight, some of them started to run. While they stood there looking into the house, Miz Squires hobbled up on her cane. She didn't admit to being almost blind, but she stopped in surprise at all the people standing around in front of her house.
"Well, as long as all you folks are here, y'all might as well come in and I'll fix up a pitcher of lemonade. Sorry I don't have any sweet tea made."
Deacon Smith took Miz Squires by the hand and led her around to the side door. "Miz Squires, it looks like there has been a little damage to your house, so we better go in through the kitchen." He opened the always unlocked door and led her into the house, followed by some of the ladies.
Miz Squires busied herself mixing a big pitcher of lemonade, and one of the ladies took a collection of glasses and pint jars down from the cupboard. The deacon explained to Miz Squires that her house was damaged by the earthquake they had felt at church, and made her promise she wouldn't go out on the front porch until it could be repaired. After everyone went home, the widow started to go out on the front porch to sit in her rocking chair, but her way was blocked by the debris from the fallen wall, so she went out in the back yard and sat on her garden bench.
Later that evening, a couple from the church walked by just as Miz Squires came out of the bathroom in her nightgown and climbed into bed. Her nightgown was on the verge of disappearing into the lint filter the next time she washed it down at the Laundromat, and the couple thought she was naked. Soon word got around, and there was a lot of traffic past the widow Squires' house that week.
On the next Sunday, Parson Cagle looked out at the congregation as he was walking to the podium, and almost fell over it. There was the plumber in his work clothes, the banker in a new brown pair of coveralls over his white shirt and tie, and several more men in the congregation wearing bib overalls that some of them hadn't worn in years. He quickly changed his sermon that morning to one he had used before, on the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.
He smiled with approval as some of the men began to slip out the door, and continued his sermon until one of the ladies interrupted to say that there would be a covered dish lunch on the grounds. She apologized for not getting the word out to all the ladies, but said she hoped everyone would stay for lunch.
When she finally got home, Miz Squires didn't even notice that a temporary wall had been built across the front of her house. She went in the kitchen door, and still used that door for weeks after the new brick wall was finished and the porch rebuilt.
Then one day she forgot, and went out on the front porch to sit in the new rocker she found there. When the word got around town that Miz Squires was sitting out on her front porch, there was a steady stream of folks walking by on the sidewalk. They waved and called to her as they passed, but all declined to "come up and set a spell."