Church Stories II
Written by Myron J. Clifton
Part 1: Church Anniversary Season
He said to her, “Here now, let me come in to you.”
And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”
“Jamaal! Come on Jamaal! I’m not calling you again and I won’t let you make me late again!” Jamaal’s grandfather yelled from the car in the garage where he waited impatiently for Jamaal, although he would later lecture Jamaal that he was, in fact, very patient.
“Okay” Jamaal replied from his bedroom too quietly for his grandfather to hear him.
Jamaal didn’t care because, of all the church events he was forced to attend, Church Anniversary Season was the series of events he dreaded most.
Anniversary Season happened every year when most churches in the area celebrated their own Pastor and wife’s anniversary of leading their own church. At least, that was the common purpose given to the public. But Jamaal had come to learn the real purpose: raising money for the pastor and wife.
And the money was significant.
Jamaal knew from counting the offerings that his grandfather’s haul was always between ten and fifteen thousand dollars. His grandfather’s church was midsized compared to some of the larger churches in the area and those pastors money haul increased with the size of their congregation.
“How much will Pastor Carter make?” Jamaal asked his grandfather as they drove to Pastor Carter’s large warehouse-type church which was on a corner intersection between two busy streets.
“Forty thousand. At least. He has close to a thousand members and he has that local cable show he fundraises on,” his grandfather replied.
“Dang…” was all Jamaal said, as they turned into the church parking lot.
Tabernacle of Holiness Community Church was in a former single-story department store that had been gutted and poorly remodeled so that the inside sanctuary was wide open inside with black church pews and slightly raised pulpit area where Jamaal’s grandfather would be seated with the other church ministers. Or where they would sit if this church allowed people to sit at all.
“Get up! Get up! Everybody standup and praise the lord! God has been good to you so why you sittin’ down?! Get up and praise him! Praise him! Praise him!” Pastor Carter’s son, Jr. or Pastor Jr. he was called, demanded of the full church.
Jamaal begrudgingly stood up, not ready to repeat what had happened with the loud-mouth preach a few months ago at his grandfather’s church.
Jamaal looked around for Pastor Carter, but he was nowhere to be seen. His son, Pastor Jr., looked just like his father but who was barely five-foot five feet tall. He had a booming voice that commanded attention. Jamaal didn’t focus on the preacher, though, because he was watching the deacons – seven large men in black suits – who stood in front of the church, but not on the dais, almost shoulder to shoulder and with their hands clasped behind their backs.
“Goons” Jamaal mumbled to himself while he avoided eye contact with each of the huge men, wondering why they stood front and center like they did.
The pastor’s son droned on in the background but now he was leading the praise singing part of the service.
After thirty minutes of singing, Jamaal thought to himself, and at first he wasn’t certain, but then as he pondered his gut feeling he was sure: The pastor’s son had been up talking since they had arrived ninety minutes ago, and now he had started raising the offering and the Sr. Pastor was still not even in church. Jamaal knew it was unusual to begin raising money without the pastor in the church.
“Now, we need to raise money so that we can continue to do God’s work.” Pastor Jr. was saying. “And we make no excuse for raising money to help our Pastor! My father and your father works day and night for you. We need to bless this man of God. The man of GOD! God bless him God bless him!” Pastor Jr. continued saying as he stomped around the pulpit.
Jamaal stood there listening but not paying attention. Pastor Jr. was raising money just like all the other preachers Jamaal had listened to, even if more forcefully. And much louder.
“Now put your hands in your pocket. Use both hands and if you don’t have pockets then put your hands in your purse or wallet.”
Jamaal put his hands in his pockets feeling around the two quarters he had in his left pocket.
“Now whatever money you have in your pocket, put it in your hands, then raise your hands high above your head and start praising him. Praise him! Praise him! PRAISE HIM!” Pastor Jr. was now screaming at all the women and men standing before him, hands aloft and almost all with bills crunched between their fists.
“Now close your eyes and keep praising him!” Pastor Jr. demanded.
