Do me a favor..
Poor Wilma Seymour
Wilma Seymour had been the town’s gossip, know-it-all and back-yard bitch for as long as anyone could remember. She started out that way in the 3rd grade sitting in the 2nd seat in the 1st row of old Mrs.Gardner’s class. “Pass your tests to the front” old Gardner would say and Seymour would steal a peek at everyone’s answers. “Penny, you got number three wrong,” whispered Wilma, “it was C and tell Vicki she got number eight wrong it was D, ‘all of the above’.. (Even then, Wilma was a bitch). She would hold the hand of the teacher at recess to be first in line, with the ulterior motive of ensuring that her chubby fat ass would be the first to make it to the cafeteria for ice cream. She reported fights in the hallways to the principal’s office, reported boys and girls making-out at dances and on the fan-buses and even snitched on people she saw together in drug stores and restaurants. Wilma was in everyone’s business.
To say Wilma made more than a few enemies in the small town of Cromwell is an understatement. I’ll only share the more delectable events in this story, because in the end, Wilma finds Jesus.
In 1978, along about the time the hostages were being held in Iran and inflation was 19% Wilma worked as a bank teller for the Cromwell State Bank. Actually, Wilma had been promoted from Bank Teller to a Loan Officer. As tends to the case, going through a personal credit check is akin to getting a proctology exam; both create massive amounts of mental anguish and humiliation. So when Kevin Howard and his wife Amy came in to apply for a car loan they were naturally nervous, timid and humble.
“How may we help you?” asked Mr. Atz, Branch Manager of the Cromwell State Bank.
Kevin Howard shook Mr. Atzs’ hand firmly (and remembered a word that rhymed with Atz); he and his wife Amy were shopping for a car loan so they could replace their beat up Ford Pinto before it exploded into flames from a faulty gas tank.
“Absolutely Mr. Howard, do you bank here?”
“Yes sir, Amy and I have been banking here close to ten years, only been overdrawn once.”
“Great,” responded Mr. Atz, “let me introduce you to Wilma who will be taking down some credit information and will get the process started.”
“Wilma?” Howard asked bluntly. “Wilma Seymour?”
“Why yes, she’s our loan officer, fine worker and pays strict attention to detail, I’m sure you’ll find working with Wilma a pleasure.”
The three walked across the red carpeted bank lobby to an open office area beyond the teller windows. Sitting posture perfect at a laminate oak desk sat Wilma Seymour; glasses dangling from a necklace, flopping against a white blouse and navy blue jacket. She peered up and met Mr.Atzs’ gaze who was peering at her unbuttoned blouse revealing a hint of cleavage and smiled.
“Wilma Seymour, these are the Howards, they are seeking a car loan to replace their current auto. I told them you would be most helpful in assisting them in the process with a credit application. Kevin, Amy, I’ll leave you in Wilma’s capable hands,”
“Please have a seat,” said Wilma as friendly as can be.
(Wilma’s hands had stubby fingers, nails chewed to the quick, rough as sandpaper and stains of blue ink specked her palms; (God only knew what bacteria collected in the pours of that skin).
“Wilma Seymour, a pleasure, my wife and I are here to apply for a car loan, you remember Amy?”
“I do, .Kevin, do you ever hear from Stacy”?
“Sixth grade, transferred from Wolf Lake, total slut. I can’t believe you don’t remember her- she got pregnant in ninth grade, kept the kid then moved to West Virginia to live with her Aunt and Uncle. Her dad was a boozer and abuser, poor girl.”
“Stacy eh, can’t say that I do remember her...”
“She did half the football team in 1971, her dad was a trucker and her mom worked 3rd shift at All-Metal Fabrication, she was a latch-key whore, I couldn’t stand her despite her personal circumstances”
“Wilma, about the loan...”
“Yes, I have the loan application right here. Amy, do you work?”
“Not currently, “replied Amy, “I’m in between jobs at the moment, but I have a good work history and...”
“I’m sure you do,” interrupted Wilma, “double income makes for better credit risks. Kevin, how much of a loan are you and Amy applying for?”
Kevin hesitated and then responded, “six thousand dollars. We’re putting $1,500 down and want to finance the rest.”
