“…Hosanna! Praise to the Lord in the Highest! Go forth now Sisters and Brothers ! Go forth and walk forever with the Lord for He is bountiful, for He comforts the Righteous, for He bestows his blessings on the Courageous and when I say COURAGEOUS I mean those who have SEEN – and when I say SEEN, I don’t mean those who take a peek around and shade their eyes, but I mean those who have the COURAGE to look, those who have the COURAGE to examine, those who have the COURAGE to SCRUTINIZE, … those who have the COURAGE to come up from the cellar of darkness where the voices of Satan, the tongues of Beelzebub and Baal wag out their warnings of sham danger , where the enemies of the Lord speak in the smoothest honey tones to those who are only too glad to remain in the comfort zone of SIN, in the land of BLINDNESS, in the kingdom of IGNORANCE! Why go out into the wide world and SEE when the land of Nineveh overflows with milk and honey? Why do I ask you ? Well, I’ll tell you ! Because Beelzebub’s milk is sour and sickening and the honey is oozing out of bees that work the hives of Satan but make no mead for the Children of the Lord! Evil wants no Good looking over its shoulder ! Evil seeks the thick rich dark fecund soil of Hell before it breaks ground and blossoms like a poison plant in the world above, evil loves the no man’s land of darkness, evil hates the rays of the Sun. It is EASY to turn your head away, it is EASY to make up all sorts of excuses, – your eyes are playing tricks on you, it’s none of your business, it’s the way the world works – and a thousand other reasons to turn your eyes from what the Good Lord has put forth before you , but be aware that He is testing you because the TRUTH is no easy exercise ! Remember Daniel in the lions’ den ! Well, I want you all, I want us all, to carry that same ironclad invulnerable unassailable shield of courage and faith your whole lives through ! I want you all to carry that razor edged spear of TRUTH, to pierce the armor of self deceit and cowardice forged in the smith shop of Satan, the war plate we all wear when we cannot, when we will not SEE. That is the hard metal standing between us and the light of the Lord, because the greatest, the vilest, the fiercest adversity to the Lord’s TRUTH springs not from the henchmen of the Princes of Darkness but from ourselves ! Do you have eyes and yet fail to see ! If the Apostle Mark who walked with Jesus said that, then I guess he said it for a reason! I’ll bet you my last dollar, he wasn’t preaching to cowards! Go forth now with the blessing of the Father ! Go forth with the light of the Lord, look, watch and see! For it is the Truth that shall set you free! Let us pray. A minute of silence, if you please.”
The Baptist Church of New Abyssinia, on the heights of virtue, descends into prayer. Silence, before the assault on evil. The fluted pillars wait to resound. Bellicose rhapsodies snake through entrails, grip throats, dash against the ordained minute of silence. Another 30 seconds, then the Hosannas will shoot like cannonballs, loose and feral. Behind me Satan ! What is the geography of evil? Does it grovel in the most inhospitable caverns of the soul or does it walk like a commoner behind royalty?
Still, the tempter moves quickly, a minute is an eternity and there is no telling what mischief he can do. Send old Scratch down to that fetid cellar to soak in the brine of infamy. God’s Truth is there, in this church, plain for all to see, riding on the mad sunlight ripping asunder the clouds of November, the eerie light of miracles is blazing, the Holy Cross above the mensa is crimson which means…
“Hush up, the preacher told us…”
“Told me nothing. That’s a sign of God above the altar, don’t you see?”
Ah…men! Two notes lumbering about the bowed heads commence a strange festive mood . All eyes are turned on the preacher’s missus, sitting like an angel at the organ…an angel of Patience! Faith has moved mountains, but never overnight.
She is wearing a choir robe, only her head and hands emerge like black petals on a long white stem. A veiled parishioner adjusts her white lace gloves and whispers to her neighbor,
“Mrs. Andrews, that’s her name , I think, is from Trinidad. They’re Christian over there, but a little weird. Look now, she’s smiling at Marion Peters, first pew, in the center.”
