Saturday, June 22, 2019
Welcome back to the crossroads.
I think this is an upbeat chapter. You could say it has a good gospel beat. (Winks.) However, the characters experience some uncertainty. Hence the melody in this introduction.
In Chapter 7 — A Lament, Birdie Devovo was reluctant to go to the revival service, even though Dough Armstrong asked her to be there for moral support. When they arrived, we saw Birdie had good reason for not wanting to go. This time Doug has to struggle with something.
Those struggles put me in mind of one of my favorite songs, Hallelujah, written by Leonard Cohen. The song is not about religion, and neither is this story. Even though the song is from a later era, it felt like a perfect fit. I love hearing Cohen sing it himself here. However, my favorite version, the one that cuts to the core of my soul, was sung by Jeff Buckley.
Those of you who know the lyrics to Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show will see that in this chapter I had a lot of fun with the words to the song. If you want to play (or sing) along, here’s a link to the lyrics.
Also, because some of you asked so nicely, I made another narrated snippet. It’s rough, done on the fly, and I make no pretense that it’s professional. Keep an eye out for it during the revival service.
Photos & Things. Of course, Dan Antion, let me use his photographs to illustrate Brother Love. Remember I started naming the businesses in Parliament, Mississippi after readers? This week you’ll find Ginger’s Galley, a seafood restaurant, named in honor of Ginger, aka Murphy’s Law.
This time all the random “things” that drove the episode were from readers. JoAnne Macco sent Bow Tie. Rob Goldstein gave us Speaking in Tongues. I haven’t gotten a comment from her since, but Maggie McLeod left a terrific thing for this setting, Cardboard Fan. Now what the Sam Hill am I going to do with those things? Read on to see!
Chapter 8 — A Confession. Ruth Leiber admitted she is not Tammy’s mother. Then she tried to blackmail Doug Armstrong about his stent in prison. Unluckily for her, Doug’s an open book. However, Ruth wasn’t ready to give up so easily. She insinuated that Tammy isn’t really a “free bleeder” and that the child’s father wasn’t the man who was married to her mother. Can we believe Ruth’s inference? After all, she’s a con artist and skilled at innuendo. Although, even if we can believe her, what does it mean?
Chapter 6 — A Ring. Then there’s that infernal telephone ring. Every time we turn around, somewhere there’s a telephone that rings just once. Jinx had noticed the tone of the ring matched the note of the guitar when the mysterious musician played Crossroad Blues. It also seems to ring when someone makes a decision…
Here’s where we left the story. 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 Birdie’s astonishment, Jinx glided down the center aisle. The magpie swooped down to alight on the pew in front of her.
Jinx imitated the sound of a single telephone ring.
Jinx is waiting for us at the crossroads.
9 — A Hallelujah
Bow Tie, Speaking in Tongues, Cardboard Fan
The magpie looked right at me. Jinx shifted foot-to-foot where he alighted on the pew in front of me. He whistled and bobbed his head to make sure I was paying attention. Then he imitated the sound of a ringing phone.
That single ring happened at the payphone the day Tammy fell on the sidewalk. Doug was there. He said he had been undecided, but that was when he decided he would preach at the revival.
Then I remembered the pay phone had done the single ring a few minutes earlier that day. It was right after Tammy ran out in front of that car, and tripped. I was sure she would have skinned her knees. With her being a free bleeder that could have been a disaster.
However, the phone rang once and when I turned back to the child, that strange man was there, helping Tammy up and drying her tears. All I could think about was how dark his eyes were. They were black as coal. Then he seemed to disappear the moment I looked away.
Next, my own telephone rang just once, when I was getting dressed earlier that evening. I had almost backed out of coming, but made myself go through with it.
If the single ring indicated a decision, then what about that first instance. Had someone besides Doug and me made a decision ― insignificant though the choices seemed to be?
I had the kind of strange feeling you get when you glimpse movement at the edge of your vision, but you don’t see anything when you turn. Or you hear a song that you’re sure you know, but you can’t put a name to the tune.
The magpie gave low whistle and bobbed his head. Jinx made a single ring sound, and then flew high up into the tent trusses where he settled.
I looked from Jinx to Doug, to Tammy and the woman.
Everything became suddenly still. It was so quiet I could almost hear myself sweat. The expression on Doug’s face changed.
“Now that’s nervous,” I thought. “No maybe about it this time.”
I turned to follow Doug’s gaze.
He walked in ― the man I had briefly seen on the sidewalk. The man who helped Tammy up and dried her tears.
As he swaggered closer, I could see his eyes, black as coal. I noticed a guitar was slung across his back.
A name ran through the congregation like wild fire.
“Brother Love!” the murmur cascaded down the pews.
Other than the tide of his name, the people were silent. It was as if they waited for permission to breathe. That included Doug. The preacher looked like he knew that feeling well.
“But you don’t have to invite them to dinner,” Doug’s words seemed to hang in the humid air.
However, every ear in the place was on the newcomer.
Abruptly the man spoke in a rousing voice.
“Come and dine, my children! Come and dine! ‘Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou?’ Come and dine!” his voice boomed across the tent.
