No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except for brief quotations included in a review of the book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
It was noon when Bishop Dwight Kensington Jacobs, overseer of the Love & Peace Apostolic Holiness Church checked into the hotel in Louisiana for the first of a two-day Gospel concert at the Blessed Hope Community Church in the center of town. Dubbed the “Song Bird of the South” for the past twelve years, he was still being called on to minister to hundreds of people across the region. After getting five hours of undisturbed sleep, he gave his wife of thirteen years, Rosalind Kezia Randall-Jacobs, a call before heading out to the Blessed Hope Community Church.
“I made it in safely. Pray that God would anoint me and that His presence would be felt,” Dwight said to his wife.
“I will,” Rosalind said.
“How are the boys doing? DJ didn’t seem too pleased when I told him I could not take him with me because his leg had not healed yet,” Dwight said.
The Lord had blessed Dwight and Rosalind’s marriage with four children: Dwight (DJ) Joseph Jacobs now thirteen years old; Rachel Beatrice, eleven years old; Kennedy Ryan, nine years old; and Jessica Katylee, seven years old.
“Oh, he’s doing fine. If he’s sad about not being able to go with you then he’s certainly not showing it. He’s trying to be the man of the house ordering his sisters and brother around and threatening them with his walking stick,” Rosalind said with a laugh.
Dwight laughed. “That’s my boy. He’s taking my words seriously. I told him to be the man of the house while I was gone. Anyway, I have to go. I don’t want to be late on this first night.”
“When will you be back?” Rosalind asked. “I want to have a great meal ready for you when you come in.”
“It’s a two-day concert, so hopefully I’ll be back the day after tomorrow,” Dwight said. “As for what time, I’m not exactly sure.” After talking with the children Dwight said goodbye and headed to the church.
After dinner, with the help of her two daughters, Rosalind made enough buttered popcorn topped with peanuts for them to snack on before going to bed. While they were watching television, the phone rang.
“Hello, Rev. Dorsett. Hold on a minute,” Rosalind said. She untangled the phone cord and stretched it as far as it could go toward her bedroom. DJ strained to listen to the phone call. Rev. Michael Dorsett was the pastor of Pleasant Hope Missionary Baptist Church up in Mobile. He and Dwight had preached in each other’s churches and their two families had gone out to dinner together.
“Yes…he made it in…day after tomorrow…alright,” Rosalind said. “Around ten or ten-thirty is fine…just beep your horn once…the side door is open…Bye now.”
Rosalind hung up the phone and joined her children in the living room but this time she had a more serious tone. “Okay, children, wrap it up now. It’s already nine o’clock. You all have to be in bed and asleep by nine thirty. Eat up. I’ve let you play as long as I can. Remember you have school tomorrow.”
“Awww, Mom,” Jessica and Rachel said.
“Dad would let us stay up longer if he was here,” Kennedy said.
“None of that. You won’t want to get up in the morning,” Rosalind said. “Like your father said, waking you up is like waking you out of a coma.”
“Oh, I always want to get up,” Jessica said.
“Wanting to get up and getting up are two different things,” DJ said shaking his walking stick.
After the girls were in bed and after helping DJ hobble to his room and making sure that both boys were in bed, Rosalind went to her room and shut the door.
Disturbed by the weird phone call from Rev. Dorsett, DJ lay awake long after his brother had fallen off to sleep. He was watching his black and white television on mute—thinking and listening. Ten or ten-thirty is fine. The side door is open.
He thought he heard a car pull into the driveway. Thinking someone was using their driveway to make a u-turn he thought nothing of it until he heard a single car horn blow. Just beep your horn once. He heard his mother open her bedroom dhyoor and go to the side door which led into the hallway running between the bedrooms and bathroom ending in the living and dining room. DJ thought he heard a car door close softly. Shortly after, he thought he heard whispering as someone walked past his bedroom door. He heard his mother close her bedroom door again.
Curiosity drew him to his bedroom window. He peeked through the curtain. There was no mistake. Rev. Dorsett’s car was parked out front. That’s strange. Dad’s not here, so what’s he doing here at this time of the night? Disturbed, he climbed back into bed.
Rev. Dorsett stopped by around the same time the following night. DJ was greatly concerned as he turned things over in his mind.
Instead of staying the night in his hotel and pulling out for home the following day as he had originally planned, Dwight was so energized from the meeting that he decided to drive on home after the second and last night of the Gospel concert. He drove right on to Fairhope stopping only once to stretch his legs and to refill the gas tank.
It was after three in the morning when he pulled into town. He drove by the church just to check on things. He swung by the radio station and chatted with Mr. Cunningham for a short while. He then hurried on home hoping to surprise his wife. As he turned onto the street his house was on, he saw a car backing out of his driveway. He stepped on his accelerator.
That car looks like Rev. Dorsett’s car. It sure is. What is he doing here this time of night especially since he knew I was going out of town?
Dwight drove past his house and followed the suspicious vehicle. It pulled into a gas station about a mile away. Dwight made a U-turn in the parking lot and waited for the driver to get out. It was Rev. Dorsett.
With questions arising in his mind, Dwight drove back to his house and went inside.
When he entered his bedroom, his wife was asleep. She did not seem too pleased nor too surprised when he awakened her.
“Rosalind, I’m home,” Dwight said.
“Home?” Rosalind said sleepily. “I wasn’t expecting you until in the morning. What happened? Did they cancel the last night of the meeting? Did they cut it short?” she said yawning.
“No. The meeting went so well and I was so pumped up from it, I just came on home,” Dwight said.
“Too bad. I was looking forward to having a hot meal ready for you. You spoiled my surprise,” Rosalind said.
“I’m sure I did,” Dwight said in a low voice. “I’m sure I did.”
Rosalind looked at him askance.
“I thought I saw Rev. Dorsett leaving here,” Dwight said.
“Rev. Dorsett? At this time of the morning? What time is it anyway?” Rosalind said turning to look at the clock. “At 3:40 in the morning? What would Rev. Dorsett be doing here at this time of the morning? Your eyes were playing tricks on you. You should have stayed over at the hotel and gotten yourself a good night’s sleep and driven home later today. What was the rush anyway? But that’s you. Always trying to be a hero. Anyway, you get some rest. You’ll be thinking and talking differently in the morning.”
Dwight looked at his wife as he tried not to react to the situation. He tried to quiet down his increased heart beat. Rosalind turned away from him onto her side and closed her eyes. She breathed a sigh of relief after he left the room to check on the children. When he checked in on his sons, Dwight awakened DJ. “I just wanted to let you know I made it in safely. Your mother told me you handled things like a man. I’m proud of you, son,” he said.
“You’re welcome, Dad. There was nothing to it,” DJ said. He reached over and pulled his walking stick which had not left his side since he hurt his ankle, closer to him as he rolled over to go back to sleep.
Dwight turned to leave but turned back and sat down on DJ’s bed. He gently shook DJ by the shoulder. “Just one more thing, DJ. By any chance was Rev. Dorsett over here tonight?”
“Yes,” DJ said. “And he was over here last night as well.”
“Oh, he was? What time did he come?”
“After Mom put us to bed.”
“So you actually didn’t see him come into the house?”
“I heard his car drive up and looked out the window and saw it was him,” DJ said.
“Do you know what time he left?”
“No, sir. I fell asleep.”
“Okay, son, you go back to sleep,” Dwight said. “I’ll tell you all about the concert tomorrow.”
DJ fell asleep wondering why his father had such a serious look on his face and such a serious tone in his voice.
DJ had just fallen asleep when he was awakened to his brother shaking him.
“DJ, DJ, wake up! It’s Dad and Mom. They’re arguing,” Kennedy said.
“This isn’t the first time,” DJ moaned. “If it’s still dark outside, then please leave me alone and go back to bed.” He pulled his blanket tighter around him, but Kennedy persisted in trying to get him up.
“Yeah. But this time it’s serious,” Kennedy said. “I heard Mom cry out as if he was hurting her.”
“Dad would never hurt Mom,” DJ said. “You know they don’t want you listening to them. Go back to sleep.”
Kennedy yanked the covers off his brother.
“Hey!” DJ said getting up with a start. “I’ll be glad when you get your own room.” He sat up in his bed and listened. “I only hear muffled sounds. Doesn’t sound like arguing to me. Give me my blanket and go back to sleep.”
“Well, they were arguing,” Kennedy said tossing DJ’s blanket at him. “I got up to go to the bathroom and when I opened the door I heard them. I heard Mom cry out and say something about hurting me. And Dad was saying something about Rev. Dorsett being over here while he was gone. I haven’t seen Rev. Dorsett over here. And I thought Dad was supposed to return later this evening.”
“Oh, yeah,” DJ said remembering his father awakening him. “Dad came back early. He checked in on us but you were as dad would say in a ‘coma.’ Did you hear anything else?”
“I heard a door open and I climbed back into bed and waited for things to die down. That’s when I woke you up,” Kennedy said.
They both listened.
All was silent.
* * * * *
Dwight closed DJ and Kennedy’s bedroom door. He sighed as he made his way into the kitchen. He absentmindedly opened the refrigerator, looked in but then closed it. He peered into a few of the cupboards looking for nothing in particular. Without turning the light on in the living room he sat in his easy chair. There was nothing on the television at that time of the morning so he just sat in the dark—thinking. How could such a wonderful past two days end up like this? Disappointment flooded his soul as he thought of his wife and Rev. Dorsett being together. His heartbeat began to increase. He returned to his bedroom after a few minutes.
Dwight flipped the light on in the bedroom after pushing the door shut. He yanked the sheet and blanket off his wife.
“Get up! Get up right now!” he said shaking his wife.
“Mmmm,” Rosalind moaned.
“Stop that faking because I have no time for games. You lied to me. It took our son to tell me the truth,” Dwight said.
“What are you talking about?” Rosalind said sitting up in the bed. She looked at the clock. “Dwight, it’s 4:30 in the morning. Have you lost your mind?”
“Have I lost my mind? No. I should be the one asking you that question. Have you lost your mind? What was Rev. Dorsett doing over here at three in the morning? And don’t tell me he wasn’t because I know what I saw and DJ verified it.”
“DJ verified it? When did DJ see Rev. Dorsett over here? And at three in the morning when he’s asleep? I believe he was dreaming, so you might want to ask him again,” Rosalind said swinging both legs over the edge of the bed. She pulled the string of her robe tight around her.
“Where do you think you are going?” Dwight asked.
“To the bathroom to give you time to calm down because you’re going out of your mind.”
“Oh, no you’re not,” Dwight said grabbing her arm. “You are going to stay right here until we get to the bottom of this. I saw Rev. Dorsett pulling out of my driveway at three in the morning. DJ told me about him coming over the two nights I’ve been away and that you let him in through the side door. Here I am ministering to God’s people and you are here whoring around with Rev. Dorsett and yet you parade yourself like you’re a faithful godly wife and first lady.”
“You have no proof of that,” Rosalind said. “And let go of my arm; you’re hurting me.”
“So now you’re calling me a liar,” Dwight said tightening his grip on her arm.
“Ow! You’re hurting me.” She twisted her arm from his grasp. “You’re calling yourself a liar. Not me. Like I said, your eyes are playing tricks on you. You need to get some sleep.” Massaging her arm, she marched past him to the bathroom. Dwight followed closely behind.
“You’re a lying, whorish woman. What kind of a wife are you? What kind of a Christian are you? How could you do this to me? To the family? To the ministry? I can’t believe I married someone as treacherous as you,” he said.
“I’ve done nothing to you and the family or to the ministry,” Rosalind said. “And can you keep it down; the children are asleep. And you don’t need to follow me into the bathroom.”
Rosalind proceeded to close the door but Dwight shoved it open and grabbed Rosalind by the arm. “I’ll teach you never to do that again. No man is supposed to be in my house at three in the morning without me being here, with my children asleep, and my wife awake. You don’t see anything wrong with that picture?”
Dwight swung Rosalind around to face him. She slipped and bashed her head against the mirror on the wall. Rosalind cried out as the glass shattered and blood trickled down her forehead.
DJ, Rachel, Kennedy, and Jessica sat at the table anxiously awaiting the ‘surprise’ breakfast their father was putting together for them in the kitchen.
“You’re going to love it, children,” Dwight said from the kitchen. “ You all are going to school on a full stomach this morning.”
“Dad, I’m hungry. How much longer?” Jessica hollered with giggles.
“Just about done,” Dwight said. “Come and get the Karo syrup and the butter.”
Dwight walked into the dining room balancing five cups, a jug of milk, and five plates with five forks.
“I’ll get that, Dad,” Rachel said bouncing out of her seat.
After arranging everything on the table, Dwight went into the kitchen and returned with a serving plate full of his famous pork rind cracklin’ pancakes.
“We’re going to eat this morning. Aren’t we, children?”
How impressive, DJ thought as his father placed the strange looking pancakes on each of their plates. He placed a huge pat of butter on top followed by a generous amount of Karo syrup.
“Thank you, Dad,” the children said.
“This is good as always,” Rachel said after taking her first forkful.
Kennedy ate his food in silence.
Dwight proceeded to share with them his experience at the Gospel concert in Louisiana. “I wish you could have come. You would have been blessed.”
“That’s great, Dad. May I please have another pancake?” Rachel asked.
“Sure. Help yourself,” Dwight said. “I see you’re not eating,” Dwight said to DJ after noticing he only ate a little. “Are you feeling well? Is your leg still hurting?”
“I’m just not hungry,” DJ said. At least not for your famous pancakes. “I was looking forward to some cheesy grits and scrambled eggs with sausage this morning. You know, the way Mom cooks it when she does cook.”
“Be thankful for whatever is set before you. And like I’ve said before, once you thank God for providing your daily bread, show Him your appreciation by eating it with gusto. But as I told you, your mother had a rough night. She’s sleeping in for a few more hours.
Yeah, right, DJ thought as he and Kennedy exchanged glances. He took two bites of his pancakes.
“May I please go to my room now? My ankle feels uncomfortable.”
“Sure. Do you need me to help you?” Dwight said.
“No thanks. I think I can make it with the help of my walking stick.” DJ hobbled to his room.
“Can we tell Mom good bye?” Jessica said.
“Why don’t you let her sleep. I’ll tell her you said goodbye,” Dwight said. “Hurry now; you don’t want to miss the school bus. I need to be heading for the hardware store myself.”
Jessica, Kennedy and Rachel finished off their breakfast, grabbed their book bags and hurried out the door to join the other children at the bus stop. Dwight checked in on Rosalind and then said goodbye to DJ. “Let your mother get her rest,” he told DJ.
DJ was sitting on his bed with his school books open, but his mind was on what Kennedy had said to him earlier that morning about their parents arguing. Surely Dad would not hurt Mom. He is too loving to hurt anyone.
About an hour after everyone had left, he heard his mother making her way to the bathroom and then to the kitchen. Assuming she was headed for work, he was surprised she did not check in on him as she normally did. Listening carefully, he heard her speaking to someone from her job. “I’m not feeling well, today. I’ll probably need to take tomorrow off as well. . . . Thank you, Mr. Simmons. . . I’ll let you know.” He heard her pushing things around in the kitchen and water running from the kitchen sink. The sound that followed next he was unable to decipher. Then all was silent.
DJ would normally spend the entire day in his room doing school work in between watching television while he was recovering from his leg injury. Rosalind would leave sandwiches, chips and soda for him while she and Dwight were at work and his siblings were at school. Either of his parents would bring him a McDonald’s meal or a Hardee’s meal during their lunch hour. DJ decided to surprise her and walked out of his room.
“Hi, Mom,” he said as he entered the living room area. Rosalind was sitting on the couch eating a bowl of cereal.
Rosalind looked up, surprised. “Hi, DJ. I didn’t hear you hobble in here. Your ankle must be feeling better.”
DJ smiled sheepishly and hopped the few steps to the couch. He slid the bowl with the ice pack in it over and sat down.
Rosalind continued eating her cereal. DJ noticed she ate slower than normal as it seemed to cause her some pain.
“Mom, you have a huge gash on your forehead. What happened?” he said as he peered at her.
Rosalind remained silent. DJ looked at her thoughtfully as if deciding what to say next.
“Kennedy told me he heard you and Dad arguing last night. What happened?” DJ asked.
Rosalind kept on eating.
“Kennedy also said he heard you say something to Dad about him hurting you,” DJ continued.
“Kennedy sure heard a lot last night, didn’t he? Yes, your dad and I were arguing, but that happens in every marriage,” Rosalind said looking up at her son. “In case you’re thinking he did this to me, he did not. I slipped in the bathroom and accidentally hit my forehead on the mirror. And as I told you, things happen in any marriage. Anyway, whatever happens between your father and me is between him and me. So you don’t need to concern yourself about it. Okay? And don’t you get any attitude towards your father either. Now, are you caught up on your school work? Remember tomorrow is the day I take it in to your teacher.”
DJ shook his head, no. “I guess I had better get today’s work done and make up for yesterday,” he said as he got up from off the couch. “I don’t know who came up with this idea of torturing children by putting them through school.”
“It will pay off in the end,” Rosalind said as she watched him walk to his room. Oh, he’s not limping anymore. Why that boy has been putting on a show, she thought with a smile. Let’s see how long he plans on keeping up this charade. “Turn the television off. You can’t focus on your work with the TV blasting,” she said.
“Okay, Mom,” DJ said absentmindedly. I still can’t figure out why Rev. Dorsett would stop by that late at night. Oh, well. These thoughts and others bombarded his mind as he dragged through his school assignments.
Rosalind finished eating her cereal. She picked the ice pack up and placed it on her forehead as she laid her head on the back of the couch. Hopefully this should be gone by tomorrow then I’ll be as good as new. A little foundation and face powder should hide whatever scar may be left.
Dwight stopped by during his lunch hour to check on his wife and son.
“How are you feeling?” he asked Rosalind as he looked at her forehead.
“Fine. You made me miss a whole day of work. That’s going to cut into my paycheck,” Rosalind said quietly.
“Is that all you can think about? A doggone paycheck?” Dwight said.
“It’s helping to put food on the table and clothes on the children’s backs,” Rosalind said.
“And it’s also helping to run us into debt,” Dwight said. “Anyway, the swelling’s gone down. It should be gone by tomorrow. Then you’ll be free to go on and make the almighty dollar.”
Rosalind rolled her eyes.
“Just keep the ice pack on it for the rest of the evening,” Dwight said. “And like I said, I’m sorry for grabbing your arm like that. But if you continue doing stupid things like fooling around with Rev. Dorsett then you open yourself up for anything.”
“Dwight, he’s one of your trusted preacher friends. If you don’t trust him then maybe you shouldn’t be friends with him.”
“I mean, what was he doing here from about ten until after three in the morning alone with you?”
“Not alone, the children were here,” Rosalind said.
“Here where? Asleep in their beds. So you still want to justify his being here?” Without waiting for an answer, Dwight said, “I don’t even want to get into it anymore . . .”
“That’s because there is nothing more to talk about,” Rosalind said. “And if you don’t hurry you’re going to be late for work.”
“I have never met a woman who just has to have the last word. With all that Bible studying you’re doing, somehow you’re jumping over the book of James. The tongue is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. Your mouth’s going to keep getting your behind in trouble if you don’t tame it and tame it soon,” Dwight said as he walked out the door.
Rosalind had a hot meal of oven roasted garlic brisket with wedged potatoes and carrots baked, rice pilaf, and garlic bread when Dwight and the children came home.
“Children, this is the surprise ‘welcome home’ meal I had planned for your father’s return from the Gospel concert. You all almost did not get it,” Rosalind said looking Dwight dead in the eyes.
“Have as much as you want because I’m sure going for seconds and maybe thirds,” Dwight said.
“This sure makes up for Dad’s pancakes,” Kennedy said with a chuckle.
The family laughed. After the evening meal each member of the family went to their own rooms.
“I think I’d like to sit on the porch for a while. I’ve been in my room all day,” DJ said as he got up from the table using his walking stick to brace himself. He started to limp a little towards the front door.
“Want me to help you, son?” Dwight asked.
“I think I can make it, Dad. Kennedy, can you please bring me my history book? It’s on my bed,” DJ said.
While they were having this exchange, Rosalind had quietly left the dining room with a stack of dirty dishes. She returned with the broom. Before anyone could even begin to guess as to why she had the broom, Rosalind started to whack DJ on the behind with the straw part of the broom. “Put that walking stick down and walk. Ain’t nothing wrong with you.”
“But, Mom . . .”
“But, Mom, nothing. Ain’t nothing wrong with your leg. You’ve been faking it these past few days.” Rosalind snatched the walking stick from out of DJ’s hand. “Now stand upright and walk. I’ve been watching you, boy.”
“Rosalind, leave the boy alone. He has no reason to be faking,” Dwight said.
“I have a reason to keep swatting him on the behind,” Rosalind said. “Using that leg as an excuse to stay away from school and from church. You will be in school tomorrow and you will be in church on Sunday. And guess what? This Sunday the Junior choir will be singing and you will be singing along with them.”
Kennedy who had returned from the room with the history book and was watching the scenario with much interest burst out in an uncontrollable laugh. “I don’t think you’ll be needing the history book. I think you’ll fare better with the football.”
“You sure had me fooled,” Rachel said.
“From now on you get your own juice and water,” Jessica said.
* * * * *
On Saturday evening, Dwight left the hardware store where he worked full-time excited at the direction in which God was taking the Love & Peace Apostolic Church. He was equally excited as he anticipated the direction in which God might take him. His dream was to always be a blessing and a change agent in the lives of others as he developed a stronger relationship with God.
“Rosalind, children, today marks the first day of my two weeks termination notice at the hardware store,” Dwight said to his wife and children after they were all seated around the dinner table to a meal of fried fish, french fries and salad.
“What do you mean?” Rosalind asked.
“It means I’ll become full-time as overseer of the church,” Dwight said. “I can’t even visit all the people I want to visit throughout the week. I don’t know what it is, but the people just want me to visit with them. Sister Gresham was mad at me because I sent Mildred to visit her while she was in the hospital. On top of that, the community is calling on me more and more to address community issues.”
“I told you I could help out with that,” Rosalind said. “The customers come into the pharmacy and while I am ringing up their purchases they just unload their concerns and burdens for the community on me. They share with me things they would like to see done for their children as well as for themselves as parents. Dwight, I can’t even begin to list the things we could do for these people as part of our church outreach program.”
“See, that is why I don’t need to be out there working. There is just so much to do,” Dwight said. “And that’s a way we can show God’s love to the people. That’s what Jesus was all about: showing His love to all people especially to the down and out.”
“I can get together with the ladies and plan some things,” Rosalind said. “We sure could turn this community around.”
“I think I’m going to preach from the book of James this Sunday,” Dwight said. “You know about show me your faith or even your love by how you treat me. For faith without works is dead. I might even say love without works is dead. You say you love me; then show me you love me.”
“Where’s DJ?” Rosalind asked Kennedy after she had gotten dressed and was preparing to leave for work.
“He left after breakfast. Says he’ll be spending time with his friends.”
“How come you didn’t go with him?” Rosalind asked.
“Mom, he has his circle of friends. I have mine who I will be spending time with today as well,” Kennedy said with a grin.
“Okay, If you say so. I want you girls to stay here. There’s bread and peanut butter and jam in the cabinet, Milk’s in the refrigerator. If you’re good, I’ll bring you back some McDonald’s or Hardee’s home this evening.”
“Alright, Mom,” Rachel and Jessica said.
“I really wanted to go over to Janelle’s house. But I have to be stuck here with you for three Saturdays in a row,” Rachel said to her sister. “Go get your books and read and play with your dolls.”
“If you don’t treat me right, I’m going to tell Mom when she gets back,” Jessica said sticking her tongue out at her sister before dashing off to get her dolls.
DJ met up with his friends, Speedy, ‘Slow Poke’ Pete and Craig at the donut shop – their before and after-school stomping ground.
“What are we going to do today?” Slow Poke Pete asked. “‘Cause whatever it is we need to move fast before my mother catches me and calls me in to do housework.”
“You just a mama’s boy,” DJ said laughing. “Shoot! You’ll never get me doing housework.”
“What would your sister be doing if your mother has you doing girlie work? Painting her nails?” Craig and DJ high-fived each other as they bent over laughing.
“Mama’s boy! Mama’s boy,” Slow Poke’s friends chanted as they bit into their donuts.
“I say we ride the full length of the railroad tracks,” DJ said. “That should take us all day.”
“You can count me in,” his friends said.
“Hurry! I think I see my mama’s car rounding the bend,” Slow Poke said hopping on to his ten speed bicycle.
“If you don’t live up to your name we’ll out-ride her,” DJ said taking off on his bicycle.
With DJ leading the way, the boys whizzed behind the donut shop, down the beaten path between the bushes, into the water tunnel where they sloshed around in the water before exiting the opposite end. They pedaled hard and fast, darting in and out of people’s unfenced backyards. They got to the middle of the creek that was now as dry as the desert. DJ stopped and did some tricks with his bicycle.
“Aw, man. That’s nothing,” Speedy said. “Watch me, the master cyclist.” Speedy did a wheelie and then did a handstand on the seat.
“Whoa! Where’d you learn that?” Craig said as the front wheel returned to the ground.
“It’s easy as pie,” Speedy said. “Pull the front wheel up and then do a quick handstand.”
Craig tried twice but both times he fell off his bicycle.
“Takes a little practice,” Speedy said as he did a couple more handstands. “Here. Let me help you.”
The friends joked with each other as they helped Craig, but their efforts paid off.
“We need to keep moving,” DJ said.
Before long they were at the train bridge where they skidded to a stop. “I bet you can’t walk across the full length of the guard rail like the acrobats do,” Speedy said as he hopped off his bike.
“You have to have a balance beam to help you keep your balance,” Craig said standing his bike up against one of the crossbars.
“Aw, you don’t need one,” Speedy said. “Just watch me.”
DJ, Pete, and Craig watched as Speedy pulled himself up on to the iron beam on the outside of the bridge. Speedy was the most agile of the four. He was also the most daring as far as tackling feats that could prove fatal from one false move. Once on top of the rail, Speedy straightened his knees; he stood upright; he slowly extended his arms on either side to keep his balance. He then inched his way across the beam keeping his eyes straight ahead. He did not seem nervous by the moving water underneath him. One false move, one misstep could plunge him to the water below. DJ, Slow Poke, and Craig watched him with their mouths gaped open as they held their breath.
Reaching the end of the beam, Speedy jumped down, and turned around with a big grin to face his friends who were applauding and cheering for him. He did his cool walk bouncing from one foot to the other. “Like I said, ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”
“You sure make it look easy,” Craig said.