“I see. Well, I’ll need your social security number, along with Amy’s-the questions on the loan application are self-explanatory. If the two of you want to take the application, fill it out and return it to me tomorrow, I’ll get the process started.” Wilma pushed the loan documents toward Kevin and as he reached to pick them up, Wilma seductively rolled her index finger over his knuckles and began quietly singing ‘memories, light the corner of my mind...”
“The Way We Were” noted Amy (wondering if the memory referred to Stacy or Wilma-‘such a bitch’ she thought to herself).
Sundown came early in Cromwell with the change from daylight savings time. Wilma left the bank promptly at 4:30, stopped by Blue’s pharmacy to pick up a card for her mother who was incarcerated at the Twin Oaks Nursing home and headed home to her modest ranch on Third street. Except for her cats, she lived alone. Wilma’s property was neat and tidy. The leaves were raked, grass mowed, driveway sealed, gutters and downspouts cleaned, porch swept and the property securely locked. A single woman living in a rural town had little to fear but Wilma took no chances. She had banked the money from the sale of her mother’s estate and was a miser and coupon clipper. She pulled her car into a cleanly swept and recently painted garage, nudging the car forward until the suspended red rubber ball danced off her windshield indicating her car was safely in the garage-then immediately closed the garage door. She walked into the kitchen, fed her cats and pulled a Tupperware container of homemade soup from the refrigerator. The soup, along with the card and some butter cookies were going to Twin Oaks this evening after, the residents had been fed. How Wilma hated to watch the half-dead ‘inmates’ being carted, rolled, and shuffled into the cafeteria. Most had no sense of time or space. Adorned with bibs and ‘depends’ relatives and certified nursing assistants wiped drooled food and spit from the mouths of parents and grandparents. The aroma of piss and cabbage drifted over the entire facility. The high whine of maladjusted hearing aids squealed from one table to another. Wilma could not believe people were burning through their life savings to eke out the last remaining days, months and years of their lives at Twin Oaks-then again, better that mama ‘rest’ at ‘the Oaks’ than in Wilma’s tidy manicured home.
Wilma changed her clothes, putting on something modest and recognizable for her mother. The clothes she wore would have to be dry cleaned or burned, there was no way she could bring the stench of Twin Oaks home to her cats. Car keys in hand, she exited her garage, promptly closed the door and backed out of her drive way. As she was leaving she noticed a man with jet black hair and what appeared to be a bible in his hands. She stared at him for moment then rolled her window down and called from the street:
“Excuse me, yoo-hoo, excuse me!” After no response from the man she honked her horn. The dark haired man turned in the direction of the car horn and waved, then proceeded to walk toward Wilma’s car. He was a thin man, probably in his early 50’s. He had high cheek bones, a thin nose, and thick eyebrows; as he neared the car it was obvious to Wilma he had colored his hair. Who was this person? She didn’t know this man and she had lived in Cromwell all of her life. He carried a brown well worn bible and was dressed in dark green slacks, a tweed sports coat, white shirt, olive green tie and scuffed brown oxfords. As he approached the car he introduced himself as Reverend Walter Jessup, First Church of Christ from Joplin Missouri. He extended his right hand and gave a slight nod and followed the motion with a hearty smile. (Wilma detected the scent of Jade East after shave, circa 1966, a smell paints a thousand pictures).
“Good evening, Reverend Walter Jessup, First Church of Christ, Joplin Missouri..”
“Long way from home Reverend, Joplin is a good 9 hours west, welcome to Cromwell, Indiana, Wilma Seymour.”
“Pleased to meet you Mrs. Seymour (Wilma didn’t bother to correct his assumption of being a dependent spouse- a Mr. sometimes prevents a wrong intention). “ The reason I’m canvassing Cromwell is to invite you and your friends to our tent revival, October 21, 22 and 23rd. Three evenings of the most honest preaching of the good news you’ll hear anywhere.”
“Thank you Reverend, I’m Catholic; I’m not one to venture into tents and watch people handle snakes or eat Draino.”
“Mrs. Seymour, you misunderstand. We’re a seed church, meaning we’re not looking for members, only the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community and to Jesus Christ our Lord and savior.”