The black suited gentleman and the white gloved matron nod. He is smart but smarmy and she feels ill at ease, but talk is a gift that glows brightly on her sense of usefulness.
“In the center?”
“Yes! You’re a newcomer? What’s your name?”
“Well, bless my soul! Like the Archangel.”
Miss Electric Piety drawls out another bar, the missus’ hands fly over the keys like a spider caressing its newly spun web. Reverend Andrews at the lectern, shifts papers around and says with a boyish smile,
“`Delia and I will be serving coffee in the study, as usual. Are there any announcements? ”
Marion Peters shuts her eyes , the others may howl Hosannas and shake like tuning forks, she clams up and plunges to her knees in molten intensity. Dazzling is the church this Sunday and pristine like the lilies of the field that dwarfed the heavy splendor of Solomon with their bell beauty, unadorned and undaunted at the king’s passing by, while in the same long stemmed vase, beside the virginal blooms, the matronly hollyhocks decked in mauve and exuding a captious perfume, shade the altar . Reveries of field lilies, the darlings of the winds, dancing in gracile waves on a green carpet… Marion Peters falls to her knees, joins in their delight, but a minute is short and cruel.
That Prayer interrupts her rapture, snares her soul in the trap of its iniquity, she sees a skull headed mantis swinging a sickle marching across the white fields, she cries in shame and blames the pure turpitude of her flesh, helpless before evil, even with prayers of love. God, crafty Magician, can You not turn dung into diamonds? Where do you go when That Prayer speeds you past the flowers, past their roots squiggling in the dark fecund soil, past the worm leaving his segment-children who will eat your flesh as they have read your mind? The first triumph of evil, Marion Maybelle Peters, is not in the deed but in the thought!
He slips in beside her, the finely dressed Black gentleman, smelling like a spice garden, he is wearing a dark silk suit and the loose smile of a golden watch chain drips out of a vest pocket. A bowler hat sits on his head which she suspects is bald and gold rings circle his wide fingers. Now isn’t he the picture of old Scratch called in by That Prayer? He must have heard it and slipped in, unwelcome, yet – alas- expected. A disgrace ! Mrs. Andrews leaving the organ , relieves her of the embarrassment of shaking his hand.
“How are you doing Marion? You ok ?” The Reverend’s missus is beautiful, she walks in a perfume of paradise, sweet but not intense, her voice is a soothing melody but there is firmness in her gaze.
“I guess I am ok.” Marion answers amazed that Delia Andrews came over to her while 300 souls are snake dancing before the Lord.
“You remember that hibiscus you gave me? Well, can’t get it to be like yours. You have the touch. And, the strips. They’re doing fine. Took the graft well, as some plants will do when the soil is foreign. Let’s leave this hothouse of Sunday screamers, I want to show you something. Follow me.”
They go through a passage behind the altar, down a narrow flight of stairs to the basement, which shelters the large study where a wide and generous window ledge looks out on the street. Marion moves the African violets out of the strong killing sunlight.
“I should have drawn the shades,” Mrs. Andrews said, doing what she neglected, “ the last thing I want would be to destroy them. But, I do make sure the four o’clocks are in a shady spot. I feel a special love for those flowers, they go against the grain. Bloom not in the sun but in the coming darkness. Delicate but sturdy. And yet so simple and beautiful, flowers of the field, like the lilies of Solomon. ”
“Four o’clocks are what I do best,” Marion stuttered , “ they just…well, just grow wherever I place them.”
“He hasn’t knocked them over, has he?” Mrs. Andrews asked, adjusting the tiny pots and throwing her a sidelong glance. Marion’s hand patted down the bang that hid the bang on her forehead. “I am sorry,” the pretty lady added, “it’s just that I can’t stand to see you suffer. Be honest, Marion, you have suffered too much. You can’t leave him?”