I wasn’t sure if his words were meant to contradict or complement the puzzling statement Doug had just made. Either way both his words and presence clearly pleased the audience.
The pianist began playing the old hymn, Come and Dine. The choir hurried back onto the stage. They hummed to the music. However, the choir director motioned them to quiet when the man started to speak.
“Would you come and dine, dear sister?” he asked in a respectful tone as he paused his strut and bent over an elderly woman.
Feebly she raised her hand heavenward. Filled with the Spirit, she waved a handkerchief with crochet trim she surely made herself and shouted something that may have been “Praise Jesus!”
Doug stepped back as the man with the guitar lithely hopped up to the pulpit.
“Hallelujah,” came a ripple of shouts from the congregation. “Hallelujah!”
“Brothers,” he started soft and slow.
The choir swayed in perfect rhythm to unheard music.
“I said brothers,” he emphasized as if there was anyone in the tent who wasn’t listening.
The choir began to softly clap their hands in time to the song only they could hear. The congregation started to clap along. Brother Love smiled and held out his hands, palms up, toward the people.
“You got yourself two hands. They’re both good hands. Now I want everybody to shake the hand of the person on their right,” he said.
As the congregation turned and began shaking hands and hugging one another, I was relieved that there was no one on my right. It would have been too awkward if the person who was supposed to shake my hand refused.
I looked across the aisle. A man wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a bow tie awkwardly met my gaze. The man next to him whispered something with a sidelong glance at me. The bow tie bobbed as the first guy gulped and quickly turned his back to shake the hand of the person next to him.
I didn’t realize that Doug had stepped back down to his seat in front of me where the other preachers sat until he tapped my shoulder. His gaze fell briefly on the man who had just turned his back. Doug looked like he forced himself to smile as he shook my hand. I wondered what had him so upset.
“Now when your brother ― or your sister is troubled,” Brother Love went on just as Doug took my hand. “You got to reach out your one hand to give him. Cause that’s what your hand’s there for,” the soft slow voice continued.
“Bless Jesus!” an old lady shouted, as tears streamed down her face.
Brother Love jumped down from the stage and took the woman’s hand. He helped her sit as he knelt down beside the pew to pray with her.
However, she was determined to go to the altar a few feet away. Two of the preachers helped her to kneel. Half a dozen people hurried to the front to pray alongside her.
In a flash Brother Love was at the pulpit again.
“Yes, my children, and when your own heart is troubled, you got to reach out your other hand,” he proclaimed with the building intensity of a small earthquake.
“Reach it out to the man up there! Cause that’s what He’s there for!” he instructed amid more shouts of hallelujah.
The congregation erupted in chaos. There was singing and shouting, people jumping up to testify. There was everything short of speaking in tongues.
The passion of it all was overwhelming. I felt the vibration of all the sounds. I thought half the valley would shake.
Then Brother Love abruptly down-shifted his pace. He picked up his guitar and started to sing.
Take my hand in yours
Walk with me this day
In my heart I know
I will never stray
A completely on the fly, narrated snippet.
Swaying and clapping, the choir joined in for a hallelujah-filled chorus.
I saw Tammy in her shining white dress move toward the center of the stage.
Doug’s transfixed gaze was on the child. Then he turned around to me as if he would speak. An expression of epiphany came to his face. He stood and moved toward the pulpit.
Cardboard fans fluttered throughout the tent. They bore a picture of large fishing boat. The fans were advertisements for a local seafood restaurant called Ginger’s Galley.
“There’s definitely something fishy going on with Ruth Leiber,” I thought.
Ruth and Tammy both held fans. Ruth was saying something to the other preachers who still stood nearby. The woman seemed impatient. I heard several voices whisper the word healing.
The little group of preachers began to talk among themselves. They first looked at Doug and then at Brother Love. It looked like they expected Brother Love to do something, presumably the healing.
Meanwhile Ruth drew Tammy away from the men. The woman’s face was fierce as she whispered to the girl. Tammy shook her head “No” in a stubborn looking way. Ruth’s eyes flashed and she put her mouth very close to the child’s ear.
I don’t know what Ruth said, but Tammy’s face bore a frightened expression. She gave a stiff nod. Ruth put her hands on the girl’s shoulders and pointed her toward the pulpit. Then she gave her a gentle, barely noticeable push.
Tammy quietly climbed the few steps to the stage. Her eyes were fixed on Doug. She used the fan she still held to wave at him. Then she turned to Brother Love, who apparently had not noticed her come onto the stage.
The child gasped and stretched her hand toward Brother Love. Suddenly a dark red stain seeped across the bodice of her pure white dress.
Her hand went to the rapidly spreading stain. Tammy sank to her knees.
Real World Notes — Bow Ties
Bow ties have an unexpected origin. We can thank Croatian mercenaries of the 17th century for them. The Croat mercenaries basically tied a scarf around their necks to hold together the opening of their shirts. Anyhow, they’ve gone up and down in popularity ever since.
Bow ties resurged as a neck-wear choice in 1957. They were often formal. However, they were also fun, especially since they were available in textured fabrics and modern prints. Those artistic patterns were inspired by the atomic age and by Art Deco styles. Square ends ties, two tone, and butterfly bow ties were all fashionable.
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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