“Reverend Jessup, you’ll have to excuse me, I am late for an appointment..”
“So sorry, I won’t keep you. I’d like to stop by and tell you more about the revival, in the meantime, here is flier which outlines the times and location of the services. There’s powerful preaching and a free meal all three nights. We’d love for you and your Catholic friends to attend, and there won’t be any snakes or Draino.”
Wilma watched as the Reverend tipped his hat with a smile and a nod. “Mind if I pray for you Mrs. Seymour?”
“I really don’t think a prayer is necessary or appropriate, Mother Mary is watching and intercedes on my behalf. Good day Reverend Jessup.”
“I sense a bit of worry Wilma, can I call you Wilma? Your mother, she is not doing well is she?”
“Nothing a little soup and butter cookies won’t fix. I really must be going; good luck with your revival. Feel free to stop by the Cromwell State Bank and put a flier in our window. We’ll post you next to the bean supper and fish fry at St, Marks.”
With that, Wilma slammed down the accelerator, rolled a stop sign and headed west to Twin Oaks. As she sped off, the breeze in the car caught the revival flier and deposited it in her back window. Meanwhile, the anti-freeze on the floorboard of the front seat sloshed and seeped on to her floor mat. Wilma swore, “Shit fire and save matches,” she exclaimed! (Wilma knew her affair with the antifreeze would be short lived, as would the life of her mother).
Dottie Seymour lay propped by pillows. Her white hair matted to the side of her head as she rested. She was snoring; Dottie had worked in Frakeman’s Bakery for nearly 40 years. She sold and gave away more than 3 million doughnuts in her lifetime. The cops loved her, gave her a police scanner for her 70th birthday and patrolled her street and back alley on all three shifts. Wilma walked in and gently brushed the matted hair from her mother’s face..
“Momma, it’s me, Wilma, wake up.”
Dottie didn’t move. Her shallow breathing and wheezing sound continued. Wilma noticed that the nurse had left her medicine in a Dixie cup along with a cup of water. Wilma reach inside her purse, pulled out a small bottle of lime Gatorade premixed with some Prestone, poured it over some ice and tried waking Dottie up again.
“Momma, wake up, time to take your medicine.” Wilma stuck a straw in the cup and rubbed it lightly against her mother’s lips. Instinctively, Dottie opened her lips and pulled a strong straw full of the liquid down her throat. Wilma pulled the straw from her mouth...
“Is it good Mama? Made it just like you like, lots of sweet sugar and a tidge of lemon lime.”
Dottie opened her eyes, smiled and opened her lips for another sip. She drank in the fluid, dibbled a bit fluid down her left cheek and rolled her eyes. “Damn it .I can’t even suck a straw anymore..”
Wilma smiled. She loved her mother but it was time she floated up to see Ester her sister and Lamar her husband. Wilma could see that she was very weak. Perhaps, tonight the old bakery cashier would pass and her diamonds, gold and antique artifacts would finally be put to some good use.
“Mama, I have to be going but I made some you some soup, I’ll leave it right here on your tray and I’ll be back tomorrow.” Wilma kissed her forehead, tucked her blanket up around her shoulders and walked across the waxed floor to the exit. (“god damn it I wish she’d die” she thought to herself as she smiled at the LPN at the nursing station.
The next morning at nine, Kevin was at the drive-thru at the bank stuffing his credit application through the deposit suction tube. “woooomph” the canister was sucked up and through some magical tunnel, the safety lid on the bank vacuum cleaner closed. In a moment he heard: “Mr. Howard, I’ll see that Wilma receives these papers immediately, thank you for banking at Cromwell State Bank.” Kevin waved then exited the lot-now it was wait and see he thought to himself.
Wilma got the call at 9:47 am, ‘Mama’ has passed. She died quietly in her sleep. Dr. Howerton had pronounced her dead at 8:29 am and her body was already being transferred to the Orr Funeral Home. Wilma hung up the phone, rustled up an eyeful of tears and went to her boss and said she would be taking bereavement. She handed him the Howard’s loan application with DENIED stamped on it with her signature. “The economy is bad and so is their credit, bad risk for the bank. Please call them and let them know.” With that. Wilma was wished condolences and left for the funeral home; she had to confirm the identity of the body. She arrived at Orr Funeral Home around 2:00 pm after stopping by Hickley/ Brown and Burnum attorneys’ at law, to inform them of her mother’s untimely death. Phil Orr ushered Wilma into the embalming room. Mama laid stiff as a frozen turkey, blue as ice and but she looked at peace. Dr. Howerton had arrived with the death certificate, which Wilma’s attorneys would need to release her assets.
