“The Donation,” by Sarah Boisvert

Aug 20th, 2020 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Pete said as he placed his hand on my son’s head, the baby reached for his Christian fish necklace as it dangled over him. My husband, Joe, and I smiled at each other. It was our only child’s baptism. Joe and I weren’t exactly devout but we decided we would start going to church, a sort of tradition for our new son. The baby began to fuss as water rolled over his fuzzy little head, washing over my hand, cleansing me of my sins as well.

We walked down the aisle to clapping hands as we showed off the newest member of the congregation. Everyone smiled, congratulating us as we made our way back to our seat. We squished and pardoned between the churchgoers, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

A man in a grey suit came to the end of our pew with a silver collections plate as the people sang. When the dish made its way to us, Joe got his wallet out and removed a $20 dollar bill. He placed the bill in the dish and then took out a $10 dollar bill that was on top and put it in his wallet, then passed the dish back to the man in the suit.

“Are you nuts?” I whispered through clenched teeth, smiling. The woman next to us watched him then whispered to her spouse, who was now leaning forward to watch also. The man in the suit cleared his throat as he continued on to the pew behind us.

“What?” Joe asked, completely oblivious.

“You can’t make change out of the collection plate.”

“I wasn’t giving a whole $20 bill,” he said.

“You cheap-ass, they just kept your child from going to hell. I think that’s worth as least twenty dollars,” I said as the singing stopped and my voice echoed up to the ceiling. I smiled politely as the people turned around.

“Well what do you want me to do now, go put the other $10 bill back in?” He asked.

“No forget it, it’s too late,” I said shaking my head.

Once they finished passing the collection plate the music began again, we stumbled to our feet when we noticed everyone around us was already standing, looking down at us arguing.

It was time for the sermon.

“Proverbs 19:17. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done,” the pastor began. He then went on to explain how it is our ‘Christian duty’ to help the poor and serve others. I elbowed Joe in the ribs.

“He’s looking right at us,” I whispered to Joe out of the side of my mouth. Joe’s eyes were closed so he hadn’t noticed. He received another elbow to the ribs.

“Would you please look interested in what he’s saying,” I demanded under my breath. He let out a yawn and rubbed his eyes.

The pastor continued.

“It takes a lot of money to run this church. People don’t take into account all the things we pay for here. For instance, even just to air condition this building today so we can worship comfortably is incredibly expensive. We have an open door policy, and it’s through donations that we can make this a place where we can worship together, without judgment. We have people come in who want to get married, or to have their child baptized, who we may never see again. All those things take money.” Joe and I glanced at each other.


The following Sunday I had to beg Joe to get out of bed.

“Ugh do we have to go today, babe? It was so awkward last week. I don’t think they like us,” he whined.

“They don’t even know us. And yes we have to go. Don’t you remember what he said last week about the baptism and people not coming back. That was directed at us. Now get your ass out of bed, we’re going to be good Christians.”

“Ugh fine.”

We snuck in late and sat in the back, trying to go unnoticed as Pastor Pete took to the podium to start the sermon.

“As you all know the fellowship breakfast yesterday was a huge success. We actually had more people than we expected to break bread together in joint fellowship. So we’re going to ask for you all to dig a little deeper in your pockets this week.” Pastor Pete said.

This week I planned ahead and got $1 bills and bunched them together so when I put it in the dish there was a little more padding.

“We’re all so fortunate here, we can really afford to do better for those less fortunate,” he continued as the man in the suit made his way to us with the collection plate.

I slowly dropped the wad of cash in, making sure everyone saw how altruistic I was.

As the collection plate made its way back to the front Pastor Pete did something I hadn’t seen before. He counted the money in front of the congregation.

“We can really do better than this,” he chastised. “I’m asking one member of each family to come up and give just a little bit more. Think about all those people we are helping.”

The homeless man next to us pulled out the contents of his pant’s pocket: a button, a quarter, and bus token. He went up to give the quarter. I reached for my purse and got my emergency $20 bill. Joe cringed.

“Here, go bring this up,” I said.

“No way, you do it. I’m not going up there.”

“I’m holding the baby,” I said.

“Well it’s actually the baby’s fault, so he should be the one going up there.”

“Ugh,” I said as I handed him the baby. I struggled to step over Joe’s legs, knocking people in the head in front of us and nearly falling into the aisle, people turned around to see what the fuss was about.

I dropped the bill in the plate slowly, for emphasis. The pastor nodded in approval.

“Ok very good. I’m very proud of you all and God would be too.” He motioned to the two men in the suits to unlock the back doors. I didn’t even know they had locked them.


“Babe, I’m serious I really don’t want to go. It was weird and creepy,” Joe pleaded with me the following Sunday.

“Yeah last week was a bit much with the locked doors and stuff,” I said. “Let’s go out to breakfast instead.”

“Yesss,” he exclaimed and threw the baby up into the air, the baby squealing with delight.

