Monday, July 11, 2011

TCE Catch Up 1

Well, hell. *sigh* Haven't finished the last two TCE stories, but I'm afraid if I don't post 'em I'll never get around to finishing either of here's the beginning of my story for TCE prompt 26, which concerns the dangers of macadamia nut cookies. Only I haven't gotten that far along yet--perhaps you'll be able to see where I was going with it. More likely, not. LOL.

Here it is:


This Sunday, Pastor Brim, now growing gaunt around the edges, woke earlier than usual. The lines in the space between his eyebrows had deepened during his sleep.  A soft-spoken man outside of preaching,  when the Holy Spirit came upon him during his sermons  his voice boomed and thundered around the sanctuary like something he’d heard as a boy listening to horse races on the radio. His real name was Peter Brown, but everybody had called him Brim for so long he sometimes forgot to think of himself as any other way. The name came from the fire of the Holy Spirit that flew into him whenever he got to preaching, and it was wonderful and a bit frightening, and full of the fire and brimstone his congregation had come to know and respect and love.
The church in which he spoke the word of God was a humble brick building and sensible, but the sanctuary had vaulted, arching ceilings made of good pine with a high ridge right down the center so that when his congregation looked up, the effect was of looking into the bottom of a vast ark tipped upside down on everybody as they sang and prayed. The decorations were few; flowers for special occasions and the alter candles. Two rows of twenty pews flanked the alter, also made of good local pine, and the carpet, though a low one, was soft and sturdy. 
He knew as he rose that morning that the spiritual lives of his congregation were at stake, for he could feel the Devil himself walking the earth, and had been stalking Pastor Brim for weeks. He could see his shade hanging outside the brightest window, following the noblest souls, even amongst them in their good and godly community. Every shadow under every tree, every ungrateful scoul on the faces of men and women, every horror and every sin--the Devil. So he scrapped the sermon he’d planned on doing and done wrote up another, woe-filled, terrifying new one and knew that today, more than any other day, he would have a chance to turn back the tide of sin and non-belief, and save his fellow brothers and sisters from the temptation of evil in its most purest form.

