“Mrs Timms,” Reverend James asked, “could you pick up some coffee filters for the coffee machine while you’re out?”
“Do we need any? I’m sure there are some left in the cupboard. Quite a few.”
“I know, but they’re the small ones, and the grounds keep spilling over the edge into the coffee. We need the big industrial size.” He held out his hands wide to show her.
“Shouldn’t we use up the ones we have first? I can pick up the bigger size when we run out.”
“Mrs Timms, I know you’re trying not to be wasteful, but I can’t serve people coffee full of grounds. I’ll pay the hospitality budget back out of my own pocket if it makes you feel better, but we need some larger filters.”
“Fine. I’ll buy them separate and bring you the receipt.”
“Mrs Timms, where did you put the new filters? I can’t find them anywhere.”
“They’re right here.” She opened the cupboard and pointed to a bag identical to the one already open.
“But those are the same size as the ones we had.”
“They were the biggest size they carried.”
“But they’re still too small. Why would you get a size that you knew was too small?”
“You told me to pick up some large filters. Those are the largest filters they had. I can’t help it if they don’t make the size you want.”
James slumped back against the counter, hung his head. “Okay. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just get them myself.”
“But we have lots.”
“Yes. Lots that don’t do the job. I’ll just pick some up the next time I’m out.”
“Okay, but you still need to reimburse hospitality for the ones I bought.”
“Mrs Timms, do you know what happened to the new filters I bought? The ones that actually fit the machine.”
“I put them up with the cleaning supplies until we get through the old ones.”
“The old ones, Mrs Timms, as I’m sure you remember, are too small. They get grounds in the coffee. They need to be tossed.”
“I’m not just going to throw out perfectly good filters!”
“Then take them home for your own coffee maker. Consider them a gift.”
“I couldn’t possibly. They were bought with church funds. They’re not mine to take.”
James lunged for the cupboard, pulled out both bags of the too-small filters and threw them into the sink. He jerked open the utensil drawer, grabbed the barbecue lighter, and held it to the plastic of the nearest bag. It failed to light very well, just melted into smoke and the smell of chemicals.
“What are you doing?” Mrs Timms screeched.
“James tossed the lighter on the counter and began tearing the bag apart, pulling the filters out and crumpling them into a jumbled pile of plastic and paper. “I’m solving our filter problem,” he said, jamming the lighter into the midst of the pile and lighting it repeatedly.
The filters began to burn strongly. James tore open the second bag and began feeding handfuls of paper into the inferno he had made of the sink. The room was filling with smoke despite the industrial fan running through the window. The flames licked at the wood of the window sill.
“I’d go pull the alarm if I were you,” James told her, tossing another handful. “This fire isn’t getting any smaller.”