The Soloist: Part Two

Continued from Part One.

Reilly parked his truck in the old barn behind the church. At seventeen, the old Ford didn’t owe him anything, and Reilly knew it. He skipped his jacket; the heat in truck only had two settings: Off and Death Valley. Sure, the sweat might freeze in his hair, but the cold air was welcome after the ride in from his house outside town.

“Jojo?” He called out into the still, cool air of the empty hall.

He was answered by a deafening G-major chord from the organ. “Back here!”

The church’s administrative assistant, who also played the organ, taught Sunday School, led the choir and the weekly Bible study, popped out from behind the organ. Reilly knew she was somewhere in her forties—she’d only been a few years ahead of him in school, but you’d never know it. Jojo’s face was young, as was her heart. She dressed in long skirts and combat boots or short skirts and jeans together, her inky black hair was pixie short , her skin was a vibrant living canvas, and no amount of tsk-ing from his older congregants could convince her that a nose ring was unseemly.

“I was looking to see if I’d left Jesus in the cubby last year.”

Reilly couldn’t help laughing. “You don’t carry Him always in your heart?”

Jojo set her hands on her hips and gave him the stink eye. “The baby. For the Nativity. I can’t find him with the others.”

“Did you look in the office supply closet? Millie helped us clean up last January…” Jojo’s nod was understanding. “How was practice?”

He’d deliberately waited until after choir practice to come by and set up the Fraser fir he’d bought for the annual gifting tree. No fewer than four members of the soprano section were actively pursuing him – for themselves or for their daughters.

“Bad news,” she said, nudging a box of lights and garland toward the tree stand. “Nancy Elder’s daughter in Seattle went into labor early. She and Sid leave in the morning and Nance says they’ll stay through the New Year. We just lost our soloist.”

Reilly considered. For twenty-five years, Nancy Elder had guided the good Congregationalists of town through two Christmas Eve services with a clear, light soprano and a natural instinct for performing. This was a set-back, but nothing beyond their mortal scope. Jojo was watching him, waiting for a call to action. He grinned at her.

“He will deliver.”

Jojo hoisted a coil of lights and began to untangle them. “I sincerely hope He delivers an opera singer pronto, Doc.”

Reilly considered again. This time, it was the excellent breakfast sandwich and coffee at Hank’s. And the hidden voice he’d delighted in while he ate. He had a homily to write, the baby Jesus to find, and a shift at the food pantry, but he could drop in at Hank’s before the diner closed and introduce himself to the mysterious singer.

He just might have delivered already.

Continued in Part Three

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