Saturday, June 15, 2019
Welcome back to the crossroads.
This chapter has two things from Dan Antion, who shares his photographs to illustrate Brother Love. Read on to see how I used Bubblegum and Newspaper in this episode.
The third “thing” that is used to drive Chapter 8 is from Fraggle, aka C. J. Hyslop, who is a marvelous photographer. It’s easy to see what a terrific imagination she has at Fraggle’s Other Place. What was Fraggle’s thing? Camera, of course!
I have to give Dan credit for a line in this chapter. In our discussion about the two evangelists who inspired my Doug Armstrong character, Dan talked about something the preacher from his past said about not inviting people to dinner. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
Chapter 7 — A Lament. Birdie saw a picture of that movie star again, but she had blond hair. Later she saw another blond.
Meanwhile at the revival meeting, the other preachers tried to pressure Doug Armstrong into doing a “healing.” Honest man that Doug is, he resisted, but he saw little Tammy waiting in the wings.
Jinx is waiting for us at the crossroads.
8 — A Confession
Bubblegum, Camera, Newspaper
Bright pink, the ball of bubblegum distracted Jinx. When he picked it up to investigate, it stuck to his beak. The magpie gave a violent shake of his head, and nearly knocked himself over. The gum came loose.
The music stopped and the guitar player chuckled at him.
He turned back around, but the man had disappeared that quickly.
Jinx flew to the revival tent. Even though he couldn’t see the mysterious figure, the magpie was sure that was where the musician was headed.
The bird watched as an old school bus pulled up to the ragtag tent. A man hurried out and met the driver as he climbed down from the vehicle.
“You’ve missed half the service,” the usher said.
“Man, it’s hotter’n the hinges on the gates of Hades!” the driver grumbled.
He held his cap with one hand, and used the other to wipe sweat that glittered on his bare pate. The red print bandana he used as a handkerchief was smeared with black grease.
“Fan belt broke,” he added in belated answer. “Fixin’ that thing wore me slap out.”
“Shame. Well, grab the old ladies and help them down to the front row. They always get in the Spirit and help get the crowd going. I’ll help pack up the babies and get them to the front too. You never know who might need healing,” the usher added with a wink.
“We all go to the front?” a man with a camera asked.
“Yessiree! Everybody goes. You know Brother Love’s show. Now you be sure and take plenty of pictures for your Gospel Times.”
Jinx flew across to the back side of the tent. The bird settled on a tree limb when he saw Sinnerman below. The big man had just stepped out of the large tent, having followed the woman who wore little glittering balls dangling from her ears.
With his sharp hearing, it was no effort for the magpie to hear their conversation. However, making sense of humans and their words was not always so easy.
“You don’t need any gift of healing,” the woman began heatedly. “Just put your hands on her head and yell ‘Healed!’ or something,” she demanded.
The man’s eyebrows flew down into a V fit for a migratory formation of birds. He didn’t seem to like the woman’s words, no matter how shiny her earrings were. She seemed to realize that too, because her voice quickly changed.
“Please, Brother Armstrong,” she started over, placing a hand on his bicep and murmuring approval. “If you will please just try. I’m desperate for Tammy to be healed. But we can’t stay here any longer. I don’t know how I can ever pay the doctor, but she has an appointment with a specialist that took six months to get. So, we need to leave in the morning,” she added without looking at Sinnerman.
The big man’s shoulders drooped in a defeated way. He turned back toward the tent. The woman smiled behind him. Then he turned back to her, eyebrows making the V again.
“Why would you ask me to heal her, even though I’m not able, when you are planning on going to a doctor?”
The buttons on the front of her dress weren’t as sparkly as her earrings, but the pearl-like beads had a sheen that Jinx liked. He noticed when for a quick second she turned her back and undid a few of the buttons at her neck.
The woman wriggled up onto a picnic table and crossed her legs. Jinx liked the gold buckles on the ankle straps of her high-heeled sandals.
“Look,” she began. “There’s no need to pussyfoot around. I reckon we can help each other. I know all about you and the time you did in prison.”
The magpie leaned closer on his hidden perch. The big man’s face had turned the same bright pink of the bubblegum that had stuck to his beak. Jinx thought humans must be the strangest species in the world.
“The haul will be bigger if there’s a healing. It always is,” the woman continued. “I just need one more score so I can get out of the country. I’ll split it with you.”
Her lips tightened when she looked at the expression on the big man’s face. He moved as if he meant to walk away.
“Now, listen here. I know you got out of prison early. If you try to turn me in, one word from me will get your parole revoked,” she threatened Sinnerman.