“Okay, fellows. I did it. Who’s next?” Speedy said looking from one set of eyes to the next.
Always looking for a challenge, DJ said, “I’ll go next.”
“The trick is not to look down at the moving water,” Speedy said. “Just feel your way across.”
DJ climbed up on the guard rail. After steadying himself, he felt his way down the beam about five yards then hopped off. “That’s all I can do.”
“You just a scaredy cat,” Speedy said “Who’s next?”
Slow Poke and Craig looked at each other.
“I’ll give you the honors,” Slow Poke said to Craig with a bow.
“Remember, the trick is to keep your hands extended in a relaxed mode and do not look down. Keep looking straight ahead no matter what,” Speedy reminded him.
“You can do it,” DJ and Slow Poke Pete said to Craig as Speedy steadied him on the beam and coached him along.
“Be still and balance yourself. Do you feel steady? Is your head clear? Keep your eyes on the end of the rail. Tell yourself you can do it.”
DJ and Slow Poke stood extremely still and almost breathless as Craig inched his way down the length of the rail. Speedy encouraged him by walking alongside him for about four yards. About quarter of the way Craig’s body rocked a bit to the left and then to the right as he steadied himself.
I don’t know about this, DJ thought.
Craig had always been the one who needed more prompting. Not that he was afraid to try their dare-devil antics. But he seemed to weigh the pros and cons, and like he’d always say to them, “My mama would kill me if she knows I’m out here cutting the fool. And I won’t say what my dad would do.”
When Craig was close to the halfway mark, Speedy looked at DJ with a grin. “He’s doing it, man. He’s going to be as good as me.” The three quietly high-fived each other. But for those quick seconds when they took their eyes off Craig it seemed their world stopped as they heard a blood curdling scream break into the air.
“Craig! Craig!” Speedy shouted as he ran to the spot where he last saw Craig. DJ and Slow Poke Pete sprinted behind him.
“Craig! Craig!” the boys shouted.
All three looked over the guardrail to see Craig disappear beneath the water. They looked at each other too horrified to speak or to move. DJ being the first to come out of his stupor said, “You two go down to the bank and see if you can help him. I’m going to get his mother. Get in the water if you have to.”
“Man, I can’t swim,” Speedy said with a shaky voice. “What have I done?”
“Get in that water. Do something to get him out! Don’t leave until I get back,” DJ shouted as he hopped on his bicycle. He pedaled as fast as he could.
“Mrs. Simmons! Mrs. Simmons!” DJ shouted once he got to Craig’s house. He let his bicycle fall to the pebble driveway next to Mrs. Simmons’ car as he leaped off and ran up to the front door.
“Mrs. Simmons!” he said as he frantically banged on the door.
“Mercy me! What seems to be the problem?” Mrs. Simmons said upon opening the door.
“It’s Craig. He fell off the bridge into the river. We don’t see his body anywhere.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Craig was walking on the guardrail and he fell over into the river. Speedy and Pete are seeing if they can find him. Please come.” DJ’s eyes were filled with tears.
Mrs. Simmons slammed the front door after getting her car keys. “Get in the car! Did you tell the police yet?”
“No. I came straight to get you.”
After stopping by the police station, Mrs. Simmons drove quickly to the bridge.
“Where’s Craig? Where’s my son?” she demanded of Speedy and Slow Poke Pete who were still in shock. She walked up and down the bank calling her son’s name.
The police arrived behind her and took over the search after getting a report from the boys. By the time Craig’s father arrived, others had congregated on the bridge and were helping in the search.
“I knew it! I knew it!” Mrs. Simmons said as her husband tried to comfort her. “I told him to stay home. Why didn’t I insist on it? I told him not to ever go playing on that bridge. It was almost as if God gave me a premonition that something bad was going to happen. I told him to stay home. My God, You told me something bad was going to happen.”
Once back on the bridge, DJ in a daze picked up Craig’s bicycle and handed it to Mr. Simmons who placed it in the trunk of his wife’s car. He stared at it for what seemed like an eternity before slamming the trunk shut. “Thank you,” he muttered to DJ.
“I just heard the tragic news. What’s going on?” a familiar voice said.
DJ turned around to see his father. Someone had called him as they always did whenever there was a death or a sickness in the church family. DJ sighed a sigh of relief. This was one time he was glad his father was a Bishop in the community at one of the churches in Fairhope.
After dropping Speedy and Slow Poke off at their respective homes, Dwight and DJ continued the quiet drive home. DJ spent the rest of the evening in his room while his father went to comfort the grieving family. The police found Craig’s body further downstream. Funeral plans were in the making.
DJ thought over one of the police officer’s words to them after he and his friends had told the tragic accident to them: When you’re young, your minds are careless and full of foolishness. You boys should have known better.
Yes. We should have known better. But we’re young and invincible. Fearless. Life’s not worth living if you can’t conquer something, DJ thought.
Some of the words of the onlookers floated across his mind:
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.
Boys will be boys.
How could they not have seen the danger in it?
DJ winced as he silently grieved the loss of one of his best friends.
When Rosalind came home rather late that evening, she knocked quietly on DJ’s bedroom door before pushing it open.
“Here you go. I thought you might like this.” Rosalind placed a Hardee’s bag on the bed next to DJ. “I heard about Craig’s accident. I don’t know what you boys were thinking. I do hope you’ll be more careful. I told you to stay home more.”
When Dwight came in around eleven that night, DJ and his siblings were already asleep. After eating, he stopped by DJ’s room where he awakened him.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re doing okay,” he said.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m fine,” DJ said.
“You know, son, tragic things happen in life that we don’t expect. We know there is a possibility of it happening, and we wish it doesn’t happen, and we still don’t expect it to happen, but it will happen. And death is one of those things. Death is not natural, but we have to accept it as part of life. God did not create us to die. That was not part of His original plan for us, but because of sin we have to accept it.”
Dwight placed a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder.
“How’s Mrs. Simmons doing?” DJ asked.
“She’s taking it hard. But with prayer, she and the rest of the family will pull through. Come talk with me if you need someone to talk to.”
“Well, one thing I’m sure of and that is Craig’s in a better place,” Dwight said.
“Do you mean Heaven?” DJ asked.
“Yes. He’s in Heaven. He was a good kid. Well, good night, DJ. Go ahead on back to sleep.”
He’s in Heaven, DJ thought as he rolled on his side. He was a good kid. Is that all it takes to go to Heaven? Being a good person? I don’t think so. Because if that’s it, then a lot of people will not be going to Heaven, even people in Dad’s church who say they are going to Heaven. Even Mom and Dad with all the fussing and arguing they do. I just don’t know. DJ sighed. Lord, something ain’t right here, but I’m asking You to please show me the light.
“There’s no need to tie him down in the house because his friend died,” Dwight said to Rosalind one evening when she was fussing at DJ about staying out late and not letting them know where he was.
“Well, if Craig’s death has not taught him to be home at a decent hour and not out in the streets doing foolish things like walking the guard rail over a bridge then I don’t know what else will,” Rosalind said.
Turning to DJ, Dwight said, “You need to let us know where you are at all times. You can’t just get up and go when you want to. Is that understood? ”
“Whatever you say, Dad,” DJ said.
“Come again,” Dwight said.
“Yes, sir,” DJ replied.
“All we can do is guide them to do the right things,” Dwight said. “The Bible does say to train up a child in the right way and when he gets older he will not depart from it.”
“What do you think I am doing?” Rosalind retorted.
“You can do better if you quit that job and be home when the children come in from school,” Dwight said.
That’s right, Dad, DJ thought with a slight grin. I’d do anything to have her home to fix my plate for me.
“You better wipe that silly grin off your face,” Rosalind said. “We’re talking about your life here. You’re only thirteen-years-old –”
“Almost fourteen,” DJ said.
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking to you,” Rosalind said.
“Yes, ma’am,” DJ said sobering up at his mother’s sharp tone.
Kennedy quickly smothered the smile that was creeping up on his face.
“You might be turning fourteen and starting to smell yourself, but that does not give you the right to come and go as you please. This is not your house,” Rosalind said. “From now on we need to know where you are, what you are doing and who you are with. Do you hear me?”
Loud and clear, DJ thought. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
“Dwight, we need to have something going on at the church every evening and get the children more involved in church activities. That way, we know where they are,” Rosalind said to her husband who had retired to his favorite chair in front of the television eating his favorite Lorna Doone shortbread cookies.
Oh, no. Anything but that, DJ groaned to himself.
“Sit down and get ready to eat your food,” Rosalind said to DJ as she walked off to the kitchen. She returned with a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. “And another thing: I don’t have time to be keeping your food warm because nobody knows what time you’ll turn up.”
I’d probably turn up if I knew you were going to cook, DJ thought.
Rosalind set the plate down before him.
“Thanks,” DJ said.
“You better say thanks,” Rosalind said.
“Hey, can you quiet down in there? I’m trying to relax and watch some television here,” Dwight called out.
“Is it okay if I eat in my room?” DJ asked.
“Our room,” Kennedy reminded him.
“Go on. And you can go ahead and just get ready for bed after you eat,” Rosalind said. “Rachel and Jessica, go and get ready for bed. You know you’re not going to want to get up in the morning.”
All four children hurried to their rooms. Rosalind sat down on the couch with a sigh.
“What’s the problem now?” Dwight asked without taking his eyes off the television.
“Who says there is a problem?” Rosalind snapped back.
“That long drawn out sigh.”
“Oh, that. Well, I just wanted to let you know that I put in my two weeks notice at the pharmacy,” Rosalind said.
“That’s the best news I’ve heard coming out of your mouth for some months now,” Dwight said, glancing at her. “And that’s good because the children need a mother who will be home with a hot meal waiting for them every day when they come in from school.”
“I am working so they can have a comfortable childhood,” Rosalind said. “One where they don’t lack for anything. I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”
“They’ll lack for a mother,” Dwight said matter-of-factly.
“As I was saying, I put in my two weeks notice at the pharmacy, but I’ll be starting my new job at the post office at the beginning of the new year. I’ll be working the evening shift from three until eleven; sometimes until twelve midnight.” With that said, Rosalind stood to leave the room. “It pays much more than what I’m making at the pharmacy, so it’s for the good of the family.” Rosalind paused as if waiting for a response. “More money means more things for the children,” she continued.
“And more things for yourself,” Dwight muttered. “Why can’t you just be satisfied with what you already have? You’re teaching these children to be materialistic just like you. I see it cropping up in the girls and even in the boys, Kennedy especially. They’re always talking about getting them this and getting them that. And you with this crazy idea of taking them window shopping with you.”
“Don’t you feel good when we wear beautiful dresses and the boys wear decent looking clothes when we go to church or other places with you rather than dressed in rags like we used to wear back in the day? I was always taught that even though you may be poor, you ought to look like a million dollars,” Rosalind said walking out of the room.
“Church is not a fashion show. You go there to worship God,” Dwight said out loud.
“I rest my case,” Rosalind shouted over her shoulder.
“I wonder what that’s all about,” Kennedy said to DJ who was reading his history book while trying to watch Bonanza on television.
“I can’t worry about that right now. I’m too busy getting ready for this test,” DJ said.
“You mean cramming for the test,” Kennedy chuckled. “I don’t know why you wait until the last minute to study, stressing yourself out. Plus, how can you study with your favorite television show on and David Bowie playing on the stereo?”
“Me? Stressed out? No way,” DJ said flinching his shoulders. “I’m cool, calm, and collected about everything.”
“You could have fooled me,” Kennedy said laughing. “You try to look like a duck gliding smoothly on the surface but paddling furiously underneath.”
DJ laughed and said, “That’s so stupid.”
With a little over two weeks to go before Christmas, Rosalind with the help of Dimples, the former pastor’s daughter, and a few other ladies in the church, worked feverishly with the children who were performing in the Christmas play.
“I don’t want to hear any lip from you, DJ. You are going to play the part of the lead shepherd,” Rosalind said. “It’s too late now to give the part to someone else.”
“But, Mom, I don’t want to act in any play. I’ve tried to tell you that. I’m fourteen. That’s for little children,” DJ protested. “And if Kennedy told the truth, he’d tell you he does not want to play any shepherd either.”
“Well at least he’s playing smart and keeping it to himself,” Rosalind said. “Tonight’s practice is costume night, so get in there and put your costume on.”
DJ and Kennedy joined the other boys in one of the classrooms that had been designated as the boys’ dressing room.
“Next time you don’t like something don’t bring me into it,” Kennedy said to DJ. “I like being the drummer boy. At least I get to beat on the drum without having to say a word.”
“I don’t want to cower in fear when a group of angels pop out of Heaven and the lead angel is my sister telling me to ‘Fear not.’ And then jumping up and down rejoicing. I’m going to look like a ninny,” DJ said.
“Well, it’s too late to trade places with Slow Poke Pete. Look at his face. He looks like he just swallowed a lemon. Playing the role of Joseph is about to kill him,” Kennedy said. “Who would want to play Joseph with Francine acting as Mary?”
“I would,” DJ said. “She’s fine as wine and just my kind.”
Kennedy chuckled. “You’d better straighten that towel on your head and tighten that string around your robe before Mom comes in and jacks you up. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that in front of Francine, now would you?”
“Yeah. I’d better do that.”
“Okay, boys, let’s go,” Rosalind said marching into the room. “The girls are already waiting in the hallway.”
“Don’t I make a cute angel?” Rachel said to DJ as he and the boys walked by them.
“Yeah. You look like a ghost in that long white nightgown,” DJ said loud enough so others could hear. The boys and some of the girls laughed.
“DJ, shut up,” Rosalind said. “The only words I want to hear from you are your lines in the play. Is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” DJ said as he glared at his sister. “I can’t wait for this night to be over with,” he muttered to himself.
DJ, Slow Poke, Kennedy and a few others endured the next two weeks of rehearsal and sighed in relief when it was all over on Christmas Eve, the night of the presentation.
“Just lovely. Everything was just lovely,” Grandmother Randall said when she came over to spend Christmas day with the family. “You ought to play the lead shepherd each year.”
“I’ll let someone else have it next year,” DJ quickly said.
“He might be interested in playing the role of Joseph if Francine is going to be Mary again,” Kennedy said.
They all laughed.
“You girls made lovely angels with the silver garlands on your heads. And your wings looked so real,” Mother Randall said. “Rosalind, you’re doing a great job with the children.”
You won’t have me acting in any more church plays. I’ll be staying as far away as I can from the church, DJ thought.
“Enough talking. Let’s open our presents,” Rosalind said as she reached under the tree to pull out the presents. Reading the name tags, she passed them out.
“Seems like you went all out this year,” Dwight said as he opened his first present to reveal a gold watch with a matching tie pin and a pair of gold cufflinks.
“Here’s another,” Rosalind said, handing him a second gift.
“Whoa!” Dwight said as he pulled out a gold pocket watch hanging from a chain.
“That’s not all. This is from the children.”
Dwight took a large box from his wife. “Thank you, children. Do you want me to keep the bow and the ribbon?” Dwight said as he lifted the cover from the box to reveal three one hundred percent cotton white shirts with long cuffed sleeves to go with his cuff links. “I’ll be preaching in style for sure this Sunday.”
Everyone seemed pleased with their gifts except for DJ. A yellow jean suit? I can’t believe this. My friends are going to run me off the school campus. “Thanks, Mom,” he said reluctantly.
“You’re welcome. They ran out of Kennedy’s size. That’s the reason I didn’t get him one,” Rosalind said.
No, Kennedy is just lucky and I’m cursed, DJ thought.
“You children go and hang up your clothes,” Rosalind said.
The church family marched right into the New Year after a memorable Watch Night service. Dwight challenged them to make the greatest commandment even more evident in their lives in the new year. “Love God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul. And love your neighbor as yourself. Is that alright?”
On the first day of school in the new year, Rachel and Jessica came waltzing out of their room in their new dresses and shoes.
“Don’t they look beautiful in their new dresses?” Rosalind said to Dwight as they took their places at the breakfast table.
“You girls sure do look beautiful,” Dwight said. “Now don’t mess your dresses up. Carry yourselves like queens today.”
“DJ and Kennedy, get in here now. We’re all waiting on you,” Rosalind called out to the boys.
Kennedy hurried into the dining room in his new dark blue corduroy pants, white shirt, and new sneakers. DJ followed closely behind in his faded jeans, long sleeve sweater shirt, and new sneakers.
“Good morning, Dad and Mom,” they both said.
“Good morning, boys. Have a seat. You don’t want to miss out on a hot, delicious breakfast,” Dwight said. “Let’s thank God for the food.”
“DJ, why don’t you have on your new clothes like the rest of the children? I told you all to put on the new clothes you got for Christmas. Didn’t you hear me?” Rosalind said.
“Are you talking about the yellow jeans with the matching jacket?” DJ said.
“Yes. The yellow jeans with the matching jacket. You know what I’m talking about,” Rosalind said.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but I can’t wear that,” DJ said.
“What? Do you all hear this? And why not?” Rosalind said.
“Mom, it’s yellow. Only girls wear yellow,” DJ said in all seriousness.
“There is nothing wrong with those clothes. That outfit was made specifically for boys. They even had a couple of them in the men’s section. I used my hard-earned money to buy you something you need and this is the thanks I get,” Rosalind said.
“Well, did you buy Dad a yellow jean suit while you were in the men’s section?” DJ asked.
“You’d better get in there and put those clothes on right now,” Rosalind said.
DJ looked at his father without moving.
“Rosalind, please don’t start the new year fussing at the children,” Dwight said. “Let’s thank God for the food so we can eat it while it’s hot and so the children can head on out to school.”
“Dwight, you are always taking up for these children,” Rosalind said as she reached over to fix the children’s plates.
“It’s not a matter of taking up for the children. DJ is fourteen-years-old. I’m sure he knows what he likes and does not like. Besides, I don’t want my boys wearing a full yellow outfit. It’s too feminine, not to mention, that one specifically is sore on the eyes.”
You tell her, Dad, DJ thought hiding the smile that was creeping up on his lips.
“Oh, hush that up. Children can get away with it,” Rosalind said.
“Yes, little children, but not a fourteen-year-old boy. You don’t want his friends to laugh at him on the first day of school in the new year, do you?”
That’s right, Dad, DJ thought.
“Dwight, these children have to learn they can’t always have what they want. Things are not going to always go their way. Now, I’m going to have to go through the hassle of returning it,” Rosalind muttered.
“You love to visit the stores anyway, so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Just return it for something you know he will like,” Dwight said. “Eat up, children. The school bus will be here any minute now. By the way, your mother starts her new job at the Post Office tomorrow; she’s working the evening shift. I don’t know why she chose that shift, but as usual, she did it without my knowledge or my permission, so don’t expect her home when you come in from school. Of course, I’ll try to be here if I don’t have to visit the church family.”
“Who’s going to cook for us?” Kennedy asked.
“I’ll try to have your dinner fixed before I leave,” Rosalind quickly said.
Yeah, right. We’ve heard that one before, DJ thought as he shoved a piece of sausage in his mouth. You’re probably going to call us from the job and tell us to get the can of welfare peanut butter under the sink and make a pitiful sandwich.
The Love & Peace Holiness Church witnessed a packed house on the first Sunday of the new year. The crowd filled up the sanctuary seats, the center and side aisles and the vestibule. Dwight and Rosalind looked out into the crowd as they welcomed the congregation members and visitors.
“Looks like we’re going to have to get a new building or expand this one, but that’s fine because it will be a good thing. Is that alright?” Dwight said. “Now that can only happen if each of you make the commitment or as we like to call it, a new year’s resolution, to be more faithful in church attendance. I don’t want to waste money expanding the church building, buying new padded pews, and then we end up with a bunch of empty seats because you all break your new year’s resolution as the new year starts to get old. So why don’t you all make that promise to God to be more faithful in church attendance this year?”
“Yes, ladies of Love & Peace,” Rosalind said as she took the microphone from her husband, “make that New Year’s resolution to get your family here for services every Sunday on time and for prayer meeting every Wednesday night on time. Not C.P. time — colored people’s time; on time.” There was a smattering of laughter throughout the congregation. “That might mean sacrificing some sleep on Sunday mornings to get a hot breakfast ready. It may mean staying up late on Saturday nights to get Sunday dinner prepared. That’s part of the Christian life: sacrificing for others. Amen?”
“Amen,” most of the congregation replied.
DJ was seated on the second row from the back. He had been late in coming in, so his usual seat at the very back by the side exit was already taken. The only thing he really enjoyed about church was watching the beautiful sisters, Jennifer and Janice, as they sang in the choir. They are both very fine, especially that Jennifer, he thought. I want to see if I can get with that. He normally dozed off during the sermon.
“Amen,” Dwight said. “Don’t forget to show some love to somebody every day this week,” he reminded them.
“Amen,” DJ muttered standing quickly to his feet. As he took a step forward it seemed as if the crowd engulfed him. Oh, man! How am I going to get out of here, he thought.
“Aren’t you Bishop Jacobs’ son?” someone asked.
DJ turned around to see Mother Matilda bent over on her cane and her sister, Martha.
Oh, no, DJ thought.
“Yes, he is,” Mother Martha said squinting her eyes at DJ. “Mother Randall pointed him out to me one Sunday and I’ve been watching him and praying for him ever since. As a saved young man, you ought to sit up and pay attention in church. You’re too young to be falling asleep in church. You saved, ain’t you? Saved people don’t fall asleep on the Word of God. Ain’t you saved?”
“No, ma’am. I’m not saved,” DJ said.
“Sure you are,” Mother Matilda said.
“No, ma’am,” DJ said.
“I was there when you got baptized. I was there when you all got baptized,” Martha said. “And so was Matilda.”
“You Bishop Jacobs’ boy, too. You got a double blessing on your life,” Matilda said. “Always remember, young man, you can’t hide from God. Once you’re saved, you’re His.”
A double curse is what it is, DJ thought. I got to get out of here.
“So you are saved no matter what the devil’s been telling you,” Matilda continued. “From now on, boy, when somebody asks you are you saved, say, ‘I’m saved!’”
“No, ma’am. I can’t say that for sure,” DJ said.
“Matilda, is he being humble like his daddy or is he being a hard case?” Martha asked.
“He’s too young to know what humble is. He’s just being a hard case. We need to get him on the mourner’s bench and get him re-saved,” Matilda said. They chuckled.
“For sure. I’ll talk to Mother Randall and to Bishop Jacobs,” Martha said.
“And don’t forget First Lady,” Matilda said. “She’ll get it fixed. Yes, ma’am, she surely will. We gonna get you on the mourner’s bench and get Jesus back into you, boy.”
Man, I got to get outta here, DJ thought glancing around.
“Look me in the eye, young man,” Martha said. “You saved. You just don’t know it.”
“Or he doesn’t want to accept it so he can keep up with his ways,” Matilda said peering deep into DJ’s eyes.
“No, ma’am. If you’ll excuse me. I don’t want to keep my brother waiting,” DJ said sliding out the door into the fresh air. He had one aim now and that was to get home as quickly as he could to beat the crowd of church folks who were going to come over to their house for the first church dinner of the New Year.
I want to get my food first before big ol’ Deacon Green starts getting his food. DJ looked around for someone to give him a ride home. Cousin Ella. She’ll give me a ride home.
“Tell Mom you gave me a ride home,” DJ said after Ella dropped him off at his house. “By the way, when are you going to teach me how to drive?”
“You’re still a little young. But I’ll teach you soon as long as it’s okay with your parents. Come over any time,” Ella said. “I’m home most evenings.”
After Ella drove off, DJ went inside the house and headed for the kitchen. He took a plate out of the cabinet and pulled the oven door open. He peered inside the warm oven to find two large trays of crispy fried chicken legs and thighs. There was a roast with diced carrots and potato wedges in the roasting pan. Collard greens with ham hock were in a tall pot on the stove. The cornbread was still in the rectangular baking pan. Three packages of dinner rolls were on top of the counter still in their package.
DJ placed a generous serving of each item on his plate. He was pouring himself a tall glass of lemonade when his mother, grandmother, and siblings entered the front door.
“DJ, are you here? Ella told me she dropped you off,” Rosalind called out as she kicked her shoes off. “I got to get out of these heels and give my feet a break. You girls go take those dresses off and put on something more comfortable. Here, Jessica, take my shoes back to the room and bring my blue house shoes. Bring the other pair for Mother. Mother, you sit down. Ella and Mildred will help me. I hear them coming now along with the others.”
“Hey, everyone,” DJ said walking out of the kitchen.
“You mean to tell me you couldn’t wait?” Rosalind said.
“No, ma’am. The food will be gone by the time all of your guests get theirs. Could you please save me a slice of the cake?” DJ said matter-of-factly. He headed in the direction of his room.
“Where are you going?” Rosalind asked.
“To my room,” DJ said. “Please, Mom. I like to eat in my room.”
“I’ll let you go this time,” Rosalind said with a smile. “But you need to eat in here with everyone else from now on.”
DJ hurried to his room as the church folks started coming in. I just don’t like these church people always coming over here eating up all our food. Some of them need to look in the mirror before they sit down to eat because they could sure lose some weight, he thought. He pushed the door up with his foot, set his plate down on the bed, and then locked the door. He turned the volume on his television up loud enough for the noise of the football game to drown out the laughing and talking coming from the living room.
As DJ reclined on his bed eating, his mind wandered to his encounter with Mother Matilda and her sister, Martha. He had often wondered about the things they did in the church. He knew of married preachers, deacons, and even one of the sons of a preacher, who had girlfriends in the church who oftentimes got pregnant out of wedlock. And he saw some deacons who couldn’t wait to get out the church door to light up a cigarette on the church steps. Not to mention the arguing between his parents, the Bishop and First Lady of the church.
I don’t know if this is how church folk are supposed to be behaving. I don’t know if this is how saved folk are supposed to be acting. What does it mean to be saved? Saved from what? Saved to what? DJ thought. Am I saved because I’m baptized? Am I saved because I’m the son of a preacher, a Bishop? Am I saved because I go to church each Sunday, even if I’m forced to go? This is so confusing. Lord, please show me the light.
DJ looked forward to the coming of spring. He loved sunshiny days as they cheered him up in a way that nothing else did.
It’s going to be a great day today, he thought as he bounded out of his bed. The welcoming smell of sizzling bacon along with cheesy scrambled eggs and buttered toast met him as he opened the bedroom door.
“Good morning, Mom,” he greeted Rosalind as he walked into the kitchen.
“Morning, DJ. You’re mighty cheerful this morning. I know going back to school could not make you this cheerful.”
