Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine
Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine is a short work of fiction involving a church congregation, a prayer request, an abandoned house, and a washing machine. #short fiction #answered prayer #church congregation #washing machine
When Pastor Westly Andrews gave the invitation to come forward for prayer at the close of service at Mount Calvary Christian Church, Sister Hazel pushed three parishioners out of her way in her hurry to get to the alter. She had serious business to do with God. There was no time to waste waiting on the trifling folks who were taking their sweet time coming forward.
The washing machine she bought at Sears and Roebucks back in 1984 stopped agitating. Laundry was piling to the ceiling in her utility room. She needed another machine fast. It wasn’t a normal everyday run of the mill washing machine she was about to ask the Lord for.
Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine needed to be a front loader
What she wanted was one of those fancy front loaders like she saw over at the appliance store on Friday when she went to have a look at what one would cost. He might as well toss in an energy-efficient drier while He was at it. The one she had wasn’t working all that good. The clothes were still a little damp when they finished their cycle. Hazel had to add another ten minutes to get them dry most every time.
It took five minutes of prayer, supplication, and bargaining before Sister Hazel was sure she and the Lord had a deal. She’d made some substantial promises to God. She pledged to be nice to her daughter-in-law, Mary Green, who used to be a Baxter, for an entire month.
The promises Sister Hazel made to get her washing machine
Hazel wouldn’t make one suggestion about how she should raise the kids or tell Mary her house wasn’t clean enough just so she could see the pained look in her daughter-in-law’s eye. A cuss word wouldn’t be heard escaping her mouth for the next year if she was blessed with one of those front-loading machines. Hazel even went as far as making the promise to help with the kid’s Christmas play in December. The Lord knew how those little brats drove her crazy, but it was a sacrifice Hazel was willing to make.
Sister Hazel ran her chubby fingers through her short-cropped, steel grey hair before she lifted her hands in the air and shouted hallelujah and praise Jesus. She struggled to her feet, looking around to make certain everyone in the sanctuary heard her shouts for joy.
Sister Hazel added cancer to her list
Hazel wasn’t as young as she used to be. There was a problem with her back, which kept the disability checks popping into her bank account at the first of the month. Both her knees were bad from standing on the concrete floors over at the factory for all those years. She’d been diagnosed with arthritis, gout, and sugar. She was sure there was a dark growth, sprouting hidden deep down in the center part of her body.
She could feel it, so she might as well add cancer to the list. Sister Hazel was falling apart. It was a good thing she was going to be blessed with a washing machine before she was forced to load her clothes into the car and make the trip across Tecumseh to The Soap & Suds. It would be a hardship for her to tote clothes over to the laundry mat on the seedy side of town.
Sister Hazel scanned the sanctuary with her dirt-colored eyes until she zeroed in on Pastor Andrews. It was important for her to tell him the good news about her washing machine. He was talking to Brother Bradley. The irritating man with the high-pitched voice always took up most of the Preacher’s time after Sunday service pointing out all the important spots he’d missed while delivering the sermon.
Brother Bradly takes up Pastor Andrews time
Folks had to wait while brother Bradley rehashed the message word for word. Nobody in the congregation could get close to Pastor Andrews once Brother Bradley got ahold of him. Sister Hazel wasn’t shy. She pushed her way in between the two men to put an end to the conversation they were having about Romans 8:28.
“Pastor, I got to tell you about the breakthrough I’ve had. The Lord done promised he’s going to give me a new front-loader washing machine.” Hazel was in the habit of being a close talker. Droplets of spit escaped from the spaces in her mouth where her front teeth should have been like spray from a garden hose.
She lost her uppers and lowers in a bar fight before she found Jesus. Hazel took two steps closer to Pastor Andrews. He took two steps back. Hazel was quick to follow his lead. It looked like they were performing an old-fashioned minuet in the front of the church sanctuary.