“My prison time is no secret. You can’t blackmail me with it. And I’m not on parole. My sentence was commuted,” he said. “Yes, I killed a man in a fight. He got a cut on his head. That was all. It turned out he was a free bleeder. He wouldn’t have died otherwise. That’s why I got out early.”
“I know. That’s why I came here,” she told him and was rewarded with his surprised look. “The kid with me is his daughter. Her mother died in a car wreck a couple of years back. I read a newspaper article about it.”
Sinnerman’s mouth moved but no words came out of it. Jinx knew it was hard to make new words. He gave a soft whistle of encouragement, but the humans didn’t notice. The woman kept talking.
“Bless her heart, I couldn’t let her end up in foster care. You know, that mother instinct kicked in. I was able to persuade a judge to let me have her,” she went on and leaned back to look at the sky.
“I tell you what, the money the state gives a poor foster mother isn’t enough to get by on,” she added. “The newspaper articles I found about Tammy being orphaned ― those are good. But the ones about her father having hemophilia? They’re a gold mine! Everybody assumes that the kid has it too.”
She paused and leered at Sinnerman.
“But she doesn’t, does she? And we both know why,” the woman finished with a vulpine smile.
She winked and swung her legs where she sat on the picnic table.
The V returned to the big man’s eyebrows. His mouth again looked like he wanted to say a new word.
Several humans came out, asking them to come back inside. Whatever word the man wanted to make remained unsaid.
My hand lifted toward Doug Armstrong, but the group of men hurried him out the side entrance.
I had to tell him that I recognized the woman. She was the spitting image of the blond Ava Gardner on the magazine I saw the girls drop outside. She was also a bleached version of the face on the fugitive poster ― Ruth Leiber, wanted for grand larceny.
What should I do? Call the police, I answered myself. A church would have an office, and possibly a phone, but that wasn’t the case for a temporary tent. So, that wasn’t an option.
Standing, I turned to scan the crowd. I was relieved to see a policeman in the audience. At first, I didn’t recognize him out of uniform, but I spotted Sargent Lamar Poole.
I started side-stepping to get to the aisle. Then a group of people, followed by Doug came back inside. They stood almost protectively around Ruth Leiber and Tammy.
The preacher who had pressured Doug about trying to heal the child addressed the congregation.
“Sister Ruthann Lear traveled far to ask assistance from the church on behalf of her child here. Just look at the lights shining on those two golden heads ― this angelic mother and daughter. It looks like they’re already awash in the blessing of the good Lord,” the preacher told the crowd.
Ruth batted her eyelashes at him, and then demurely looked down at her hands. The preacher sent the ushers around with plates to collect a goodwill offering.
Not a sound came from the congregation. Everyone seemed to expect Doug Armstrong to do something. The other men stepped back away from Tammy.
The child in her pristine white dress all but glowed as she stood under the lights. A murmur arose from the crowd when Doug went up to the podium rather than to the girl.
His facial expression was impossible for me to read. He began to speak of forgiveness and of hypocrisy. My cheeks burned because I thought he was about to say something about the spiteful remarks people made about me when we came inside the tent. I had hoped he didn’t hear them.
However, his ideas seemed disjointed. His train of thought was unclear. Abruptly, I wondered if he was nervous. Or perhaps he was confused about something.
For a moment I wondered if he had also seen a wanted poster of Ruth Leiber, but it didn’t seem likely. Yet he gave the woman a look so hard it made her twitch.
“Listen to me, brothers and sisters in the Lord,” Doug said as if trying to explain his fragmented speech. “You have to forgive people who have caused problems for you, but you don’t have to invite them to dinner!” he stated emphatically.
I tilted my head in confusion. What could have rattled Doug so? He had been a good speaker earlier that evening.
Abruptly the heat of the August night was broken by a gust of wind that blew through the tent. The pages of hymnals and Bibles rustled.
Then to my astonishment, Jinx glided down the center aisle. The magpie swooped down to alight on the pew in front of me.
Jinx imitated the sound of a single telephone ring.
Real World Notes — Bubblegum
Bubblegum was also a “reader thing” in my Hullaba Lulu serial. It has such a cool history, that I didn’t mind using it again here. In 1928, an accountant invented bubblegum. Walter Diemer, was experimenting with new gum recipes. One recipe was less sticky than regular chewing gum, and stretched more easily. The original bubble gum was pink in color because that was the dye that Diemer had most on hand at the time.
I’m glad you could make it to the crossroads for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show! I hope you’ll say hello in a comment.
I’ll meet you at the crossroads again next Saturday! Hugs on the wing.
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This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Photos Copyright © 2019 by Dan Antion
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