“Well, you know,” DJ said taking his seat around the table. Even though he still did not care for his mother being at work when he came home in the evenings, he at least appreciated that she was home in the mornings to fix them a hot and filling breakfast; that’s if she was not sleeping in. “Where’s Dad?” he asked.
“Mother Matilda fell ill suddenly during the night so they called him early this morning to come and pray with her as she may not be with us much longer.”
DJ shuddered as he thought back to the conversation he and Mother Matilda and her sister Martha had.
“He may not be back before you all leave for school. Go tell Kennedy to get in here now if he wants to eat,” Rosalind said.
“Kennedy! Mom says to get in here now if you want to eat,” DJ shouted.
“I could have done that,” Rosalind said. “Let me go get the girls.”
A few minutes later, Kennedy came to the table. He had an angry look on his face. He slammed his book bag on the floor and slouched in his seat.
“What’s your problem, now?” DJ asked as he poured himself a glass of orange juice from the bottle that was sitting on the table.
“Did I say there was a problem? And even if there is a problem, you don’t need to know about it,” Kennedy said.
“Who says I wanted to know?” DJ said. “But whatever it is, you’d better fix it before Mom notices it. You know she’ll jump on you in a hot minute.”
“And you can just send that attitude back to wherever it came from,” Rosalind said as she entered the room. “I don’t need that this morning. Now eat.”
Except for Rachel and Jessica’s chattering everyone else ate in silence.
“I think I hear the bus,” DJ said pushing away from the table and grabbing his book bag from off the floor where it sat by his chair. He grabbed the last piece of bacon off the plate, shoved it into his mouth.
“Hey, I wanted that,” Rachel said.
“You’ll get the last piece tomorrow,” DJ said as he hurried out the door. “Bye,” he shouted.
His sisters followed him. “Bye, Mom. See you later,” they both said.
“Get to moving, Kennedy, because if you miss that bus, you’ll be walking to school. And you can just leave that attitude of yours outside when you come home this evening,” Rosalind said. “And don’t take it into the classroom with you because if I receive a note from any of your teachers about it, you’ll be in a world of trouble. Do you hear me? Now get to moving.”
Rosalind had just finished washing the dishes and was preparing to mop the kitchen floor when Dwight came in.
“How’s Mother Matilda doing?” she asked as she placed his breakfast in front of him.
“Not too good. I don’t think she’s going to make it to the end of the week. They refuse to take her to the hospital saying there’s nothing the doctors can do for her. They are just waiting for the good Lord to come and get her,” Dwight said.
“I’ll stop by and check on her on my way to work,” Rosalind said. She reached for her Bible and study book to prepare her lesson for the women’s meeting which they had every Tuesday. After a few minutes, she said, “You know, I think we need to add a couple more rooms to the house or move into a new house so that each of the kids can have their own room.”
“What’s wrong with them sharing a room?” Dwight asked.
“I just think as they get older they might want to have their own room. The rooms they have now are getting too small for them.”
“We’ll see,” Dwight said.
* * * * *
As soon as the school bus let the children off in front of the school, DJ and his friends—Speedy, Slow Poke Pete, Ryan and a few others—headed for the donut shop across the road from the school. That was one of their morning rituals: to visit the donut shop and goof off before their first class which they were often late for.
“Nothing like a freshly baked donut to start your day,” DJ said as he led them into the shop. The donuts were addictive as they melted in your mouth.
“Didn’t your mother feed you this morning?” Ryan asked.
“That won’t stop me from getting my donut,” DJ said.
“What are we going to do after school,” Slow Poke Pete asked. He was never one to come up with ideas.
“I know what I’ll be doing,” DJ said. “My Cousin Ella will be teaching me how to drive. I’m going to be big time now.”
“Aw! Stop lying. You too young to learn to drive,” Ryan said. “Your parents won’t let you.”
“That’s why my cousin is going to teach me. But like I always say: I can show you better than I can tell you. Then once I learn to drive, I’m going to get me a car,” DJ said.
“You don’t even have a job,” Speedy laughed.
“I didn’t say when I was going to get a car. Anyway, I got plans, and if you were smart, you’d start planning to get you a car as well so you can get around without having to wait for your parents to take you everywhere — if they even take you. When you have your own stuff can’t nobody tell you what to do with it,” DJ said as he put the last piece of donut into his mouth and licked his fingers. “We’d better hurry or we’re going to be late for school.”
DJ started jogging across the road, into the school yard and all the way to his first class. His friends followed closely behind him.
As soon as his last class ended, DJ said goodbye to his friends. “I’m going for my first driving lesson,” he bragged.
“You don’t even want to go by the donut shop for a few minutes and ride the school bus home first?” Speedy asked.
“Nope. I’m walking to my cousin’s house. I’ll get there before the bus comes. See ya,” DJ walked to his cousin’s house and was there within minutes.
“Cousin Ella,” DJ called out as he knocked on the front door.
“Come on in. The door’s unlocked,” Ella said. Cousin Ella was in her early twenties and lived by herself in a small one bedroom house.
When DJ entered the living room, Ella was sitting on the couch with a bottle of Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull in one hand and eyes glued to the television. “Sit down. Let me finish watching my show.”
“I just walked over here from school. Do you mind if I get something to drink?” DJ asked.
“Go ahead,” Ella said without looking up.
DJ walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He scanned the shelves. A six-pack of Coca-Cola. A pitcher of lemonade. A six-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull.
No need to check for anything else, he thought as he eyed the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull. “Ella, can I try one of your beers?”
“Yeah. Whatever’s in there,” Ella said in a low voice.
DJ smiled as he reached for one of the bottles of beer. He unscrewed the cap and took a sip. Not very sweet but there must be something to it if Ella drinks it. He took another sip. He smiled as he walked into the living room and sat in the chair across from Ella.
“Great show,” Ella said. She drank down the rest of her beer before turning to DJ. “How can I help you, D . . . What do you have in your hand?”
“You said I could have it,” DJ said.
“No, I didn’t.”
“You did,” DJ said with a chuckle. “You were so much into your show you must not have heard me ask.”
Ella shook her head. “Well, take three more sips then go put it back in the refrigerator. “You are the Bishop’s son. You can’t be drinking no beer.”
“Well, aren’t you a church lady? You’re not supposed to be drinking beer, either,” DJ said.
“It’s different for me; plus, I’m grown,” Ella said.
“I hear you,” DJ said. He took three gulps.
“I said sips, not gulps. Give it here.” Ella snatched the bottle from him. “You’re only fourteen.”
“About to be fifteen,” DJ said.
“Whatever the case, you’re too young to be drinking beer. Your body can’t handle it,” Ella said.
“Why do you drink it anyway?”
“For my health,” Ella said.
“Yeah, right,” DJ said. “Anyway, I came over so you could start teaching me to drive.”
“Oh, yeah. Let me get my keys and jacket. I had forgotten about that. How often are we going to do this now?”
“I can come by every evening after school,” DJ said. “I hope you haven’t said anything to Mom or Dad yet.”
“No. I haven’t said anything to them. Now, don’t you have after-school activities?”
“Not right now. I’m going to try out for football after my fifteenth birthday. But that won’t start until just before summer,” DJ said.
“Sounds good to me. Let’s get going then.”
After about three weeks of lessons, DJ was skillfully handling the car. “Ella, let me drive by the school and the donut shop and toot the horn at my friends,” DJ said after Ella told him he was ready to take the driving test when he reached the legal age.
“You just want to show off. That’s all,” Ella said with a smirk.
“Just duck down when I get close to the school so they’ll think I’m by myself,” DJ said.
Ella laughed. “Okay. I’ll play along. Just drive real slow.”
DJ leaned back in the driver’s seat as he slowly drove by the donut shop honking the car horn. He stopped the car and his friends surrounded it. They laughed when Ella popped up.
“Man, you were serious,” Speedy said. “I was beginning to think you had deserted us.”
“Aren’t you too young to learn to drive?” Ryan said. “I asked my dad to teach me and he said I was too young.”
“Can you teach me how to drive, Ella?” Slow Poke Pete said.
“I can’t do that without your parents’ permission. Plus, you are too young,” Ella said.
“DJ’s not any older than me,” Slow Poke Pete said.
“Well, he’s family. You know how that is,” Ella said.
DJ had forgotten about his conversation with Mother Matilda and her sister Martha until two Sundays later when Mother Randall and Rosalind took him by the arm and placed him on the mourner’s bench immediately after services. DJ looked around bewildered at the three other people kneeling beside him.
One was a young lady in her early twenties crying out. “Save me, God. Please save me!”
The other was a middle-aged woman rocking from side to side. You could only see the whites of her eyes. She was muttering incoherently.
The third was Old Jim. He was always sipping something from a brown bag after every church service. Old Jim was known to come down to the mourner’s bench every Sunday.
DJ wanted to laugh, but he felt he was in such a serious situation to make light of it. This has got to be a joke. How can I get out of here? he thought. The mothers of the church started to parade around them muttering, singing, shouting, and humming, calling the Lord’s name over and over again.
“Show them the error of their ways, Lord,” one of the mothers shouted.
DJ looked around and saw his father, Bishop Dwight, singing loud and strong. First Lady Rosalind had taken control of the microphone and was encouraging the mothers to keep parading and calling on Jesus.
“Call out for them to get saved. Call out for them to turn from their sins. Call out for them to call on Jesus.”
The musicians played louder as the congregants sang.
Oh, what a wonderful name.
I got to get out of here, DJ thought glancing around. The young lady on the mourner’s bench started to do a “holy dance.”
“She got it! She got it!” one of the mothers said. They all started shouting, “She got it! She got it!”
The young lady started to dance down the aisle. After being coached by the mothers to say the name “Jesus” over a thousand times at least, DJ started dancing backwards all the way down the aisle, kicking his legs up and spinning around.
“He got it! He got it! He saved for sure now,” the mothers said.
Bishop Jacobs bellowed out the words of the song as he led the congregants in singing.
Oh, what a wonderful name.
DJ continued dancing backwards until he was out the front door. He lay low in Ella’s car. Once home, he took refuge in his room.
“You should have seen your face,” Kennedy said laughing. “You looked petrified. Who would have ever thought they would see Bishop Jacobs’ son on the mourner’s bench?”
DJ chuckled. “This will be the first and last time.”
“Where did you learn to dance like that?” Kennedy laughed even harder.
“I just watched that woman and imitated,” DJ said.
“Well, you’re certainly good at copying others,” Kennedy said.
“I believe all of it is just a show, anyway. Old Jim goes to the bench every Sunday and if he’s not saved by now then something is seriously wrong with what they’re doing,” DJ said.
“Do you feel saved?” Kennedy asked.
“I don’t feel any different, that is if I’m supposed to feel something,” DJ said. “It’s all emotional to me and I want no parts of it. I don’t even want people to know I’m the Bishop’s son.”
“Well, what’s so wrong with people knowing that?” Kennedy asked.
“They label you and watch you all the time. You can’t do this and you can’t do that. I’m supposed to be saved because I’m Bishop Jacobs’ son. I told Mother Matilda and her sister that I was not saved. They kept insisting that I was. I believe they told Mom and Grandmother Randall what I said and they all ganged up on me. That’s how I ended up on the mourner’s bench. They have the right name for it too, mourner’s bench. That’s all they do on that bench –mourn the predicament they are in.”
“But one thing I can tell you and that is: I am not saved and I am going to let everybody know that I am not saved,” DJ continued.
“How do you plan on doing that?” Kennedy said.
“I’m going to be the baddest kid in town.”
“Whoa!” Kennedy said.
Their conversation ended as Rosalind called them to the dinner table.
“That was a brave thing you did going to the mourner’s bench,” Dwight said to DJ once they were all seated around the table. “I hope you got it right with God.”
“Mother and I had to corral him and take him up there. He wasn’t going to go on his own,” Rosalind said as she fixed their plates. “What do you mean telling Mother Matilda you’re not saved? You didn’t know she told me, did you?”
“Well, I can’t lie to her,” DJ said.
“When did you tell her that?” Dwight asked.
“Two Sundays ago,” Rosalind said. “DJ, you got baptized when you were twelve years old over at the First Baptist Church. Don’t you remember that?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Well, then, you’re saved. Doesn’t the Bible say ‘repent and be baptized’?” Rosalind said.
“I wouldn’t know,” DJ said.
“You just need to do more repenting,” Rosalind said.
“Yeah, but does getting baptized mean you are saved?” DJ asked.
“You know something, DJ? You question things too much,” Rosalind said. “You’re too young to be questioning the things of God. Just accept things as they are. You start questioning things then you’ll get confused in the mind.”
“Well, if I don’t ask questions, how am I ever going to know the truth?” DJ said.
“Well, why don’t you start reading the Bible for yourself?” Dwight said.
“I hardly ever see you read yours except for when you go to the bathroom on Sunday mornings holding everyone up,” DJ said.
Dwight chuckled and said, “That’s because it’s so quiet in there and there is something serene about studying on a Sunday morning.”
“So you don’t study in your office at the church?” DJ asked.
“DJ, stop asking questions and eat.”
“But Mom nothing. Just listen and stop talking.”
“Just trying to find out how Dad spends his days,” DJ muttered.
After a few minutes of eating silently, DJ said, “I’m signing up for football starting the beginning of summer.”
“That’s fine with me,” Dwight said.
Rosalind remained quiet.
“That would be great,” Rachel said, “because I’m going to join the cheerleading team when I get older.”
“Me, too,” Jessica said.
“You only want to do it because I said I’m going to do it,” Rachel said.
* * * *
DJ lay awake wrestling with his own thoughts long after the family had all gone to sleep. Speaking in tongues? Being baptized? Going to church? Paying your “dues”? Do these things really get you saved—whatever that means? Do these things get you into Heaven? One thing I know and that is: I want no part of this church stuff that I see going on here. I want nothing to do with church folk because it just seems like a bunch of confusion, phoniness, and hypocrisy.
Summer couldn’t arrive faster in DJ’s estimation. He tried out for football and made the team. So did Speedy and Ryan. Slow Poke Pete did not bother to try out.
“I love watching football, but to play it? No way. It’s too rough for me,” he confessed.
“That’s because you’re not a real man. Real men play football,” DJ said, flexing his arm.
“I’m a man in my own way,” Slow Poke Pete said with a chuckle. “I want to play baseball.”
“All I know is, I’m going to be star quarterback of the high school team,” DJ said as he and his friends put on their football gear one evening.
“Good for you. I just want to stay on the team,” Ryan said. “I’ll play any position.”
“And stop trying to fool us, DJ. You just want to be quarterback because you know that’s who all the girls go after,” Speedy said.
“Wouldn’t you say that’s a good reason,” DJ said with a chuckle.
“Just remember, they don’t call me Speedy for nothing,” Speedy said. “So you have some competition.”
Coach Floyd observed the new players. Pointing to DJ, he asked Assistant Coach Langley, “Who’s that?”
“That’s Dwight Jacobs. I’ve checked his academic files. He’s a good kid. He is passing all his classes. Nothing too spectacular on that front, but he doesn’t have any bad comments from any of his teachers. A few tardies, but we can work with that,” Coach Langley said.
“What about that fellow there?” Coach Floyd said pointing to Speedy.
“He has good grades as well. I hear they call him ‘Speedy.’”
Coach Floyd watched as Coach Langley took the new recruits through their drills.
“DJ is very promising,” Coach Floyd said to Coach Langley at the end of their third practice session with the boys. “I see drive in his eyes and in the way he plays. I see tenacity and competitiveness. As you know, I love to see that in my players. If we get all the boys to have that kind of attitude, New Hope High School should be back in first place in the divisional rankings quite soon. What do we say?”
“They don’t call us The Champions for nothing,” both coaches said.
DJ gave practice everything he had. By the end of the summer, his name as a promising quarterback was being whispered among his peers and others in the school.
“I think we should work with him extra. Maybe let him train with the older players sometimes,” Coach Langley suggested. “He’s ready to move up.”
“I know. But we move up as a team. I don’t want to separate him from the rest of the pack too soon. I don’t want him to get the big head and then we can’t tell him anything,” Coach Floyd said.
“I want to see humility and a consistently teachable spirit over a period of about a year before I work with him one-on-one or let him practice with the older players. I want to see how he handles that type of responsibility,” Coach Floyd said.
“I guess I’m jumping ahead of us, huh?” Coach Langley said.
“It’s just that, when I see natural talent, I want to snag it and take it to the next level,” Langley said.
“I’m tempted to do the same,” Coach Floyd said. “And I have done that in the past. But I’ve also been burned before, and that’s not good for me or the players. They have to learn that there’s a lot more to this game than just taking a ball and running down the field with it.”
Coach Langley nodded.
“Oftentimes it’s not how you win, but how you lose, that counts,” Coach Floyd shared with the team in one of his pep talks before practice. “Defeat allows you to see what you’re made of.”
“I ain’t thinking about losing,” DJ whispered to Speedy.
“It’s easy to have a good attitude when you win,” Coach Floyd continued, “but are you going to have a good attitude when you lose? As you practice today remember, attitude is what counts. Let’s get moving on those drills.”
One day after practice, Slow Poke Pete came up to DJ and handed him a note. “This is from one of the girls in our class.”
A smile crossed DJ’s lips as he silently read the note.
“What does it say?” Slow Poke Pete asked.
“I’m not gonna tell you,” DJ said grinning.
“If I’m going to serve as delivery man, I’m going to read every note I deliver,” Slow Poke Pete said with a scowl.
When DJ arrived home, he placed the note in a wooden safety box that he had picked up from the dollar store and which he kept under his bed.
Although Rosalind was pleased that her children were all doing well in school, she was not pleased that football was taking up so much of DJ’s time to the point where he missed choir rehearsals, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Youth Explosion Night on Fridays.
“That’s not good for him,” Rosalind complained to Dwight one evening. “Now Kennedy claims he’s joining the school band so he can get more training in playing the drums,”
“What do you want me to do about it? There’s nothing wrong with them pursuing things they like doing.”
“Going to church and taking part in church activities is something they should like doing,” Rosalind said. “Is it too much to have him to come out for two nights of choir rehearsal and one night of Bible study? He acts as though he doesn’t even want to spend time with the youth of the church.”
“There’s always a way to get around things,” Dwight said. “You’re their mother. Figure it out.”
Rosalind was shocked. “Dwight, you should be the one concerned about this. Aren’t you the head of the house? The supposed-to-be priest of the home? Or is that just another title? Another thing is, you should have been having family devotions with the children all along.”
“First of all, you gave me that title of priest. And family devotions mean you have to participate too, not just the children,” Dwight retorted. “Maybe if you had sat back and let me exercise my role as the head without opposing it, we would be having family devotions. Anyway, you call yourself praying and having devotions with the women of the church, why don’t you pray and have devotions with your own children? I preach to them on Sundays. The least you can do is teach them in the home.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Rosalind said.
“You’d better believe you’re hearing it. If you don’t mind, I’d like some peace and quiet so I can meditate on the message I’ll be preaching on Sunday.”
“What will you be preaching on?”
“On the home.”
“Oh, that’s fine. But whatever you do, don’t use the words ‘submit,’ ‘submission,’ or ‘be in subjection to your husband.’ Those are words the women do not like to hear. And if you’re wondering how I know that. It’s from our talks during our women’s meeting on Wednesday nights.”
“Your talks? You should be teaching them the Bible, not having talks,” Dwight said. “Are you leading the pack in gossiping when you should be leading them in prayer and Bible study?”
“We don’t gossip. We discuss things as they affect women including family life from a biblical perspective,” Rosalind said.
“Don’t you mean from Rosalind Randall-Jacobs’ perspective?” Dwight said.
“I know where to draw the line. And I resent you putting me in that light,” Rosalind said.
“I tell you the truth. I can’t even trust you to lead a group of women in Bible study,” Dwight said.
“As I was saying, if you don’t want to start a rebellion among the women then don’t mention those words. Yes, it’s in the Bible, and they want it to stay there. Let them read it for themselves. They just don’t want you preaching it from the pulpit. I rest my case.”
“About time you rest something,” Dwight said.
“Dwight, seeing I’m not home in the evenings, I think it would be best for you to hold family devotions with the children when they come in from school,” Rosalind said a few days later. “You’d be doing your priestly job in the home.”
Dwight chuckled. “I think you said family devotions. Aren’t you part of the family? If you quit that job of yours we could make it truly a time of family devotions, don’t you think?”
“We could do it in the mornings, but they hardly want to get up for school,” Rosalind said. “But at least we’d all be here together.”
“We’ll try and see how it works. Now can I go back to my sermon meditation?”
“Yes. You can go back to sleep.”
The following morning, Rosalind, with much effort, awakened the children a half hour earlier than usual. “We’re having family devotions starting this morning before you go to school,” she said as she awakened each of them. “If you want to eat you had better get dressed quickly and be at the table immediately.”
“This has got to be a joke,” DJ said to himself as he got dressed, trudged to the bathroom, and then to the dining room. He met Kennedy in the hallway.
“What is going on?” Kennedy asked as he yawned.
“Something about family devotions.”
“Fine time to start that,” Kennedy said.
“That’s what I said,” DJ concurred.
“Boys, get in here now,” Rosalind said sharply. “Your father is waiting to start. Your sisters beat you to the table again.”
When the boys nonchalantly took their seats, Dwight was sitting at the head of the table with his Bible open in front of him. Rosalind had her Bible open as well.
“Sorry. I didn’t know we needed a Bible,” DJ said. “I’ll just listen.”
“Is this all we’re having for breakfast? Cereal and fruit?” Kennedy asked as he surveyed the items on the table.
“You won’t have anything to eat if you don’t be quiet so we can get going with the devotions,” Rosalind said. “You both took too long to get in here. We’ve already wasted ten minutes.”
“We won’t have any time left if you don’t stop the talking,” Dwight said.
Rosalind glared at him but fell silent.
“Children, since this is our first day, I’ll just read some verses and then we’ll pray. Then you can eat, that is if the school bus doesn’t come. You can bring in your Bibles tomorrow.”
“You mean we have to do this again tomorrow?” DJ asked.
“Yes, DJ. Every morning. We’re starting our daily family devotions today,” Dwight said.
“Isn’t it a little late for that, Dad?” DJ asked.
“Yeah. Shouldn’t we have been doing this all along?” Kennedy said. “Besides, I’m ready to eat. The school bus should be coming soon.”
“No Bible, no breakfast,” Rosalind said. “Now you both be quiet! Go on, Dwight. Rachel, wake up! Show God some respect, child.”
“I’m just so sleepy,” Rachel moaned.
“This is going to be a trip,” DJ muttered tapping his fingers on the table.
“DJ, cut that out!” Rosalind shouted.
“Turn to the book of First John,” Dwight intoned.
“Dad, we can’t turn anywhere. We don’t have our Bibles,” Kennedy said.
“Listen then,” Dwight said trying not to show his frustration. “Beloved,” he bellowed, “Let us love one another: for love is of God and–”
“Excuse me, Dad. But can we eat while we listen?” Kennedy asked. “The bus will be here soon. That way we won’t risk going to school on an empty stomach.”
“Rosalind, pour them their cereal while I continue the reading,” Dwight said.
“Dwight!” Rosalind started to protest.
“Just do it!” Dwight continued reading amidst the crunching of cereal and the slurping of milk and juice.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.”
DJ reached across the table and helped himself to an apple from the fruit basket. He bit into it.
Kennedy took a long slurp of his milk off his spoon.
Jessica turned her bowl to her mouth and drank down the last of her milk swishing the last mouthful in her mouth before swallowing it.
Rachel rolled her eyes at her siblings’ antics.
“Children, that’s enough!” Rosalind said. “Now I know you all know how to eat properly and quietly while you listen. And you say, ‘Excuse me’ when you burp. Don’t you know that, Kennedy?”
“Excuse me,” DJ said pushing away from the table. “I hear the school bus. Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad.”
“Wait for me,” his siblings said as Rosalind stood up, fuming.
Leaning back in her chair, Rosalind threw her hands up in the air as she watched the four children hurry out the door.
“Have a good day,” Dwight shouted after them.
“They did not even have the decency to close the door behind them,” Rosalind said as the screen door slammed shut.
“I did not even get to pray with them,” Dwight said.
Rosalind let out a long sigh.
“What now?” Dwight asked looking up at her.
“This is going to be harder than I thought,” she said.
“Kennedy may be right. Or was it DJ when he said we should have been doing this all along?” Dwight admitted.
“They are just being rebellious children,” Rosalind said. “I’ll get them up earlier tomorrow.”
“And have them falling asleep while I’m reading?” Dwight asked. “On top of that, think back to how crappy your attitude, spirit, and behavior is when you don’t get your sleep.”
“Dwight, we’re talking about the children, not me.”
“No. We’re talking about all of us as in ‘family.’ Family devotions,” Dwight said.
“I’ll just make sure they go to bed earlier,” Rosalind said.
“Are you forgetting you’ll be at your job when it’s time for them to go to bed?” Dwight reminded her.
“Then I expect you to make sure they get in the bed at least half an hour earlier,” Rosalind said cocking her head to the side.
“No telling what they will find to do under the cover of darkness,” Dwight chuckled. “I remember taking a flashlight with me under the covers many nights thinking I was fooling my parents. But one good thing did come out of our first day of devotions.”
“What’s that?” Rosalind asked.
“It gave me the verse to preach from on Sunday. ‘Beloved, let us love one another.’ Is that alright?”
“Humph!” Rosalind said as she stood to clear the table of the dirty dishes.
“Hold on. Don’t move so fast. The priest of the home has to eat also. It would be nice if you’d toast me some bread with butter and a couple of sausage patties to go with my cereal and a tall glass of orange juice. I’m a big man. I can’t survive on just cereal.”
Rosalind rolled her eyes, but got up to cook the food.
When DJ came in from football practice that evening his siblings had already eaten and were in their rooms. Dwight had fallen asleep in front of the television after eating some Lorna Doone shortbread cookies.
“Evening, Dad,” DJ said nudging him on the shoulder.
“Hey, DJ. How was practice?”
“Just great, Dad. Are we going to have devotions again in the morning?” DJ asked.
Dwight looked at DJ for a while. “Well, your food’s in the oven.”
“Thanks, Dad.” DJ went into the kitchen and took his plate with chicken, yellow rice, green beans, and rolls out of the oven.
“You’re welcome,” Dwight said. “Eat up and get in the bed early so you’ll be ready for family devotions tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, Dad. Good night.”
When DJ got to his room he reached over to turn his television on and was surprised to see it was not in its place. He went to check with his dad.
“Dad, did you move my television out of my room?” he asked.
“No. Check with Kennedy. He may have borrowed it. He told me his was missing. Let me know what’s going on.”