“Wilma,” said Dr. Howerton, “I am sorry for your loss. I can’t tell you how many maple doughnuts she gave me growing up.”
“Thank you doctor, is that the death certificate?”
“It is, however, it’s not signed yet. The coroner is examining some of the fluid that had collected around your mother lungs to verify she died from respiratory failure.”
“Coroner, is that necessary or normal?”
“Standard procedure, I should get a call within the hour when the results of the test come in.”
Wilma willed her tears again and slowly searched the room for a tissue. She found a box, lifted a tissue, dabbed her eyes and walked out into the sunshine. (Damn. All of the mystery novels and TV shows she’d ever watched said that antifreeze was odorless, and tasteless except for a sweet residue it left behind. That was only discovered in a recent edition of 48 Hours on CBS, Wilma didn’t smell anything in the embalming room except alcohol and embalming fluid. She walked back to the door, stuck her head inside and told Phil and Dr. Howerton she was going home to rest. Dr. Howerton said he would call her when he had heard from the coroner.
Wilma arrived home to find her cats prancing on the kitchen counter and fresh turds in the liter pan. She scooped the turds into a plastic garbage bag and headed outside to deposit them in the garbage can when she heard a screech of tires and a door slam.
“You fucking bitch, you fucking selfish, mean spirited bitch..” The screams were from a woman. Wilma peaked around the side of the house to see Amy Howard beating on her front door. “I know you’re in there Wilma, open up the door or I will break the fucker down.”
Wilma carefully cracked the front door, spied the hostile woman and burst into tears.
“Why in the fuck are you crying? Did you turn yourself down for a car loan too?”
“No, and I am sorry, my mother passed away this morning and I have not been myself.”
“Yeah, well you were pretty cogent to deny our car loan. Look, it’s too bad about your mom, luckily, you have a house full of cats-not unlike a witch, but I am appealing your denial and have already filed a complaint under the Fair Credit Reporting Act…”
“Amy, don’t threaten me. You and that drunk you call a husband don’t deserve a break. Looks like you’ll have to walk or ride a bike to work, now leave me alone I am in mourning.”
“Fuck you Wilma, I will see you in the morning, and my fist will be so far up your ass you’ll wish you’d died instead of your mother!” Amy stormed off to her car and screeched out of Wilma’s driveway. Wilma shut the door with a smile on her face. She was having a wonderful day, until,..
“Wilma, Dr. Howerton here, it seems I have some distressing news.”
“What is the news Dr. Howerton?”
“The fluid report came back with high levels of toxicity in the form of antifreeze, it appears your mother was murdered or she enjoyed drinking Prestone,…I am sorry, but, the coroner has requested a full autopsy, so we will have to delay the funeral and burial for at least 72 hours.”
“Murdered? Who would want to murder my mother?
“That’s what we hope an autopsy report will reveal, it won’t answer why but it will answer how…I am sorry. I can’t sign the death certificate until this matter is resolved so kindly let your attorney’s know. They too will receive a copy of the autopsy for insurance purposes.”
“OK. Thank you.” Wilma was suddenly not having a wonderful day. The thought of being accused and tried as a murderer was not an option she had anticipated. Her first instinct was to run, but that would surely lead to an assumption of guilt. ‘Sweet Jesus, she thought, what was she to do’? Think! The doorbell suddenly rang. Wilma, fearing there were officers or that nasty whore Amy Howard had returned, peaked from splinter of curtain. It was that damn preacher. Back again trying to get her drink Draino. Somhow there was poetic justice in that thought. She decided to answer the door.
“Wlima, praise God you are home!”
“Why, Rev. Jessup, back so soon?”
