The Fifth Letter
a story by
Richard Manly Heiman
“Thank you so very much, everyone, for a wonderful evening. These five years at Holy Family Anglican Remnant have been amazing for us!” Reverend John Mittere told the assembled guests at his farewell party.
“I want to second that,” said Mrs. Mittere. “You are family to us–truly.”
“We’ll miss you,” continued her husband. “Worshiping together every Sunday… Bible study… watching your children grow in body and spirit. We’ll miss the potlucks and retreats, picnics and summer campouts. But—know that we’ll be watching over you still. From a distance, like the song.” Some of the older parishioners chuckled.
“Well, dear,” his wife said, “I won’t miss the camping as much as you will.”
This drew general laughter. Ladies nodded knowingly.
“We’ll miss you too, preacher!” shouted Elias Fryar. “No one explains Ezekiel like you do!”
“Who will eat all the cookies during coffee hour now, John?” said Clare Little, the organist.
“Oh, you’ll manage,” said their pastor. Then taking his wife’s hand, he announced, “So farewell everyone—at least for now. And remember–perseverance!”
With those words, in front of 48 staff and churchgoers, John and Teresa Mittere vanished. Instantaneously.
In the weeks that followed numerous theories were advanced. Tommy Holcomb, leader of Teens Afire, thought it was a gag. “He was a practical joker, you know.”
After a brief investigation, authorities ruled out foul play and figured it for a publicity stunt; a collective conspiracy to attract new members.
Zach Rodgers, oldest parishioner and considered highly eccentric, had other ideas: “I always thought those Mitteres was up to something. I think the both of ‘em was alien scouts sent here to spy on us before the rest of their gang invade!”
The word in ‘the street’—the middle school youth group—was that pastor and wife only appeared to be present that night, and what everybody really saw were just highly sophisticated holographic projections.
The ladies in the Altar Guild continued to gossip about the frequent trips the Mitteres took. “They said they were going to conferences and such—but how do we really know?” Hattie James said more than once.
Over time all the talk and speculation died down. A new pastor was installed and things gradually returned to normal. But church secretary Julia Petry dwelled for months on the pastor’s final statement. When she finally finished pondering, she wrote “perseverance of the saints” on dozens of index cards and taped them up all over her apartment.
Richard Manly Heiman lives in the California “Gold Country” where there is little gold and no water from which to pan it. He works as a substitute teacher and writes when the kids are at recess. Rick is pursuing an MFA with Lindenwood University.