Jamaal’s eyes were open and even after witnessing preachers raising money every week, he’d never seen a scene like he was now spying to see: The goons were simultaneously moving from person to person and grabbing each person’s closed hand and literally taking the money out of their hands while each person’s eyes were still closed.
Jamaal stood there with his mouth agape and his hands – now with one-quarter in each hand – were still in the air, causing his arms to begin to sting from staying in place for so long.
“At least I get to keep my fifty cents.” Jamaal mumbled to himself.
Just then Jamaal’s arms were jerked higher, surprising Jamaal and causing him to stand on his toes. The force of the pull from two of the goons who each now had one of Jamaal’s closed fists in their giant hands. Each goon worked to pry open Jamaal’s fingers and take each of his quarters. Jamaal attempted to resist but the goons were far too powerful and after a few seconds of feeble struggle, the goons took Jamaal’s quarters.
“Damn.” Was all Jamaal could say to himself, then he immediately apologized to himself, because he was in church and that probably meant his soul was already half way to hell.
“Shit” may as well go all the way to hell, Jamaal thought.
Jamaal was happy when service was finally over, after his grandfather and Pastor Jr. talked in hushed voices with each other in the church office. It was close to eight o’clock and dark outside when they finally left the church and Jamaal was tired from a long church day that started at nine-am at his grandfather’s church all the way to now. He was relieved they were finally going home.
“Don’t get on the freeway toward home, Jamaal. Go toward downtown. I have urgent business.”
“Jamaal did as he was told and took the freeway entrance headed away from the sweet pillow of his bed.
“Where are we going?” Jamaal finally asked his grandfather. They hadn’t spoken since getting on the freeway about five miles ago.
“Take the next exit.” Was all his grandfather said, as they exited on Grand avenue.
Jamaal followed his grandfather’s directions until they reached a four-story apartment building on a street that backed up to a small park.
“What’s this place?” Jamaal quietly asked his grandfather. He didn’t expect an answer.
“Come with me.”
Jamaal followed his grandfather to the front double-glass door of the apartment building.
Jamaal’s grandfather slowly put his finger on the top tenant name and slowly moved his finger down, touching each name as his fingers descended. Finally, his finger stopped on apartment number six.
Jamaal looked at the name: S. Albertina
His grandfather pressed the button. The door unlocked and Jamaal followed his grandfather down a hall where they stopped at the last door on the left, knocked and waited.
Jamaal had no idea what was going on, which wasn’t unusual ordinarily, but something seemed different this time.
The door opened and out walked a beautiful lady who Jamaal thought was probably thirty years old. She had long straight black hair and her make-up was colorful and, Jamaal thought, very thick. She smelled good, too, he thought.
“What will you do?” The woman asked his grandfather as they entered her apartment.
“Let me see him.” His grandfather said and then pushed his way past her. She turned and followed his grandfather, and Jamaal followed her. And her aroma.
They walked to the only bedroom, with Jamaal standing at the door while his grandfather and the thick make-up lady walking to and then standing bedside.
There was an older man lying on his face naked on the bed sleeping, Jamaal saw.
“He’s dead alright.” Jamaal heard his grandfather say.
“I knew it. We were…” she looked at Jamaal and paused.
“He knows what’s going on. Keep talking.” Jamaal’s grandfather answered.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Jamaal thought to himself.
“Okay, well. He said he wanted to have a good round of sex before his church anniversary service, so I told him to come over and I’d see what I could do. Well, as we were having sex out of nowhere, his body jerked up and he grabbed his heart then the next thing I knew — he fell right on top of me, just like you see him over there.” She said gesturing to the body on the bed.
“What did you do after that?” his grandfather asked.
“What the hell you think I did? I screamed and then worked like hell to get him out of me and off me. Took me a few minutes. It was terrible. He was heavy and stiff and… Then I went through his wallet and found your business card and I knew we’d met before. I don’t need the police coming here so, I am hoping you can help in some way.”
“Oh.” Jamaal said aloud.
His grandfather and the thick make-up lady looked at him.
“It’s okay, cute young man. I’m not embarrassed so you shouldn’t be, either. But he and his family will be if they find out he died here in my apartment, she said softly to Jamaal. She then winked at Jamaal.