Pastor Brim paced back and forth in front of the pews of the church, his back hunched so tight against his suit the front five rows of pews could count his backbone lumps. The Devil hung outside the sanctuary door, his shadow fell across the floor through a crack in the sill of the doorway. But this place was hallowed and safe, and the Word must be spoken.
“Oh, I don’t rightly know, Brother Rick, if I should go there,”  Brim said to his congregation,  rolling his voice around the room. He pretended to wipe at his brow, but nobody was fooled.
“Oh, go there, Father, go there,” answered Brother Rick from the front row, smiling wide. Pastor Brim paused a moment, threw out a thin, tanned-and-freckly hand to his brother in Christ. Surely the Devil had not yet succeeded in tempting a man so good as Brother Rick, with his sainted wife snd nine healthy children. But then, the more pure the man, the harder the Devil tried to ensure his fall. Almost Brim thought he could see a shadow of Lucifer hovering near Brother Rick, but that could not be.
“Whoa, I say, I say I don’t know if I should go there, Brother.”
“Go there, Father! Say it! Tell it like it is!” someone cried from the back.  Many of the congregation seemed to be getting stirred up,  Brim could tell. Mutters of “Say it true,” and “Go there, Father,” came up from all sides.
Pastor Brim pretended to collapse onto the first pew to the left of the aisle, right next to Brother Rick. Brother Rick’s wife leaned over and began pretend-fanning him with her hand, fat gaudy rings flashing.
“Whoa, Brother. I got’s to catch my breath, mmm hmmm,” Brim said. More cries.
“Alright now, alright,” he said, throwing his voice over his shoulder. “You want me to go there?”
“You go there, Father!”
And then he saw it, and felt it, felt the Spirit upon him; the wings of the finest feathered dove fluttering right through his heart and his mind, so powerful were the pounding of those wings that the wind from God almost stole his breath, and Brim was up and flying about the pulpit, waving his arms in another moment, whiteness surrounding his limbs as he moved and shook.
“Amen!” he cried, casting his arms wide. Amens pelted him from every corner and cranny of the sanctuary. “Hallelujah!, Amen! Let not your faith and truth to be tempted by the Devil! Hallelujah!, Amen! The Devil,” he breathed, “is one of the things that creepeth, you know, I say. And what do we know from Genesis? That man has dominion over ever’thing  upon the earth, over the fish of the sea and fowl of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth an over ever’ creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth! Genesis 1:26! Hallelujah!, Amen!” His voice was at a bellowing shout, but the Holy Spirit had so filled him he could miraculously continue on without drawing breath. “And what crawls and creepeth across the earth?”
Various answers met him, but he could not hear the words, so close was he to God, and the white light seemed to make music inside him as the wings of the dove flapped and pounded in his head.
“That’s right,” he continued, “the SERPENT! The Devil, he creepeths upon the earth. He creepeth amongst us God fearing brothers and sisters in Christ. But you know what?”
 “What, Father?” people leaned in the pews toward him.
“Oh I don’t know if I should tell you what,” he shouted at them, blinded.
“What, FATHER?” They must have shouted back. They surely shouted back. ‘Course, he couldn’t tell.
“Alright, I’ll tell you what. Yes, the Devil is amongst us ever’where we look,  spreading blasphemy to ensnare you and enslave you. Ever’where. Right outside our sanctuary doors, he creepeth. What’s worse, is most people don’t know how to recognize it no more. And you wanted to know what! Well I'll tell you what, I will! You know what them there scientists is wantin’ you to believe?”
“What, Father?”
“They’d have you believe,” he said, “that a rock, a rock like this’n right here,” and he yanked off his shining left wingtip shoe, tipped it into his hand so that the tiny pebble he'd stashed before the sermon fell into his open hand, “this’n right here, is 10 million years old.” He straightened his back and looked at the people, feeling the stillness that often followed the Spirit settle into him, helping him lighten the mood of his congregation, the whiteness, like glowing blobs, at the edge of fading, the dove retreating.  “Well, maybe not this’n,” he admitted, putting on his shoe again, grinning, “but that’s the general idear of it all. They get some people shut up indoors fer too long, and they tell em to look at rocks, and then them people come back later and says, hey! This here rock is 50 million years old! Carton dating and, and whatnot! You want to know what?! That’s the Devil, that is! We know that can’t be the truth! That’s right, I say, that’s right! We know the truth! This is the truth,” he cried in his horse race announcer voice, plucking a Bible up from his pulpit and waving it about his head “Hallelujah!, Amen!”
Amens and hallelujahs answered him.
“And these people, they ain’t tellin’ no truths! They’s just confused! Confused, I tell you! Confused by the Devil! Confused by a serpent who creepeth upon the earth and over whom you and I and we all have dominion! Dominion! These confused people, they’d have good Christians like you and me think that we’s descended from a monkey! From a monkey!” 
“Can you believe that!? I say, can you believe that? I say we know what, we know what alright! We’s descended from Adam! Hallelujah,! Amen! That’s them trying to say that chickens only ever come from eggs! Hallelujah,! Amen! And that these here cookies that Sister Elllie made us,” and now Father Brim held up a big fat macadamia nut cookie that Sister Ellie made for Sunday School, “is a product of evolution!”
He took a big bite, closing his eyes as he chewed.
“Well,” he said.
“Well,” responded some.
“I tell you, Sister Ellie’s cookies is a miracle. Ain’t no evolution acting in her kitchen!” He waved the cookie. “That’s God, right there, God in Sister Ellie and in Sister Ellie’s cookies and Sister Ellie’s kitchen Hallelujah,! Amen!, Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah, let us pray,”  Brim said, popping the rest of the cookie into his mouth so that when he chewed his thin brown cheeks puffed out like a groundhog. It melted as he chewed and tasted what Heaven must taste like, if He commanded it to be a flavor. Then, Brim collapsed.

The ambulance ride was all a jumble in his mind as Brim stretched on the hospital bed. Looked like they had him hooked up and strapped in every which way.  A man in a white doctor’s coat came closer to his bed. The name tag read “Dr. Meek. Mercy Medical.” Mercy Med, the Catholic hospital. Catholics. Oh, no, Brim thought.
“Well good afternoon, Mister Peter Brown. How you doin’ there now, alright? Well,” he said again, “well-enough, I expect, all things considered. You gave ever’body quite a scare.”