Marion choking back the tears, answered, “Maybe I still love him. Maybe…maybe I am just afraid…afraid that he’ll come after me. All he wants is the money, the money to go on with his drinking, his partying, his smoking. Sometimes I think it’s the smoking that gets me more than the rest, he does the other stuff at bars, but the house stinks. He defiles everything, every temple, including the Lord’s.” She stroked the leaves of the sad dainty violets. “ Mrs. Andrews, you are so lucky, your husband is perfect!”
“ The name is Delia. No, Marion, my husband is not perfect!” The lovely lady said correctively. “ It is just that there is more tolerance. Perhaps I can bear the pain. When I look at you, I see fear and a will to live, as well as the pain. When will the next hit come? And where? He is out of work again?”
“And living on what you make as a cleaner ?”
“I have something for you, dear. Come here.” Delia led Marion by the wrist to a dark corner of the ledge. “You know, I come from the Barbados. I am a minister’s wife, but that does not mean I overlook the country gods, the ones who relieve pains, help women in child birth. You know what I’m talking about. We have only one earthly life to live, so why live it in pain ? The Good Lord never meant us to bear the burdens of the World, that’s what He hired the saints to do! Some are more gifted for suffering than others. Be honest, Marion, you don’t have that gift, you have the gift of ten green thumbs and that’s a great gift, it’s the gift of life ! You never expected to hear that from a minister’s wife, but there it is. And so this is my gift to you . A little plant, I sneaked in from the Barbados, looks like a dragon’s tongue. It’s supposed to bring sufferers good luck, reverse the suffering.”
The plant’s main stem was an ugly speckled maypole sprouting glassy spiked leaves, but it was a gift and thus, a part of the giver, and she could not refuse it.
“You got to take care of it. My people call it the spider plant, because its spikes are pointed, like a spider’s prickly legs. Sometimes, a spider will get into them. When that happens, you can wish away your sorrows. I saw a spider there this morning, it’s gone now. One day it will be back! Think about it!”
“Promise me you will not throw it away!” Delia whispered, taking Marion’s hands in hers. “Use it instead. The spiders, they carry messages, you know… to certain powers. Are you staying for coffee?”
The first parishioners had straggled in, their voices were hoarse, needing fluid comfort, coffee, but also the Reverend’s good sherry and beer. They would be parading around as those with the light of grace, and Marion despised their salvation which was waiting to fall from their lips as so many miracles told over cups of coffee. They would see the ugly plant and make an instant connection between it and her soul, and laugh as saints were sure to laugh in that smug way at the damning of the damned, as in paintings she saw of old men with joined hands and tedious looks, springing to Heaven while skull headed mantises did herdsmen’s work around a pit. She left with the plant wrapped in a shopping bag. Wasn’t there a tall, stout black clad figure following her ? She hastened home in fear.
Tuesday arrived in a drizzle, it was five in the morning and she tiptoed from bed. The alarm clock was her enemy, it would wake her sleeping drunken husband, she had learned with the instinct of the farmer, to wake with the day breaking timidly in winter, devoid of promise. She had learned to be meek, and not to expect to inherit the Earth as her religion had told her, but to take pleasure in small pleasures, like watering the plants in the early hours of the morning when, left by herself, she could be verbal and overflowing with her admiration. The posh opulent petals of the begonias, exuberant and showy, the piquant sensuality of the hibiscus, and its more sophisticated grace, the demure violets, surely the shy virgins of the lot, wearing golden dots and the row of four o’clocks, sublimely simple, honest and friendly, her favorites… They needed her care and her love, the spider plant was apart on a higher shelf, a special, eccentric, and ostracized guest.