“Now, Sister Hazel, you don’t want to test the Lord God in a situation like this. He’s under no obligation to give you a washing machine,” Brother Bradley said always wanting to make certain every member in the congregation was doctrinally sound in their beliefs.
The Lord promised Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine
“Get thee behind me, Satan. The Lord done promised me a front loader washing machine, and that’s exactly what I’m going to get.”
Pastor Andrews recognized a good escape route when one was provided for him. He moved away from Sister Hazel and Brother Bradley as fast as his feet could carry him. By the time the two combatants stopped their debate, the preacher had moved on to other church business.
Sister Hazel went about her normal after church routine, but that front-loader washing machine wasn’t far from her mind. It was hard to keep her attention on the task of peeling the potatoes she’d use to make the mashed for the Sunday dinner. It would have been beneficial if she had paid more attention to what she was doing because she nicked the side of her thumb with the sharp blade. The cuss words stuck in her throat as she washed off the blood underneath the kitchen faucet. She couldn’t afford to break her promise since the washing machine hadn’t materialized yet.
Her son and his family showed up at three o’clock. All through the meal, she pictured herself loading dirty clothes into the front of the new washer the Lord was going to give her. If she listened, she could hear the sounds the machine would make as it went through all its cycles. The washer agitated so loud inside her head; she couldn’t hear the conversation at the table.
Three loads of laundry finished in Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine
Hazel finished three loads of laundry in her mind by the time her son and his family walked out of her front door and climbed into their car. Since she was so preoccupied she hadn’t criticized her daughter-in-law once during the whole time the woman was sitting at her table. After they were gone, Hazel shouted a big praise Jesus to the Lord because her preoccupation had helped her keep one of her vows.
After her son and his family left, Hazel settled in to watch her favorite Sunday evening program. Her mind drifted from what was happening on the T.V. screen. A thrilling sense of expectation filled her every thought. Any minute now, her prayer was going to be answered.
She could feel the washing machine being drawn toward her by some sort of heavenly force. On any normal Sunday night, she wouldn’t have paid attention to the ruckus taking place outside her house. She was a woman who prided herself on minding her own business when it came to something happening with her neighbors, which she might have to testify about in court.
A sudden noise
A sudden noise sounded like the tailgate of a truck being lowered, followed by two men talking. Their voices were strained like they were lifting something heavy. She was positive she was hearing her new front loader washing machine being delivered right to her doorstep.
Sister Hazel wasn’t about to sit in her chair and wait for those men to knock on her front door. They were doing it all wrong. Someone needed to direct traffic. The hinges on her door squeaked when she swung it open wide. The cool night air hit her in the face when she stepped out onto her porch.
The smell of garbage from the dumpster near the house made her choke. A gasp escaped her mouth when she got a good look at the truck parked in Old Lady Watts’ driveway.
What were those men going to do with Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine?
The men were loading what looked like a brand-new set of kitchen cabinets into the bed of the truck along with some copper pipes and what looked like wiring. Betty Watts left over a month ago for St Louis. Sister Hazel heard she had kin over there she’d went to live with. The two women never got along. It didn’t break Sister Hazel’s heart to see her neighbor go. “What do you think you’re doing over there, and where is my washing machine?” Hazel yelled to get the men’s attention.
“My aunt said we could take whatever we wanted out of the house before she puts it up for sale.” The young man with the shifty eyes lowered his baseball cap over his face. His friend hopped into the cab of the truck and hunched his shoulders to shield himself from view.
The two of them looked like a pair of sneaky old foxes who had got caught breaking into a hen house. “You might as well go in and take what you want. My aunt said to give all the stuff away because it would save her the cost of hiring movers.” The young man slid behind the steering wheel of the silver truck and inserted a key in the ignition.
Is there a front-loader in there?