“Actually, I am here to ask a huge favor. I was in the Matthews Department store and mentioned that I had spoken to you and invited you to our revival. Mrs. Huttsinger was there and she told me that you have quite the gift of music. We desperately need someone to play our piano this evening for our 6:00 and 9:00 pm service.”
“Rev. Jessup, that is so flattering, however, my mother passed away early this morning and I am not in much of a mood to be playing Jesus music.”
“I beg to differ Wilma. Using your God-given gift to allow the unsaved raise a joyful noise unto their Lord is both healing and beneficial to his kingdom. Please reconsider. Our praise worship lasts 20 minutes at the beginning of the service. Of course there’s the offertory and the alter call and a closing hymn. It would do you good to keep your mind busy rather than fretting over your dear mother’s death.”
“Peg your pardon?”
“How much do you intend to pay me?”
“We can pay you 25% of the offertory for both services. As yet I can’t tell you how much that will be. Last night we took in $736.00 dollars.”
“Fine. I sight read so I will be there at 5:50 to look at the music, and where is this tent meeting?”
“Near the intersection of Route 33 and 15, near Stone’s Trace, you will see the tent and the rental sign in front that reads: Tent Revival Tonight” Rev. Jessup beamed. “Praise God Wilma and I’m sorry about your dearly departed mother.”
Rev. Jessup practically skipped up the street he was so excited to have a pianist; as he was a block away he saw a dark shadow hover above the Elm tree he was walking under. The wind suddenly picked up and began to howl. Rev. Jessup clutched his bible and fell to his knees as the shadow enveloped the tree and its wide base. Pastor Jessup was now in the vortex of this dark swirling mass and then he heard it, the evil voice, raspy/gravel filled “…preacher, she must die.” The voice repeated the phrase over and over again…”preacher, she must die.” The wind ceased, the dark cloud shrank as Rev. Jessup felt a jolt of energy slam into his chest. Whatever IT was, was inside of him. His head felt as if on fire, his tongue began to flick in lizard-like fashion and the surge of energy was intense. Jessup ran, repeating to himself ‘she must die, Wilma must die.”
Wilma arrived at intersection of route 33 and 15, parked her car, changed her shoes from heels to flats and walked toward the large circus tent. A large crowd had begun to arrive, taking front seats in the back three rows. The tent smelled of canvas and straw. Wilma looked around for Rev. Jessup. She found ‘back stage’ putting on his clack choir rob and pouring Welch’s grape juice in tiny plastic shot glasses.
“I’m here, where’s the music?”
“So you are and good to see you. If you wouldn’t mind could you kindly tear up the bread or ‘the host’ and place it in whose plates over there.”
“It will cost you extra,” replied Wilma with a devious smile.
“Of course it will,” replied Rev. Jessup. (She must die; she must die kept thumping in his mind, always in the background like Muzak on an elevator). “Once you finish breaking bread, Miss. Hattie will take you to the piano so you can begin playing some introductory hymns.”
Wilma found the bread to be at least 3 days old, and it was from Kreps Bakery-the bread was baked before Mama died. Wilma shuddered. It all seemed so ‘clinical’ until this preacher showed up. She should be home packing for Italy or South America, not breaking bread in some circus tent with straw covering the grass. She was reminded of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus-her mother used to teach that lesson in Sunday school; how Jesus was born and then Joe and Marty had to quickly pack a bag and get out in the middle of the night because King Herod planned to kill all first born male children. Hell, she had to get out of town. She was first and only born. She watched as Rev. Jessup peered through the tent seam to see how many lost souls had wandered in-my, it was nearly full! The second night might be better than the first!
“Time to make music Wilma, follow Miss. Hattie and just play the first 4 songs in their entirety, I’ll join you on stage at the beginning of hymn four “All things Bright and Beautiful.”