She saw from her kitchen that Santos of Santos Soda Beer Cigarettes Candy News, was cleaning his store window. He was a hateful little man, plying his trade in a dingy little hovel between two dilapidated buildings off Atlantic Avenue. But, he kept his store window sparkling clean, rubbing its glass in round caressing strokes, as if it were his third eye. He had demanded payment for a pack of Marlboros which Roman owed him and she had quarreled with him over selling Roman cigarettes, but the snide mercantile rat insisted that he could not stop people from coming in. She yelled that he would never see her again, to which he answered in a sneer, “never say never, ” sounding like the voice of an oracle, strong despite its softness and able to mask other noises of the street, even the loud rumblings of the subway train in the grating below. The memory of the subway train interrupting their rude conversation brought her thoughts back to the spider plant for some unknown reason. She took it down from its shelf, tested its soil and saw a small black visitor exploring its speckled leaves. The plant needed no water, she put it back on its high shelf and wished the small beast a happy day. It was time to go.
A quick glance in the full length hall mirror. Her African American face had a pretty upward swing to its features. She was pleased with how she looked that morning, a new mood had come over her, it tempered the forked tongues that would always come after That Prayer, it even covered her torment with the sort of merriness the damned might feel as Hell’s fires licked their cheeks.
The train took her directly to 42nd Street, where she checked in at the office and got her “mission” – the night shift.
Unbelievably lucky, was she when she arrived in a stupor at the Dunkin’Donuts. Why was it empty on a weekday night? “It’s a trap, Marion Peters, leave at once!” Jiminy Cricket said looking over her shoulder. This place is weird, empty as an old can. You think you’re some kind of queen ? Do you really think that you deserve special treatment after what has been going on your poor little head all day long?”
But the hour was late, hunger is the best teacher, and reverie beckoned, she promised JC, no ill thoughts would or could stir up her weary mind. She would dream of her window sill children, her flowers, the four o’clocks in tardy bloom, the naughty hibiscus and the sensuous begonias. And even the spider plant would be checked to see if its visitor had stocked the larder. And she thought of Delia and Reverend Andrews, their three children, two girls and a boy, well dressed, always polite and smiling, and even this warm empty dining area, strangely hers tonight, a gift, no questions asked, a small favor of Chance to one who is not used to receiving. She got her tray, picked up a free newspaper, sat where she never sat, facing a mirror, and began flipping through the pages of the tabloid until her eyes came upon an ad for a secretarial school with a photo.
No high school degree? No problem. We’ll have you through business school in no time and on your way to earning big bucks. And feeling great about yourself. We’ll teach you how to act, talk and dress like those Gal Fridays the Brass cannot do without. So stop by for more information and a free appraisal. You ‘re headed for the top of the Class.
Stunning that Beyoncé type, with a telephone against her ear, and, in the other hand, a briefcase bursting with gazillion dollar deals, she is standing in an alley of royal palms on some financially graced shore where limousines cruise down wide boulevards and life is said to be easy.
“ A real looker, I agree.” The black bowler hat had taken the seat facing hers! He had entered with his foulness, called in by her dreaming of Beyoncé in paradise, she was sure. A plump bejeweled hand reached across the table! Never would she take it, but he did have the look of a rescuer approaching a drowning person.
“ Now, why wouldn’t you shake the hand of an elderly gentleman who followed you to church? I know, the old sin of pride, too good for someone like me? Well, Sweetheart, you are facing a mirror, and dreaming of secretarial school, so doesn’t that tell you something? Suppose you were wrong, very wrong. Be honest with yourself, and the rest will follow. The name is Gabriel”
“How did you know I was looking at the ad?” Her dark eyes narrowed mistrustfully.
“I know everything about you. You may not know it, but you are rather pretty. Push your bang aside and above all lose some weight.” He smiled at her. She accepted his outstretched hand.
“I get it,” she said, “ you are the angel of the spider plant!”
The elegantly dressed gentleman burst out laughing. “Sweetheart, I’ve been called many things, but never that!”
“Then, who are you?” Marion choked with fright.