“Is there a front-loader washing machine in there?” Hazel asked. It took some effort for her to brush the bad feeling in her gut about what was happening next door out of the way. She knew she should go inside the house and call the police. The two men looked like shady characters, but who was she to question the blessing she was sure the Lord was about to bestow on her.
“There sure is. We were going to get it on our next trip, but if you want the washer, you can have it. It’ll save us the trouble of hauling it away later. Take whatever you can use out of the house. My aunt said she doesn’t want any of this old stuff.”
Sister Hazel watched as the big silver truck pulled out of her neighbors’ driveway. She waited until it disappeared around the corner before she went back into her house. Her cell phone was on the coffee table in front of the television. Sister Hazel had the numbers for every member of the Mount Calvary Christian Church programmed into the device. She needed help moving her new washing machine. More folks than required to do the job would show up if they were promised free stuff. It wasn’t hard to shrug off her suspicions as she dialed the first number. Brother Bradley would make a beeline over to her place once he found out about the giveaway.
Pastor Andrews gets involved with Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine
It was 9:30 p.m. when Pastor Andrews’ cell phone rang. Sister Hazel’s voice exploded into his brain when he held the phone up to his ear. “This is Sister Hazel talking here. The Lord gave me the front-loader washing machine I been praying for, but I need some help moving it into my house. Brother Bradley’s over next door, but he’s too lazy to lift a finger. All he wants to do is supervise and talk about the scripture. I need one of those dollies and a strong back. I figure you might have both,” she said with the voice of authority like she was a commanding general on a battlefield.
The Pastor slips into a pair of jeans
It took Wesley Andrews fifteen minutes to slip into a pair of jeans, load the dolly into the trunk of his car, and pull out of his driveway. His wife was standing at the front door of their house when he pulled away from the curb. A shadow of light from the living room lamp illuminated the tense lines at the corner of her mouth. Her hands rode the side of her hips like she was restraining them so she wouldn’t punch the closest object within reach.
Sunday evening was the time they set church business aside and spent a peaceful evening alone. Sister Hazel had a knack for calling at the worst possible moments. He could have kicked himself for not turning off the phone ringer. His wife claimed he suffered from a savior complex. Maybe she was right. He should have told Sister Hazel he couldn’t help.
Something is wrong about Sister Hazel’s Washing Machine
Pastor Andrews knew there was something wrong the moment he pulled up in front of the white house on Monroe Street. Half of the people in his congregation were there. They were streaming out of the house next door to Hazel’s carrying items in their arms like they were leaving a garage sale.
Hazel ran from the side of the house as soon as he pulled to the curb. She leaned in through the open car window and said: “I’m so glad you made it in time. We need to go get my front loader washing machine before one of these trifling people takes it for themselves. I’ve had to fight off two of them with a broom. I swear folks these days are so ungrateful.” Her breath was hot on his face. He sucked air into his lungs as soon as Hazel moved away from the open car window.
Pastor Andrews open the car door and stepped onto the street. “What’s going on here, Hazel? Why is half the church carrying stuff out of your neighbor’s house?”
“Old Lady Watts moved off to St Louis. She doesn’t want to pay a mover, so she’s giving her stuff away for free to anyone who wants it.”
“Are you sure about that?’
“Her nephew told me so himself. The night ain’t getting any younger. Are you going to help me move my machine or not?”
Hazel made her move
Hazel stepped toward the backdoor of her neighbor’s house. Pastor Andrews wiped drops of spit off his face before he took the dolly out of the trunk of his car. He followed her in the dark. She opened the back door of Mrs. Watt’s house.
The Pastor was surprised the electricity was still turned on since the elderly woman had moved away. Later he would know this was the point in time when he should have asked more questions, but he was in a hurry to get back home. His wife had some ruffled feathers he needed to smooth down if he was going to have any peace in his household.
It didn’t take long to unhook the coveted machine and load it onto the dolly. By the time he managed to lift it onto Hazel’s back porch and navigate it through her narrow doorway, he was a sweaty mess.
