Repeating patterns of trees whizzed by with their deciduous reflections washing over the windshield of the car. The neighborhood was idyllic and plastic, a painted picture of manicured and trimmed suburbia. An affluent heaven on earth, of sorts, safe-harboring neighbors from the naked environments of the city, while populating itself with people who spent their leftover hours powering through evening walks and health runs. This place could have been anywhere you blindly dropped on your finger on a map of the United States – a place filled with planted sprites and animated by a repeating set of similar looking NPCs. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs to brim with self-pride. In a few minutes, I would be moving my family to a larger house and fancier neighborhood.
We’d pulled into the driveway of the new house and parked the car next to the doorway of the second garage. We unloaded a few items to carry inside. Turning the key, the lock released with the door opening onto a shiny, black tile floor, welcoming us with our own reflections.
In a couple of ways, we had arrived. We would become the neighborhood association obsessing about deck designs, fence styles, and other trivial affairs. During the day, we offered our best smiles of moral upstanding, while making our way through “well-to-do” people’s problems – all problems manufactured to present the illusion of struggle and hardship. Yet and still there were others of the community simply could not let go of what they used to be in order to understand what they, now, had become. They couldn’t fully understand or embrace, the “we-ness,” of the neighborhood religion. But they would come around soon enough.
* * *
“Let’s go! We are gonna be late for service!” I called out to the youngest children from the garage. “Let’s move it.” With everyone deposited and catalogued, we sped along the residential byways to the church.
We dressed in our Sundays’ semi-best, weighing down the wooden pews with our semblance of piety. But this isn’t a place for sinners. No salvation is to be found here among the bright red velvet and immaculate rows of the righteous; The books too new; The windows too clean.
Pastor Roberts was in the middle of his sermon and the children were fidgety. “Shhh. Sit still.” I cast an evil eye toward them, mentally motioning to them to sit calmly until they’d faded from view. “Let us turn to Deuteronomy 8:18 – You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day -”
I turned my attention to the water fountain outside the window. The water pushed up with violence, from the fountain head, up into the hot air as the spray evaporated. I watched gravity suspend the larger drops in mid-air before pulling them down, free-falling and tumbling back into the water. They merged back into the sameness of the pond, back into the mass of water, amid the rippling waves, emanating from the impact zone. “…As it is within our community to join together, reach out and help one another…” concluded Pastor Roberts.
The stained glass windows lay an intricate design of shadow across the pews and parishioners. No one needing help, people who were visibly wrestling with their demons should ever look to seek assistance in this community, nestled behind these heavy, wooden doors. We are the Blessed Ones and deservedly so because we’ve managed to clothe the outward appearance of our demons in garments of righteousness. Our masks of deserved and earned smoothed over, with no visible wrinkles born of opportunity or any sense of obligation.
The hall doors burst open, before a young man tumbled onto the floor. He was, clothed in dirty denim and an equally dirty t-shirt. “Please help me? I’m hungry. I only wanted a bit of food for my daughter.” A jaundiced pallor sheathed the dark hue of his skin. Standing behind the man was Sam, the local law enforcement officer. He caught the guy stealing food from the Harpers’ home. Sam had been investigating a broken window and found him inside. “Sam stop bringing these vagrants through these doors during our Sunday services. You know the law. Explain it to him and pass judgement.” The pastor barked.
“Yes, Pastor Roberts,” replied Sam. “I just thought — ” Sam stopped mid-sentence as he caught the extreme disapproval in Pastor Robert’s glare. “I’ll take care of it right away!” Sam began to pull the man toward the doors, tightly gripping the man’s collar.
The man begged. “Please! Please help-” But his begging stopped abruptly as we all turned in the pews to face him. He scrambled back on his elbows and heels. We stared at him with black, lidless eyes, set above sharp teeth and set inside twisted faces.
“Tus caras! Demonios!” He screamed with fear, looking back and forth at each of our faces.
We pour into these walls on Sunday morning, with our heads collectively rimming the windows to outside observation. We envy. We compare our blessings, laying claim to our collection of “things” to proper filial thinking. But should we judge the outsiders, the less fortunate? Should we instead judge ourselves? At least, we older ones who know better? The young, we program and coerce with crooked guidance. No sword and shield here. The war didn’t come to our shores.
No armor – Just the softness of our clothing that expresses leisure and wealth. Sinners of his type were not welcome here, visibly dirty, dusted and caked with deed and life’s struggles.
The sound of a single gun shot rang out in the distance, cutting through the second hymn of the morning. I turned to look out the other window at the eastern border of the wall being built around our community. I folded my hands and whispered to my wife. “Thank God, the wall was nearly complete.”
Pretty soon we wouldn’t have to deal with these less fortunate, lifestyle terrorists – these unfavorable ones that God had forsaken. The unclean and undeserved who threaten to destroy our righteous and blessed way of life.
Turning, to my neighbor, I shook his hand and said. “And Peace be with you.”
God bless the child that’s got his own.
Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
by malakhai jonezs
(c) Copyright 2016
Interesting-and sadly true, in a sense.
It’s historic and a tradition, sad to say.
yeah, the hypocrisy. I like the term “lifestyle terrorists.” That is really how it seems some people feel.
I think it’s most people, if they aren’t the ones in the dirty clothes. We all stand by and watch a lot of things happen. That seems just as bad, if not more so than the people perpetrating the crime.
That’s very true. It is just as bad I think. People want to throw everyone in jail instead of figuring out what the problem is. I like the thoughts your work produces.
Thanks Vic! 🙂
Absoutely creepy, M… The church setting, the wall being built, the single gunshot, a very telling wrap up, Great story!!
The ending quote from a Billie Holiday song, a bit of icing on the cake. 🙂
Thanks Cathy! I appreciate your time.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Wow, love this!
Thank you for reading it Mariska and giving me feedback. Much appreciated!
So sad Malakhai but unfortunately true IRL. Hypocrites are often the first to announce their ‘faith’ while turning a blind eye to the problems around them. It was also creepy the church and the whispered words. Loved it!
Thanks Lisa. 🙂 I really appreciate you reading my work and providing feedback.
Love the scene you created and its message. I also love this sentence so much: “We are the Blessed Ones and deservedly so because we’ve managed to clothe the outward appearance of our demons in garments of righteousness.” I had to read that line a few times just to embrace it with a writer’s hug.
Thank you Tunisia! I love the feedback. With just likes, you never know if people are resonating with the story. So thank you!
Creepily REAL. I have never been a fan of churches that condemn anyone that doesn’t think or live as their parishioners appear to. Great visual piece!
Made me sad. I like that your story can elicit an emotion.
Thank you again!
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