“Sweetheart, I am you. I am the big blazing truth that you are going to have to face up to one of these days and the sooner the better!” Gabriel pulled out a fat cigar.
“There is no smoking in this restaurant!” Marion cried, astounded.
“Yeah, I know. You should try it one day, not the cigars, not for ladies, but silk cut Turkish… Maybe somewhere deep down, you really want to give it a try. The only cigarette you ever had was when you were 10, in the parking lot behind a Safeway supermarket and, if I recall, the experience ended painfully. Only smug unadventurous souls give up a pleasure. And as for this place being a restaurant…” .
“Get to the point! NO beating around the bush and this…this…name calling, it’s just plain insulting! Ok, so I am not the glamour queen of the year, but at least, I know what I want! ” She hissed loudly, while he laughed, but then ceased his laughter at her final words.
“ Do you ? Are you sure you know what you want?”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose I do.”
“He smokes like a chimney.” Gabriel said.
“Your husband, that crook, who else?”
“Yeah, Roman goes through a pack and a half a day.”
The Black gentleman took out a card and read, “Smoking constricts blood vessels and thus contributes to aneurysm ruptures.” He returned the card to his pocket and said squarely to Marion’s face, “A longstanding habit of smoking can end in sudden death.”
“Yeah, but I don’t smoke. Never have.”
“Sweetheart, not you! Him! Now, when you step out of that subway an hour from now you’re going past Santos, and I recommend you go in and buy a pack of whatever he likes. You are all out of them and he’s going to bust you in the morning anyway. If he gets his hands on a cigarette… Let us just say that I will make sure that it’ll be his last.”
“Just what are you saying’?” Marion Peters knit her brow.
Gabriel touched her wrist and whispered, “Listen, You are what ? 27? You can go through life a battered cleaning woman, dead at an early age, or you can take steps to change it.”
“Are you telling me that I should bring on a death just because …”
“I’m not telling you anything. I am just giving you the truth ! Up to you to do what you like with it.”
“Do you realize that it is a crime, a sin! An act against … against …God!”
“Hush!” he said and smiled as he told her to “take a sip of coffee, it’s getting cold.” When she looked up, he was gone.
Tortuously slow was the ride to Atlantic Avenue, the stations appeared like bobbing shadows on a Chinese lantern, they lingered teasingly when she wanted them to move in a sort of relay race in which she was the baton. When they neared Atlantic Avenue, she felt like a diver sighting a brown line shimmering above the liquid nebulous. And, in the same impatient way, she wanted Tuesday to bolt to the end of the week, where her dreams were already resting, and praying in the pristine white church on the hill, embellished with the intoxicating sweetness of flowers and the prettiness of Delia, and her minister husband who was so distracted by his wife that he had to shift around the sermon pages during the minute of prayer. That was her Sunday morning sorcery, conjuring sunshine and grace, even in the dead of winter.
Santos ! She saw him in his doorway at midnight, pinning a look on her that felt like a bee sting and she responded to him with a righteous glare. God save her! The supplier to Satan would be glad to open just for her …. NO! It was unthinkable! May he be damned! She walked past him with all the Christian virtues speeding her pace.
Be thankful Marion Maybelle, for the small joys that come your way, there’s worse off than you , and you know it. So, today is Tuesday and you get the night shift! At least you got a job! He has slugged you again over those Marlboros you won’t buy ? Well, you know how it is, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!” Remember that line and keep silent, that’s two lives you’re saving, his and yours. Your Christian duty is to save them in silence, something about the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. And keep telling yourself that some people must wait before they are led in triumph to the Lord.! If you are a Christian beg for pardon when he comes at you, hush up when he calls you chubby. Turn the other cheek wasn’t written for the birds. And hang in there, think about Sunday coming up, and Delia, at the organ.
But it was Saturday Marion Maybelle was thinking of. …A few blithe minutes to finish the mug of coffee… She will miss the train. So what! The office at 42nd Street will wait.