Wilma followed the busty Miss. Hattie to the stage, looked out among the crowd and smiled. She slid in behind the Yamaha piano, opened the hymn book to page 45 and began the loud open refrain of Onward Christian Soldiers. The little children in the front started marching and performing movement to the song and by the chorus the entire tent was singing. Wilma was moved. This wasn’t like the stodgy Catholic services she’d been raised to attend. These people actually seemed excited to be here! As the notes drifted, the people raised their hands and Wilma, feeling the impulse of a showman, tinkled off the opening chords of A Mighty Fortress if Our God the tent groupies went wild. By the second verse, Rev. Jessop opened the back curtain strolled on to the stage with his Mr. Microphone and bible and began singing loudly with them. His left arm extended high above his head, eyes closed, a smile creasing his face, with the last chord, the preacher jumped into his greeting:
“Praise Jesus, welcome to the Living Waters Tabernacle Tent Revival. We are so excited to have you with us this evening. Let us pray. Almighty God, we ask your blessing on this event, that your spirit may move hearts, minds and souls toward you. We pray for the unsaved, that they will find your redeeming love here tonight and respond to your invitation to be children of God…”
Wilma watched the crowd all heads were bobbing, hands raised, some were uttering “yes Jesus, thank you Abba father’, except for a few people in the back. Wilma noticed there was small faction who weren’t in the spirit.
“..and, we thank you Lord for these our blessings… and everyone said (pause)…AMEN!” Rev. Jessup pranced looking like cross between Johnny Cash and Elvis hollered: “Brothers and sisters we are truly blessed this evening to have a pianist, Ms. Wilma Seymour graciously volunteered to ‘tickle the keys’ for us as we raise a joyful noise to the heavens above. I want to urge you all to sing the tender gospel hymn, In the Garden. It’s right here in your bulletin. Miss Wilma, if you please.” (Wilma didn’t please but she played anyway-pushing her foot down on the loud pedal to hold the sustained, twang of this Midwestern religious hoedown. She glanced up from her pages looking for anyone she knew from the bank or Our Lady Mary Catholic Church. No one yet, except Amy and Kevin Howard! She looked back at her keys hit a wrong note smiled at Rev. Jessup and mouthed the word shit but the piano played on. As the final ‘amen’ was sung, Rev. Jessup reminded the folks that were not required to contribute to the offering, however, every penny would be used to support the Living Waters ministry and Phyllis and Randy Milo, the Living Waters missionaries in Kenya Africa.
Rev. Jessup beamed: “So, if the lord has blessed you with good health, a home, a job, healthy children and grandchildren, food on your table and warm place to lay your head-we ask you that you consider the less fortunate. Brother Keith and Brother Mike, will you pass the buckets please.” Several oversized chicken buckets donated by ‘Clucks and Hens’ were passed amid the swarm of people reaching deep in their purses and bib overhauls for loose change and their checkbook, Meanwhile, Wilma played an offertory hymn. The chicken buckets over flowed with generosity as Brothers Keith and Mike made their way down the straw isle in the middle of the tent. Rev Jessup received the offering, thanks God profusely and laid the chicken buckets on the makeshift altar. While the congregation prayed, (Wilma watched as Keith and Mike slid around the back entrance of the tent, grabbed the buckets and began counting the proceeds back stage)
Rev Jessup continued,” we thank you Jesus, for these gifts we receive in your holy and blessed name, Amen.” In dramatic fashion, Rev. Jessup pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket, walked deliberately to the make-shift podium, placed his bible down and asked a member of the audience to pray. “Brother Dale, would you pray for me?”
“God, we’re all just simple folk here, farmers, jewelers, bakers and druggists, housewives, Dairy Queen employee’s, bus drivers and teachers. Help us to blot out all the problems and worries of our mind and make our hearts be receptive to Brother Jessup’s message. We ask it in Jesus name, amen”.
Rev. Jessup paused a really long time, looked out at the crowd and began to speak: “for those of you with your bibles, the word of God according to St. Mark the 5th chapter, verses 1 through 15, the King James version...” ”And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gad-a-renes’. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken to pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice and said What have I to do with three, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out the man thou unclean spirit…
The entire tent assembly hung Rev. Jessup’s dramatic reading of Mark and suddenly a breeze began to blow through the tent and a foul smell like that of rotten eggs and burnt hair, filled the tent. The breeze blew as if speaking and carried loose papers, worship bulletins, women’s hats and even straw in the direction of the tent entrance way. Eyes followed the breeze beyond the tent entrance, the parking area, up a large hill and silhouetted next to a tree, stood the form of a woman.
