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Entry 2 -- The Preacher and the Vice Principal

My second customer of the morning in the shop is the new preacher. He is Evangelical Lutheran which to me is just one more Protestant sect. Greenup is majority Protestant, but Catholics, Jews, and even some Moslems have moved here in the last year or two. The new auto plant and steel mill bring people from all over. They brought Orel and me, did they not?

He wants a banner for his church and has a graphic that he thinks is print ready. I don't have to tell you, it's not. It's the preacher's day off so he wears a polo shirt that does not hide his paunch. Yeah, I should talk since I too long ago lost the battle of the bulge and I can't even say it's from having babies, since I've never carried one to term.

I take the preacher in the back and show him what I have to do to his banner graphic with our software, but he bores easily. He has a soft baby face, pink and clean shaven and stubbly dark brown hair in a receding crew cut. He wears steel rimmed glasses. He doesn't look like much of a one to inspire confidence.

He says he's going for coffee and will be back to see his graphic before I give it to Ronald and Orel to run it through the banner machine that prints it on a big sheet of nylon.

So there I am fussing with the preacher's graphic when the office phone rings. This is not the shop phone so I know something is up, and when the voice on the other end of the line says it's from Stasch' school, I really know something is up. Worse yet, it's the Vice Principal. I wonder what Stasch has done.

"Are you Aliza Kippleman, this is Vice Principal [Name Withheld]."

"I am she," I answer.

"This is concerning your son, Stasch Renji." He can't pronounce Orel's last name. Well lots of people can't.

"What is this about?" I inquire.

"This morning your son rode around the school parking lot on the handlebars of an older boy's bicycle. We can't have such unsafe behavior."

I can't tell you how relieved I feel hearing this is all [Name Withheld] bothered to call me about. The man must truely have too much time on his hands.

"That older boy is my other stepson, Oisin. Stasch' bike is broken, so Oisin's been giving Stasch a ride to school. Didn't you ever give someone a ride on your handlebars or ride on the handlebars yourself when you were a kid?"

"We don't permit such unsafe behavior at this school."

"Fine," I answer. "I'll see that Stasch' bike gets fixed this afternoon. Is there a rack where first graders can lock their bikes?"

The Vice Principal is not expecting this. He says the elementary school does not have a bike rack but the middle school which is close by does.

"Fine, then I'd like permission for Stasch to lock his bike there. Can you give that to him in writing?"

Much to my surprise, I get a "yes." I guess there are not many parents who send their kids to school on bikes any more. It's a pity because it gives the boys some exercise in a constructive sort of way.

That taken care of I call the high school and ask if someone can take a message to Oisin. The secretary in the principal's office has to listen three times as I repeat the message. "Come home right after school. Fix Stasch' bike." Oisin should be in geometry about now and I picture him getting the message.

Then it's back to my graphic for the preacher. He gets back from his coffee before I'm finished. I have him pull up a chair. He asks where I go to church. I tell him I'm not interested, even if it is bad for business. Actually, I'm not Christian. I was born Jewish, but really I'm not much of anything. It doesn't even bother me that the boys are growing up without much religious education. I like it though that they can and do ride their bikes to school. Maybe bicycles are more useful than religion.

Finally, I get the graphic ready and the preacher gets to watch his banner get born. After that I talk to Orel and tell him I'll have to pick poor Stasch up at school. Oisin who has the working bike can peddal home and then he's got some work to do.

"He spends too much time reading in his room anyway these days," sighs Orel.

"He wants to go to Em-Eye-Tea," I say.

Orel makes a Bronx cheer. The preacher who is examining his banner nods in agreement. "I was never so ambitious when I was young," he says.

"Oisin has ambitious friends. I guess I'd want to go to Em-Eye-Tea too if I was in class with Joshua Goldfarb," I answer.

The preacher draws a blank. Clearly the Goldfarbs don't go to church either, but there are no synagogues here. Jews are a tiny tiny minority, not that I much care. I don't.

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