“No. I do not have your television,” Kennedy said. “Mine’s missing as well. Don’t bother to ask Rachel or Jessica. They claim their dolls and a set of books are missing. Dad checked all over the house and we couldn’t find them. He says there’s no sign of a break-in, but he’ll file a report at the police station tomorrow.”
DJ thought it through. “Did anyone call Mom about it?”
“I know I didn’t,” Kennedy said. “And I don’t think Rachel or Jessica did either.”
DJ walked into the kitchen where he used the phone to call his mother.
“Well, well. It’s a surprise hearing from you. What’s the matter?” Rosalind said.
“My television is missing. So is Kennedy’s. Rachel’s set of books is missing and so are Jessica’s dolls. Do you know what happened to them?” DJ asked.
Rosalind chuckled. “They are in the trunk of my car. I took them with me so you all can go to bed early and be ready for our second day of family devotions in the morning.”
“That figures,” DJ muttered. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll tell the others.”
“You’re more than welcome. Have a great night of sleep, and I’ll see you bright and early in the morning,” Rosalind said.
The following morning the children trudged to the dining table with displeased looks on their faces. About seven minutes into the Bible reading a car horn sounded outside.
“That’s Speedy’s father. I forgot to tell you,” DJ said, getting up quickly from the table. Grabbing an apple from the fruit basket, he picked up his book bag that was on the floor next to his chair. “Coach Floyd is having morning practice as well. Speedy’s father said he would pick me up.”
“What!” Rosalind said. “Why didn’t you tell me this last night when you called?”
“I didn’t think to,” DJ said. Just like you forgot to tell us you took our televisions.
“Wait for me,” Kennedy said. He grabbed his book bag and an apple, and hurried out the door behind his brother.
“That’s not fair!” Rachel said. “If they can’t stay for devotions, I’m not staying.” With that said, she hurried to her room.
“Me, neither,” Jessica said, following her sister.
Dwight and Rosalind looked at each other aghast.
“Anymore of your great ideas?” Dwight said.
Rosalind blew and rolled her eyes.
* * * * *
With football practice every evening and most Saturdays, DJ started to use that as an excuse not to sing in the youth choir because he was not able to make it to choir rehearsals.
“Mom, I can’t sing if I don’t practice. I’ll mess the songs up. Even Coach Floyd says we cannot play effectively if we don’t practice,” DJ told his mother when she brought up the choir issue.
“We’re not talking football here. We’re talking about you missing choir rehearsals and not wanting to sing in the choir as unto the Lord. That is the least you can do for God,” Rosalind said.
“Mom, I can’t sing, and besides, I do not want to sing in the choir. I’ll sing from my cozy spot in the back pew where I can watch the girls swaying their hips from side to side,” DJ said lowering his voice.
“Speak up. I didn’t hear the last thing you said,” Rosalind said.
Kennedy and Rachel chuckled.
“What did he just say?” Rosalind asked.
“Don’t ask me. Ask him,” Kennedy said.
“He said something about girls and their hips,” Rachel blurted out.
“Nobody was talking to you. And since you didn’t hear exactly what I said you just need to be quiet,” DJ said.
“You both need to be quiet before I tell Dad you were arguing,” Jessica said.
“Exactly what did you say?” Rosalind demanded. “And if you don’t tell me, I’ll go talk with Coach Floyd myself today.”
“I said I’d rather sit in the back pew than sing in the choir swaying my hips like a girl,” DJ said.
“That’s not what I heard,” Rachel said.
“Oh, be quiet, Rachel, before Mom stops you from joining the cheer squad,” DJ said.
“Dad wouldn’t let her do that,” Rachel said.
“Oh, he wouldn’t?” Rosalind said. “Why don’t you try me and see. Keep that little attitude of yours and we’ll just see about that.”
Rachel fell silent.
“As I was saying,” Rosalind said turning her attention back to DJ, “if I don’t see you in that choir this coming Sunday, I’ll be talking with Coach Floyd on Monday. Look me in my eyes and see if I’m playing. And I want you at the church this Saturday for choir rehearsal. Football practice does not take all day. You can’t fool me, boy. You’re out there goofing off with your friends. End of discussion.”
“Yes, ma’am,” DJ said.
“What are you going to do?” Kennedy asked his brother when they were out of their mother’s presence.
“I can sing in the choir this one Sunday,” DJ said.
“You know Mom’s not talking about this Sunday only,” Kennedy said.
“I’m going to talk to Dad,” DJ said.
“Good luck on that. You know Mom calls the shots in here.”
That evening, DJ expressed his feelings to his father. “Surely God’s not going to hold it against me if I don’t sing in Mom’s choir,” DJ said.
“Mom’s choir?” Dwight questioned.
“Well, she’s acting as though it’s her choir,” DJ said.
Dwight smiled. “DJ, with your mother, sometimes it’s best to just let her have what she wants.”
“But, Dad, that’s not fair to the rest of us,” DJ said.
“Son, I do it to keep the peace. If your mother isn’t happy nobody else is going to be happy.”
“That’s not real peace, Dad. And wanting your own way is not real happiness. Just because Mom isn’t happy about something does not mean everyone else can’t be happy. She’s holding us hostage,” DJ said.
“Well, it stops the arguing,” Dwight said.
“No, Dad. It stops Mom from arguing, but leaves the rest of us feeling frustrated. That’s not fair to us.”
Dwight knew DJ was right, but he said, “DJ, just go ahead and sing in the choir. It won’t hurt to do so. Will it?”
When Sunday morning arrived, DJ was in the back row of the choir, not singing with all his might and definitely not making a joyful noise.
This is ridiculous. Sitting here with all these people staring at you with fake grins on their faces. I can’t even go to sleep like I want to, DJ thought. He started to slouch in his seat but quickly sat up when he caught his mother eying him with raised eyebrows and a warning look.
Yes, ma’am, I’ll sit up straight and sing to my heart’s content, he thought as he eked out a smile. He shifted his gaze to the young ladies standing in the first two rows of the choir. Sway those hips, Jennifer. You, too, Lenora. What a view! I guess it’s not so bad singing in the choir after all.
The congregants called for an encore.
You can have all the encores you want, DJ thought as he shifted his eyes from one set of hips to the other. Too bad it must come to an end, he thought as his father stood before the microphone to preach.
Because they had a packed house, the choir members remained in the choir loft. DJ occupied his mind observing the folks sitting in the pews.
You folks are riding on emotionalism. This is all chaos and confusion, he thought as one gentleman started to shout before Bishop Jacobs even finished reading the Scripture verses. The gentleman tried to run down the aisle between the folding chairs that had been placed down the middle aisle to accommodate the crowd.
“I’m a runnin’ for my Lord!” the gentleman kept shouting. “I got my runnin’ shoes on cause I’m a runnin’ for my Lord.”
If I were you, I’d be a runnin’ out the door, DJ thought.
One heavy-set woman started to hop in place with her head bobbing up and down shouting out the Name of Jesus. The crowd urged her on. Three women dressed in white suits and white gloves surrounded her with outstretched arms. DJ looked across at his brother who was vigorously striking the drums. The other musicians were playing with all their might.
DJ looked on with amusement as the woman fell out on the floor. The women in white had to call two of the ushers to carry her to one of the classrooms. DJ tried not to smile as they seemed to be struggling with the heavy-set woman. I sure would not want your job, he thought.
Rosalind took the microphone from the Bishop as she was increasingly doing each Sunday to give her ‘word from the Lord.’
Oh, boy, DJ thought as he watched his mother march across the podium, encouraging the congregants to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. This is what prolongs the church service. Talking all that fluff that we can all do without. Why can’t she be quiet and let Dad preach his thirty minute sermon and let us all get out of here?
He breathed a sigh of relief at the last Amen and started to make his way out of the choir box, but was intercepted by Jennifer.
“Hey, DJ. It’s good to have you singing with us again,” Jennifer said.
“It’s good to be back,” DJ said.
“Why are you in such a hurry?”
“I’ve got stuff to do,” DJ said. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” He sidled through the crowd as quickly as he could and joined up with some of his friends outside. They took off for the basketball court. After about an hour of playing, he said good bye to his friends and headed home.
Oh, man! I can’t believe you people are still here, DJ moaned as he walked up the driveway of his house. The front door was wide open and he could hear laughter and talking coming from inside. He tried the side door and the back door. Both were locked. I guess I have no choice but to use the front door.
“Good evening. Good evening,” he said as he made his way to the kitchen hoping there was still some food left for him.
“Hey, DJ,” some church folk greeted him.
“Where have you been?” Rosalind asked entering the kitchen behind him.
“I went to play basketball,” DJ replied opening the refrigerator to get a can of coke.
“I told you you cannot just take off without letting us know where you’re going, and especially when we have guests.”
“I can take care of myself. Where’s the food?”
Rosalind fixed his plate while fussing at him the whole time. “I don’t know what it is with you, boy. You have no respect at all. You still think you can come and go as you please and think you can just walk in and demand food which you did not even help to bring in.”
Mildred Magan walked in with some dirty plates which she set in the sink.
“Hey, DJ. I didn’t know you were here,” she said.
“That’s because he was out playing basketball when he knew I wanted him home, especially since we have guests,” Rosalind said handing DJ his plate. “Now go sit in the dining room. No, you cannot eat in your room. That’s the punishment you get. And don’t say another word.”
DJ looked towards Mildred, but Mildred shrugged her shoulders. He took his plate and pulled up a chair against the wall next to the hallway planning on making his exit as soon as he could. He listened to the others talking.
“I tell you what,” Deacon Saunders was saying, “my arms are still hurting from lifting up Sister Dinah to take her to the back. She must weigh over two hundred and fifty pounds. She was stretched out as stiff as a board. And guess what? I tried to take her purse out of her hands to give it to one of the mothers, but that woman gripped that purse so tight, I began to wonder if she was truly slain.”
She was probably faking it like most of you do, DJ thought.
“Some of these women just want us men to lift them up,” Deacon Mullins said laughing. “I thought my knees were going to buckle under me. No offense, but some of these church members need to push away from the table.”
“Some don’t need to go to the table at all,” Deacon Saunders said as they laughed.
Look who’s talking, DJ thought as he observed Deacon Saunders bulging stomach.
Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, DJ came in from football practice to find his father sitting in his usual spot in front of the television munching on Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Jessica and Rachel were watching TV with him.
“Hi, Dad,” DJ said.
“She’s good. Isn’t she?” Dwight said pointing to the television where Lena Horne was performing. “Hi, DJ. How was practice?”
“Great. Dad, may I please borrow your car?”
“You want to borrow my car?” Dwight said looking around at DJ. “Tell me, when did you learn how to drive?”
“I’ve known how to drive for a few months now,” DJ said proudly.
“Oh, you have? And might I ask when and how you learned to drive?”
“Cousin Ella’s been teaching me after school.”
Dwight looked at DJ askance. “I got to see this,” he said easing up out of his chair. “Go get my keys off the dresser.”
“Dad, can we come too?” Rachel asked.
“No. You two just stay here and finish watching my girl Lena, and tell me how she does. Plus, it might be too dangerous for you,” Dwight said smiling at DJ.
“Why didn’t you ask me to show you how to drive?” Dwight said as DJ handed him his keys.
“I wanted to, but you would have said I was too young,” DJ said.
“Ella should have said the same. Well, what’s done is done. Let’s see if you can handle a car like a man,” Dwight said slapping DJ on the shoulder.
“I’m impressed,” Dwight said ten minutes later as DJ skillfully backed the car into the driveway. “You handled it well. Now the question is: Do you have your license?”
DJ reached into his pocket and proudly pulled out his license.
“Well, I’ll be. You certainly have yourself together,” Dwight said.
“I couldn’t have done it without Cousin Ella’s help,” DJ said.
“You know, teaching you how to drive is something I wanted to do,” Dwight said.
“Dad, I didn’t want you to have to take time away from the church folks. I know they keep you busy.”
“Not so busy I can’t help my children. And don’t you forget that,” Dwight said. “You’re very motivated, son, and I like to see that in a young man. Now where do you plan on going with my car?”
“Oh, I’m just going to drive to the corner store and pick up a six-pack of soda and, of course, get you some more Lorna Doone cookies,” DJ said.
Dwight chuckled. “Yeah, right. Just be back within the hour because it will be getting dark by then. And here’s some money because I know you don’t have any.”
“Thanks, Dad,” DJ said.
* * * * *
“Yes, he handled that car like a real man,” Dwight bragged to Rosalind when she got home later that night. “Aren’t you proud of him?”
“My question is: Why did he have to go to Ella? Why couldn’t he have come to us?” Rosalind said.
“You don’t sound too happy nor do you look happy about it,” Dwight said.
“Just kind of tired, I guess,” Rosalind said. “Good night.”
The following day, the family had their usual chaotic morning with Dwight and the children pulling together their own breakfast.
“Where’s Mom? I thought she’d have something ready since she doesn’t have to go in until later,” Kennedy said.
“She’s sleeping in again. This is the second morning in a row,” Rachel said. “Want me to fry you an egg? I just fried one for Jessica.”
“And it’s good too,” Jessica said biting into her egg sandwich.
“Mom needs to quit her job. People need to eat around here,” Kennedy mumbled. “Where’s Dad?”
“He’s getting ready. We decided to surprise him, so we’re fixing breakfast. Do you want a fried egg sandwich?” Rachel said.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Kennedy said reaching into the cabinet for the box of cereal.
“You can’t have both,” Jessica said.
“Says who?” Kennedy replied.
“You can’t have both of what?” DJ said walking into the kitchen with a book bag slung over his shoulder.
“Cereal and an egg sandwich,” Rachel said. “Want me to fix you an egg sandwich?”
“You must be crazy. I don’t want you cooking anything for me,” DJ said. He grabbed the box of cereal from Kennedy and poured himself a glass of orange juice. “Bye. Tell Dad I’ll be waiting outside for Speedy’s father.”
“Dad’s right here,” Dwight said hurrying into the kitchen. “Don’t you have time for my famous crackling pancakes? It will go well with the fried egg.”
I don’t want that mess, DJ thought. “No, thanks, Dad. Kennedy, are you riding with us this morning?”
“No. I’ll ride the bus ‘cause I want me some breakfast,” Kennedy said biting into his egg sandwich. “This tastes good. You ought to have one, DJ.”
“Enjoy it ‘cause I won’t be doing this everyday,” Rachel said.
“You won’t have to if Mom would do her job,” Kennedy muttered.
“Don’t you worry. In addition to modeling, I’ll be going to cooking school, so I’ll cook you all the tasty food you want,” Jessica said.
“Thank God you’re not following me into cheerleading,” Rachel sighed.
“Children eat up. The bus will be here any minute,” Dwight said.
“Dad, can you take us to school this morning?” Jessica asked. “Please.”
“Sure,” Dwight said. “In that case, take your time and eat then.”
After dropping Kennedy, Rachel, and Jessica off at school, Dwight returned home to find Rosalind sitting around the dining room table sipping coffee and nibbling on buttered toast.
“I was wondering what happened to you,” Rosalind said.
“And I was wondering whose car that is parked in my driveway,” Dwight said.
“Oh, that,” Rosalind said fanning her hand. “Out with the old; in with the new.”
“What?” Dwight said.
Rosalind grinned. “That’s my new car.”
“What?” Dwight said again.
“Are you deaf? I just said that’s my new car parked in the driveway.”
“I heard you the first time. But I was hoping I heard you wrong,” Dwight said. “I don’t recall us discussing you getting a new car. Where’s your old car anyway? And how much did you pay for this one?”
“There you go again worried about how much things cost,” Rosalind said. “It’s not entirely new. It’s about a year old and I didn’t straight out buy it. I traded in my old car for it.”
“Trade. Buy. It’s all the same. What kind of payments are we talking about?”
“Dwight, don’t worry about it. I made a huge down payment along with the cost of trading in the old car, so that has lowered my payments. My job at the Post Office pays me well enough so I’ll be able to handle it. Okay?”
“Rosalind, you are going to land us in the poor house for sure.”
“Dwight, like I said, it’s my car and it’s my money that’s going to pay for it, so don’t you worry about anything,” Rosalind said.
“That’s not the main issue,” Dwight said. “It’s the principle behind it. You can’t just get up and buy a car or anything that big without consulting me and without us both agreeing on it.”
“I think you’re overlooking that it’s my money that’s going to pay for it,” Rosalind said.
“You’re damn right it’s your money that’s going to pay for it,” Dwight said. “And I think you are overlooking something too. You are disrespecting me as head of this house when you go out and do things like that behind my back.”
“Yes, really. Lest you have forgotten, when we were back in Georgia you ran out there renting a building to start a church when you didn’t even have any members, let alone money to make the monthly payments on the building. You twisted Deacon Saunders’ arm to install a baptismal pool when the church didn’t have that in its budget almost running us into debt.”
“It’s serving us well now, isn’t it?” Rosalind said cocking her head to the side.
“You’re constantly out there buying this and buying that when we don’t need this or that. You’ve given the girls this materialistic mindset. They are constantly whining for new things. Frankly, I’m getting sick of it.”
“I’m just about getting sick of you and your no-go-get-it attitude. It’s pitiful. Don’t you have any backbone at all?”
“If I were you,” Dwight said pointing his finger at his wife, “I would stop talking while I’m at it because your mouth’s going to get your behind in trouble.”
Rosalind opened her mouth to respond back but thought better of it.
* * * * *
When the children came in from school that evening, they were eager to find out whose car was parked in the driveway when they were leaving that morning for school.
“It’s your mother’s,” Dwight told them.
“Wow!” Rachel and Jessica said. “I can’t wait to ride in it.”
“You’d better hope she can make the payments on it,” Dwight said.
“Why is that, Dad?” Kennedy asked.
“Because she went and bought it on her own. I knew nothing about it,” Dwight said.
“There’s nothing wrong with getting a new car, Dad,” DJ said.
“No. There’s nothing wrong with getting a new car. It’s how you go about it. Your mother is going to drive us into the poor house if she keeps spending money like that. I don’t want you to become materialistic—always looking for something bigger and better and more expensive. For what? To keep up with everybody else. I want you to learn to be content with what God has blessed you with.”
“That’s all right with me,” DJ said with a grin. “I can’t wait to spin those new wheels.”
DJ stayed awake until his mother came in that night.
“Hi, Mom,” he said stepping into the hallway.
“Hey, DJ. I can’t believe you’re still up. Is something the matter?”
“No. I just wanted to tell you I love your new car.”
“Thank you, DJ. And?”
“Yes. And what else?”
“Did Dad ever tell you I got my license?”
“He sure did. I just wondered why you didn’t ask us to teach you to drive,” Rosalind said.
“Well, you’re busy working. By the time I get in from school, you’re gone to work. And Dad’s busy with the church folks. I didn’t want to be a bother,” DJ said.
“Why would my children be a bother,” Rosalind said more to herself. “Now, was there anything else you wanted to say?”
“What do you mean?” DJ asked.
“Well, now that you have a license and don’t have a car of your own, and now that I have a new car and you’ve waited up until after twelve midnight, which you never did before, you wanted to ask me…”
DJ chuckled. “I would like to borrow your car. Please?”
Rosalind smiled. “Always remember I’m your mother, and you can’t pull the wool over my eyes.”
“Okay, Mom,” DJ said.
Rosalind turned and took a few steps towards her bedroom.
“Well, Mom? The car?” DJ said.
“We’ll see,” she said. “Right now, go ahead on to bed. I’m headed to bed, myself. I am tired to the bones. Good night.”
I’ll be riding around in style now, DJ thought as he closed his bedroom door.
Rosalind was up early the following morning and had a hot breakfast ready by the time the children got up. Dwight was up early as well to eat breakfast with the family even though he felt he needed more sleep as he had been unusually busy the past few days.
“This is good,” Jessica said. “I’m going to be a great cook just like you, Mom.”
“Thank you, Jessica,” Rosalind said.
“This is just what I need to energize me for practice,” DJ said as he shoved a piece of sausage into his mouth.
“Mom, you ought to cook like this every morning,” Kennedy said as he piled a second serving onto his plate.
“Mom, can you take us to school in your new car?” Rachel asked. “I just love it.”
“Sure. But I’m only making one trip. If DJ wants me to drop him off for practice you’ll all have to be ready to go when he goes,” Rosalind said.
“I’ll call Speedy to let him know his dad does not have to pick me up this morning,” DJ said sliding out of his seat.
“Goodbye, children,” Dwight said when they got ready to leave for school. “I’m going back to bed to get some extra sleep.”
“Mom,” Kennedy said after Rosalind backed out of the driveway and they were on their way to the school. “Dad did not seem too pleased about you buying this car.”
“Your dad’s never pleased about anything special that I do for the family,” Rosalind said.
You’re one to talk, DJ thought as he remembered the countless out-of-the-blue family drives his father would take them on and the negative attitude his mother would display.
“He’s always concerned with how much things cost. He’s so frugal. No, not frugal. Cheap,” Rosalind said.
The girls giggled.
“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Kennedy asked. “I know I’m going to get me a job that pays me big money and I’m going to save every penny of it. I won’t be hurting for nothing.”
“That’s even worse than being poor,” DJ said. “Why make money if you’re not going to spend it?”
“I’m going to buy a bunch of fashionable clothes with my money,” Rachel said.
“Me, too,” Jessica said.
“Can’t you think for yourself?” Rachel said to her sister.
“I just did,” Jessica said.
“As I was saying, you kids get good paying jobs so you don’t have to scrimp and watch every penny,” Rosalind said.
“I thought the church paid Dad enough?” DJ said. “I’ve never heard him complain about not having enough money.”
“Yes. It pays him enough. But I want to make my own money so I won’t have to answer to any man,” Rosalind said. “That way I can do with it what I want. And if you girls get married, you get your own job and make your own money and spend it the way you want to spend it, and that way, you won’t have to be tethered to any man.”
“Why did you get married then?” Rachel asked.
That’s what I’m wondering, DJ thought.
“That’s beyond the point,” Rosalind said. “And just in case you’re thinking I can’t do without your father then you’d better think again. I can do very well without him. In fact, you children and I can make it without him.”
Oh, boy. Here we go again, DJ thought.
“Well, here we are. You all have a good day. I won’t be picking you up after school now, so make sure you take the bus home,” Rosalind said.
“Okay, Mom. Thanks. Good bye.”
Dwight looked out the front door for the third time.
“Have any of you seen or heard from DJ?” he asked the rest of the children.
“No, Dad,” the girls said.
“What about you, Kennedy? Wasn’t he on the school bus?” Dwight asked. “He went to early practice this morning so he had to have been on the bus coming home.”
“I don’t remember seeing him,” Kennedy said.
“Where could that boy be at this hour?” Dwight said reaching for his keys that were on the side table. “I’m going to ride through the neighborhood to see if I can find him. You children want to come?”
“We’ll stay here in case he turns up,” Rachel said.
“I’ll ride with you, Dad,” Kennedy said.
Dwight backed out of the driveway and drove slowly up the street heading toward the school.
“Can you remember him saying anything about doing something after school—maybe some after-school event or maybe something with the football team? They didn’t go somewhere to play and he forgot to tell us, did he?” Dwight asked.
“No. Nothing that I know of,” Kennedy said. “I know he’s been talking about getting a job lately. Who knows. He may have gotten one.”
“You may be right. I vaguely recall him saying something about getting a job back when he got his license, but I didn’t take him seriously,” Dwight said.
“Well, you know him. He’ll get up and do things and let you know about it afterwards.”
“Where do you think he may have gotten a job?”
“Beats me. Probably at Burger King or at the donut shop where he likes to hang out everyday before and after school,” Kennedy said.
Dwight drove by the donut shop. DJ was not there. He drove by McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, but he was not at any of those places either.
“I just hope nothing has happened to him,” he said as he pulled up into the grocery store parking lot. “Let me check in here.” As Dwight and Kennedy walked down each aisle greetings of “Good evening, Bishop Jacobs,” “Great preaching on Sunday, Bishop,” “How’s first lady Rosalind doing?” met him.
“Love is what it is all about,” Dwight said to Kennedy. “Loving people is what will make or break your relationship with them.”
After inquiring about DJ’s whereabouts with some of the baggers, Dwight and Kennedy left the store.
“You could try Sonic, Dad,” Kennedy suggested.
He and Kennedy walked into Sonic and were about to ask for the manager when they spied DJ in the back wearing a Sonic cap and shirt. A smile crossed Dwight’s lips as he watched his son. That’s my boy. Working like a man, he thought proudly. After a few minutes he asked one of the workers to let DJ know he was there.
“Hey, Dad,” DJ greeted his father with a grin.
“Son, I know I should be mad with you for not telling me you got a job, but I’ll leave it alone. I’m just glad you’re all right.”
“Sorry, Dad. But I just started today. I put in the application three weeks ago. They hired me yesterday and wanted me to start today,” DJ said.
“You could have called me at the house or at the church,” Dwight said. “That would have prevented needless worrying.”
“Sorry, Dad. I didn’t think to,” DJ said.
“What time are you getting off?”
“At nine-thirty. I’ll be working from four to nine-thirty Monday thru Friday and from four to ten on Saturdays.”
“Well, it’s almost nine-thirty. We’ll just wait for you in the car,” Dwight said as he greeted some of the customers and employees.
“Yes, you should have seen him,” Dwight said to Rosalind when she got in later that night. “He’s carrying himself like a man and taking on responsibilities. Went and learned how to drive. Went and got him his license. Went and got him a job.”
“He did all that behind our backs,” Rosalind said.
“I really want to say ‘Like mother, like son,’ but his is not sinister like yours,” Dwight said. “He’s just independent and likes to get up and go. He has that get-it-done mentality. He likes to see results before he let’s us in on what he’s doing. I’m cool with that as long as it’s nothing bad.”
“He certainly didn’t get that mentality from you,” Rosalind said.
Dwight sighed. “Can’t you be happy for our son? He’s growing up as are all the children. You can’t keep hanging on to them. We have to accept that.”
“Well, he’s still at that age where he needs to let us know what he’s doing,” Rosalind said.
“I tell you the truth. You just can’t be happy about anything you don’t have a say in, can you?” Dwight said.
“I heard you got a job,” Rosalind said to DJ the following morning while they were at the breakfast table. “How are you going to juggle going to school all day, football practice, then putting in five or so hours each day at Sonic, plus church activities?
“I’ll manage,” DJ said.
“If you had told me you were interested in getting a job I could have gotten you one at the Post Office. They are always looking for people to work in the mail room,” Rosalind said.
So you can watch me and control me, DJ thought.