“The Devil,” Brim mumbled, thinking the possibly good doctor was referring to his sermon back at the church.
“Devil, mm hmm, mm hmmm,” said Dr. Meek with that tone people get when they aren’t really listening. Meek looked up from his clipboard, flipped back a page, snapped the pen into its clamp. He looked over the bed, tilting his head up and then down at Pastor Brim.
“I reckon you’re the kind of man who wants his news straight,” he said, sternly motioning at Pastor Brim before he could reply, “and you stay still now. I reckon you want it straight and that’s how I’ll give it to you. Right? Right now.” Dr. Meek blinked a long blink.  “You, Pastor Brim, are suffering from what we might call a cluster—a small one, I say, but still, cluster—of brain tumors. Possibly begnin, but…” he drifted off. “You been seein’ anything out of the ordinary lately, or feeling out of the ordinary lately? Just a nod will do. That’s it. No? Hmmm.” Meek looked down at the clipboard. “No vision issues, whiteness, glowing lights, visions or such? Nausea, stuttering, headaches? Oh, whiteness and visions? Hmmm.”
“Holy Spirit,” Brim tried to explain, but the damned Catholic doctor motioned him to be quiet again.

"Possibly begnin," Meek said again, scratching at the clipboard with his pen, "but I'm afraid an MRI just suggests the type of tumor. The only way we can rightly know what's going on in that noggin of yours is to have a peek." He paused. "What we're talking about here, sir, is surgery. Given your scans and whatnot, I'm afraid this cluster could be obstructing the functions of your occipital lobe, even more. We need to get in there before it has a chance to metastacize."

"Devil," said Brim.

"That's right, Mr. Brown, mm hmmm, mm hmmm. I've got you down for..." the doctor flipped through his clipboard a few pages and then back to the front before continuing,  "seven this evening. I'll stop in beforehand and talk you through the procedure myself. For now though, you let that head of yours get some rest."

Brim tried to tell them he didn't want no damned corrupt Catholic poking around in his skull but the anastethia was too strong and he never quite got around to it. The surgery apparently went according to plan; some nurse waddled in and told him so, but the words were distant when she spoke, like he was listening through water. He tried to wonder if any of his congregation had been by to visit, but the thinking thing wasn't going so well yet, and so he dozed in snatches instead.

The next morning he felt better. To his surprise, Rick and his wife Yolanda knelt beside his bed, heads bowed below the twisted bedclothes as they prayed.

"What in tarnation are you doing down there," the invalid said, his voice still a bit slow, a bit scratchy. Rick looked up.

"Thank the Lord, you're awake," Rick said. "It's a miracle. Hallelujah; amen."

"Amen," whispered Yolanda.

"It's no miracle, Rick. The morphine's just done worn off, that's all."  His head thundered something fierce, but the surgery hadn't caused him to lose all his sense, that was for sure. The couple stood and looked at each other.

"We thought when you fell that the Devil and the Lord were fighting it out for your soul," Rick said, "and we knew; we knew for sure that Father Brim was a creature of the Lord and the Lord would save him."

"Wadn't no celestial fight, Rick, it was a 'cluster of brain tumors,' and how abouts you start calling me by my given name? It's Peter, in case you didn't know. Peter. Pete." He hadn't been called by his real name in decades.

Yolanda had just opened her mouth when Dr. Meek strode through the door.

"Ahh, my good man Mr. Brown. I see the drip has finally worn off. Sorry folks, but I'm going to need a moment here with my patient. Ya'll just step to the lobby and have a cup of coffee and I'll be done right quick." Rick and Yolanda left, looking mutinous.

"How are you feeling today, Mr. Brown?"

"Fine enough."

"Mm hmmm, mm hmmm." Meek poked at the bandages, checked some of the machines suspended behind Pete's bed. "Any vision issues today? White lights? Doves, devils or angels?" Pete flicked his eyes at Dr. Meek.


"Thought as much. I suspected what you were seeing was caused by the tumors. Some of them straddled not only your occiptal lobe, but also the temporal lobe, so not only your vision but also your emotions would be effected by the tumors. Can give a Godly man quite the images, really."
Meek smiled at him as he stepped back from the machines.  It was a queer smile.

"You're telling me that...that the tumors...they made me see and feel the Holy Spirit? That it weren't rightly there? The whole time?"

Meek smiled again.

"There was no Devil stalking you, Mr. Brown, nor no white dove of the Holy Spirit stealing your body while you was preaching. Such things simply did not happen. It was all in your head."

"All in my head."

"That's right. Now," Meek said, straightening the twisted bedclothes, "why don't you rest some more. Whether or not you want to admit it, you're in a delicate state. Have a cookie, and then take a nap." Meek picked up a cookie off the hospital rolling table. Ellie must have visited at some point; it was a white chocolate macadamia cookie. "You mind?" He proceeded to eat the cookie, and turned from Pete. As he left the room, Pete thought he saw--for just a flicker--the shape of Lucifer in Dr. Meek's receeding form, still munching the cookie. But no. No.

It was only the whole in his head that made him think that, where the tumors had been.

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