“..And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.”
The wind whistled but did not stop Rev. Jessup from continuing his reading of Mark. In a louder voice that bellowed above the whose and whirr of the wind, Jessup screamed>
..And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter them,
Wilma starred beyond the tent to the hill and noted that the silhouette of the woman had disappeared.
“And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the heard ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand ;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid.”
Rev. Jessup slammed his bible shut with a thud, the wind immediately abated and he looked among the assembly and simply asked: ‘Who among YOU is afraid? Whom among you hides in the shadows of unforgivable of sin and feels the devil peeling back your soul like an onion skin? Who among you cut themselves with stones for past mistakes, for unfaithfulness, for lies, for theft, for ignoring the needs of others? Who among you understands that there is no salvation without the forgiveness of sin and that those souls are doomed for torment by Legion forever?”
The assembly looked to black haired preacher for an answer. He smiled, he walked the stage, he touched his chin and he asked, “How can you avoid the suffering, the heat, the smell, the agony of hell?”
In unison the crowd yelled “be baptized”
“Be what?” asked Jessup.
“Be Baptized” the assembly screamed.
Rev. Jessup stepped to the back of the platform and removed 6 wooden planks from the stage. Below the planks was a 10 foot rectangular ACE Hardware swimming pool designed for two people a mere 5 feet deep.
“Behold the living water and salvation for your soul. Brothers and sisters, I assume many of you were sprinkled as infants, and I assume many of you take communion. But listen to me; unless a man or woman is dunked below the redeeming water after repenting of his sins, he is NOT saved. You heard the passage in Mark, Legion can infect you like a virus on a computer; the devils will burrow into your brain like a snail and grow to the size of a tapeworm.”
Wilma was aghast. There in the far back right corner of the tent was… Mama! Dottie Seymour, more dead than alive, standing stiff with eyes stitched shut, mouth agape with black ooze trickling from her lips. Wilma watched as Mama raised her left arm and pointed directly at Wilma. “Jesus”, thought Wilma is anybody else seeing this. She scoured the congregation; nope, all eyes were on Rev. Jessup and his swimming pool, except for Jessup’s eyes. The black haired evangelist was burning a hole straight through Wilma and suddenly attention turned to her. She tried to avoid eye contact, ducking below the piano to pick up some sheets of music.
“Wilma Semour, come on down!!!!” screamed Rev. Jessup.
Wilma looked about. Mama was gone but in her stead stood 2 State Troopers, Phil Orr the funeral director, the coroner and Kevin and Amy Howard-how weird! The way Wilma figured it her options were to run, faint or be baptized. She opted for the swimming pool. She honestly felt moved, not just because she felt trapped, but because she had been infected by Legion, and she did not want to die and go to hell. Mama had her sprinkled as an infant and right now that decision had done her a great disservice. Wilma pushed back from the piano bench and approached the 12 foot Ace Hardware pool.
“Thank you Jesus,” screamed Rev. Jessup. “While it’s customary for an ordained minister to baptize the unsaved it is also customary for a saved Christian to baptize the unsaved. Wilma, Kevin and Amy Howard requested the honor to baptize you in the name of the father, son and Holy Ghost. Step on in the water Wilma it’s nice and warm. That’s it,.. in your everyday clothes-tent revivals can’t accommodate a change into a baptismal robe.”
As Wilma hiked up her dress and stepped over the pool edge she observed Kevin and Amy joining her. Both had broad smiles on their face as did the Rev. Johnny Cash- Elvis-Jessup. In the blink of an eye Rev. Jessup gingerly pulled Wilma’s right arm up to her chest and said ‘take a big breath Wilma and handed her to Kevin and Amy. Down into the living waters Wilma was pressed and at the same time the power generator proving light to the tent died. The assembly was amazed thinking that divine intervention had been witnessed before them. The crowd buzzed and offered Amens’ and ‘thank you Jesus’ and ‘God be praised’. In the darkness one could hear the good Reverend asking Wilma to recite the good confession. No response. Again, “I take Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior...” only bubble sound gurgled from the pool area. In a mere 2 minutes the generator had been restarted and ‘there was light’ and the floating dead body of poor Wilma Seymour.
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