The Thermostat (Light Satire)

This story was one of seven I published in a magazine called The Wittenburg Door. I had a lighter touch than most authors at the Door, but different people respond to satire in different ways. I wasn’t sure how many friends I would keep if word got out I had published these stories, so I published under the pseudonym Steven Marshwiggle.

The Thermostat
The Wittenburg Door, 2004


Candy looked over the well-built man standing next to the wall. He looked good with his military haircut, but the sunglasses were out of place. She couldn’t contain her curiosity, and introduced herself to him.

He barely nodded. “Ma’am”.

Why do you wear sunglasses indoors?”

I’m Deacon of Security. I’m here to keep the peace.”

Candy giggled. “You’re going to keep someone from dancing in the aisles or something?”

No ma’am.” His monotone had a metallic quality.

You’re expecting the Christians to riot?”

His face looked as though it’d been chiseled out of rock. He said nothing.

So…what does a “Deacon of Security’ do?”

See that?” With the slightest gesture of his head, he motioned to a plastic box mounted on the wall. “I guard the thermostat.”

You’re joking.”

A man shouted, “Hey, Jones!”

The deacon’s head jerked right, where the voice came from, only to be tackled from someone on the left. While the deacon and the attacker flailed on the floor, a heavyset man bounded as fast as he could to open the plastic casing. He worked at the lock with a pocketknife, and popped the box open. He adjusted the setting on the thermostat, and the sound of a large machine rumbled through the building. “Yes!” He turned to a crowd of people who had formed in the foyer. “The air conditioning is on!”

A roar of approval went up. The big man, knife still in hand, led a cheer, “Air! Air! Air!”

A basketball hit him in the head, knocking him over. A wiry senior citizen sprang to the thermostat. He clicked the AC off. Another sound reverberated. “Heat!” cried the old man to the hall.

A mass of people had formed there. They chanted, “Heat! Heat! Heat!”

The big man recovered his head. Drops of perspiration covered it. “We need air!”

The senior pointed a bony finger at him. “Penguin!”


Hot head!”

Cold heart!”

The deacon subdued his opponent. He stood between the two camps, his nose bloodied. He held his hands up. The noise quieted down. “The deaconry of this church has decreed that the temperature of this church shall be seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit. Not one degree cooler. Not one degree warmer.”

Ah!” cried both sides.

Down with deacons!”

Off with their heads!”

Candy, caught in the middle, shouted, “Excuse me!” Her attractive form was enough to get the attention of most of the combatants. The crowd again quieted. “Where can I find the pastor?”

A hundred fingers pointed to a man in the middle of the crowd in the lobby. Someone in the hall shouted, “The pastor’s a penguin!” A wail went up, and they again shouted “Heat! Heat! Heat!”

Air! Air! Air!”

The deacon shouted to Candy, “I’ll hold them off as long as I can. Run.”

No. I can’t leave you here.”

Fly, you fool.”