“And his church.” Jamaal’s grandfather grumbled.
‘What church does he go to?” Jamaal asked. He didn’t think his grandfather would answer, mistakenly believing there were still secrets in this room of three adults – two still alive – and a teenager.
Jamaal’s grandfather didn’t answer. He left the room and walked to the living area where he picked up the landline phone and punched in a phone number.
“Grand avenue, end of block, press button for apartment six. I’ll still be here.”
Thirty uncomfortable minutes later the buzzer sounded and a few minutes after that there was a gentle knock at the door. Jamaal’s grandfather opened the door. The man entered and followed his grandfather to the bedroom.
The man was tall and wore a long black trench coat. He walked over to the body and placed his hand on the body’s neck, lower back, and bottom of the dead man’s left foot.
“Dead as all get out. Damn, Ms. Albertina, what you do to him and how much you charge?”
The man, who Jamaal later found out he was the city coroner’s assistant George, laughed along with Jamaal’s grandfather and the thick makeup, good aroma lady.
“How is Pastor Carter’s church doing, sir?” George asked Jamaal’s grandfather.
“Pastor Carter.” Jamaal said out loud. Everyone in the room looked at him then turned to one another again.
“They will be in good hands. We were there tonight, and Pastor Jr. really stepped up. Raised over twenty-thousand dollars and the church didn’t miss a beat with this fella” – he pointed to Pastor Carter lying dead on the bed – “out here screwing his way to heaven. And when I say heaven, I mean that area between Ms. Albertina’s legs!
Jamaal’s grandfather had started laughing before he’d even finished his joke, Jamaal noticed.
George and the thick makeup good aroma lady joined with his grandfather laughing while Pastor Carter just laid there unable to join in.
“Help me turn him over.” George said to Jamaal’s grandfather.
The two men turned Pastor Carter over and both laughed again. Pastor Carter’s penis was pointed upward still erect.
“Let me.” George said. He then grabbed Pastor Carter’s favorite member and snapped it so that it laid flat again.
“Ouch” Jamaal’s grandfather winced.
“I told him I was going to break him off but I guess you broke him off, George. At least he went out in style” Ms. Albertina said with a proud smile.
George said, “I’ll call a couple of my friends and we will get him out of here and take him home. Sir, please let his wife know we are on our way.”
Jamaal’s grandfather made the call and quietly explained to Pastor Carter’s wife all that had happened. Then he called Pastor Jr. and told him to meet at his parent’s home.
Jamaal’s grandfather hung up the phone, nodded to George. “Once you get him there his wife will call nine-one-one and they’ll respond. George, she will call you, too, and say you’re a friend so that you can make certain they respect Pastor Carter and not try to investigate too deeply. It’ll be fine. Nobody around here worries too much about a guy with a bad heart who dies at home in bed.”
They all said their goodbyes and Jamaal’s grandfather hugged the thick make-up good aroma lady, who then turned to Jamaal and hugged him, pulling him in close.
Jamaal inhaled her aroma and then pulled away.
Jamaal pulled into the garage and as his grandfather always did when he wanted to tell him something important, he pressed his finger against Jamaal’s neck and told him to turn the car off.
“Listen, not a word, okay?’
“Pastor Carter is respected, his church is respected, and his family deserves to have a proper home going for him. Nobody needs to know what happened there and what you saw tonight.”
“Good, because Ms. Albertina told me that she’d be happy to teach you when you’re ready.”
“Okay” was all Jamaal could think to say at that moment. Later he practiced better responses but the best he could come up with was screaming “HELL NO!” to his grandfather.
His grandfather finally removed his finger from Jamaal’s neck, signaling that he was free to go into the house.
Jamaal laid his head on his pillow and stared up in the dark with his last thoughts shifting between Ms. Albertina’s aroma and the sound of Pastor Carter’s penis being snapped.
“Church anniversary month is going to be crazy again” were Jamaal’s final thoughts as he drifted off to sleep.
[Church Stories II will continue next week with part 2, on a Wednesday! Stay tuned …]
Copyright 2019 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.