"It's those damn bells!"
The speaker in my office
doorway was a short older man with wisps of
red hair and a beet-red face.
"I don't believe we've met," I said, rising and putting out my hand. He shook it hard and told me, "My name’s Red.
I live across the street."
"Well, Red, come in, sit down and tell me what's bothering
you." He did.
"It's those damn bells," he said again. "They ring every fifteen minutes, they play songs all the time, and they're loud. They're so loud I can’t
think. I can't hear the evening news. I can't even hear my wife
when she talks!"
“I see. Well, I’m sorry about that.” Then I explained how our church's carillon had been broken for three years, was recently fixed and set at half volume, and that hymns played three times a day - at nine in the morning, one in the afternoon, and again at six each night.
We talked a while more and finally reached an agreement. The volume would be cut back to forty percent and we'd play hymns only twice a day, at twelve-fifteen and five forty-five, when traffic on the highway out front was heaviest. That seemed to satisfy Red and he left.
Three years later my phone rang, and when I answered, a local funeral director was on the line. "I have a non-member funeral I'd like you to consider doing."
"Fine, I said. Who died?"
"A woman in her sixties. Her husband is Roman Catholic, but she was Lutheran all her life so the husband wanted me to find a Lutheran pastor to do her service. The pastor from her synod refused to officiate, due to her being inactive,so I suggested there was a nice Lutheran church right across the street from his house and that you often did services for non-members, and he said 'Well, you can ask him, but he won't do it.' Then he told me a story about your bells."
I smiled. "Tell Red I'll be glad to do his wife's service," And I did. I met with Red, his son and daughter, and planned the funeral they wanted.
For years after, Red and I would wave at each other and sometimes stop to talk on the sidewalk,until one day a 'For Sale' sign went up in front of his house and I read that he'd died, with a service at the local Catholic parish
Red had never mentioned the bells to me again, except just once. "I like 'em, you know? They remind me of Ruthie,"
was all he said.