Most boys as they grow up develop a talent in one or more specialties. Some are good at baseball, others at building model airplanes. I had a knack for making friends. The only problem was that my best friend had a knack for trouble.
When he was in grade school, for example, he convinced his younger brother and one of the neighbor boys that they could shoot flaming arrows just like the Indians on TV. An old mattress in the basement was the perfect target. That time he was lucky. By the time the fire department arrived, the flames were under control.
There was at least one time, however, when he wasn’t so lucky. And wouldn’t you know it? I was with him at the time. My friend seemed to know all about the secret passageways of the ward building. It was from him that I learned about heating and air conditioning tunnels, window wells, folding-chair storage bins under the stage, and the small room at the top of the little ladder where spare road-show props were stored. Based on those experiences, I assumed that the best places to explore were in the cultural hall.
But on the night when road shows were presented, it was just about impossible to move around the cultural hall without being detected. The productions were light and fun and entertaining, but my friend and I squirmed in our seats in well-behaved boredom for nearly forty-five minutes.
“Want to try something new?” he finally whispered. (The last time he’d said that we ended up trying to dig a hole in the concrete floor of his bedroom with a pick he’d smuggled in from the garage.)
“I don’t think we’d better.”
“It won’t hurt anything.” (The last time he’d said that we had played paratroopers, using old sheets to jump off the garage roof, and one of our friends had broken his ankle.)
“You’re bored, aren’t you? We need some adventure.”
I should have known better, but when he stood and walked slowly from the hall, I followed suit. In a minute or two we were inside the chapel. He flicked a switch to turn on the lights.
“Where are we going?” I whispered.
He pointed straight ahead.
Down the aisles we went, up the stairs, past the podium, past the sacrament table and the clerk’s table and the chairs where the kids giving two-and-a-half-minute talks on Sunday fussed and fidgeted and forgot their lines.
“We’re not supposed to be in here.”
“It’s OK. We’re just looking around.”
He opened the door to the small room where the sacrament is prepared. I knew the room was there already; we’d been there before. But at the back of the room was another door, a door which for some reason that night was unlocked.
“Where does it go?”
“I don’t know. Let’s see.”
We entered a world of pipes and bellows. Rows and rows of pipes and controls, with just enough crawl space to wriggle between them. I climbed in behind him and pulled the door closed.
Through the cloth-covered grating we could look out at the pews where the congregation would be seated.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to be up here during a meeting?” I said.
“Are you crazy? The noise would blow your ears out!”
I had to admit I hadn’t thought about that.
After a few more minutes, we crawled back to the door. My friend reached for the knob and turned it. It was locked!
“What do we do now?” I moaned.
“Why’d you close the door?”
“I didn’t know it would lock. What do we do now?”
Our primary concern, of course, was not just how to get out of the pipe room, but how to get out without getting caught. There must be somebody who could get us out without having to tell the bishop. We tried the door again and again, but to no avail. We were too hunched over to kick it like the detectives in the movies, and we were afraid to try to break through the wood-and-cloth grating behind the choir seats, because we’d no doubt cause damage we’d have to pay for. We’d just about exhausted every hope when I looked out into the chapel and saw a road-show cast coming in for a last-minute rehearsal. Their director was headed straight for the keyboard of the organ!
For the first time in my life, I defied my friend’s orders to be quiet.
“Don’t play the organ!” I screamed. “We’re stuck in here! Save us!”
The director looked as though she’d heard a ghost. Her Mutual girls began to giggle.
“Somebody run get the bishop!” the director said.
My friend groaned. The bishop was his father. In front of all the Mutual girls, in front of half of the ward who would follow him to see what was going on, his father would unlock the door and drag us from the pipe room. We were going to be humiliated for life!
Well, the bishop did come, and he did unlock the door. He helped us crawl out of the pipe room, and I could see just a hint of a grin on his face as he paraded his son and me past the small crowd of Mutual girls. But he never said a word. Somehow, I think he knew we’d learned our lesson.
My friend and I grew up, went on missions, finished college, and entered the working world. He is married now and in the bishopric of his San Diego, California, ward. I visited him last summer and discovered just how well he remembers that night years ago when he and I got locked in the organ. After church his son was wandering around behind the choir seats and I noticed him checking the door to the little room behind the clerk’s desk.
This time, the door was locked.