Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
The letter was sticky from the surface of the kitchen table where Mr. Hernandez had spilled his coffee hours before — coffee mingled with manic sprinkles of sugar that hadn’t quite made their way into his cup. Mr. Hernandez was the building superintendent at The Courtyard, an apartment community in the center of town that boasted four brick units constructed in a perfect square. A small courtyard with a fountain stood in the center, hence the name.
With a hundred units to maintain, Mr. Hernandez had not taken a day off in more than two years. Today he’d been awake since three in the morning when the pipes in Mrs. Crowley’s unit had burst. This was the third set of pipes that had failed in the past month; it was if the pipes had planned it together — a series of attacks that only came when the building superintendent was trying to sleep.
It was around 5 A.M. when Mr. Hernandez finally left Mrs. Crowley’s in a temporary state of repair. Just in time for Mr. Jacobi to come storming along, his faded brown bathrobe threatening to show more skin than was desirable.
“You’ve got to do something, Hernandez!” Mr. Jacobi insisted. He was convinced that someone in the building was watching him. Couldn’t something more be done about tenant privacy?
“I’ll keep an eye out, Mr. Jacobi. You see any suspicious characters, you let me know.”
By the time he had rid himself of Mr. Jacobi, it was time for his routine call to the Falwell sisters. The elderly twins were his most polite tenants, but they were also the most needy; he had made a habit of stopping by every morning to share a breakfast bite with them while they expressed their daily grievances. Somehow being heard seemed to keep them satisfied.
After breakfast with the twins, Mr. Hernandez returned to his apartment to sort through the tenant correspondence that had been neglected from the day before. Along with the rent checks were several letters. He opened one of them, and after reading it subsequently slammed his fist down on the table, spilling his coffee. “Some people,” he muttered and decided that the rest of the mail could wait.
Leaving the letter to soak up his coffee, Mr. Hernandez drove the four blocks to the hardware store. He wandered the aisles stocked with hammers and saws and nails and screws, breathing in the familiar smell of cement and metal; he rather enjoyed the solitude.
“Wouldn’t you know it? Three in the morning. Water pouring out everywhere.”
The salesman’s face showed adequate regard for Mr. Hernandez as he reverently placed the items in a brown bag; a busted pipe was a serious matter in an apartment complex.
Back at The Courtyard, Mr. Hernandez spent the rest of the morning working on Mrs. Crowley’s pipes. It was well past lunchtime when he returned to his apartment and re-read the letter that had begun to turn brown from the coffee. Written on yellow legal paper, the note was littered with exclamation points and underlines intended to drive home the message:
DEAR BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT,
IT’S HIGH TIME THAT SOME ADDRESS THE OUTRAGEOUS SITUATION IN THIS WRETCHED APARTMENT BUILDING. HONESTLY, I DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY PAY YOU FOR, SOME THINGS AROUND HERE NEED TO CHANGE!
LOOKING THROUGH MY BALCONY WINDOW, I’M CONVINCED THAT THE AREA WE CLAIM AS THE COURTYARD IS THE MOST HIDEOUS OF ANY I’VE EVER SEEN, AND I WOULD KNOW. I’VE LIVED IN MANY APARTMENTS OVER THE YEARS AND THIS ONE IS THE WORST. THE FOUNTAIN IS FALLING APART, SPITTING OUT WHAT RESEMBLES DIRTY SEWER WATER! THE OBNOXIOUS CHILDREN FROM THE BUILDING SPLASH AROUND IN IT, LEAVING THEIR FILTHY GERMS EVERYWHERE.
THE FLOWERS LINING THE COURTYARD ARE CONSTANTLY WILTING, LOOKING AS READY FOR DEATH AS MR. LANGLEY ON THE FIRST FLOOR. THERE ARE CRACKS IN THE CEMENT THAT ARE SPROUTING WEEDS AS TALL AS A JUNGLE. I’D BE SURPRISED IF THE BENCHES UPON WHICH WE ARE SUPPOSED TO RECLINE COULD HOLD MORE THAN TEN POUNDS WITHOUT CRUMBLING TO PIECES.
I SUGGEST YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SITUATION IMMEDIATELY. IF I CONTINUE TO BE FORCED TO LOOK AT SUCH AN ATROCIOUS SCENE, I WILL BE CONTACTING THE OWNER OF THE PROPERTY AND SEE THAT YOUR POSITION BE RELINQUISHED TO A MORE QUALIFIED INDIVIDUAL!!!
Mr. Hernandez sighed. Jessica Hastings had done it again. She was a tenant in Building A who always managed to bring a shadow over his day. And maybe she was right. Maybe it was time for him to call it quits. Get a job where he didn’t have to interact with people. He’d never intended to fix things for a living; it just sort of happened. Suddenly exhausted, he lingered at the table, debating whether to open the other letter; if it was anything like the first, he would be writing his resignation.
Closing his eyes, he tore open the envelope and warily pulled out a letter with soft penmanship that greeted him from a friendly piece of stationery:
Dear Mr. Hernandez,
I know I’m new to the community, but I felt it important that I take the time to express my appreciation. Already, I can see the faithful care you’ve given to the nurture of our complex, especially our courtyard. Whenever I draw the curtains and look out my window, I can’t help but be grateful for my new home.
The fountain, in particular, has been a fresh source of inspiration. I’ve spent many days sitting on my balcony, listening to the trickling water and watching the adorable children from the neighboring units splash about. I couldn’t ask for a more picturesque view.
Not only do you repair things but you take the time to make sure that things continue to grow. The tulips and the daffodils, the roses and irises –all budding because of your patient, attentive approach to the garden. I want you to know that it has not gone unnoticed.
As he finished Darlene’s note, Mr. Hernandez promptly crumpled the one from Jessica Hastings and tossed it in the wastepaper basket. The letter from Darlene, however, was a different matter entirely. This one would be kept and tucked away to read on those days when he was tempted to turn in his tool belt. And speaking of his tools, he had noticed that the trim around Darlene’s front door was beginning to fade. She would never mention it, but Mr. Hernandez would make a point to touch it up for her first thing tomorrow morning.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (NASB)
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB)
Questions to Ponder: When are you prone to express gratitude? When are you prone to express negativity?
Song Recommendation: Thankful by Caedmon’s Call (available on Itunes)
Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Proverbs 17:22 & Colossians 2. © 2016, Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.