The Church

Charlotte landed heavily in the pew, thankful for it’s support as she was certain, had she been on her feet any longer she would have passed out from the events of the journey there. These events, all of which are bits and pieces of movie clips in her head, had all happened in slow motion. Now seated amongst her family, that scene had ended and another sure to begin. It was inevitable. With her family there was always no telling what would transpire but you could bet your last dollar that someone would not disappoint.

Charlotte felt amazingly at peace now. It was as if all the pain and emptiness from her loss and been loosen up by her tears from where they had been stuck to her chest like mold, poisoning her without knowledge. Then they were washed away in the downpour with every sob and heaving of her chest as she tried to catch a breath between each release. Now she felt weightless and fully cognizant in the moment.

The building was a traditional cathedral with stained glass windows with a mosaic of a white man’s Jesus sporting a long blue rob and a sunny halo. It was one of those holy edifice where one look of it’s towering steeple with a hoisted cross on top and statues of angels guarding every gate, you were sure to find a holier-than-thou pastor inside spewing condemnation. She had attended a service there with her mom on one occasion and was certain by the end of praise and worship that she would never return. She hadn’t, until now. Her grandmother wouldn’t have liked tis place either. Marie Bond had spoken of churches like this where people were quick to point out the splinter in another’s eye and ignore the two by four in their own eye.

“It’s those kind of God forsaken folks that give Christians elsewhere a bad name. All they do is go up on that pulpit and throw jeers at their neighbors when God himself helped thief and watchman.” Her grandma once retorted in response to a claim that the pastor had preached one Sunday how people can get up and go on the farm everyday, but cannot find their way to church. She had been certain it was a direct hit made on her.

“Who the hell does he think he is?” she had spat out, near fuming. “Arthritis may keep me from trotting that long road to church but God knows the content of my heart.” Charlotte was waiting for her to get up, put on her best gown and march right up to the church to confront him.

Marie Bond wasn’t afraid of anybody.

“How bout he bring his damn congregation behind his close door and let them see how he beat his wife from sunrise to sundown! Poor woman would wipe his ass if she had to but nothing is ever enough to satisfy him. For heaven’s sake he goes under the gown tail of his own daughter! What manner of man of God is that?”

Charlotte and her cousin Trina had begged their grandma to let it be. Calming down eventually, Marie had decided that she was a woman plagued with hypertension and shouldn’t be getting her pressure up with such nonsense.

“I can’t study that man. He don’t wake me up in the morning and he sure as hell won’t be getting no tithes from me to give to his young sweetheart.”

Then just like that she was over it. Since then Charlotte was always wary of Pentecostal pastors ranting and raving, doing everything but sharing and teaching the word of God. So she went to church when it seemed fit. When she didn’t go, she made sure to spend time alone with the Lord. If one thing her grandma had made certain, there is a God and he deserve at least some of the time He gives us.

She took in the rows of pews with their varnished wood frame and padded seat covered in pink fabric. Each aisle, from the door all the way t the pulpit, was covered with brown carpeting. Ceramic tile flowed from under the carpets and covered every other space. Sitting just in front of Charlotte was her aunt Shirley whom her grandma never came to love as she was certain the rumors that she had cheated on my uncle, Marie’s favorite son, was the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

To the right of Charlotte was her cousin, Trina. The girls had grown up together with their grandmother. When Charlotte went to live with her mother they were both devastated. However, Trina was not one to show much emotion and had dealt with it better. Over the years they would spend the weekends with each other. Then Charlotte had made new friends from her new school and ended up spending more time with them instead. Before long they barely saw each other. However, their relationship was one where no matter how much time had passed, whenever they saw each other it was as if they hadn’t lost a day. The girl always had a way of making her laugh and in the worst way. When it came to making a sport out of people, anyone was fair game to Trina.

The moderator announced that there would be a musical rendition from Ms. Eva Dean.

Trina leaned over and whispered to Charlotte, “I bet you she’s going to sing, Oh What A Sunrise.

Aunt Shirley looked slightly over her shoulder indicating that she had heard Trina who could care less. Then as the woman opened her mouth, that’s exactly what came out. Charlotte tried to hold back a giggle and avoided looking at Trina, as she knew her cousin would be waiting with her mischievous, I-told-you-so look on her face. The woman had sang the same song at every funeral they had ever been to, whether family, or family friend.

Charlottes mind and eyes wandered around the church, waiting for the singing to be over. There were many familiar faces from where she lived with her grandma. There was Marvin the gossiper whom everyone swore would never grow up to take a woman, because he had to be one himself. In the very front left pew was Ms. Lauren, her grandma’s best friend who she never ate anything from. She would take the food whenever it was offered as to not offend her friend, and then feed it to the animals. The woman must have never heard that cleanliness was next to godliness because she treated her toilet and kitchen all the same. Ms. Lauren’s idea was that since her bladder couldn’t make it to the toilet on time, she would keep a bucket in her kitchen in case she needed a release while cooking.

Suddenly a commotion drew Charlottes mind from its travels. She looked ahead to see that the pallbearers were preparing to close the casket. This cued a performance from her cousin Donna, just a couple pews ahead. Donna made a spectacle everywhere she went. Whether church, wedding or party, something was going down.

“Leave my grandmother! Don’t take my granny!” The young woman was shouting and swinging her head from side to side. The only thing left was for it to spin all the way around like a scene from The Exorcist.

“Granny Marie don’t leave me, please don’t leave me!” Tap, tap, click, clack, clack pinged of the ceramic tile floor as the girl began stomping her feet and swaying her body from left to right. I looked at Trina who looked at me and shook her head in response to Donna’s antics. A few ushers rushed over, holding Donna and fanning her in hopes that she would not faint. Mourning and low weeping could be heard from other family members.

Charlotte looked on as the casket lid came down.

“Goodbye, Granny,” she whispered. There were no more tears. She was all emptied out.