“You could work less hours and the pay’s even better,” Rosalind continued.
“I’ll think about it,” DJ said. “I think I hear the school bus.”
“So you’re big time now,” Speedy said to DJ as they rode the bus to school. “Done gone and got you a job making your own money. What are you going to do next? Get you a car?”
“Yep. That’s my plan,” DJ said. “That way I can come and go as I please and I do not have to wait to borrow somebody else’s car.”
“Do you know how long you’d have to work to save up enough to buy a car,” Speedy said. “My parents are still paying on the two cars they have had for the past two years and both of them are working.”
“Well, you the Bishop’s son. You shouldn’t have to work to get a car. The church should buy you a car or anything else you need,” Slow Poke Pete said.
“That’s right. Don’t Bishop Jacobs make enough money?” Ryan said.
“To live in a big house like that he’d better be getting paid big money from the church,” Speedy said. He then laughed. “I don’t know why you even got a job at Sonic. You ought to be sitting at your father’s feet receiving instruction on how to be a preacher.”
“Over my dead body,” DJ said.
“Over your live body,” Speedy said laughing even more. “You’re going to be a preacher like your father.”
“Says who?” DJ said taking on a more serious tone.
“Says me. I see it in the stars. I read it in the horoscope this morning,” Speedy said waving his hands while chanting: “Fellow students, meet the next bishop of Love and Peace Holiness Church, Bishop Dwight Jacobs Jr., known to his classmates as DJ.”
“Cut that out, Speedy,” DJ said.
“He is the spitting image of his father. He cannot deny it. No one can deny it. And I, Speedy Mitchell, predicts it.”
“Cut it out, man,” DJ said.
“We gonna start calling you ‘Young Bishop Jacobs’,” Slow Poke Pete said
“Young Bishop Jacobs. Young Bishop Jacobs,” Speedy chanted.
Slow Poke Pete and Ryan picked up the chant as did a few others who had overheard their conversation.
“Over my dead body!” DJ shouted. “I’ll tell you what my life job will be: I’ll be driving the bus to hell!”
“Whoa! That’s bad,” Speedy said as the chanting subsided.
DJ settled back in his seat. So how do you like me now, he thought. There is no way I’m going to be identified with Dwight Kensington Jacobs, Bishop of Love and Peace Apostolic Holiness Church.
DJ found favor in the eyes of his manager within a few months. When the manager had to make a quick errand run, he would ask DJ to oversee things at the restaurant. He even allowed DJ to use his car to pick up items from the grocery every now and then or to drive to the other Sonic across town to make sure things were running well.
Dwight came in late one evening to the sound of loud music and laughter coming from DJ’s room. He pushed the door open to see DJ reclining on his bed with his eyes glued to the television which was turned up louder than necessary. Accompanying the noise from the television was a small stereo on which an LP was playing music. He reached over and turned the stereo off, then the television.
“Are you trying to go deaf? And do you know what time it is?” he said.
“Hey, Dad,” DJ said.
“You know I do not want that loud music in here. And certainly not that type of music. How in the world can you watch television and listen to whatever it is you were listening to at the same time?”
“There’s an art to it,” DJ said with a grin.
Dwight shook his head from side to side. “Be considerate of your siblings and the neighbors. I’m sure you are disturbing them. And I’d like some peace and quiet now that I am home.”
“Okay, Dad. I’ll keep it quiet.”
“My generation did not play all this loud unintelligent music when we were your age. The loudest we got was making a joyful noise unto the Lord in church on Sunday mornings,” Dwight said. “That’s why I still have my hearing.”
My generation cannot understand all that loud confusing noise you all make in the church every Sunday, DJ thought of saying. He chuckled instead. “Okay, Dad. I need to be going to bed anyway. Hey, Dad, may I please use your car tomorrow?”
“Don’t you have to work tomorrow after school?”
“Well, I was thinking I could use it to drive myself to work and back. That way you won’t have to get up out of your easy chair and come pick me up. I’m sure you would rather rest after putting in a hard day’s work taking care of the church folks.”
“Cousin Ella let me . . .”
“Finish your statement,” Dwight said.
“Cousin Ella’s been letting me use her car some Saturdays,” DJ said.
“How long were you planning on keeping that a secret?”
“I wasn’t trying to hide it. She kind of made the offer so I accepted it,” DJ said.
“I really don’t like you driving someone else’s car. But we’ll see about you using mine,” Dwight said.
Saturday morning rolled around. DJ returned home from early morning football practice to shower and then to take off for work. Rosalind would be leaving shortly to work at the Post Office.
“Mom, may I please borrow your car to drive myself to work?” DJ asked.
“And how am I supposed to get to work?” Rosalind asked.
“I can drop you off and come pick you up when you get off. I don’t mind doing it,” DJ said.
“I’m sure you don’t. But I mind you using my car. No, DJ, you cannot borrow my car.”
“All I’m going to do is drive it straight to work and back home,” DJ said.
“And just where do you plan on taking my car between the two hours span when you leave Sonic at ten o’clock and you come and pick me up?”
DJ tried not to smile.
“Like I keep telling you, you have to wake up way before daybreak to pull a wool over my eyes,” Rosalind said. “I’m not going to let you drive around doing who-knows-what with your friends in my new car. Ask your father can you use his old clunker.”
“Dad’s sleeping,” Rachel who had been helping Rosalind prepare their dinner meal said.
“I’ll go see for myself,” DJ said. “He won’t mind me waking him up.”
“What did he say?” Rachel asked when DJ returned to the kitchen.
“I didn’t wake him up. He needs his sleep,” DJ said. “Mom, do you think you could . . . you know?”
“We’ll see,” Rosalind said.
“Could you what?” Rachel asked.
“What are you all talking about?” Jessica said walking into the kitchen with pink cheeks and red lipstick on trying to balance herself in her mother’s stilettos.
“Have you been messing with Mom’s make-up again?” Rachel said.
“Don’t I look pretty?” Jessica said striking a pose with her hands on her hips and batting her eyes.
“Didn’t I tell you not to mess with my make-up! Go get my shoes off before you break the heels. Those shoes cost a lot of money,” Rosalind said.
“But, Mom. I want to be like you just for today,” Jessica said. “Please.”
“And I want to tear your behind up just for today if you don’t do as I told you,” Rosalind said.
“Mom, have you forgotten about me?” DJ said.
“No, I haven’t. What time do you have to be in?”
“I need to be leaving now,” DJ said.
“I thought you had to be in at four. It’s just a little after two,” Rachel said.
“You know something, Rachel? You are just too nosy. Take care of your business and I’ll take care of mine,” DJ said. “Have you heard of longer hours?”
“I’ve heard of made-up longer hours,” Rachel said. “Mom, everything is done. I’ll wash the rest of the dishes. May I please go over to my friend’s house?”
“Who will watch Jessica?” Rosalind said.
“Dad’s here. So is Kennedy,” Rachel said.
“Kennedy’s not here. I just came out of his room,” Jessica said walking in with Kennedy’s cap on her head and his drumsticks in her hands.
“Where could that boy have gone without letting me know?” Rosalind said. “And you go put his things back in his room. You already know how he is about you all touching his things without him knowing.”
“Mom, this is why I can’t watch her. She’s always messing with something that’s not hers,” Rachel said. “She’s a handful.”
“I don’t need you to watch me,” Jessica said striking a pose. “I’ll be too busy modeling before the mirror.”
“So can I still go to my friend’s house?” Rachel asked.
“No. I want you to stay here and keep an eye on your sister,” Rosalind said.
“But, Mom, I don’t ever get to go anywhere. I’m always stuck watching her. I wish I did not have a sister,” Rachel said.
“And I wish I did not have a sister named Rachel,” Jessica said sticking her tongue out at her sister.
“Rachel and Jessica, shut it up now!” Rosalind said. “You both go sit on the couch. I have to get out of here or I’m going to be late for work.”
Rosalind tossed the kitchen towel on the counter.
“You always mess up my plans,” Rachel said to her sister.
“That’s what little sisters are supposed to do,” Jessica said.
“Enough!” Rosalind said as she marched off to her room.
“Mom, have you forgotten me?” DJ said.
Rosalind returned with her husband’s car keys and tossed them at DJ.
“Just be careful,” she said.
“Dad didn’t say you could take his car,” Rachel said.
“Mom did. Watch your sister and I may bring you back a Sonic burger,” DJ said as he hurried out the door.
“I’m going to tell,” Rachel shouted after him.
“Me, too,” Jessica yelled.
“Can’t you think for yourself?” Rachel said pushing her sister away. “Get from under my arms. There’s enough space on the couch for you not to touch me.”
Rosalind came hurrying into the living room. “It would really help me if you both stop bickering right before I have to go to work. It slows everything down. I want no arguing while I am gone. And be quiet so your father can rest.”
Rosalind hurried out the front door.
Rachel and Jessica sat quietly for a few minutes.
“I’m hungry,” Jessica said. “Can we eat now?”
“No. That food is for later. You can make yourself a sandwich and, while you’re at it, make me one too,” Rachel said.
“Make it quick so we can go over to Seneca’s house,” Rachel said.
“Mom said you can’t go over there because you have to watch me,” Jessica said.
“We are going over to Seneca’s house. Now, if you still want a sandwich, and if you want to model all evening with some of Mom’s make-up on and maybe one of her dresses and a fancy hairdo, and if you don’t want me to clobber you over the head, then you’ll be quiet about it, meaning, you won’t say a word to Mom,” Rachel said.
“What if Dad wakes up while we are gone?”
“Dad’s cool about things. Plus, he won’t go squeaking to Mom like you will. Now what will it be?”
“I won’t tell,” Jessica said. “I’ll go make the sandwiches.”
“I’ll help you so we can get it done quickly,” Rachel said.
When Dwight awakened, the house was completely silent. He had already met with the deacons for the men’s early morning prayer breakfast and had visited some of the church members, so he welcomed the extra rest. After helping himself to the already prepared dinner he planned to make a few more visits.
That’s strange, he thought as he searched for his keys. I’m certain I left them here in the dresser drawer when I got home earlier. He looked on the side table next to his easy chair, and ran his hand along the side of the cushion in the chair. Maybe I left them in the car, he thought, opening the front door.
“What the heck! Where is my car?” he said. Rosalind’s car wasn’t there either, so he assumed she couldn’t have taken it anywhere.
“Hello. Newhope Post Office. Rosalind Jacobs speaking. How may I help you?”
“Rosalind, did you see my car when you left for work? I went outside and it was gone.”
“Oh, I gave DJ permission to use it to drive himself to work,” Rosalind said.
“You did what?”
“I said I gave–”
“You don’t have to repeat. I heard you the first time. You can’t just up and give my sixteen-year-old son permission to use my car without my knowledge. Why couldn’t you have given him your car?”
“Then how would I get to work?” Rosalind said.
“How am I supposed to get out to the church and do my studying and finish visiting the members?”
“You can study at the house. I’m sure it’s quiet enough. And you already visited some of the members. Just make a quick phone call to those you plan on visiting. I’m sure they’ll understand. You can only do so much,” Rosalind said.
“I tell you the truth. It’s the principle behind the whole thing. You don’t do that,” Dwight said. “You’re teaching the children not only to disrespect me but to also do things behind my back. You could have awakened me and asked,”
“Well, he said something about extended hours, so I guess he had to go in earlier than his regular schedule,” Rosalind said.
“Yeah, right. Next time you let him use your car.”
“We’ll work it out,” Rosalind said. “Maybe it’s time to look into getting another car—you know, one that DJ can use when he needs to. Maybe the church can buy you one. Think about it. Now, is there anything else you want to talk about?”
“No. Just don’t do that again,” Dwight said.
“We’re family. Bye.”
It was after eleven when DJ returned home. Dwight was sitting in his chair in front of the television with his Lorna Doone cookies in his lap. “Where have you been? I expected you over two hours ago,” he said as DJ tried to slip in quietly.
“Well, after I got off, me and my friends went riding around town.”
“And what kind of trouble did you get into?”
“We didn’t get into any trouble, Dad. We just drove around town. You know how you would take us for a Sunday evening drives when we were younger,” DJ said. “Something like that.”
Dwight looked at DJ. “Son, I don’t mind you using my car every now and then. But you cannot use it without my permission.”
“Mom gave me permission. She gave me the keys too. Plus, you were asleep,” DJ said.
“I already told you you can wake me up for anything. You won’t be disturbing me at all.”
“Okay, Dad. Sorry,” DJ said.
“It’s not your fault. I blame your mother. Did you ask her if you could use her car?”
“Yes, but she said no.”
“Oh, she did,” Dwight said thoughtfully while nodding his head. “Well, go and get some sleep. We have a busy Lord’s Day tomorrow.”
As usual, DJ thought. “Good night, Dad.”
“Good night, DJ,” Dwight said extending his hand. “My keys, please.”
Dwight received a phone call around six on Sunday morning.
“Rev. Dorsett! It’s been a while since I heard from you,” Dwight exclaimed. “For you to call me this early, it must be something super important.”
“Not really. I was on my way back from a meeting in Louisiana and will be passing through your neck of the woods. I plan on joining you and your congregation in worship this morning, and was hoping we could fellowship a little while afterwards.”
“You are always welcome to worship with us,” Dwight said. “We look forward to having you, and you could possibly share a word from the Lord with us. Will your wife be with you?”
“No. Not this time. I had to leave her and the children behind on this trip.”
“We’ll be looking forward to seeing you then,” Dwight said.
“Who was that?” Rosalind asked after Dwight hung up the phone.
“You heard the conversation? Acting like you’re sleeping,” Dwight said. “That was Rev. Dorsett. He may stop by and worship with us later this morning.”
“I hope that is all you have to say while he’s here,” Dwight said.
Rosalind sighed. “If you still think there is something going on between us, why did you invite him to worship with us?”
“I did not invite him. He said he was passing through. Plus, I don’t have a problem with Dorsett. We have been long-time friends. My problem is with you as my wife flirting and carrying on with him.”
“It’s your job to protect me from wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rosalind said, throwing the covers off her. “Let me get up before this conversation gets too hot.”
“You do that,” Dwight said.
“Plus, we both need to study so we can rightly divide the Word,” Rosalind said as he opened the door. “The best thing we can do this morning is to get our minds fixed on the Word. Can you do that? I know I can.”
“That’s what I have been telling you to do for years,” Dwight said. “Thank you for finally taking heed to my words.”
The family headed out to the church together: Rosalind and the girls in her car; Dwight and the boys in his car. The services lasted longer than usual as Rev. Dorsett was given the honor of sharing a “word”—a word that lasted too long in DJ’s estimation. Why can’t these preachers ever be brief? DJ thought, slouching in his seat. Even Mom is speaking longer. She must be showing off in front of Rev. Dorsett.
DJ and a few of his friends snuck out the back side door while Rev. Dorsett was speaking. They hung out at the basketball court nearby trying to hear the football game on the radio. When DJ made it home, some of the church folks were there including Rev. Dorsett. Stuffing themselves as usual, he thought.
Remembering the altercation between his mother and father concerning Rev. Dorsett some years back, DJ decided to hang around. Instead of eating in his room, he found a spot against the wall next to the hallway. This way I can quietly leave if I want to. He listened.
“First Lady Rosalind, those were some inspired words you shared with the women. I wish you would come share those same words with the women at my church,” Rev. Dorsett said.
“Oh, thank you, Rev. Dorsett,” Rosalind said sweetly. “I might just take you up on that offer.”
“How’s your wife doing?” Mildred Magan, one of the church members, asked as she cut herself another slice of red velvet cake.
“She’s doing fine. She was not able to travel with me this time, what with taking care of the children and all. But I’ll tell her you asked about her,” Rev. Dorsett said.
“Please do,” Mildred said.
“Would you like a second serving, Rev. Dorsett? There’s plenty more,” Rosalind said with a smile.
“Sure. This is the best fried chicken I’ve had in a long time.” Rev. Dorsett handed Rosalind his plate, his fingers briefly brushing Rosalind’s.
DJ thought glanced at his father. He seemed to be fixed on the plate exchange. Then he glared at Rosalind as she turned from the table.
“I’ll take care of that for you, ” Mildred said, rising from her seat and reaching to take the plate from Rosalind.
“That’s okay. I got it,” Rosalind said walking into the kitchen with the plate. Mildred followed her.
“What kind of meeting did you have to go to in Louisiana?” Dwight asked Rev. Dorsett.
“I’m surprised you did not hear about it,” Rev. Dorsett said.
DJ decided to go get a slice of cake before it disappeared. He stopped just inside the kitchen door as he heard Mildred’s voice. She was talking with his mother in low tones.
“Mrs. Rosalind, you can’t carry yourself like that.”
“Don’t play with me. We all see it. Flirting with Rev. Dorsett and having the audacity to do it in front your husband,” Mildred said.
“Rev. Dorsett is our guest and a long-time family friend,” Rosalind said.
“Maybe too long a family friend, don’t you think?” Mildred said.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Rosalind snapped.
“That means you ought to at least respect your husband enough to not carry yourself like that. You are being too friendly with Rev. Dorsett. If I noticed it, you can rest assured some others have noticed it as well,” Mildred said. “You don’t want your name scandalized, do you? And as you know, there is nothing like a church scandal. If you don’t respect your husband, at least respect his position as bishop and overseer of the church of God.”
“You’re reading too much into things.”
“I just tell it as I see it,” Mildred said. “Look, I’m only bringing this to your attention because I love you and Bishop Jacobs, and I do not want anything to come between you two. If I were you, I would keep my distance from Rev. Dorsett. Now, let me have his plate. I’ll take it to him along with his slice of cake.” She reached for the plate.
Rosalind held on to it as they both stared at each other.
“Mom,” DJ said clearing his throat, “may I please have a slice of cake before it’s all gone?”
Rosalind glanced from Mildred to DJ and back to Mildred. “Sure, DJ,” she said as she reluctantly let Mildred take the plate.
Hoping his mother would take heed to Mildred’s words, DJ went to his room to finish his meal. Nothing much on television, he thought as he flipped through the channels. He had just settled down on his bed when someone knocked on his door.
“Yeah. Who is it?”
“It’s us. Rachel and Jennifer.”
DJ smiled as he sat up.
“Come in,” DJ said. “I didn’t know you were here,” he said to Jennifer after they opened the door. “I saw your mother but I didn’t see you.”
“I was in Rachel and Jessica’s room. That Jessica is something else,” Jennifer said.
“Well, I’ll leave you two alone,” Rachel said closing the door behind her.
“Mind if I sit down?” Jennifer asked.
“No. Not at all.”
Jennifer sat down on the edge of the bed.
“You don’t have to sit on the very edge of the bed. Scoot over before you fall,” DJ said laughing.
Jennifer giggled as she scooted over on the bed. The two looked at each other both feeling a little awkward.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time now, but not only do you make the youth choir sound real good, you make it look real good especially from where I sit.”
Jennifer laughed. “You could have told me that earlier if you weren’t so quick to disappear after church. Where are you in such a hurry to go every Sunday?”
“Home to watch the football game and to get my food before the church folks eat it all up.”
“I hear you,” Jennifer said, laughing. “Are you enjoying your new job at Sonic?”
“It’s all right. I’d enjoy it better if you were cooking beside me. I can put in a good word for you,” DJ said.
“No, thanks,” Jennifer said. “I’m just going to focus on my studies, plus my parents make more than enough money so I don’t have to work.”
“I don’t have to work either. But I guess with me it’s a male thing. You know. I want to make my own way. I want to do for myself and help take care of the family,” DJ said.
“That is so nice,” Jennifer said.
“What’s with you and Marsha? You two are always whispering,” DJ said.
“Oh, just girl talk,” Jennifer said. “Do you mind if I ask you something?”
“Why do you act so cool towards me when we are in school and even at church? It’s almost like I don’t exist,” Jennifer said.
“I don’t know,” DJ said shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t want it to seem like I’m tied to just one girl. You wouldn’t understand.”
“If you say so,” Jennifer said.
“Do you want to come party with me at the club this Saturday? I won’t keep you out too late.”
“That’s why you sleep so much in church when you should be listening to your father preach,” Jennifer said with a laugh.
“Some of the best sleep too,” DJ said.
A knock on the door interrupted their conversation.
“Come in,” DJ said.
Jennifer’s mother stepped into his room. “Hello, Mrs. Pearson,” DJ said.
“Hello to you too, DJ. How are you?” Mrs. Pearson said. “I hardly ever see you anymore.”
“I’m doing fine. I’ve just been busy,” DJ said.
“Good. Keep your mind and body busy and the devil won’t get a foothold in your life. Well, it’s time for us to go, Jennifer. I have to get rested up for work tomorrow. It’s been a long day. Bye, DJ. Stop by the house sometime.”
“I will,” DJ said. “See you in school tomorrow.”
“So how did things go with you and DJ?” Mrs. Pearson asked Jennifer on their drive home.
“Just fine,” Jennifer said. “Why are you so interested in me talking with him?”
“Because he’s from a good family. I don’t have any issues with them at all. Besides, I trust DJ.”
I don’t have any issues either except I don’t want to have any run-ins with any of the girls at school especially Marsha Granderson, Jennifer thought.
* * * * *
It seemed everywhere DJ turned, a girl was trying to get his attention. In between two of his morning classes while he was at the water fountain, a girl walked up behind him.
“Hi, I’m Laverne. I hear you’re not going steady with anyone. I’m not going steady with anyone either. What do you say? Let’s get together.”
DJ, surprised at her boldness, tried to turn around to see who Laverne was, but she was standing so close to him he couldn’t stand up straight without brushing against her.
DJ couldn’t help smiling. “Pleased to meet you, Laverne. Are you new around here?”
“I’ve been around,” Laverne said. “Here. This is for you.”
DJ glanced at the piece of paper she handed him.
“Yeah. I’ll give you a call. Any special time?”
“Any time after nine-thirty,” Laverne said. “Promise?”
“You bet. Got to go. I don’t want to be late for class.”
A couple months after DJ met Laverne in the school hallway, she called him with some news.
“You have got to be kidding me! Are you sure?” DJ asked.
“Yes,” Laverne said nervously. “What am I going to do?”
“What do you mean what are you going to do? You said you wanted to have my baby, so there you go,” DJ said.
“Yeah, well, that’s not what I really meant. My parents are going to kill me. I’m sorry, DJ, but I can’t keep it.”
“What do you mean you can’t keep it?” DJ asked.
“DJ, do you know what my parents are going to think?” Laverne said in desperation.
“It probably won’t be as bad as what my parents are going to think,” DJ said.
“It doesn’t matter what your parents think, DJ. You aren’t the one having a baby.”
“Fine, what are you going to do?” DJ asked.
“No. It’s what are we going to do?” Laverne said. “As soon as I get my next allowance I’m going to the clinic.”
“Let me know how much it will cost and I’ll pay for it,” DJ said.
On the day of Laverne’s scheduled visit to the abortion clinic, DJ waited for her. He pocketed the receipt Laverne handed to him. After leaving the clinic, DJ and Laverne walked into the woods. For some reason, Dr. Julio gave them the aborted fetus in a brown box. The baby was cradled between the folds of a cloth. A lump formed in DJ’s throat as they stared at the dead baby. Laverne turned her head; her lips trembled as she fought to hold back tears. DJ dug a hole and buried the baby next to a large tree. They walked slowly and quietly to the car.
“No one will know if you don’t tell them,” Laverne said, breaking the silence. “I know I won’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t either,” DJ said, resting his hand on the breast pocket of his shirt which held the receipt from the doctor’s office.
“Another thing,” Laverne said. “I think it’s best we don’t see each other any more.”
“Yeah. Me too,” DJ said.
Once he got home, he placed the receipt in a small safe that he kept under his bed and tried to push the event out of this mind.
A month later, DJ came home to find his safe laying open on his bed and its contents spilled out.
What in the world? Who went into my stuff? he wondered. While he was stuffing everything back into the safe, Rosalind pushed his bedroom door open and stormed into the room fanning a piece of paper.
“What the hell is this? Who is Laverne? And how could you do this to that poor girl?”
“What are you doing going through my private stuff?” DJ shouted.
“You don’t have any private stuff in here,” Rosalind said. “Now you explain this to me.” She tossed the receipt on the bed. “And who is Laverne?”
“You don’t know her. She’s some girl at school,” DJ said in a quieter tone.
“Some girl? You refer to her as ‘some girl’ like she’s nothing.”
“Mom, you’re reading into it like you do everything else,” DJ said.
“Do you have any idea what you both did? You killed a baby. An innocent baby. Why didn’t you just come to me about it?”
“I’ll tell you why. Because I’m the bishop’s son and I’m not allowed to get a girl pregnant unless I’m married to her. I’m supposed to be perfect because my father has a reputation to uphold in the community and because my mother, the first lady, has an image to keep. That’s why!” DJ said.
“If this gets out into the community it will ruin your father’s good name and bring shame to the family and to the church. What–”
“And what about bringing shame to your name?” DJ said. “I think you are more concerned about bringing shame to your name than you are about anyone else’s name or even the church’s name.”
Rosalind stared at her son. “What kind of an example are you setting for your siblings? I’m very disappointed in you.” She marched out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
DJ snatched up the receipt, stuffed it back into his safe, then tossed the box on the top shelf in the closet. He sat on his bed with his head resting in his palms. What have I done? His anger at his mother searching his belongings and now having knowledge of what he did numbed his thinking.
The following evening while DJ was in his room with the television turned up loud to block out any stray thoughts, Rosalind knocked on the door, pushed it open, and made her way into the room without waiting to be invited. She dropped a brown bag on his bed. DJ moaned.
“Here. If you’re going to keep doing it, at least protect yourself. I haven’t said anything to anyone including your father. It’s up to you whether or not you want him to know,” she said.
Rosalind left as abruptly as she came in.
DJ opened the bag and shook its contents out on his bed. How interesting, he thought in surprise as condoms fell out of the bag.
The unfortunate situation with Laverne did not stop DJ from running the girls in high school increased. The flame of rebellion against his parents and against anything having to do with the church and church folks increased. Anything that identified him as Bishop Dwight Kensington Jacobs’ son caused the flame of rebellion within him tp burn hotter. His parents could no longer keep a leash on him, much to Rosalind’s chagrin.
“Kennedy, I didn’t see DJ in church today. Do you know where he could be?” Rosalind asked her younger son.
“He’s at Sonic. He’s working on Sundays now,” Kennedy said.
“What? He never said anything to me. Did he say anything to you, Dwight?” Rosalind asked.
“No. When did he tell you?” Dwight asked Kennedy.
“He told me yesterday,” Kennedy said.