A sunny and icy Saturday had swirled out of the week’s grinding dullness , winter had put on its finery and its minion, a nippy mischievous wind, was exploring open necks and ears. She chanced to meet them- Delia and the Reverend, their two big girls and their little boy, trudging after his sisters- on an afternoon walk. The girls wore white dresses with skirts opening out like lilies beneath their matching plaid coats and the son, in a dark suit and a woolen cap, trailed peevishly after his sisters. She was returning home from the supermarket, bundled up and overloaded with packages, she had deliberately walked past Santos and there they were, Delia and the children and , to her great surprise, the Reverend, emerging from the hovel with a pack of cigarettes.
“Smoking! Reverend Andrews!” She exclaimed.
“That’s right, Mrs. Peters, bad habit, shouldn’t indulge.” He answered with a smile that gave every indication that he had no intention of stopping the indulgence.
But she forgave him. He was really such a dear and a great guide, inspiring people to go the straight and narrow. And he was so boyishly good looking, despite his 50 years, graced with a halo of thick silvery hair that must be the color of the eyes of God.
His sermon on Sunday praised purity,
“Draw the lines of good thought and righteous action and color them with your character. Your acts must reflect the truthfulness of your thoughts…”
His words of righteousness caused the congregation to rise and sway in harmony like the palm fronds that must have fanned the Savior’s way into Jerusalem, and, during the coffee which, that week, she did not refuse, she saw him put his arm around his wife’s shoulder.
The front door clicked open. She heard shuffling, then a curse, and the door slammed on its hinges. A hand pulled open a drawer, another curse. Roman had come in. Roman had seen the light in the kitchen, he knew where she was and Lord Jesus Christ ! … She was going to pay for her dreaminess !
A mass of human rage entered the kitchen. Roman was not a tall man, but he was powerful, with a vicious whipping energy to his movements and a sneer disgracing his weak face. He stood for a long minute at the kitchen door with the havoc in the hall behind him.
“You got my cigarettes?”
“No, Roman! I told you…!”
“Told me what woman! Don’t give me that religious crap, I told you to get the Marlboros or…”
The kitchen door snapped shut.
I told you once, I told you a thousand times, Marion Maybelle, you had it coming! You and only you are responsible. The whole place is complete chaos! The begonia, the violets… Gone all gone! And the four o’clocks ! … Your favorites! It takes only a minute to destroy the work of five years. The only living things left in this kitchen are you, that devil plant and its spider! It’s like total bedlam and you are guilty, a thousand times guilty for not taking the train when you were supposed to!
She was breathing heavily, trying to shake off the panic gripping her chest, her eyes were all blue, she would have to cover them in heavy make up, wear sun glasses, and in the dead of winter! But what could she say about the swollen cracked and bleeding lip? And her arm that he twisted like an old rag, it hurt like the devil! Bad for the line of work she was in!
Work! It was 2 in the afternoon, Roman was sprawled on the couch, in a stupor, she crept quietly to the telephone and called the office. A person called Doreen at the other end of the line told her, “Normally an unexplained absence means an automatic firing but you are in luck honey there’s an urgent request tomorrow Saint Nicholas Avenue and 156th Street so if you play ball we will overlook the incident it is a night shift will you go for it?”
Will she go for it? Did she have a choice?
Wednesday came spitting its sleet at her window, Satan or whoever was ruling the world had decided that day and night should wear the same clothes. Fat chance she would get to see dawn today or any day, now it was just a matter of surviving. It was what? Four in the morning ? Saint Nicholas and 156th Street? It would take hours to get there, and back and before she would have to check in at the office on 42nd Street! She’d be home at midnight with a little bit of luck. And talk about luck… Roman was still asleep and, snoring, on the couch. She set up the coffee machine in the kitchen and looked at the only other survivors, the plant and its spider, dissecting with diabolical accuracy and not a small amount of grace, a very fat fly. She managed a smile at the spider, God intended it to eat like the rest of us. She had to get to work, this was her last chance. A last minute glance in the mirror. Where was her umbrella?