The police are out front
An overpowering odor of perspiration filled his nostrils as he hooked up the hoses to the back of the front-loader washing machine. He was about to turn the red gauge that would allow water to flow into the washer when flashing lights filled up the inside of Hazel’s house.
The strobe effect of the alternate blue and reds sent a chill through the pastor’s body. An unmistakable loud knock sounded on the backdoor. He thought they must teach cops how to bang in the police academy so that the pounding would send devastating terror through the heart of any criminal hiding inside a residence. The knock was the voice of authority personified.
“Let me take care of this,” Pastor Andrews said before he moved to the backdoor. When he opened it, he came face to face with Patrol Officer David Hanson. The Pastor knew the officer from his many jail visits. They’d always had a good rapport.
‘We got a call on a breaking and entering on the house next door. I’m a little surprised to see you here, Pastor,” Officer Hanson said.
Sister Hazel was wrong
“I believe there has been a misunderstanding. Sister Hazel was under the impression Mrs. Watts moved away and wanted to get rid of her belongings to save her the expense of a mover,” Pastor Andrews explained.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the lady who lives across the street, the woman’s in a nursing home recovering from hip surgery. She called the burglary in when she noticed all the commotion in the house next door.”
Officer Hanson cuts the congregation a break
Officer Hanson wasn’t in the mood to round up the parishioners of Mount Calvary Christian Church. A deal was struck. If all the belongings were brought back in the same condition in which they were taken, no charges would be filed. Pastor Andrew’s sat down on Hazel’s porch and started calling the members of his congregation who disappeared as soon as the police car pulled into Mrs. Watts’ driveway. The last call the Pastor made was to his wife.
He needed to make sure she was in the mood to come up with bail money if all the items weren’t returned. Brother Bradley was a holdout. He had possession of a chain saw and an air compressor he was refusing to return. He claimed to have spiritual grounds for the purloined items to remain in his possession.
His argument ran along the lines of the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Pastor Andrews visualized the headline of the morning edition of the Tecumseh Times. “Congregation of Local Church Arrested for Theft” was how it would most likely read.
Pastor Andrews wished he’d paid more attention in seminary
The Pastor wished he’d paid more attention in seminary. He was sure they covered situations like the one he found himself trapped in, but he couldn’t remember if they had any suggestions about what he should do next. It took an hour for all the items to be returned. Brother Bradley relented on his scriptural stance once he found out the police were involved. He was in a surly mood when he returned the chain saw and air compressor to Mrs. Watt’s garage.
. Hazel was busy giving Officer Hansen the imposter nephew’s description while Pastor Andrews was making the phone calls. It was suspected the two men were thieves whose MO was to break into vacant houses and steal the fixtures, copper plumbing, and wiring.
They’d stay away from stuff that had serial numbers, which could be traced back to them. Once they broke the pilfered goods down, they’d sell it for scrap. They were even known to strip the aluminum siding of a house while the owners were on vacation.
The police leave
Patrol Officer Hanson climbed in his squad car and pulled out of the driveway. The Pastor and Hazel were the only people left standing alone in the dark. The crickets sang their songs of love. The smell of garbage continued to float from the dumpster next to Sister Hazel’s house. The night created a surreal sensation in Pastor Andrews’ gut as he stared into the darkness.
He couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time for him to go home and face the music. He’d have to admit his wife was right. She’d been adamant he was walking into a big mess if he went to help Sister Hazel. He’d be eating crow for dinner for the next month unless she followed through with the threat to go live with her sister in Indianapolis.
“I’m sorry about how this situation with your washing machine worked out,” he said as he moved toward his car parked next to the curb.
The Lord didn’t say how long I could keep it
“Don’t be, Pastor Wesley. The Lord only told me he’d give me a washing Laughter filled the night air as the Pastor climbed behind the wheel of his car. Sister Hazel had a point. A person should be specific when they have a conversation with God.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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