That afternoon we were enjoying a lazy Sunday, letting our breakfast digest, when the phone rang. We looked at each other across the room. I felt the sweat begin to bead on my forehead. The baby began crying in his crib.

“Who’s calling us on a Sunday?” Joe asked me. I picked up the phone, hesitantly.

“Hello…”I  said, my voice cracking.

“Hello, Patricia? This is Nancy, from St. Mark’s. We noticed you weren’t in church today and I wanted to check in on you. Is everything ok?” I looked at Joe, my eyes widening. He was mouthing to me “who is it?” shrugging his shoulders.

“Oh… uh, yeah… hi… the baby wasn’t feeling well so we stayed home.”

“Oh I’m very sorry to hear that. I’ll be praying for him to feel better and for you all to safely return to church next week.”

“Thank you, Nancy.”

“You’re welcome, see you next week,” she said sweetly and hung up, the receiver going dead in my hand.

“Ok this is getting weird,” I said to Joe.

“I told you I never wanted to go there. This is all your fault,” Joe said pointing at me.

“Excuse me! I’m sorry I just thought it would be good for our son to have some religious beliefs, and, oh I don’t know, not go to hell.”

“Well he’s been baptized now so he won’t go to hell no matter what he does, so we don’t need to worry about that anymore. Now can we please just agree to never go back there?”

“Ok,” I agreed.


We received several more phone calls that week before we blocked the number.

The following Sunday we stayed home. Having received no more phone calls, a sense of relief came over us. As the baby napped and Joe lay on the couch I pulled out my computer to do some work. An email from an unknown address glared at me from the inbox, ‘What you missed’ was written in the subject line. I opened it. It was a breakdown of the sermon that morning. I suddenly had the feeling of eyes on me. I looked over my shoulder. Joe was still asleep on the couch. I looked out the windows. Nothing. I shut the shades. But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

A short while later the phone rang. “Don’t answer it,” I screamed as Joe stirred and reached for the phone.

“Relax babe. We blocked their number, it’s not them.”

“No it’s them. I know it is. They’re looking for us. Just please don’t.”

“Okay, okay. Calm down.” We waited for the ringing to stop and then there was a beep, a voicemail. Joe switched it to speaker and let it play.

“Hello Patricia, this is Nancy from St. Mark’s. Just checking on you all. We were worried it’s been two weeks since we’ve seen you. See you soon.”

“How the hell…” I said looking to Joe. Now he looked scared as well.


The next morning, nervous and tired after a restless night of anxiety, I walked to the mailbox. Thumbing through the bills and flyers I came across a thicker envelope with no writing on the outside. I opened it. It was a series of small donation envelopes with the dates on the corner for every week of the coming year. There was a note attached that read:

Since you are unable to come to church I’ve included donation envelopes so that you can easily mail your donation directly to the church. They’ve conveniently been labeled for each week so as to not confuse or miss a week.

The St. Mark congregation.

As I looked up I saw a black SUV with tinted windows parked at the end of our dead end street. It peeled out as I ran for the house, locking the doors behind me.

That afternoon I received a message on my private Facebook account from the St. Mark’s page asking if we were ok and that they were worried about us.

“What do we do? Should we call the cops? I asked Joe, crying.

“And say what Patricia, that our church is concerned about us and asking if there’s anything they can do for us. Don’t be ridiculous.” He was right. There was nothing we could do.

Joe started coming with me to the market. I was too afraid to go anywhere by myself. As we unloaded the groceries one evening I saw the black SUV at the end of our dead end street again. My heart beat against my ribs.

“Babe, it’s the SUV again,” I yelled to him. As he ran back out all he saw were the taillights through a cloud of dust as the truck pulled away.

We drew the shades and began getting food delivery to avoid going out. Taking shifts, one of us would stay up all night and the other would sleep. We disconnected our phones and canceled all our social media accounts. But there were still sightings of the SUV.

We decided it was best for us to stay at a motel.

We peeked out the curtains, the coast was clear, so Joe pulled the car into the garage. That night, wearing all black, we packed the car in the garage and drove to a motel in a neighboring town. We packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and non-perishable items so we wouldn’t have to leave the motel.

“We made it,” Joe said with a sigh of relief as we pulled into the motel parking lot. He went to check us in and I stayed in the car with the baby keeping watch. Joe made his way back to the car, giving me the thumbs up. He got the baby and went up to the room as I unloaded the groceries. I double-checked for anything suspicious but the parking lot was empty. I got out of the car and opened the trunk to get my bag. Just then a black SUV pulled up behind me, two men jumped out. One held my arms behind my back as the other opened the car door. “You’re coming with us,” the man said.

“What did I do?” I cried.

“You know what you did,” he said, his Christian fish necklace twinkled under the street lamp as he pushed me into the backseat.


Although a new writer, Sarah Boisvert has been making up shit as long as she can remember. She has no social media but can typically be found wandering the streets of Austin, drinking beer, and laughing at her own jokes.

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