Second Coming

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Gathering

Sometime after calming myself, allowing myself some coffee- decaf, of course- and taking a shower, I turned my attention back to my work. That was, in fact, scrolling through social media on my phone while watching the news on TV in the background. The most I was able to get out of the network stations at that time of morning was no more than a ticker reading off “Joseph ‘The Pastor’ Cummings and the divine intervention of his presidential campaign,” with the promise of an update on the unfolding story. The link aggregators and hashtag sites were all gossip and speculation as usual, with reposts of the fuzzy news footage and smartphone recordings from the previous day at the plaza.

“What type of phone is that?” I heard the daughter’s voice from the opposite side of the phone screen. “I’ve never seen one like that.”

I pulled the technology away from my face. “Oh- Just the cheapest one they had at the phone store,” I said with a shrug. Jess stood before me a bit longer, her eyes focused on the spot on the living room couch beside me. “Do you want to… have a seat?”

The girl’s face turned toward the ground with a nod. “Uh, sure. If now’s a good time… I uh… my dad asked me if you want anything particular up on his Tweet or Instagrammar.”

“He has those?” I asked, coming upon such knowledge for the first time.

Jess seemed to perk up, plopping herself down beside me. “I’ve been running it!” She declared, flashing the screen of her phone at me. The profile picture of Joseph was grainy and poorly cropped, but the account had a follower count just nearly at the ten-thousand mark. “Not bad, huh?”

“Not bad at all.” I nodded. “Has that number jumped up recently? Followers, that is.”

“Yeah…” She said with a pensive sigh. “These notifications are… blowing up my phone. I heard someone say that on a TV show.”

“That’s it.” I nodded, placing down my own phone. “I guess big-city slang doesn’t always make it out here to the smaller towns. Do many of your friends at school have fancy phones and such?”

“Oh, well, I’m home-schooled,” Jess said timidly. “I actually haven’t had this phone for long, but my dad totally wanted this social media stuff, even if he says that there are a lot of fake people on there.”

I let out a small laugh, “Well, you’re not wrong there. But social media is a big thing these days, and not just young people. Everyone and their grandma has something.”

“Yeah… a lot of old folks poppin up…”

I sat up, glancing to the news, and then to the teen. “Actually, with all the attention on Joseph now… using social media to make things… clear… wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It's times like these when he could benefit a lot from being able to address his followers… media as a whole, really, with an official statement.”

“An official statement? What do you mean by that?”

“Something directly from the source… from your father. ” I said, trying to figure out what something of that caliber what say at a time like this. “Whens the last time you posted?”

“Looks like… the morning of the rally yesterday. It has a ton of comments now, see?”

I looked to either side of the room, to the hall and the kitchen, to make sure none of the other family was about to listen in. “I probably wouldn’t read those if I were you. I mean… people are probably in love with passing around theories about what’s really going on with the events back in Tallahassee. That’s really what social media is the best at.” I jutted my head toward the TV. “At the same time… we gotta make it work for us… your dad, that is. As much as it makes my head spin… we gotta come clean about… that man.”

Jess let out a whine and tucked her legs up to her chest beside me. “Oh, right, no doubt…”

I held my hand to my mouth and whispered. “You don’t like him either?”

The teen chewed on her thumbnail and wavered back and forth. “Believe me, I’ve been singing praise for Jesus since before I could say my alphabet. But that man…”

“He’s… something,” I said lowly, keeping a lookout in my peripheral vision.

“That thing you said at New Year’s… when we were at your folk’s place, ya know… about the real Jesus being… a black man, or whatever…” Jess confided, looking into my eyes all of a sudden. “Were you tellin’ the truth?”

“Hum…” I pulled away from her and leaned back into the couch cushions. “The thing about the Bible…”

“Exchanging verses, are you?” Joseph’s deep voice called out down the hallway from the way his den was located. I perked up and placed myself on the edge of the couch attentively, tapping furiously on the remote to turn the volume down further.

I spoke up as the Pastor came into the living room. “Something like that. Joseph, I don’t have to tell you this, but the media moves fast, and the rumor mill is pumping out the usual stuff. Officially, I think we’d benefit from some sort of a press conference, just covering the concerns and questions that are coming up.”

Joseph nodded, chin in hand, as he clung to the side of his recliner. I caught sight of the man standing quietly just off behind him. “Well, if we’re not on the same wavelength. I just called out to the folks in the party office up in Oklahoma City. They’re going to arrange us another rally! Mark your calendar for next Wednesday, Jude.”

“More traveling?” Jess spoke up, a slight dejection in her voice.

I looked to the teen, then to her father. “I’ll keep a note. Jess, don’t worry about the social media for now, I’ve still got some research to do.”

It was the following day, Monday, that the first people began to arrive at Joseph’s front gate. Some held signs conveying messages of wanting to see the man whom they had already been convinced was the divine figure. Others wanted proof of such power. We had to soon disconnect the intercom to stop the constant paging and buzzing to the house of those hoping to be allowed in. The sheriff- one of Joseph’s parishioners- called to let us know that some of the folks blocking the way had license plates even from out of state.

“Joseph,” I spoke to him from the second-story balcony, from where we could see the scene, “This is the sort of attention we don’t want.”

“Believers come in many types and with many voices, Jude.” Joseph said with a straight face and crossed arms. “You should know by now that I don’t discriminate. And when the elections come around, a vote is a vote.”

“Of course, Joseph, but… allow me say this as your campaign manager. We don’t have to convince those who already believe. It’s about convincing those who are still undecided.”

Joseph bit on his lip before nodding aggressively. “You’re absolutely right, Jude. I was blinded by the blessings that we have received, and forgot that we still have to make our own path.”

“I wanted to get back to the social media thing, what I was talking yesterday to Jess about. We can make it work for you,” I concluded. It was at the following moment that I realized that Joseph had completely missed the point I was trying to make.

“Lord Almighty, Jude. I forgot- you must have the camera still, right? The one I lent you for the rally Saturday morning.”

The footage that the news stations had captured that morning at the plaza was still circulating around and had been endlessly combed over live by various experts, with much speculation and heavy-handedness. At least a few cell phone recordings sourced from social media had been introduced as evidence as well, but all of them had the same point of view, and thus the same issue. That morning, Joseph’s back was to the sun, and thus washing out the footage. One can’t forget, either, the bright light preceding the figure’s descent from the sky. The fancy camera that had been sitting in the back seat of my car since that morning, however, had footage on it from the opposite point of view- my own.

Joseph and family happily looked over my shoulder as I loaded up the memory card on my laptop. It played through just as I remembered it; the pastor making his speech, slowly building up the crowd, then the light, the bellowing of the crowd, and the subsequent declaration of divine intervention by Joseph himself. The supposedly divine individual himself could easily be seen descending gracefully from within the light and coming down upon the ground at the center of the plaza.

“That part,” Joseph said, jutting his finger over my shoulder at the screen. “Can you… cut that out, and get it on the tweet site?”

“That’s easy enough.” I shrugged, looking over to Jess, who was nodding at the suggestion.

“It’ll be perfect, the news can’t possibly deny a thing when they see it before their very eyes.”

I held my tongue and changed the subject. “I’ll… get that part, and get the password from you, Jess, alright?”

“Sure.”

Joseph stood and clapped his hands ceremoniously. “And that site isn’t going to go down like the church’s did yesterday?”

“I’m sure it can handle it…” I hummed as I began to dig into the video. “Uh, Jess, do you know how to pull up trending hash-tags? We can definitely gain some traction.”

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