Without Merit(8)

By: Colleen Hoover

My father may not be a believer in the Lord, but he is an avid believer in karma. As much as he fantasized about murdering Wolfgang, he did not want the murder of an animal hanging over his head. Even if that animal was the worst he’d ever encountered.

Wolfgang’s feelings were mutual, or so it was assumed by the way Wolfgang spent the better part of his life barking and growling at my father, inconsiderate to whether it was day or night or weeknight or weekend, only occasionally distracted by a rogue squirrel.

Dad tried everything over the years to put an end to the incessant harassment, from earplugs, to cease and desist warnings, to barking right back at Wolfgang for three hours straight after a Friday evening of consuming three glasses more than his usual evening glass of wine. He attempted all of these things to no avail. In fact, my father was so desperate for a peaceful night’s sleep, he once spent an entire summer attempting to befriend Wolfgang in hopes that the barking would eventually cease.

It didn’t.

Nothing worked, and from the looks of it, nothing would ever work, because Pastor Brian cared for Wolfgang a significant deal more than he cared for his neighbor, Barnaby Voss. Unfortunately for Pastor Brian, his fledgling church was at an all-time financial low while my father’s used car lot and thirst for revenge were at an all-time high.

My father made a bid the bank couldn’t refuse and one Pastor Brian could not himself raise the funds to match. It helped that my father also threw in quite a deal on a used Volvo for the loan officer in charge of the church’s foreclosure.

When Pastor Brian announced to his congregation that he’d lost a bidding war to my father, and that my father would be closing the doors to the public and moving our entire family into the church, our family became fodder for gossip. And it hasn’t subsided since.

After signing the closing papers almost five years ago, my father gave Pastor Brian and Wolfgang two days to vacate the premises. It took them three. But on the fourth night, after our family moved into the church, my father slept thirteen hours straight.

Pastor Brian was forced to relocate his Sunday sermons, but with divine intervention on his side, it took no more than just one day to find an alternate venue. He reopened a week later in an upscale barn that was used by a deacon to house his collection of tractors. For the first three months, the parishioners sat on bales of hay while Pastor Brian preached his sermon from a makeshift platform constructed out of plywood and pallets.

For six solid months, Pastor Brian made it his personal mission to publicly pray for my father and his wayward soul every Sunday before dismissing church. “May he see the error of his ways,” Pastor Brian and the parishioners would pray, “And return to us our house of worship . . . at an affordable price.”

This news of being at the top of Pastor Brian’s prayer list was unsettling to my father, for he did not feel he had a soul, much less a wayward soul. He certainly did not want the churchgoers praying for said soul.

Approximately seven months after we turned that old church into our family dwelling, Pastor Brian was seen driving a brand-new-to-him Cadillac convertible. The following Sunday, Barnaby Voss was coincidentally no longer a subject in Pastor Brian’s passive-aggressive closing prayer.

I was at the car lot the day my father and Pastor Brian worked out the deal. I was significantly younger than I am now, but I remember the deal as if it were yesterday. “You stop praying for my nonexistent soul and I’ll knock two grand off that cherry red Cadillac.”

It’s been several years since any of us have had to listen to Wolfgang bark at night, and several years since my father has greeted a morning in a foul mood. Our family has done a great deal of remodeling inside the church, but there are still three elements that prevent the dwelling from feeling unlike the house of worship it once was.

1) The stained-glass windows.

2) The eight-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ hanging on the east wall.

3) The church marquee on the front lawn.

The same marquee that remains out front all these years later, long after my father changed the name atop the marquee from, “Crossroads Lutheran Church,” to “Dollar Voss.”

He chose to name the house Dollar Voss because the church is divided into four quarters. And our last name is Voss. I wish there were a more intelligent explanation.

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