Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Melrah: Young And Impressionable.

“Come out from behind the organ! We’re about to start!”
            You could hear Mary Lou from a mile away. Her voice split the air, like lightning, and she was never apologetic for it. Arnold pulled up his pants and buttoned them quickly. He was afraid Mary Lou would find the courage to jump, behind the rusted pipes, and catch them in the act. Leonard stood up from the floor he sat Indian-style on and buttoned his pants too.
            Leonard tucked his shirt back into his not so crisp Sunday best and spoke in a hurried tone. His breath seemed to leave him in spurts, scared for his soul and redemption, “Think she know?”
            “She don’t know anything. If she do, I’ll kill her.” Arnold said.
            “Don’t talk about your sister that way. Just tell her to mind her business.”
            The two boys emerged from behind the old organ and stepped into the center of the church’s back room. The room had a mysterious glow, in certain corners, the sun penetrating from the slightly broken roof. The Missouri heat sweltered about them, causing both boys to use their ties to wipe their brows. The room was small, but was filled with their entire lifetime. The cast iron tub they were baptized in stood in the left side corner, with small bottles leaning against it. On Sundays their mothers would refill their flasks with the blessed water and sprinkle their rooms, by the next morning. On another wall, the bibles reserved for Sunday school and bible study seemed to sway on an unsteady homemade shelf. The extra chairs were stacked high, right before them; they could still feel the blisters they received from carting them back and forth, after service.
            “We’re going to hell Arnold. I’m convinced.”
            Arnold sighed and looked at himself in the cracked mirror, which sat behind the door leading into the congregation area.
“We going to heaven Leonard, New York City, where nothing matters and we can live as we are.”
            Leonard laughed, picked up his bible from the table and placed it under his arm, “New York City. I most certainly wish.”
            “There’s no wishing about it, you just have to want it. I want it and the moment you feel the same, the lord will make a way for us to get there.”
            “Things ain’t gon’ be different for us Arnold. There might be more boys up there like us, but people still look down on them.”
            Arnold walked towards the door that led into the pews, with Leonard behind him, “Jimmy says that no one looked down on him. He said they bowed down to him up there, like a queen.”
            Jimmy was the local drunk, who hung out in front of the store Arnold and Leonard frequented. He was hard to miss, always in a disheveled cotton pink dress and bottle in his hand. Before he left, when he was James Mooring Junior, he promised himself to a girl that lived on the edge of town. Delilah was a scary girl; she dressed in her father’s pants and fought the local boys, whenever they didn’t let her play their games. No one could understand why he’d chosen a tomboy, for a wife. They comprehended, when he came back from looking for work, in New York City, with a bright flopping church hat and green dress. Jimmy went home and declared that he had “taken a liking to them city boys” and that he would no longer marry Delilah. His mother looked on in horror and almost simultaneously cast him from her house, with a broom in one hand and a pot in the other. With no place to go, Jimmy spent his days hanging in front of the liquor store and Dandy’s shack, where they sold colas and candy. He bounced from room to room, until the boarding houses and motels decided to find their Christianity, when he could no longer pay their rates. The last motel owner told him, “We don’t negotiate with fags here.”
            Jimmy became a preacher of equality. He belted his drunken anger for the street to hear, in the middle of the night.
            “Christian! Christian? What kind of Christian comes to me at night when their wives or mothers aren’t looking? Y’all a bunch of simple folk who don’t know nothing about nothing…”
            One day, as Arnold and Leonard left the store, Jimmy lifted his weary eyes, from the rim of his drink, and called them out.
            “You boys think no one can see what you’re up to.”
Arnold and Leonard grabbed their bags of candy closer, their thirteen-year-old hearts thumping out of their chests. They turned slowly to face Jimmy, who had gotten up from the steps and walked towards them.
            “What you talking about drunk Jimmy?” Arnold asked.
            Jimmy smiled almost toothless, “I’m talking about that Satanism y’all been doing. Your momma know you up to that?”
            Leonard interrupted, “Shutup Jimmy, you don’t know what…”
            “Just don’t get caught. Be smart about it. Don’t come home and wear it all over your face, plastered with pride. No one is gonna love a prideful fool. Keep it behind close doors. Make sure you make eyes with girls, so no one can see the longing in your eyes…”
Leonard and Arnold were quivering, in their Sunday shoes. This man that they’d never spoken to could see right through their lie.
Jimmy continued, “I used to love me a young something like you. Best pals is what we called it. I felt something else though. Felt something swirl my stomach that I couldn’t name. I just went for the first thing that came to me: I kissed him, right on the lips. He looked at me like I was crazy, but didn’t say a word. Packed his knapsack and left. Never spoke to me again.”
Jimmy stumbled a bit closer to them, his seeping breath pushing the two boys back, as they stared at him with awe.
Leonard rolled up his sleeves and tapped a daydreaming Arnold, on his shoulder, “I think it’s about time we go home. Bye Drunk Jimmy.”
Leonard was terrified. He stayed up all night, staring at his mother that lay asleep on the sofa, in the same room. He glared at the wooden panels that their walls were made of, and swore they were closing in on him. How could Jimmy see what they were, without catching them in the act? Did he wear it on his sleeve? His smile? Had they said something, while leaving the store one day?
Suddenly Leonard began to scratch his skin, as if he itched all over. He pushed the hairs on his forearms back and forth with his nails and as his thoughts took over him, he pushed his nails deeper and harder.  When the sun rose, he looked down at his arm; it was a pink color and rubbed raw, specks of blood adorning his mother’s precious white sheets.
His mother found him rocking there, when she woke up. She lunged for her bible, holy water, and cloth. She soothed him with scripture, while dabbing the liquid onto his arms, which were wrapped around his knees, as he rocked and spoke.
“I want it off…I want it off…I want it to come off….”

Enjoyed it? Read part one & two of this series:

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