“And so today…”
It was hot. So hot. With so many people crowded into the tiny church. Too many for the ancient air conditioning system which consisted basically of two swamp coolers and a few less than strategically placed fans, struggling to stir the already heavy wet heat that was April in Louisiana.
“…Today, we come, my brothers… my sisters…”
Smiling, he scanned the crowd. His neighbors, friends, family, even a few enemies, though he preferred to think of them only as lost souls he had not yet managed to turn to The Way. His Way. And his way. Smiling, he met their eyes, unflinching, holding them with a sea-green gaze he knew few could withstand. Yes, the spirit was with him today, that he knew – he could see it in the faces of his flock.
“…Today, we come, to… P R A I S E the L O R R R R D!” he called out, his rich baritone easily filling the small space.
Cries of “Hallelujah!” and “Amen!” met him and he smiled even more expansively at the well-placed few he knew he could always count on to raise the Spirit in his congregation.
Mrs. Trahan, “Old Mrs. Trahan”, fifth pew right, her hands covered in soft white gloves from some other time, one clutching a worn gold-leaf bible, the other waving a Resthaven Funeral Home fan. Bob Comite, descendant of The Comites, richest family in the parish and a new member. Bob sat up front in the centre of the pew he recently bought to memorialize his mother — a mother who would not quite approve of her son joining such a small church so far out of Baton Rouge. But then, Bob had done much of which his mother did not approve, including reach the age of forty unmarried and childless. A fact that Merlla Landry, Doug’s widow, was working hard to change. Merlla sat just behind and to the right of Bob, dressed in pink from lips to tips, and could be counted on to join him and Old Mrs. Trahan in every rejoinder.
And, of course, there was the preacher’s wife, Vichelle. Turning to find her in her place at the end of the left front pew he blessed her with a special smile. In return, she blushed as she had done from the day they first met. That blush had caught him then and had kept him with her every day since. He gave her a quick wink just to see it deepen; just to see her cheeks flush red even under the layers of pale powder she kept dabbing against the heat.
“Let us P R A I SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSE His H O L Y name!!!” His voice was really warming up now. He could feel its power growing in his barrel chest. As he dropped his head in adoration, a drop of sweat fell onto his lip. He licked it.
He could taste her. For a moment, his knees threatened to give way. Involuntarily, he licked again. Yes, he could still taste her. Under the salt of his own skin, he could taste hers – her flesh, her lips, her sex. So sweet, so dark, so foreign. He could taste her – clinging to his lips, the sweetest candy.
He raised his head to find Vichelle looking at him quizzically, head cocked to one side, one hand on the pew as though she were about to stand.
Does she see? Can she know?
He smiled quickly and nodded to her, then turned back to the congregation.
Oh, Holy Spirit, save me. Fill me. Rid me of her.
“Today we come to PRAISE Him. To SING his praises. To bear Witness to His life. The life He gave for US. Today we come to P R A I S E His GLORIOUS name – the name of JEEESUS! JEEESUS who today is R I S E N A G A I N! RISEN from that dark and HOORIBLE grave – HALLELUJIA!!!”
Hands shot up. Not just from his faithful coterie, but from the entire congregation. Hands and voices filled the air, carried up to him in the heat of perfume, powder, tobacco and
Her. Her scent…
Fear knotted his gut, immediately followed by the quickening of his cock. Holding fast to the pulpit, he scanned the congregation, breathing deeply. Yes, she was there, her scent was there, he could feel it, the spice of it, stinging his eyes, burning his nostrils like cayenne.
Where… Where is she?
But, there was nothing. No one new, no one unaccounted for. Only the familiar faces of his flock, scrubbed especially clean, wearing less than usual of Saturday night’s shadow, beaming up at him, waiting, calling on the Spirit to come forth.
“Preach it, Brother… tell the tale…. tell the tale!”
He looked back to Vichelle. Her blush had risen with the heat, with the congregation, and she too was waving her fan, calling to him, calling to the Spirit.
“Yes, Brother, preach! Tell us the tale! Tell the tale of…”
“Forgiveness,” he whispered, looking straight into her spirit-filled eyes. “Forgiveness, ” he spoke a little louder. Straightening, he looked up. “Forgiveness!” he shouted. “That is the tale of today – Forgiveness!” Holding to the pulpit, he looked out across his flock. “That is the tale that God gave us today. That is why he gave His only son – the life of His only son – For us! For our redemption! For our forgiveness!”
He could feel it now, the Spirit, rising up within him. He could feel it tingling in the soles of his feet, climbing its way up his strong limbs. For a moment, he thought to stop it, thought to step down, to halt the Spirit before it got to his sex, to his core. Because once there, the Spirit would wrap itself around his cock as it always did, wrap itself around him with her fingers, her mouth until there was no escape. But he moved only to slam his fist down onto the bible open in front of him.
“Forgiveness!!!!” he shouted, trembling. “What is there without forgiveness, my friends? How can we claim to walk with Him on this day of all days – this Holiest of all Holy Days – if we don’t walk with forgiveness in our hearts? Forgiveness for our brothers? Forgiveness, for our sisters? Forgiveness for ourS E L V E S?? It is this holy ForGIVEness that wipes us clean – clean of all sin, all worry – and carries us, lifts us, Up! Up! U P!!!”
They were with him now, his flock, some of them on their feet, swaying, others shouting, “Amen” and “Hallelujah” and “Preach, Brother”. He had them now, he felt it, and looking at Vichelle, he was sure. Her pale blue eyes were misted and glazed as she stared up at him adoringly. Just like the other one had.
I could have her here now. Right here. Right now. On her knees in front of me. Before them all, I could put her on her knees with the Spirit and even my wife would praise me.
Eyes closed, he felt her hair under his hands, the round shape of her head, the soft dark strands wrapped like silken cords around his fist. He saw the glint of those black eyes looking up at him, as those lips, those fat red lips, slid up and down, up and down his cock.
“Oh, G O D!!” he cried.
When he opened his eyes, he was down on one knee. The church was full of silence. Even the fans had stopped. The preacher was aware only of the heat at his crotch where semen threatened to stain the dark pants he always wore just for this. Slowly, he raised his hand to the pulpit, stiffly pulling himself aright.
As his head became visible, the tiny church erupted in a swell of applause, wave after wave crashing over him, sweeping him up as he bowed his head and raised his arms.
“My brothers… my sisters… Let us pray…”
Closing his eyes, slowing his breath, he prayed.
Oh, God. Dear God. Let her come back to me.