11 o’clock. Past 11 o’clock. Dunkin’ Donuts, a sea of noise, once, long ago, the whole place smelled like molten sugar and cinnamon spice, but not now, Sister, not now! Shift those glasses over your nose, hope it’s not broken the way a lot of other things are; he went after me, well, that’s sort of expected, but the plants, the four o’clocks, they did him no harm and… No more food, can’t stand this place and its noise and those prongs the servers use, look like crab claws just out to get you, like some other people. Yeah, I know, some of the well meaning customers are starting to look over here, never seen a battered housewife before unless they do the battering, wouldn’t put it past anyone, even the rich and the college boys. One more minute of this and I’ll be getting the can I do something for you dear and the do you need help lady, and frankly, it just makes me sick, they putting their well rubbed noses into my business Outta here. Fast.
The Times Square Station. Slimy flakes greased the stairs . The rush of crowds, the bug eyed train cars, the people scurrying like little hatched nits onto the platforms, and fanning out over the stairs, the stations slipping in and out of view like in a crazy clock where phases of comfort or ill ease have replaced the hours. She hung onto the pole feeling like a discarded strip of linen, bound for the rag bin. And the train chugged on and on and on, the crowds…the crowds…Never had crowds like this late at night. The next stop was Atlantic Avenue, and….no one there ! The train was suddenly empty! Amazing! She was alone. Or almost.
He was on a seat, he was puffing on a cigar, he nodded to her , but, she spoke first, and she asked him,
“You said it was … A new-her- ism ?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Are we still on?”
“Yeah, but it’s your last chance. You don’t go into Santos’ tonight and you blow it Sweetheart.”
“I see. We’re stopping now.”
“I’ll be walking behind you. Remember, your last chance.”
Atlantic Avenue slid into view, the doors opened. Jiminy Cricket spoke.
“ You are seeing things and hearing things. The guy behind you isn’t even there and if he was, he is Satan.”
She stepped out of the train, and into the penumbra of the station, a gloomy stairway lay ahead.
“ Life and death are not for you to decide.”
She moved slowly towards the first step. Her feet ached. Each step dripped with water, the rain had not stopped. Thank Goodness she had the umbrella.
“You married him for better or for worse.”
She stopped half way up the flight. There would be nobody in the toll booth and when she reached the mezzanine level , there would be nobody but Marion Maybelle Peters and Satan in an unholy alliance. The outrageousness of it all even caused her to giggle. It was too extraordinary, she could still not go into Santos’. She started the climb to street level.
“Alright, he has fouled up, but it’s your Christian duty to forgive, and pray he’ll see the light.”
She was on street level. Gabriel was trailing, looking at his cigar that had gone dead. JC droned on
“And remember what you learned in church ! The dark cellar where sin grows…”
She reached the street with the umbrella open. Gabriel was behind her. He had relit his cigar. A street lamp was puffing its lurid breath in Santos’ direction. Her black umbrella made her one with the darkness, she tilted it down over her face, just below her eyes. It was past midnight and cold. A taxi stopped at Santos’. A hooker got out. Tall, thin, grasshopper body. Loudly striped black and white fur jacket and short pants. She ran into Santos’, ran back, stuck her scrawny neck in through the window to talk with someone in the back seat. The light turned green, but the taxi stood still as a headstone. The hooker and her long white boots disappeared behind the screen of a cheesy yellow door and a tall, silver haired middle aged man stepped out. Reverend Andrews. He ran into Santos’, returned with a carton of Marlboros. They sped off. JC ‘s voice rushed in.
‘There must be an explanation for all this.”
Trembling she turned to Gabriel. “It is not the thought, it is not the deed, it is the flowers,” he said softly. She nodded and understood what he meant. Then she went into Santos’.
Copyright © Diana Pollin