Rosalind was waiting in the parking lot at Sonic when DJ finished his shift. She tooted her car horn at him as he and one of his co-workers were walking out of the restaurant.
“Hey, Mom. That was very thoughtful of you to come pick me up but Alan does not mind giving me a ride home. He drives his father’s car to work,” DJ said as he climbed into his mother’s car.
“Don’t ‘Hey, Mom’ me. Just get in and shut the door,” Rosalind said as she turned the key in the ignition. “Why didn’t you let us know you had started working on Sundays? We don’t work on Sundays especially during church hours. That’s putting God on the back shelf.”
“Well somebody has to flip the burgers on Sundays for people to eat,” DJ said smirking.
“Does it look to you like I’m joking?” Rosalind said in a sharp tone. “I want you to tell your boss you cannot work on Sundays because you have to be in church. And you can tell him your mother says so. Or better yet, tell him your father, Bishop Jacobs of Love and Peace, says so.”
“So you want me to lie on Dad?” DJ said.
“Do you really think your father wants you flipping burgers while he is preaching? Of course not. He’d rather have you sitting in the pew listening to him preach and getting the Word of God into your thick head,” Rosalind said.
“Whatever the case, I won’t do that,” DJ said. “I have already made a commitment to my boss to be there every Sunday.”
“What about your commitment to God to be in church every Sunday?”
“I never made any commitment to God to be in church any Sunday,” DJ said.
“Coming from a preacher’s family, the commitment is made for you,” Rosalind said.
“Says who?” DJ muttered.
“Speak up! I didn’t hear you. Boy, are you talking back to me?” Rosalind said.
“You can call it that if you wish. But I am going to keep working on Sundays. I will not be singing in the choir anymore, and I am not going to quit the football team either,” DJ said.
“Oh, yes, you will.”
“Mom, I am not going to argue with you. My mind’s made up, and–”
“And do you know what you need? You need for someone to turn you upside down and give you an old-fashioned butt whipping. Your father won’t do it, so I guess I have to do it. What good is it having a husband and a father around who lets the children run wild and won’t put his foot down?”
DJ tried to suppress a smile as he remembered the last time his mother attempted to give him a whipping. He did not flinch. “Oh, so you’re not going to cry,” Rosalind kept on repeating as she put more force into each swing. DJ remembered the exhausted and frustrated look on his mother’s face after she got done. He heard it now in her voice.
“Mom, please don’t bring Dad into this,” he said.
“Just remember, you’re going to want to use my car,” Rosalind said. “In fact, I was thinking of letting you use it more, but after what you just did, there is no way that I am going to let you have that privilege.”
“We can work it out,” DJ said. “But remember I can use Dad’s car also.”
“No. Not work it out,” Rosalind said. “You have to do this on my terms.”
DJ sighed. “Mom, I say this respectfully, but don’t you like some quietness after a hard day’s work or should I say a hard night’s work? I would like the same.”
“I don’t believe this! I just do not believe this,” Rosalind kept saying the rest of the drive home.
“By the way,” she said as she parked the car in the driveway, “Mrs. Granderson called me. She said something important came up with her daughter, Marsha, that you may know something about. Do you have something you want to tell me? Or is that going to be another one of your surprises?”
DJ straightened his back. “No, ma’am. There’s nothing I want to tell you,” he said as he opened the car door. Walking ahead of his mother, he unlocked the front door and said good night to his father who was sitting in his easy chair listening to Billy Graham. He went into his bedroom and locked the door. Reaching into his closet, he took down his safe, took out the receipt for the abortion, and tore it to shreds. His sleep that night was not restful as the image of the aborted baby kept invading his dreams. He spent most of the night trying to keep the result of his one-night stand with Marsha Granderson and the events leading up to it out of his mind.
“There he is,” Marsha whispered to Jennifer Pearson, flicking her head in DJ’s direction as he and his friends entered the school cafeteria. “I’m surprised to see him in here.”
“Where are you going?” Jennifer asked Marsha as Marsha started to scoot out of her seat.
“I’m going to get my lunch,” Marsha replied.
“You already have a lunch tray,” Jennifer said pointing to Marsha’s tray.
“I know,” Marsha said with a smile while turning her eyes in DJ’s direction.
“No, you wouldn’t,” Jennifer said when she realized what Marsha was up to.
“Oh, yes, I would. I’m determined to find out what makes him tick.”
Jennifer watched as Marsha approached DJ. Her mouth gaped open when she followed DJ to a half-empty table and scooted right next to him on the bench. Marsha gave Jennifer a quick wave of the fingers as their eyes met. DJ threw Jennifer a few quick glances as well. Jennifer lowered her eyes to Marsha’s half-eaten tray of food. I don’t believe this is really happening, she thought. She almost fainted when Marsha left the cafeteria hanging on to DJ’s arm. We go to the same church and he hardly ever says a word to me. Last time we had a conversation of any length was when we went to his house for Sunday dinner a few months ago. She sighed as DJ’s words came back to her mind: “I don’t want it to seem like I’m tied down to just one girl. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Where did you two go?” Jennifer asked Marsha during their next class. “And what did you all talk about?”
“We just walked by the football field. And I found out what makes him so unapproachable,” Marsha said.
“Well, he says he likes to remain a mystery to girls. He does not like to be figured out as that takes the fun out of the relationship,” Marsha said.
Jennifer sighed. “You know, we’ve been going to the same church for some time now and all I know of him is that he’s the bishop’s son.”
“That’s because you’re not curious. He’s going to be a tough one to tame, but I’ll tame him. You watch and see,” Marsha said.
“How do you plan on doing that?” Jennifer asked.
“I have my ways,” Marsha said. “Him being the bishop’s son does not mean a thing to me. In fact, him being the bishop’s son only makes my task more exciting. You don’t know what it would be like to be able to say ‘I did it with the Bishop’s son’.”
“You need to slow down and leave him alone,” Jennifer said quietly. “What if you get pregnant?”
“That’s the plan. I get pregnant with his baby then he’ll feel obligated to stay with me. Plus, you don’t get pregnant the first time.”
“Where did you get that from?” Jennifer said.
* * * * *
On Saturday, DJ took Marsha to the movies.
“Do you know what I really want?” she said snuggling up as close to him as she could.
“What’s that?” DJ said.
“I want to have your baby.”
DJ cleared his throat and pretended to be all into the movie.
“Did you hear what I just said?” Marsha said playfully tugging at one of the buttons on the front of his shirt. “I said I want to have your baby.”
“Is that so? Do you know who I am? I am Bishop Jacobs’ son.” Although DJ hated that title, he used it to his advantage whenever he deemed it necessary.
“All the more reason,” Marsha said giggling.
* * * * *
“I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Champaign, one of Marsha’s classmates, whispered to her a week later when they had stopped by their lockers in-between classes, “but it’s floating around that DJ is having sex with other girls.”
Jennifer who was waiting for Marsha listened.
“That’s a lie. He told me that I was the only girl for him,” Marsha said.
“How naive you are,” Champaign said. “You may be the only girl for him, but you’re not the only girl he’s jumping in bed with. I’m telling you this because I don’t want to see you get hurt. He sees you as just another girl. It’s a game these boys play: to see how many girls they can conquer.”
“How would you know all that?” Marsha asked.
“I overheard my brother and two of his college friends talking. They have that one girl on the side who they respect and who they are serious about; they will never break her virginity. But then they have other girls who they don’t respect and play around with. As my brother said, they get all the free milk they can get. Then you have those boys who have no respect whatsoever for any girl.”
Marsha was at a loss for words. I’m going to show him, she thought.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t give DJ any free milk. Let him pay for it by making a commitment to make you his one and only,” Champaign said. “And if I were you, I’d ask him point blank where I stand. Wouldn’t you, Jennifer? I wouldn’t let him play me like that. He’s going to drop you like a hot potato soon. You watch and see.”
* * * * *
“DJ, you’re a fraud. It has been brought to my attention that you’re only playing me,” Marsha said to DJ later that evening.
“What do you mean ‘playing you’?” DJ asked.
“You can just wipe that stupid look off your face. You know what I mean: making me believe that I’m your one and only girl but seeing other girls on the sly and sleeping with them.”
“People talk,” DJ said with a chuckle.
“Well, are you?”
“Like I said, people talk, and like I told you just name the place and the time. What’s the delay?”
Marsha giggled. “Not much longer.”
“You have five minutes to get in here or you will not be eating breakfast this morning,” Rosalind said as she marched out of her daughters’ bedroom. “That child is getting so disrespectful in her attitude and behavior like I have never seen it before,” she said to her husband as she joined him in the kitchen where he was making coffee. “She is as stubborn as a mule.”
I wonder where she got that stubbornness and rebellion from?, Dwight thought. “What is the problem now?” he said.
“Your daughter insists on wearing a pair of jeans so tight I don’t see how she got into it in the first place. I told her not to come out here until she changed into something more becoming of a girl her age. I don’t even know where she got those pants from.”
I wonder myself, Dwight thought as he reached into the refrigerator for the creamer.
Rosalind stepped inside the dining room. “Rachel and Jessica, you both get in here now, or you’re going to be late for school,” she said.
Both girls hurried to the table as Rosalind set out the bowls and cereal and milk with toast and jelly and fruit.
“Morning, Dad,” they both said.
“Good morning, girls. Did you both have a good night?”
Rachel reached for the cereal as Rosalind walked around to her side of the table and surveyed her outfit.
“Didn’t I just tell you not to wear that ill-fitting thing to school? Where did you get it from anyway?” she said to Rachel.
“You bought it for me about a year ago. Remember? It was too big but you said I would grow into it. Well, I have grown into it,” Rachel said widening her eyes.
“If you ask my opinion–,” Kennedy started to say.
“No one asked your opinion,” Rachel said. “You know nothing about fashion so stay out of this.”
“Rachel, that was before we knew how it would fit you. Not only have you grown taller, but you have put on some weight as well. Whatever the case, go and take it off right now,” Rosalind said.
“I’m not changing it. You bought it for me and we don’t waste money. Plus, if I take time to change I’ll miss the bus which should be here any minute now,” Rachel said.
“You may miss breakfast, but you will not miss the bus. If you do, you’ll be walking to school because I will not be taking you,” Rosalind said.
“Dad!” Rachel cried out.
“Let me see the outfit,” Dwight said.
Rachel stood to her feet. Dwight looked her up and down.
“Your mother’s right. Go and put on something else. Why don’t you put on a skirt or a dress. Those are more lady-like.”
Rachel stomped out of the room tugging her book bag along.
“You don’t need your book bag to change clothes, now do you?” Rosalind said with an air of triumph.
“Leave the child alone,” Dwight said.
When Rachel returned she was wearing her long calico skirt, the one with flowers embroidered along the hem. “I hate this skirt,” she muttered as she took her place at the dining room table.
“That’s more like it,” Rosalind said with a triumphant smile.
“I’ll be the laughingstock at school all day today,” Rachel muttered. “None of the girls in my class, or in the whole school, dress like this—ever.”
“Rachel, it’s not how you dress, it’s what’s in your heart,” Dwight said.
“You look pretty to me,” Jessica said.
“If you ask my opinion–,” Kennedy started to say.
“Oh, be quiet! No one asked your opinion,” Rachel snapped.
“Can we all get along in here,” Dwight said. “You girls eat up. The bus will be here shortly.”
Rachel sat up straight on the edge of her chair with a tight grasp on her book bag that was resting on her lap as she hurriedly ate her cereal refusing to make eye contact with her mother who eyed her suspiciously.
“Let’s go,” Kennedy said turning the bowl to his mouth and gulping down the rest of his milk. “I hear the school bus.”
“Bye, children. Have a great day,” Dwight said.
“Bye,” Rosalind said as she watched them hurrying out the door.
“Where did we go wrong? Where are we going wrong?” Rosalind said leaning back in her chair.
“What do you mean?” Dwight asked.
“Can’t you see what is happening? We’re losing the children. At least I feel like I’m losing the children.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t feel like I’m losing my children,” Dwight said.
“You have no insight at all, do you? DJ is his own man; he’s coming and going as he pleases. He does things we don’t know of until after it’s conceived.” A shiver shot through Rosalind as she thought of the abortion receipt. “We don’t even know what Kennedy’s up to; he spends over half his time in his room. We never taught him to be a loner. When he does talk it’s about making money. Rachel’s attitude is beyond nasty; she’s increasingly talking back. Jessica has a mind of her own; she’s a thirty-year-old in an eleven-year-old body.”
“Well, what do you expect? That’s a bit of you in all of them,” Dwight said.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Rosalind said widening her eyes. “I just hope you’re not blaming me for the way they are turning out because if you are you’d better think twice about it.”
“Well, you come and go as you please, and half the time we don’t know what you’re up to until you spring a surprise on us. You’re always talking about making more money or wishing you had more money. Your attitude stinks to high heaven most of the time. And guess what? You talk back too. Need I say more?”
“Maybe if you had taken charge and led the family as you should have from the start they wouldn’t be turning out this way,” Rosalind retorted.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this from you of all people,” Dwight said.
“Well, it’s the truth.”
“The truth of the matter is, if you had just fallen into your submissive role as a wife and not bow up to everything I say and do, the children would not be turning out this way. Every time I try to do something good with and for them you go against it. You take up for them when I try to correct them. You have always had a strong spirit of resistance to my leadership in this house. If you cannot control things you do not want it to happen.”
“That’s not true!” Rosalind said.
“That is true. Just think back to when I told you one Sunday I would be preaching on the home. The first thing that came out of your mouth was ‘don’t mention the words submissive or be in subjection to your husband’ as the women are not going to like that. No, you are the one who does not like those words. And you have cast that spirit of rebellion, that unsubmissive spirit, upon the women of the church. Before you protest, remember how you tried to lead the women in rebellion against Apostle Dunbar’s leadership. You still have that mindset. You have not changed,” Dwight said. “It’s nothing but a Jezebel spirit, and it has fallen down upon the children.”
“How dare you point that finger at me!” Rosalind said. “Is this the game you want to play? Cause I can play it better than you can.”
“This is no game. We’re talking about the children’s lives. Their future. They are not going to act right if they don’t see right living before their eyes coming from us first.”
Rosalind sprang up from her chair and started stacking the dirty bowls and plates. “I refuse to let you blame me for them going astray. You’re supposed to be the head. Aren’t you?”
Dwight shook his head as he watched his wife march into the kitchen with the stack of dirty bowls and plates.
Rachel, Kennedy, and Jessica hurried out the door to the school bus stop two houses down from their house. They greeted the others who were waiting for the bus.
“Hey, Rachel. Why are you wearing that long skirt? I thought our group agreed to start a new fad—tight jeans and clinging shirt,” her friend Seneca Jordan said. “You’re going to be the odd ball out today. How do I look?” Seneca placed her hands akimbo and turned as a model would.
“Girl, you look great,” Rachel said with a despondent look. “I’ll tell you all about it once we get on the bus.”
“That’s because Mom wouldn’t let her,” Jessica piped in.
“No one asked you anything,” Rachel said. “When you get on the bus, go and sit with your friends.”
“I don’t want to sit with you anyway,” Jessica said.
“I’ll tell you all about it once we get on the bus,” Rachel repeated turning her attention to Seneca.
As soon as the school bus dropped them off at school, Rachel and Seneca headed for the girls’ restroom. When Rachel came out of the stall she was dressed in her new Levi Strauss jeans.
“Ooh, girl! You look fine. Turn, turn, turn so I can get a good look,” Seneca said.
“Do you like it?” Rachel asked.
“Like it? I love it. Where did you buy it? I’m going to get me a pair,” Seneca said. “Girl, you’re going to be the envy of all the girls in the class. They are going to be looking at you with a Wow! expression, but especially . . .”
“Michael!” they both said together with giggles.
Rachel received numerous compliments throughout the day. “And guess what?” she said to Seneca while they were having lunch in the cafeteria. “Michael’s been eyeing me all morning.”
“As he’s eyeing you right now. He’s over there to your left at the middle of the third table,” Seneca said. Rachel turned her head to glance in the direction Seneca had indicated. “Don’t make it seem so obvious. You don’t want him to think you are desperate.”
Yes! Rachel thought as hers and Michael’s eyes met.
After a week of deceiving her parents, Rachel decided to stop. She wore her outfit home that day.
“That’s not what you had on this morning, and I thought Mom and Dad told you not to ever wear that,” Jessica said as they got off the school bus.
“Yeah. Well. She bought it, so I’m going to wear it. Plus we don’t waste money,” Rachel said. “And if you say one word about it, I’m going to put a hurting on you that you will never forget.”
“Dad’s not going to let you hurt me.”
“I’ll hurt you before Dad even knows about it. Okay, pip-squeak?”
“Okay. I won’t tell,” Jessica said.
Two days later, Rachel put the pants on as she got ready for school. She refused to take them off when Rosalind commanded her to take them off. Rosalind turned to Dwight for help.
“Don’t look at me, man of the house. Just remember the conversation we had the first time you told her to take it off, you know, after they had left for school. Well, the chickens have come home to roost,” Dwight said.
* * * * *
“Here, Mom,” DJ said handing his mother some money.
“What is this for?” Rosalind asked.
“Oh, it’s some of the money from my check. I just wanted to contribute to the household expenses.”
“That’s thoughtful of you,” Rosalind said with a smile. “Now what else do you want?”
“Can’t I do a good deed without you thinking I want something?” DJ said.
“Of course you can. I appreciate it, DJ,” Rosalind said placing the money in her pocket.
“By the way,” DJ said as he turned to leave, “may I please borrow your car on Saturday? I want to take Jennifer to the movies and maybe some place to eat. We want to see the movie Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.”
“We’ll see,” Rosalind said with an ‘I-knew-it’ smile. “Seems like you’ve been talking with her more and more. I’m pleased with that. She’s from a good family. They have been a blessing to the church. I like her. Wouldn’t it be nice if you two were to get married.” Rosalind said this last statement more to herself but loud enough for DJ to hear.
“She’s of a different cut,” DJ said ignoring his mother’s last statement. “Anyway, I have to take off for work among other things,” DJ said.
“Say, DJ, I saw this picture frame hanging off the wall in the center of the living room with the pictures of about six girls including Jennifer. Do you know anything about it?” Rosalind asked.
DJ chuckled. “Those are all my girls.”
“I hear you,” Rosalind said.
“Bye, Dad,” DJ said to Dwight as he passed through the living room heading out the door. “Thanks for letting me use your car tonight.”
“You’re quite welcome. Don’t go speeding down the road, and please stop turning that music up so loud. You’re going to burst your eardrums,” Dwight said.
“Okay, Dad,” DJ said.
Before DJ backed out of the driveway, he had the music blasting from the radio.
“I’m in the house and the music is hurting my ears,” Dwight said plugging his ears with his fingers. “How many times do we have to tell them something before they listen?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Rosalind said.
It was going on two o’clock Sunday morning when DJ came in from taking Jennifer out on a date. Rosalind was curled up on the couch waiting for him.
“Mom, what are you doing up? Is everything alright?” DJ asked in surprise.
“Yes and no,” Rosalind said grimly. “Have a seat.”
DJ sat in the chair next to the couch facing his mother.
“DJ, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“About Marsha Granderson. It took her mother calling me after eleven o’clock and leaving a message insisting that I return her call, no matter how late the hour, to tell me her daughter was two months pregnant and that you are the father. Now, don’t deny it because they have no reason to lie. From what Mrs. Granderson told me, Marsha has been having morning sickness for the past month. She tried to hide it, but you can only hide such things for so long. Anyway, Marsha finally told her the truth. Are you going to tell me you knew nothing about it?”
“Mom, I didn’t know. Honest. I –”
“Well, now you know. If you keep doing what you’re doing then what do you expect the outcome to be?” Rosalind said. “So what are you going to do about this child? Abort it, too?”
A cold shiver ran up DJ’s spine causing him to flinch. He looked away.
“How many girls out there are possibly carrying your child?” Rosalind asked. “Look at me, boy. Well? You can’t answer that, can you?”
DJ remained silent.
“Whether you like it or not, you and your siblings have a reputation to uphold in this community because of your father’s position as Bishop of Love and Peace Apostolic Church. You can’t go around impregnating girls. You can’t bring that kind of shame upon our family name.”
Were you thinking about that when you tossed the bag with the condoms on my bed or when you were fooling around with Rev. Dorsett? DJ wanted to voice his thoughts, but he remained silent.
“I’m waiting for an answer,” Rosalind said. “I can’t even get mad even if I tried.”
“I’ll have to talk with Marsha and see what’s going on because she never said anything to me about this,” DJ finally said.
“Please do, and whatever you decide to do, just remember two wrongs never make a right,” Rosalind said.
DJ went to his room without answering.
* * * * *
“Well, have you spoken with Marsha about this?” Rosalind asked DJ a couple days later in Dwight’s presence.
“And?” Rosalind said.
“She’s going to keep the baby,” DJ said.
“How did you let that happen? I couldn’t believe it when your mother told me. I thought you were more responsible than that,” Dwight said. DJ heard the pain and disappointment in his father’s voice. “Well, what’s done is done. It’s one of those things in life we just have to accept and go on with life as best we can.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” DJ said.
“Show me how sorry you truly are by doing the responsible and mature thing and taking care of the baby and not leave it all on Marsha. You say you want to be a man? That’s what real men do,” Dwight said.
“Okay, Dad,” DJ said. “I’ll be a real man.”
* * * * *
“I blame myself for this happening,” Dwight shared with Rosalind later that night.
“What do you mean?”
“If I had been firmer with him, if I had put the switch to his behind more often, rather than talk, if I had kept up with his whereabouts then I believe this would not have happened. If I had put the fear of God in him,” Dwight said.
“You can’t blame yourself for any of these children’s misdeeds,” Rosalind said lamely as she remembered tossing the condoms on DJ’s bed. To date, she had not said anything to Dwight about the abortion and had no intentions on doing so. “As they grow older they have to begin taking responsibility for their actions. It’s not on us anymore . . . especially when they refuse to listen to you.”
Dwight sighed. “I don’t think you are really hearing what I am saying.”
Rosalind remained quiet as they both settled down for the night. They enveloped themselves with their own thoughts—thoughts that robbed them of a peaceful night of sleep.
DJ was hit with a surprising revelation later that week that left him wondering about the dynamics of his family, but which also spurred him on in his promiscuous lifestyle.
As DJ jogged off the football field with his teammates after one early morning practice one of the students who was watching them practice called out to him. DJ almost did not respond as the student addressed him by his formal name, Dwight, which he reserved for the classroom.
“Hey, Dwight! Got a minute?” the student shouted at him. “Dwight! DJ! Do you have a minute?”
“Hey! Do I know you?” DJ said as he stopped to acknowledge the student who was about his age.
“You may,” the fellow said. “By the way, my name’s Dwight also, and . . . well . . . I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’m your brother.”
“My brother? Man, get outta here,” DJ said. “This has got to be some joke. Right?”
“No. I’m serious. I’m your brother. Your father Bishop Jacobs is my father. My mother said she met him in New York when she used to live up there. She moved here to Fairhope and was surprised when you all moved here some years after she did. She didn’t tell me anything until about a year ago and asked me not to say anything as she did not want to tarnish Bishop Jacobs’ good name.”
A likely story, DJ thought. “Well, why are you telling me then?”
Young Dwight shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I guess I’m curious about meeting my brothers and sisters.”
“Well, as far as I know, I only have one brother and his name is Kennedy. And by the way, if our paths ever cross again, call me DJ—not Dwight. Okay, Dwight? Or whatever your name is,” DJ said jogging towards the locker room.
“You can ask your father,” young Dwight called after him. “I have nothing to gain by lying and my mother is not a liar. I couldn’t even make up anything like that if I tried.”
“What do you think about that?” DJ asked Kennedy later that evening in the privacy of his room after sharing with him the exchange between him and this new brother of theirs.
“I don’t think there’s any truth to it. Dad’s just not that kind of person,” Kennedy said. “Why would he not say anything to us about it?”
“Well, it supposedly happened up in New York. I don’t think Dad even knows they are down here or if he even knows he has a son, that is, if there is any truth to it.”
“Yeah,” Kennedy said thoughtfully.
“I don’t recall seeing this Dwight person coming to the church,” DJ said. “Not that I pay any attention to who comes to the church.”
“If there’s any truth to it, it’s probably best they stay away from Love and Peace,” Kennedy said. “Do you think we should ask Dad?”
“Nah. Dad does not need to be bothered with anything like that. He probably does not even know he has a son out there. And we definitely don’t need for Mom to hear of anything like that. You’d see the tiger coming out of her for sure,” DJ said.
They both laughed.
“On a serious note, though, keep it quiet,” DJ said.
“I will. What’s this about you and Marsha? Word is getting around. Does Mom and Dad know anything about it? Kennedy asked.
“Yeah, man. It’s all true. Mom and Dad already know about it. We did it one time, and she fooled around and got pregnant.”
Kennedy chuckled. “She fooled around? How about we fooled around?”
“You know what I mean,” DJ said. “At least I got a job to help feed her some money. I’m going to be working full-time at the restaurant during the summer and throughout this my last year in school. I also got hired to help out at the fair the two weeks it’s going to be here in July. Thank God she’s not pressuring me about any money or anything else.”
“I’m going to be getting me a little something at the grocery store. Dad put in a good word for me and the manager decided to take me on part-time because I still have a few months to go before I reach the legal working age. I begin the first week school is out,” Kennedy said. “I’ll be saving up every penny to get me out of here fast. If the church is paying Dad a good salary, and Mom is getting paid well from the Post Office I still don’t see why she’s complaining about not having enough money.”
“That’s because she spends every dime she gets trying to live above her means,” DJ said.
“And Dad’s always buying cheap no-brand name soda, no-brand name food. The only brand name stuff he buys is his Lorna Doone cookies,” Kennedy said with a chuckle.
DJ laughed. “Where have you been going on Saturdays all day? Nobody knows where you are,” DJ said.
“I have been pursuing my new interest—politics,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been reading up on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the King days, Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition, this new Black Power Movement started by Malcolm X, the NAACP, and all of that. There’s a lot more going on with this black / white issue than the white folks want us to know. Just because black folks got freed from slavery and they signed desegregation into law, that does not mean it is happening across the country. Racism is still thick here in the South. People are just more subtle with it.”
“It’s going to take a long time to do away with—if it ever goes away because it’s a heart thing. Putting a law into effect does not mean it will affect the people enough to bring about a change in their hearts,” DJ said.
