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NOVEMBER 2015
HONORABLE
MENTION
GeminiMAGAZINE
2015
Flash Fiction
Contest
$25 Prize
PERFORMANCE
by Robert Morgan Fisher
I see Reverend Barratry at the grocery store.
Reverend Barratry is a tiny woman and I’m a tall man. I
find myself bending so as not to tower over her. She asks
where I’m playing these days. I see my reflection in her
bifocals. I mention a couple of gigs. I do coffeehouses,
bars—no place for an older person like Reverend Barratry.
Nice of her to ask, though. We part ways.

Two days later someone from the church committee
contacts me. Reverend Barratry has a sermon planned for
next month. Might I have an appropriate song to
complement her sermon theme?

Even though I’m a professional, this isn’t about me. I think:
Service the sermon, the message. They tell me the theme.
Right away, I know the perfect song. I send a link and
lyrics.

Immediately, they respond: “Yes, this is perfect.”
Everything is set.

I practice the song just to make sure I don’t mess it up.
Over the next few Sundays, I envision myself up there
supporting Reverend Barratry’s words of wisdom.  

* * *

The night before the big sermon, I change the strings on
my guitar. It sounds massive.

Sunday morning I show up a half-hour early to do a sound
check. There's hardly anybody in the sanctuary, so I play a
few fragments of popular songs just to warm up my fingers
and voice. I also play a verse of the scheduled song. It's
right there in the program: title of the song, the person who
wrote it and my name. It's a story song and I've worked up
a solid arrangement. I don't play too much of it—don't want
to give away the ending. I'm supposed to play just before
the sermon, according to the program, like an overture with
words. Preamble.

While I'm singing and the tech is adjusting sound levels,
Reverend Barratry enters.

I sing, "Hello, Reverend Barratry!"

She just ignores me and heads straight to the pulpit. She
puts down her Bible with a frown, hunches over her notes.
I finish the sound check and take my place in a pew.
People are starting to fill up the sanctuary.

Reverend Barratry motions me back up to the stage.

She says, "We need to move this away." She's pointing to
the microphone stands and my guitar. "The children need
to sit here for story time." Even though there's plenty of
room, I do as she says. I try to remember how the mic
stands are placed, since that was the whole point of doing
a sound check.

"Wouldn't you rather sing down there?" she says, pointing
to the wooden steps leading up to the stage.

"Um, nobody will be able to see me," I say. "And I can't
use the microphone."

"It's just...."

"Yes?" I say.

"It's just...I'd like it to be less of a performance."

I consider this. She doesn't want the song to upstage the
sermon—I get it.

"Okay," I say, grabbing my guitar. "Just point me to where
you need me."

She escorts me to the back of the church.

"I'll have to sing loud," I tell her. "People will have to turn
their heads to see me—but maybe that's the point. No
performance, right?"

As if this has raised an additional problem, Reverend
Barratry frowns again. She takes me through the door to
the hallway. I strum my guitar in front of a bulletin board.

"Here?" I say.

Reverend Barratry sets a finger to her chin,
contemplatively. She pushes open the door to the men's
restroom.

"Really—here?" I say.

She opens the stall, points.

"Try here."

I comply. She closes the stall door. I hear her exit the
bathroom. Inside the sanctuary, there's the gathering
music, call to worship. The men's room door is open.

They say Reverend Barratry is due to retire this year. The
committee already sent me an honorarium, which I cashed.

I bash out an E-chord on my guitar. The acoustics in here
are incredible.


Robert Morgan Fisher’s fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review Soundbooth
Podcast, 0-Dark-Thirty, The Huffington Post, Psychopomp, 34th Parallel, The
Snake Nation Review, The Seattle Review, Spindrift, Bluerailroad and other
publications. He has a story in the forthcoming Night Shade/Skyhorse Books Iraq
War anthology, Deserts of Fire. Robert has written extensively for TV, radio and
film. His music and fiction have won many awards. He holds an MFA in Creative
Writing from Antioch University, where he works as a Book Coach and Writing
Specialist and teaches online courses. He often writes companion songs to his
short stories. Robert also voices audiobooks.
www.robertmorganfisher.com

Photo of Robert Morgan Fisher by Manda Mosher