“Tell me about it. I went into Joey’s convenience store to buy a six-pack of coke. I walked up to the register with money in hand ready to pay. This white man walked up behind me and he was willing to wait. That white cashier looked over my head and attended to the white man even though I was there first. I said, ‘I was here first.’ The lady ignored me. The man said, ‘I’m sorry. I thought you were waiting on something. I’m sorry.’ Then the lady acting as though she was straightening up the cigarette cartons said, ‘If you’re going to pay for that just lay the money on the counter.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not paying for anything.’ I pocketed my money, left the six-pack on the counter, and walked out. She thought because I’m young I wouldn’t notice what she was doing.”
“You got to still watch folks. But at the same time, you make sure that you respond right so as not to give them cause to point a finger at you,” DJ said.
“Yeah, I know,” Kennedy said.
“If you girls want to go shopping with me you need to get dressed quickly. This is my only Saturday off from work for a while. We can make it an all-day thing,” Rosalind said as she checked in on the girls after having a late breakfast.
“Dwight, I’m running low on cash. Do you have some money you can loan me until next week?” Rosalind asked her husband.
“What happened to all that money you’re supposed to be making at the Post Office?” Dwight said not looking up from the newspaper he was reading.
“I had to pay on my car and on the new furniture, and –”
“Furniture I didn’t authorize you to buy,” Dwight said.
“Well, we needed it,” Rosalind said. “We can’t be entertaining people almost every week and have them sitting on shabby furniture, especially as fat as some of your church members are, now can we?”
“They’re your brothers and sisters in the faith,” Dwight said. “Plus, we’re getting on up there ourselves by eating too much potato salad.”
“Speak for yourself because you need to stop eating all those Lorna Doone cookies,” Rosalind retorted. “Are you going to loan me the money or not?”
“Now didn’t you all go shopping last week, and if I recall correctly you all came back with a few bags. What else do you all need?”
“We didn’t get everything. We still need a few accessories to complement our outfits for tomorrow. As the Bishop, you should want to see your wife and children dress to the ‘T’; it makes you look good. We have to be the example-setters for the rest of the women. Mother has always taught me to look my best whenever I go into the house of God and I’m teaching my girls to do the same.”
“You’re teaching them to be materialistic. Anyway, tomorrow you’re going to have to look your best with what you already have because I don’t have any money to give you,” Dwight said.
“Mom, we’re ready,” Rachel and Jessica said as they entered the living room.
“Come on. Let’s go. Your father is acting miserly again. If anything, we can window shop,” Rosalind said.
“That’s the craziest thing I have ever heard,” Dwight said. “Window shop. You girls don’t let your mother spend what we don’t have. Bye now.”
“I thought you didn’t have any cash on you,” Dwight said to Rosalind as he surveyed the bags she and the girls brought in when they returned later that evening. “And what took you all so long?”
“I keep telling you where there’s a will there’s a way.” Rosalind flashed her new Visa card before his eyes. “It came in the mail this past week so I decided to try it out. It worked like a charm. Didn’t it, girls?”
“Yeah, where there’s a bill there’s a way to the poor house. I cannot believe this! How much did you spend? And how do you plan on paying for it?” Dwight asked.
“If you had given me the money I asked you for I would not have had to use it, so don’t you worry about it. You girls go and put your things up,” Rosalind said.
“You are just like the devil ? sneaky. I’d advise you to send that card back right away. Tear it up. Get rid of it. That’s for people who have self-control when it comes to money and you don’t. Not only that, that’s for people who have plenty of money in the bank and you don’t have that either.”
“I do, and I won’t be sending it back,” Rosalind said kicking her shoes off and wriggling her toes. “My feet are killing me. I’m sure you won’t mind my excusing myself to go get a long, hot soak in the tub. Don’t wait up for me.”
* * * * *
The summer that hallmarked the beginning of DJ’s last year in high school also marked the beginning of a turning point in the Jacobs’ family. Love and Peace Apostolic Church was holding a steady three hundred in attendance each Sunday. Dwight, still dubbed the ‘Love Pastor’ by those in the community, was being called upon more and more to address community issues. Rosalind proudly placed her self-given title ‘co-pastor’ before her name on the marquee. She preached even longer than Dwight most Sundays and had carved out one of the smaller classrooms as her office. Mother Randall, although aging gracefully, still had her singing voice and often accompanied Dwight in blessing the church through song.
DJ, still not wanting to be identified as the son of one preacher and now the son of two preachers, became more defiant and promiscuous in his behavior and in his attitude. Deep down this was his subtle cry for help for someone to point him in the right direction; it was his cry for meaning and purpose in his confused life. As much as he hated anything affiliated with the church, one of his late night television viewing included Jim and Tammy-Faye Baker of the 700 Club. Part of his LP record collection included Gospel singer Aretha Franklin. Lord, show me the light was his often silent prayer.
Kennedy seemed to carry more and more an angry disposition especially now that he was being enlightened further about the black / white issues still prevalent across the nation. He was now a regular listener to the news and picked up any reading material dealing with the political movement in the nation that he could get his hands on.
“Dad,” Kennedy said in conversing with his father one day, “the Declaration says ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I don’t doubt that, because God created all men equal. But we should also be equal legally and politically and that is what I am going to help fight for. I want true equality—an equality that is lived out everyday for myself and my generation and for future generations.”
Dwight chuckled. “You sound like a real politician. But remember two things: one, politics should be clean, but it’s very dirty. No matter how clean you try to make it, some dirt is going to rub off on you. The question is: are you going to keep the dirt on you, or are you going to wash it off? Two, there’s a price to pay for any cause you deem worth pursuing. Are you willing to pay that price? Think on those things.”
“I will, Dad,” Kennedy said.
Rachel was growing into a beautiful young lady. She was now part of the cheerleading team—the Champion Cheerleaders. Even though she had a summer job at the department store much of her free time was spent at cheerleading practice, going to the movies, meeting up with her friends, and singing in the young adult choir. More boys in her class and outside of her class were vying for her attention.
“I tell you, I can have any of those boys in my class,” Rachel boasted to Seneca during one of their girl talks by their lockers.
“Yeah. Just don’t leave Michael in the cold. If you ask me, he’s the one for you. You’d better latch on to him real fast because you only have two more years to go off to college,” Seneca said. “Plus, I noticed Julie eyeing him quite a bit lately.”
“She eyes all the boys. And she doesn’t even do it discreetly. I mean she just hangs herself out there. And on top of that, she’s not even that good looking,” Rachel said.
“Don’t look now. But Michael’s coming our way. Go say hello to him. Walk with him to –”
“Hello, Rachel. Hello, Seneca. Are you two ready for the math test?” Michael asked stopping by their lockers.
“Yes, we are. Rachel was just explaining something to me from the textbook,” Seneca said as she fumbled trying to open the math textbook.
“Really? Maybe you can show me how to do this one problem. I can’t seem to understand it,” Michael said.
“Go ahead. We were just finishing up. I’ll meet up with you in the classroom,” Seneca said walking away.
Jessica was now a member of the drama club. She had a great singing voice.
“I told you this child was going to be a great actor,” Dwight said one evening to no one in particular after he had chastised her for lying to him.
“Stop all that hollering and screaming,” Dwight said to her. “The whole town can hear you. Look at that. All that hollering and not one tear. You’re something else. You’re going to be an actor for real.”
“Jessica, shut all that noise up,” Rachel said after Dwight left their bedroom. “You’re only faking, plus you’re giving me a headache.”
Jessica immediately fell silent and smiled to herself. She picked up her doll and climbed on her bed. “Am I really going to be a great actor? That’s what Dad said.”
Rachel giggled. “You faker. Yes, you’re going to be the greatest actress of all time. Why don’t you do your imitation of Lena Horne.”
DJ needed to borrow someone’s car one night for a hot date.
“No, you cannot use my car tonight. You don’t have to go out every night,” Dwight said to DJ.
“You can use my car,” Rosalind piped in.
“Thanks, Mom,” DJ said.
“Rosalind, didn’t you hear me just tell him he does not have to go out every night? I do not want him going out tonight,” Dwight said.
“Aw, let him go out and have some fun,” Rosalind said. “He needs to use my car anyway so he can take Jennifer out in style. We need to look into getting him his own car soon anyway as I mentioned to you earlier. He’s going to need one after he graduates.”
“And just how do you plan on getting to work?” Dwight said to Rosalind.
“DJ can drop me off unless you want the honor of doing so,” Rosalind said.
“Obviously you two are not going to listen to me, so let him drop you off and pick you up,” Dwight said.
DJ dropped his mother off at the Post Office and returned home to take a shower. He had great plans for that evening.
“DJ, I don’t understand why you are always going out. Aren’t you tired of running the streets?” Dwight asked him.
“Dad, I don’t run the streets. I’m at work most of the time,” DJ said.
“Until two or three in the mornings? And why are you leaving so early? I thought you didn’t have to work tonight. I want you to stay home tonight,” Dwight said to DJ’s chagrin. “It’s getting more and more dangerous being out late at nights.”
“I can’t promise you that I’ll stay home. I had some plans and I’m going to keep them. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and shower,” DJ said.
Dwight was taken aback at DJ’s abrupt response to his request.
DJ took a long time in the shower. He returned to his room to get fully dressed. He checked to make sure his father had not picked up the car keys from off the chest of drawers where he had laid them. He pocketed the keys.
“Tonight’s the night, oh, yeah,” he sang as he made his way back to the bathroom to comb his Afro and spray on some Afro-Sheen. “Jennifer, here I come,” he said to himself.
“DJ, get out of that bathroom now! You’ve been in there long enough,” Dwight said vigorously shaking the door knob while turning it back and forth.
Oh, man. Why is he bothering me? DJ thought. “I’m not done yet. You just have to wait.”
“What? Boy, you don’t talk to me like that. Now, I’m used to your mother defying me, but not you. Open this door now before I break it down.”
Believing his father was just saying empty words, DJ replied back. It seemed something overcame him and he kept on talking. “Go ahead and tear it down. You’re the one who will have to fix it.”
“What did you just say, boy?” Dwight said.
“I said go ahead and tear it down.” DJ felt he was safe behind the locked door.
“Because of your smart mouth, you just give me the keys to your mother’s car now,” Dwight said. “You will not be going anywhere.”
“Mom gave it to me. She’s expecting me to give it back to her so I can’t give it to you,” DJ said.
I can’t believe I am hearing this from this boy, Dwight thought as anger rose up within him.
“We would not be having this talk if you had just let me use your car,” DJ continued in a barely audible voice.
DJ picked out his hair with the Afro pick and was lightly patting it down with the palms of his hands while singing Tonight’s the night. Oh, yeah, when the bathroom door flew open and his father stormed in. “Oh, no!” DJ hollered as he swung around putting his hands in front of his face to protect himself.
“Don’t you ever talk back to me! Ever! Do you hear me?” Dwight said as he shook DJ.
“Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir!” DJ said quickly and with utmost respect. Although he held a steady terrified stare at his father’s eyes, his peripheral vision focus was on his father’s hands. The thought of his father putting all of his three hundred pounds into his arm to slap his cheeks for his rudeness and disrespect sent shivers down DJ’s spine.
“Don’t you ever talk back to me, boy. After all I have done for you. Here I am looking out for your safety and you think you are big and bad and want to talk back to me.”
“No, sir. It won’t happen again,” DJ said with some relief as he noticed his father’s hand was already occupied. He had the broken door knob in one of his hands.
“You dog-gone right it won’t happen again,” Dwight said. “I expect more than a ‘yes sir’ from you. I expect an apology.”
DJ had never seen his father express such anger before. He could see the veins throbbing in his father’s neck.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” DJ quickly said wishing to preserve his life. “I don’t know what came over me. It won’t happen again.”
“Don’t you ever let it happen again. Now get out of this bathroom.”
“Yes, sir. Excuse me, please, Dad.” DJ slid past his father.
While his father was examining the broken lock, DJ hurried out the front door, hopped in his mother’s car, and turning the music up high, he drove off into the night. “Whew! That was close,” he sighed.
Although he would not admit it, DJ had a fun time taking Jennifer out to eat. They sat in her driveway and talked for about an hour about future plans.
“You mean to tell me you’re not going to be a preacher like your father?” Jennifer said. “Almost every time my mother gets on the phone with your mother she ends up telling your mother how it would be great for you to follow in your father’s footsteps and how she would love for me to marry a preacher.”
“Oh really? I hate to burst their bubble, but that’s the last thing I want to be,” DJ said. “However, I am tossing up a number of other things.”
“My mother wants me to go to pharmaceutical school to study to be a pharmacist, but I am interested in doing social work to help the black community out. And then I thought about becoming a dentist. What are your plans?”
“Oh, go off to college somewhere. Pursue a business degree,” Jennifer said. “Live a quiet life.”
“Sounds good to me. Well, I must say good night. I’m off to meet up with my boys and go party,” DJ said. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”
“I’m sure,” Jennifer said. “See you in church tomorrow. Hopefully.”
DJ, Speedy, Ryan, and Slow Poke Pete went riding around town in Rosalind’s car after DJ dropped Jennifer off at her home.
“Still want to do what we talked about?” Speedy said.
“I’m still game,” the others said.
“Let’s make it quick. My mother wants me home early tonight,” Slow Poke Pete said.
“You’re a real mama’s boy for sure,” Ryan said. “DJ, did you cover the license plate?”
“Yep,” DJ said.
“I’ll go in the store with Ryan. I’ll grab while you distract. Two six-packs is all we need,” Speedy said.
“Get that,” Ryan said. “But also get two packs of Boone’s Farm wine, and a four-pack of Pink Champale if you can.”
“Do you have a preference of wine?” Slow Poke Pete said jokingly.
“Will do,” Speedy said. “Slow Poke, you be the look-out. Of course, DJ, you drive the getaway car. Let’s ride.”
DJ backed up at the far end of the convenience store. He left the car in park with the engine running. Ryan and Speedy went into the store. While Ryan conversed with the cashier, Speedy picked up two six-packs of beer and a bottle of wine and hurried out the door.
“Hey! You have to pay for that!” the cashier shouted after Speedy. “I’m calling the police.”
Ryan hurried out behind him. They jumped into the waiting car and slammed the doors shut. DJ took the car out of park and stepped on the gas pedal. The car drove backwards and slammed into the post causing that side of the roof and the post to collapse.
“Oh, man! You have the car in reverse. Put it in drive!” Speedy yelled. “Hurry!”
DJ nervously placed the car in drive, pressed the gas pedal to the floor and they sped down the street, and went past Jennifer’s house. After making sure they were safe, DJ stopped by the park where they consumed the stolen merchandise laughing at how easily they pulled off the crime.
“Nothing tastes better than stolen beer,” DJ said as he finished his second can.
“I second that,” Speedy said knocking cans with Ryan.
Slow Poke Pete finished off his second can of beer. “That’s it for me,” he said. “I don’t know where you’re all headed, but I got to get me home or my mama’s going to crown me for sure.”
“Let’s take the big baby home,” Ryan said in a baby voice followed by a chuckle.
“Man, the party’s just beginning,” DJ said. “You can’t come to the club with us for an hour? It’s barely 10:30.”
“I can probably come for about forty-five minutes. But that’s it. You got to get me home if you want to see me alive again,” Slow Poke Pete said.
“Let’s ride then,” DJ said.
“Put it in drive this time,” Speedy said.
They all laughed.
As Slow Poke Pete was getting out of the car at his house, he said, “Say, DJ, we’ve been so busy partying that we forgot to check your mother’s car for any damage. That was a concrete post you backed into. If you knocked part of it down you probably put some damage on the car as well.”
“Man, you’re right. I was not thinking about all that,” DJ said as he and the others climbed out of the car.
“Oh, man! Oh, man!” DJ said as they stared at the huge dent on the back fender of his mother’s car. “Thank God, the tail light’s not broken. Man, what am I going to tell my mother. This is her new car.”
The boys surveyed the situation.
“That can be fixed up like new,” Speedy eventually said.
“How? Even if I could take it to the mechanic, how am I going to do that without her knowing? Worse yet, how will I pay for it?” DJ said.
“My dad has a rubber hammer. We can beat the dent out with it,” Speedy said. “Do you think she’ll let you use her car tomorrow? We could take care of it then.”
“I doubt it,” DJ said. “She won’t let me use it two nights in a row.”
“No sweat. We can ride our bikes out to the Post Office once your mother goes in to work and perform our operation once the sun goes down. Hopefully she won’t notice it before then,” Speedy said. “Are you all with me on this?”
“Sure,” the others said.
“Bring whatever tools you think will help get us out of this mess,” Speedy said as they got back into the car. “DJ, maybe you ought to take your driving test again.”
I should have listened to Dad this time for sure, DJ thought after he dropped Speedy and Ryan off at their places. He checked the time on his watch. I could go back to the club and party all night and let Mom call Dad to come pick her up and pretend I lost track of the time. On second thought, that might make her suspicious and I may never get to use her car again. He turned the car around and headed to the Post Office. I can’t wait to get my own car.
When he pulled up at the back entrance for employee use only, Rosalind was waiting outside.
“Hey, Mom. Sorry I’m late,” he said exiting the car. “Here, let me get the door for you.”
“Why thank you,” Rosalind said. “You ought to go out more often with Jennifer. I see it leaves you acting like a gentleman.”
“You said that right. Jennifer Pearson is of a different cut,” DJ said. He asked his mother numerous questions about her job at the Post Office all the way home.
“Why the sudden interest in the Post Office?” Rosalind asked. “Are you rethinking my suggestion and deciding to get a job out there?”
“I’ve been tossing it up in my mind,” DJ said. “Will you be needing your car tomorrow? I was thinking of taking Jennifer out again, and I sure would like to use it. I don’t think right now Dad is too inclined to let me use his. Besides that, Dad’s car is a jalopy.”
“You already know you can’t use mine two nights in a row,” Rosalind said.
“Well, with Jennifer causing me to act like a gentleman, I thought you wouldn’t mind me using it again,” DJ said. “Well, let me get the door for you, and let me walk you to the door. You can go ahead on in and get a load off your feet while I clean out the car and have it ready for you for tomorrow. I’ll leave the keys on the dining room table.”
Rosalind walked into the house wondering about DJ’s niceness. Maybe all our prayers for him are finally being answered.
The next evening as it was getting dark, DJ and his friends met up at the Post Office.
“What’s this? A rubber hammer?” DJ said to Speedy when Speedy pulled the hammer out of his backpack.
“Yeah, man. It will get the job done,” Speedy said. “You don’t want to make any noise and draw attention to what we are doing. Plus, you want to smooth the dent out. Trust me on this. This bad boy will do the job.”
“Whatever you say,” DJ said reluctantly taking the hammer.
The boys worked feverishly over the next forty minutes, taking turns, but not making any progress.
“It will get the job done. Trust me on this one,” DJ said mimicking Speedy. “Got any more suggestions?”
“You could use my hammer. It’s a real hammer,” Ryan said.
“Are you crazy! That would mess the car up worse,” DJ said. “Let’s just keep at it with the rubber hammer. Slow Poke, you keep watch.”
Rosalind, whose office was on the second floor, was taking a water break. She happened to walk by one of the windows overlooking the well-lit parking lot. She stopped to look out the window.
My eyes have got to be playing tricks on me, she thought blinking her eyes. I don’t believe this. It can’t be. DJ is beating on my car. What in the world is going on! Rosalind started to make a beeline to the parking lot but was intercepted by her boss.
“Mrs. Jacobs, please take a look at these papers for me. The figures are not adding up. They have not been adding up for the past three nights. If they don’t add up for the rest of the week somebody will be losing their job.”
“I will, Mr. Shrodes,” Rosalind said. Oh, man. She hurried back to the window, bewildered, as she helplessly watched the scene before her eyes.
“Don’t look, but I believe somebody is watching us. We’d better take off,” Slow Poke Pete said hopping on his bike. DJ took a quick look before hopping on his bike. Ryan and Speedy did likewise.
“Thanks for your help,” DJ said as they each peeled off to their individual places of residence. It was going on eleven when DJ arrived home. He parked his bike in its usual spot and quietly went inside the house. His father was so taken up with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Broadcast he just waved at DJ when DJ greeted him. I don’t know what my dad sees in that boring white man lecturing, DJ thought. After helping himself to a can of soda from the refrigerator, he went to his room, locked his door, and turned his television almost full blast. Kennedy banged on the door to get his attention.
“DJ, open up,” he shouted.
“Yeah, what’s up?” DJ said as he pulled the door open.
“Dad says to shut that noise up in here. And Mom called a couple times asking for you. She wanted to find out where you were,” Kennedy said.
“Did she say what she wanted?” DJ asked.
“No. She just asked for you.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” DJ said. “I’m turning in early so I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Alright. Good night,” Kennedy said pulling the door shut.
When Rosalind got home later that night, she walked past Dwight who had fallen asleep in his easy chair. She pushed DJ’s bedroom door open and flipped the ceiling light on.
“DJ, wake up! This is no time to fake sleep. Sit up now! We need to talk.” Rosalind snatched the covers off of him.
DJ sat up and waited for his mother to continue. Rosalind leaned against his chest of drawers with her arms folded across her chest.
“Look at me, DJ. How could you do that to me? I trusted you with my car. But what’s really disappointing is how you tried to deceive me. I saw you and your friends trying to beat the dent out of my car. I was so hurt. Why couldn’t you have just come to me and let me know? I thought we had a better relationship than this.”
DJ remained silent.
“You could have told me yesterday when you picked me up from the job. I was wondering why you were so talkative and so nice. And you have never shown any interest in my job at the Post Office, other than the food that my job brings in here for you to eat. It was all a cover up, wasn’t it? I’m more disappointed than angry. I couldn’t even get angry if I tried to. You want to be treated like a mature adult, but mature adults don’t do that. They don’t cover up their wrongdoing; they face up to it.”
DJ felt the hurt and disappointment in his mother’s voice. He saw the hurt and disappointment written on her face. That pained him more than any harsh rebuke could. Any words of apology, any words to comfort her that came to him seemed inappropriate, so he remained quiet.
“I don’t even want to know how it happened,” Rosalind said.
DJ remained silent.
“Don’t you have anything to say?”
DJ briefly closed his eyes, sighed deeply, then opened them again. Looking his mother in her eyes, he said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I could have and should have handled it better.”
Rosalind left the room. She was asleep when Dwight finally got in the bed.
“When did you get in? And why didn’t you wake me up?” Dwight said nudging her.
“I really don’t feel like talking and if you want to know why, here’s why.”
After Rosalind finished relating to Dwight the events of the night, he quietly said, “Didn’t I tell you I wanted him to stay home? I’ll talk to him in the morning.”
When they both awakened in the morning, DJ had already left.
“He said something about putting in overtime on his job,” Kennedy informed them.
At the end of the week when DJ received his check, he cashed it and gave half of it to his mother. “I know this is not much, but I hope it will help toward fixing the dent in the car,” he said.
“It will help some,” Rosalind said taking the money.
Having only an eighth grade education, Dwight found studying the Bible a difficult and slow process, so he stuck to what he was most comfortable with preaching. No matter how he started his sermons, he always ended them on the love of God. “Go out and love on somebody with God’s love” were his parting words after nearly every sermon. Then, he would add, “Because love is what it is.”
For some months now he had been disturbed in his thoughts as to the direction in which he was taking the church.
“Dear God, I feel like I am not giving the people fully what You want me to give them. There is something missing and I cannot quite put my finger on it. Lord, please show me what to do. Show me what’s missing. I want Your will to be my will.”
This became Dwight’s daily prayer as he wrestled for understanding, discernment, insight, and wisdom to shepherd the flock entrusted into his care. He picked up every devotional or Bible study book he could get his hands on, but none seemed to unlock the door to his understanding.
“Lord, give me understanding that I may lead Your people in the right direction,” Dwight prayed.
“Rosalind, Billy Graham is holding an evangelistic meeting in South Carolina next week. As you know I’ve been wanting to go hear him preach live, so I’m planning on going up there to hear him,” Dwight said to his wife after hearing the meeting announced via the television following one of the radio broadcasts.
“Isn’t that kind of short notice,” Rosalind said.
“They have been announcing it for about a month now. I was debating whether or not to go, but my mind’s made up. I’m going to the meeting,” Dwight said.
“Why can’t you just listen to him on the radio or the television? I’m sure they’ll air it live as they normally do,” Rosalind said.
“I’m sure they will. But there is just something about being a part of a live event,” Dwight said.
“I hope you plan on going by yourself because I’m just not up to any long traveling especially on such short notice,” Rosalind said. “On top of that, I’ll need to give my boss at least a two weeks notice unless it’s a dire emergency.”
“You can get the two to three days off if you really want to. I was thinking of making it a mini-vacation. Just the two of us. The children can stay with Mother Randall. I know she would enjoy their company,” Dwight said.
“Going to a church meeting is not my idea of a vacation,” Rosalind said.
“I’ll just go by myself then. I’ll probably enjoy the ride better,” Dwight muttered.
“Yes. You probably will,” Rosalind said. “Anyway, if you had been listening to the weather report, a hurricane is on its way. It’s been sitting out in the Atlantic, but it’s slowly making its way towards Florida.”
“I’ll make it to the meeting and back before it hits land,” Dwight said. “Just make sure I take my weather radio with me so I can keep up with the weather.”
Dwight planned on pulling out early Tuesday morning. The weather was not looking favorable on Monday evening. The hurricane, unexpectedly, had picked up speed, and hitting the Florida coast, had started moving up the eastern seaboard causing some damage along its way.
“I think you should reconsider,” Rosalind said.
“I may never have this opportunity again especially with my health acting up as it has been lately,” Dwight said. “I’ll just have to go by faith. After all, the Bible does say safety is of the Lord.”
The hurricane showed signs of letting up by daybreak on Tuesday morning. Dwight pulled out around nine o’clock. He listened closely to the weather report over the radio as he prayed for traveling mercies the entire trip. A steady drizzle accompanied him. The hurricane seemed to hover over the Georgia-Florida state line causing more damage: power lines were down; people were flooded out of their homes; trailer homes were carried away by the wind. Residents were advised to move as far inland as they could.
If you’ll just hang where you are for a while I’ll make it to South Carolina safely, Dwight thought as he sped through Georgia.
With about two hours remaining to reach his destination, Dwight was forced to stop at a hotel as the hurricane had picked up in intensity and had started up the eastern seaboard at a rapid speed; it had expanded and was covering more ground inland. “We have never seen a hurricane move with such fervor,” the weatherman said.
Disappointed that he had to stop, Dwight turned on the television in his hotel room about thirty minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin hoping to pick up the first night’s meeting. The reception on the religious channel as on the other channels was unclear in both picture and sound. Dwight also turned on the hotel radio. As he kept turning the knob on the radio to get a better reception, a commanding voice grabbed his attention. Dwight was surprised at its clarity.
Hey, that sounds like Billy. I know the meeting hasn’t started yet. He glanced at this watch. This must be one of his old sermons to occupy our time until they can air the meeting clearly. Sitting up against the headboard with two pillows behind his back, Dwight made himself comfortable on the bed.
“As soon as the evangelist [Mordecai Ham] started his sermon, he opened his Bible and talked straight from his text. He talked loudly, even though there was an amplifying system. I have no recollection of what he preached about, but I was spellbound. In some indefinable way, he was getting through to me. I was hearing another voice, as was often said of Dwight L. Moody when he preached: the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“I became deeply convicted about my sinfulness and rebellion. And confused. How could this evangelist be talking to me, of all people? I had been baptized as a baby…I had gotten into mischief once in a while, but I could hardly be called wicked. I resisted temptations to break the moral code my parents had so strictly instilled in me…I was even the vice president of my youth group in our church (although, granted, it wasn’t a particularly vital organization).
“On that night, Dr. Ham finished preaching and gave the invitation to accept Christ. After all his tirades against sin, he gave us a gentle reminder: ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, that that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ His song leader, Mr. Ramsay, led us all in ‘Just As I Am,’ four verses. Then we started another song: ‘Almost Persuaded, Now to Believe.’
“On the last verse of that second song, I responded. I walked down to the front, feeling as if I had lead weights attached to my feet, and stood in the space before the platform.
“I checked ‘Recommitment’ on the card I filled out. After all, I had been brought up to regard my baptism and confirmation as professions of faith too. The difference was that this time I was doing it on purpose, doing it with intention. For all my previous religious upbringing and church activity, I believe that that was the moment I made my real commitment to Jesus Christ.”
Dwight listened intently. For the next hour the radio speaker had his attention so much so he forgot about the live Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade he was trying to get to.
Dwight turned up the volume on the radio.
“Having your name on a church roll will not save you. You may have your name on the church registry, but you will still die and go to hell because you have never been saved.
“Getting baptized will not save you. The penitent thief on the cross got saved and he was immediately transported into Heaven. He was never afforded the opportunity to come off that cross to be baptized. That thief said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ Jesus said, ‘Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’
“Speaking in tongues will not get you any closer to Heaven than where you are right now. Regarding the gifts of the Spirit, Paul asks: ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ The answer is, no. Speaking in tongues is one of the spiritual gifts that you get after you are saved and only some people get it.
“Religious activities stemming from keeping the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule will not save you. It makes no difference who you are. Religious works will not save you. The Bible says, ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done.’
“I have had people to tell me something came over them, or that they saw this vision. My answer to that is, maybe you ate too much of that greasy fried chicken that tasted delicious going down but crept back up and rested on your chest after you fell asleep.
“Finally, being born into a religious family will not get you into Heaven; it will not get you saved. Your grand-mama or grand-pappy may be on their way to Heaven, but that does not automatically put you into Heaven. Every man will have to stand before God for himself. You mama-called preachers who are preaching because your daddy or great-grand-daddy were preachers will not guarantee you a spot in Heaven if you have never trusted Jesus Christ for yourself.”
An uneasiness settled within Dwight at the preacher’s last words. It was as though the preacher took the very thought out of his heart and verbalized it. Lord, is this what I have been missing in my preaching? in my relationship with You? Have I never been truly saved? truly born again? Have I been leading the folks down the wrong road? I beg Your forgiveness as I have been doing it out of ignorance.
“There is no such thing as ‘You have the head of a preacher.’ That is not in my Bible. There is only one way to be saved, and that is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. That was what Paul told the Philippian jailer when he asked Paul and Silas, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Paul’s answer was, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’
“Are you saved? Has there ever been a time in your life when you realized that you were a sinner and that you were on your way to hell, but you found out that Jesus shed His blood on the cross for your sins, thus providing you that detour off the road to hell and placing you on the road to Heaven? Now is the time to come to that realization and to believe on Jesus’ finished work on the cross meaning there is nothing you can do to save yourself because Jesus did it all when He died on the cross. John three verse sixteen says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ If you believe all that you just heard and you want to be saved, please pray this prayer with me:
“Dear God, I come before You as humbly as I know how confessing my sins. I confess that I am a sinner and have sinned against no one but You. Because of this, I deserve to go to hell. You are the only One who can deliver me from hell. Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to die for my sins. I believe He died for my sins. Please forgive me of all of my sins. Come into my heart and save my soul and change my life. In Jesus’ name I pray and for His sake. Amen.”
Dwight fell to his knees beside the bed inside that hotel room and prayed along with Billy Graham. He got up a new man. He chuckled within himself. That’s what has been missing. I did not have Jesus in my heart for myself. I’ve been riding on my mother’s faith. I have been preaching because my mother and my wife called me to preach. Thank You, God. Thank You for saving me.
Even though it was still raining, the weather had let up enough for him to continue on to the crusade, but the time on the clock told him he would probably miss over half of the preaching, if not all of it. I guess I’ll have to catch what I can via the television, he thought as he tried to get a good reception. Billy Graham’s message meant so much more to him now as Graham ended his message once again with a presentation of the way to salvation through Jesus Christ. Graham left the viewers with Romans 10:9 and 13 before giving the final invitation: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Dwight was so excited he called his wife forgetting she was on the job. He left a message with Rachel. “Tell your mother I got saved for real. I got born again for real. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. I will be making my way up to another hotel closer to the meeting on tomorrow to catch the second night’s meeting.”
“Okay, Dad. And, Dad, remember this Friday I go to the cheerleaders competition,” Rachel said.
“I had forgotten all about it. I should be home Thursday night on into Friday, but just in case I don’t, you have a safe trip,” Dwight said.
Dwight was so excited he could hardly sleep. He read his Bible, which he always kept with him, into the wee hours of the morning. He had an inexplicable joy that flooded his soul as his spiritual eyes were enlightened to the truth of God’s Word. It was as though a veil had been lifted off of him thus allowing him understanding of God’s Word.
The following morning he stopped by a Christian bookstore as he made his way to the meeting. He purchased a new believer’s handbook with its accompanying workbook. He was so excited he read the first chapter and did the accompanying exercise to the chapter sitting in his car in the parking lot of the bookstore. The new believer’s handbook took him through the book of St. John as its author encouraged readers to memorize key verses. Like a little child savoring a lollipop, Dwight feasted on the Word of God.
The second night’s meeting only added to his new-found joy. This is just too much. Oh, Lord, You are a mighty good God.
The drive home gave Dwight the time he needed to think upon his new-found faith in Christ, upon the direction he had been taking the church, upon the new direction he would need to take the church, and upon how his sermons would take new content. He made it home around seven o’clock on Friday evening. His adrenaline was flowing so much he couldn’t hide his excitement even if he tried to.
“Rosalind, Mother Randall, children, I wish you all could have been there. The atmosphere was so electrifying I truly felt the Holy Spirit moving in that place. I have never felt anything like that before,” Dwight said.
“We feel it all the time at Love and Peace,” Rosalind said more out of guilt because she had refused to go when she knew she could have.
“I don’t know what we have been feeling at Love and Peace, but it’s not quite the same,” Dwight said.
“Now Rachel told me you said something about you getting saved,” Rosalind said. “You are already saved, so I don’t know what you are talking about. You can’t preach like you do if you’re not saved. Now can he, Mother?”
“No, he can’t,” Mother Randall said. “Plus, Mama Tess told me you were born into a long line of preachers and the mantle has been passed on to you. You were called by God to preach even before you were born.”
“That’s not what Billy Graham said and the proof is in the Bible. He said being born into a line of preachers or the salvation of your mother and father does not automatically make you saved. You have to get saved for yourself,” Dwight said.
“All I know is God told Jeremiah ‘before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.’ Hallelujah!” Mother Randall said raising her hand.
“Yes. Yes. God had a special calling on Jeremiah’s life to do a special job. And God may have a preacher’s calling on my life, but if I don’t get saved the Bible way, then I will be preaching in vain,” Dwight said.
“The Lord told Jeremiah he will go where He will send him and ‘I have put My words in thy mouth’ so ‘whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak’,” Mother Randall continued.
“You tell him, Mother,” Rosalind said. “Dwight, I believe you nodded off while you were listening to the preacher. You will never convince me otherwise.”
“I like to give people a chance to explain themselves,” Mother Randall said, “so go ahead and tell me all that Preacher Graham said. I try to listen to him but I just can’t get into his style of preaching. It’s like he’s lecturing. I don’t see how you can sit and listen to him as much as you do.”
Dwight chuckled. This is one time I do not mind your rambling, he thought.
After Dwight finished sharing with them his salvation experience, he said, “I feel like a new person. I don’t expect you all to understand, but something took place inside of me.”
Mother Randall listened to her son-in-law with wonder. “I have to admit you sound different and you look different. Doesn’t he, Rosalind?”
“He looks the same to me,” Rosalind said.
“So does anybody want to pray to get saved?” Dwight asked.
“How do you say the prayer now?” Mother Randall asked.
Dwight recited the prayer Billy Graham led him to repeat when he asked Jesus to forgive him, to save him from his sins, and to live with Him forever.
“Sounds simple enough, but I’ll have to think about it,” Mother Randall said. “I’ve been in church all my life and this is the first time I’m hearing something like this. I have to investigate it first.”
“How about you, Rosalind?” Dwight asked.
“I’m already saved,” Rosalind replied curtly.
“I tell you what: I see new and exciting things ahead for Love and Peace Apostolic Church. I can’t wait to share my experience with the folks there,” Dwight said. “Yes, we’re headed in a new direction and I’m so excited.”
Mother Randall smiled. “I can hardly wait to be a part of it,” she said.
Rosalind glared at Dwight not knowing what to say. She was quiet most of the evening.
“I’m going to have to make some drastic changes in the church,” Dwight said to Rosalind as they lay in bed that night.
“This is about the third time you’ve said that since you’ve been back. Exactly what are you referring to?”
“Well, mainly in my preaching,” Dwight said.
“What’s wrong with your preaching? The people love it, and that is all that matters,” Rosalind said.
“One thing I have noticed about Billy Graham’s preaching and some of the other radio and television preachers that I have listened to, is that their words are clear. You can understand every word they say. I can feel the power in their preaching without all that shouting, noise, whooping, and singsong preaching that some preachers do when they preach,” Dwight said.
“Lest you have forgotten, on the day of Pentecost the disciples spoke in unknown tongues; the listeners thought they were drunk,” Rosalind said.
“But they understood each other, because after Peter preached, over 3000 folks got saved,” Dwight said. “I must admit something, and that is, I do not understand those preachers who speak in tongues. I don’t even understand what I’m saying when I so-call speak in tongues.”
“I believe that preacher has gotten your mind all twisted up,” Rosalind said. “You have not been talking right same you came back. I’m so glad I did not go with you. If you don’t stop talking this foolishness, I’m going to have to get some of the deacons to lay hands on you because I believe you have gone insane.”
Dwight chuckled. “Insane for Jesus,” he said. “Now, I may not understand it all, but I know I’ve been changed. I know what took place in my heart and I wish the same for you.”
Rosalind sighed as she turned her back toward her husband. “Just go to sleep and don’t bother me any more with that mess. The church is going in the right direction, your preaching is fine, and like Mother always says, ‘leave well-enough alone’. Can you please cut the light off.”
“You just need to get saved,” Dwight said as he picked up another book he had purchased at the bookstore titled, Salvation Crystal Clear.
It was after three when Rosalind stirred from her sleep.
“Are you still up? What are you reading at this time of the morning disturbing me while I’m sleeping?”
Dwight showed her the book cover. “This explains it all. I cannot put it down. This salvation, this being born again, this being saved through Jesus Christ is much clearer to me. I can’t believe how simple God has made it—so simple even a child can understand it. The devil has certainly blinded our minds to the simplicity of the Gospel.”
“This is elementary stuff,” Rosalind said scanning a few pages of the book out of curiosity.
“You’re right. How much more elementary can you get than to simply believe on Jesus and you will be saved,” Dwight said turning back to the page he was on. “Listen to this.”
“If you did not already know this stuff then you had me fooled,” Rosalind said. “Good night. Continue reading quietly to yourself.”
Dwight did not let his wife’s lack of interest and her unenthusiastic spirit discourage him. He kept on reading until sleep overcame him around seven in the morning.
Friday was an exciting day for the Champion Cheerleaders as that was the day they had been looking forward to and had practiced for all year long. They were to take part in the annual Southeast Cheer-leading Competition. Rachel was excited as she would be spending the entire weekend with Seneca Jordan after returning from the competition.
“Bye, Mom. Tell Dad I’m sorry I missed him. Bye, Jessica,” Rachel said as she gathered up her weekend bag after hearing Mrs. Jordan blowing her car horn outside.
“Slow down, Rachel,” Rosalind said. “Let me come and say thank you to Mrs. Jordan.”
Rosalind and Jessica walked outside to the driveway with Rachel. After thanking Mrs. Jordan, they said good bye.
The cheer-leading competition was an exciting time as ten schools in the high school division competed for first place.
“That was awesome! Did you see how they threw that girl in the air and how she did that double twist while in the air? She must be light as a feather,” Rachel said. “They deserve first place just for that alone.”
“They sure do,” Seneca said. “Third place for originality is not too bad for us. We have to do more flips and twists and shoot for first place in next year’s competition.”
“At least we got first place for most enthusiastic,” Rachel said.
“That’s just a mild way of saying we have the biggest mouths,” Seneca said with a laugh. “You’re still spending the weekend with me, right?”
“Of course. All weekend until Monday evening. It’s going to be a great weekend,” Rachel said.
“It sure will be especially since I have access to Michael’s telephone number,” Seneca whispered.
“How’d you get it?”
“I have my ways,” Seneca said. “You can spend the entire weekend talking with him. He may drop by on tomorrow for a short visit. I kind of asked my brother to set it up for us.”
“How’s he going to do that?”
“He’ll just pretend that Michael is his friend. All four of us will sit and talk awhile, then he’ll leave, then I’ll leave and you two will be left alone. You’ll have to take it from there,” Seneca said.
“That I can easily do,” Rachel said.
Rachel and Michael, with Seneca acting as chaperone, enjoyed a hamburger meal at The Grill late Saturday evening. Seneca peeled off as soon as they got to The Grill to allow them some privacy.
“So what did you two talk about?” she asked Rachel later that night as they laid in the bed.
“He’s been studying me all this time but never let on until today. But everything was confirmed when he asked me to help him with his math,” Rachel said. “Why do boys do that? You know, act as though they are not interested in you when their every thought is about you?”
“Beats me. I guess that keeps the mystery and the excitement in the relationship,” Seneca said. “And I love it.”
Dwight was in a meditative mood over the next few weeks. Prayer became more meaningful to him as he prayed for wisdom and understanding. Rosalind did not know how to take her new husband. Like a vulture waiting for the right moment to strike, she watched his every move. It’s not going to last long. It’s just a flash-in-the-pan thing.
“Children, you all need to listen to Billy Graham more. Not only is he a dynamic preacher, but he’ll show you how you can go to Heaven,” Dwight said to his children.
“I thought that was what you were preaching all along, Dad,” Rachel said.
“Well, not really,” Dwight said. “I’ve been preaching everything else but what the Bible says and that is to just believe that Jesus Christ died for you and that believing this is the only way you can make it into Heaven.”
“Is that all?” Kennedy said.
“Yes. That’s all.”
“I don’t know about all that,” DJ said to his siblings later that day when they were lounging around—something they rarely did together. “It’s too easy. But I’ll see how this new belief changes them.”
“Not ‘them’; just Dad,” Rachel said. “My question is: why would a loving God make it difficult especially if He wants us all to go to Heaven?”
“All I know is I’ve seen some change in Dad,” Kennedy said. “He seems more relaxed—more at peace. He does not argue with Mom as much either.”
“I’m happy for him,” DJ said sarcastically. “But right now, I have more important things to think about like whose car I can borrow to drive to the store to buy me that new disco outfit, the one with the diamonds running up and down the side of the pants legs.”
“Fake diamonds,” Kennedy said with a laugh.
“As long as they glimmer in the light,” DJ said shimmying off to tend to his business.
“What do you think?” Jessica asked Rachel. “Do you believe there is a God?”
“Of course I do believe there is a God. Don’t you?” Rachel asked.
“Yes, I do. So that means I’m going to Heaven then,” Jessica said. “I thought Dad was already going to Heaven.”
“I guess he wasn’t. But the important thing is he’s going now,” Rachel said. “Right now I’m going to call Seneca and then Michael.”
DJ, knowing what was in boys and even though he ran the girls, felt it his duty to protect his sisters.
“You be careful around Michael and all those boys I see floating around you. Boys know how to play a good game. They’ll have you believing one thing, but their heart is set on another thing,” DJ said to Rachel one afternoon.
“Michael’s not like that,” Rachel said. “He’s not going to use me. He’s from a good family and has good training.”
“That does not mean anything. Boys are some of the biggest liars there are. They’ll sweet talk you, get what they want from you, and then act like they never met you,” DJ said. “Just be careful.”
“I will,” Rachel said not taking her brother seriously.
* * * * *
Mother Randall had been turning things over in her mind ever since Dwight shared with her his conversion experience. Maybe there is something to what he did. I grew up in the church and have been serving God as far back as I can remember, but Dwight’s telling me all my years of going to church will not get me saved and neither will it get me into Heaven. I’m going to have to talk with him more about that.
“So you’re telling me, all I need to do is believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and pray and ask Him to save me?” Mother Randall asked her son-in-law.
“Yes, Mother. Let me see if I can explain this from my New Convert book. John three verse sixteen says, ‘For God so loved the world’ [that is you and me and everyone else], ‘that He gave His only begotten Son,’ [Jesus] ‘that whosoever’ [you, me and everyone] ‘believeth in Him should not perish’ [in hell] ‘but have everlasting life’ [in Heaven].’ So all you have to do is believe,” Dwight said.
“I learned John three and verse sixteen when I was a little girl. I didn’t know it was such a powerful verse,” Mother Randall said. “So what do I do now?”
“You just pray and tell Jesus you are sorry for sinning against Him and that you are asking Him to forgive you of your sins and to come and live in your heart,” Dwight said. “There’s a prayer at the back of this book.”
“Let me pray it then as I believe all that you have shared with me. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Mother Randall said.
Dwight led Mother Randall in prayer, and oh! the joy that flooded his soul.
* * * * *
“Rosalind, this has been a recurring thought that I can’t seem to shake and that is, I need to—well, both of us need to—apologize to the church family,” Dwight said.
“For leading them astray,” Dwight said.
“What are you talking about now?”
“I have been telling them to pay their dues, to get baptized, and that getting their names on the church roll will ensure them a place in Heaven. The doors of the church are open. Now where in the world did we get that from?” Dwight said.
“That has been a part of the black church ever since the beginning of time,” Rosalind said. “Don’t go trying to break tradition now and cause a problem in the body of Christ.”
“That’s the problem right there. We just accept tradition and don’t question it to our detriment—and then we end up being traditionally wrong,” Dwight said. “My thing is, those of us who know better ought to do better. When we have been enlightened to the truth then it is incumbent upon us to share that truth. Our speech and actions ought to reflect that truth.”
“And what other truths have you been enlightened to?” Rosalind said.
“This speaking in tongues. That does not save anyone and that is not necessary to have an uplifting church service. From the reading I have been doing, and if my understanding is correct, speaking in tongues is a gift which you get after you are saved—not to get saved.”
“Well, now that you are finally saved, as you say you are, maybe you’ll get that gift. So I guess all is not lost then,” Rosalind said facetiously.
“Sorry to break your bubble, but I do not have that gift, and the more I think about it, I don’t think I want that gift; I want the people to hear every word I preach and understand every word I speak,” Dwight said. “As far as I know, there is no one at Love and Peace who has the gift of interpretation.”
“Much studying maketh you mad most noble Festus,” Rosalind said. “You get a little knowledge and you begin to talk crazy. I don’t want to hear anymore of that crazy talk. What book are you getting all that from anyway?”
“From the New Believer’s Handbook that I picked up from the bookstore in South Carolina when I went to the Billy Graham Crusade. You may want to read it yourself. It tears down every tradition imaginable which we as a church body are guilty of. To show us that what we are doing is mere tradition and falsehood, the author gives this example of the thief on the cross. He wrote that the thief did not have time to pay any tithes, or to get baptized, or to get his name placed on the church membership roll, or to speak in tongues, or to do good works, but yet Jesus said to Him, today you shall be with Me in paradise. All the thief did was believe on Jesus.”
“Well, if you feel you need to apologize to the church then be my guest. I don’t think I need to apologize for anything.” With that said, Rosalind left the room.
Marsha gave birth to a beautiful baby girl just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Look at her. She looks just like me,” DJ said as he proudly held his daughter Nikia Sangrit Jacobs.
Marsha smiled. “How does it feel to be a father?”
“Mmm. It feels good,” DJ said trying to hide the anxiety in his voice.
“You got to be a man now,” Dwight said to DJ. “You can’t chuck your responsibility. Real men don’t do that. You be there for Marsha as much as you can, and you take care of that baby girl.”
“Yes, sir. I will,” DJ said.
Having a child out of wedlock still did not deter DJ from running other girls who, in his thinking, were there solely to fulfill his pleasure. He was never serious about any of them. Well, maybe except for Jennifer who he was now spending more time with.
“Do you have plans to marry Marsha?” Jennifer asked him shortly after Nikia’s birth.
“Why do you ask?” DJ said.
“I don’t know. I thought maybe with her having your child you may feel obligated to marrying her,” Jennifer said.
“My dad mentioned it in passing. Right now I’m not inclined to do so. I plan on remaining single for many years yet,” DJ said. “We’re too young to entertain the thought of marriage. You’re not jealous, are you?”
Jennifer did not answer as she sighed a sigh of relief. Yes. If you only knew how jealous I am of Marsha, she thought.
* * * * *
“Rosalind, I know DJ messed up with Marsha, but I still believe he and Jennifer have a good chance together. He’s young and he hasn’t settled down yet; but he will,” Mrs. Pearson, Jennifer’s mother, said to Rosalind during one of their telephone chats. “He’s just a young buck sowing his wild oats as most young men do.”
“Tell me about it. I just hope he does not sow any more,” Rosalind said. “You know, I have dreams of him and Jennifer having a life together as well.”
“They still can; if you and I just work it, work it, work it,” Mrs. Pearson said.
“What do you have in mind?” Rosalind asked.
* * * * *
“DJ, what are your plans after you graduate?” Rosalind asked DJ one Sunday evening after he came in from putting in his hours at Sonic.
“I’m going to keep on working. The owner has already offered me the managerial training position, if I want it after I graduate,” DJ said. “I’ll be going to the different restaurants to train the workers. As you know, that’s right down my alley.”
“You won’t be doing that,” Rosalind said.
Says who? DJ thought with a snicker.
“You’ll be going right into college. I had in mind you becoming a pharmacist. You have the brain for that. As a black person, it would do you well to have that college degree under your belt. These white folks smile on that,” Rosalind said.
“Well, I was offered the managerial training position by a white man, and I don’t even have a college degree,” DJ said. “Anyway, I’m sorry to upset your plans, but I will not be going to college right now. Maybe later.”
“The college education, right now, is more important than making money. In fact, it will give you a better chance of making more money.”
You could have fooled me. All we’ve ever seen you do is chase after money. All you ever talk about is making more money. Even when Dad told you to stay home, you thought it more important to go out there and get a job. It would have meant so much to me if you had stayed home. I wanted you home to fix my plate many evenings, but, no, you were out making the almighty dollar. The look Rosalind gave DJ stopped him from voicing his thoughts.
“Dwight, you need to talk to this son of yours,” Rosalind said to her husband that very evening.
“Oh, so now that he’s not listening to you he’s my son, huh?”
Ignoring her husband’s comment, Rosalind continued. “You need to tell him it’s important for him to go to college and not wait. I tried to tell him, but without blinking an eye, he told me he was not going.”
“You want to be the man of the house, you tell him and make him do as you wish,” Dwight said.
Unbeknownst to Rosalind, Dwight had already spoken to DJ about going to college. Dwight chuckled. “These children are not listening to you because they have never seen you listen to me. All they have seen you do is run off at the mouth, disrespect me, disobey me, and try to play them against me. The chickens are coming home to roost.”
“How dare you say that! I tried to let you lead–”
“But you wouldn’t, so I had to take the lead and push things forward,” Rosalind said.
“No. It’s not that I wouldn’t lead. It’s that you want me to move at your pace and at your bidding when I wanted to move at God’s pace. You kicked and bucked at every move I made, and this is not just when it comes to the family; this is also when it comes to the running of the church. Just you remember I’m not the one who placed me into leadership; It is God who gave me this position,” Dwight said. “Frankly, I would never place myself in that position of leadership knowing I would have to deal with a rebellious wife.”
Realizing the truth of her husband’s words, Rosalind fell into a rebellious silence.
“And we’re still going to apologize not only to the church family, but also to the children,” Dwight said.
The following morning amidst their regular morning chaos, Dwight managed to settle the children down long enough to apologize to them.
“Children, I just want to say I’m sorry for not being the Christian father I should have been and taking the lead as I should, and –”
“Dad, you have been a great dad,” Jessica and Rachel said.
“There’s nothing to apologize to me for,” Kennedy said. “You’ve been a great dad. I have no complaints.”
“Thank you, children. But I could do better,” Dwight said. “And I will do better because Christ is truly the center of my life now.”
DJ remained silent. Even though he knew how to play the ‘Love Mommy Hate Daddy’ game—and play it well—he knew his mother was at fault most times. He loved Mommy when she allowed him to use her car and even his father’s car albeit against his wishes at times. He loved Mommy when she allowed him to party all night even on a school night despite his father’s protests. He loved Mommy because even though she knew he was having sex with girls she never once told him not to; in fact, she encouraged him when she gave him the condoms. Dad would never do that even if someone was paying him a million dollars.
“Your mother is going to apologize to you also, but she claims she needs more sleep this morning so hopefully she’ll do it some time this week,” Dwight said.
“Okay, Dad,” Rachel, Kennedy, and Jessica said.
If Mom apologizes that may mean my game playing might be coming to an end, DJ thought. That’s not good.
The apology the children waited on from their mother never came.
“What do you think about Dad apologizing to us?” Kennedy asked DJ later that week.
“It’s all well and dandy. If he feels he needs to then let him,” DJ said.
“I really believe Mom should apologize too, if for nothing else but for usurping Dad’s authority,” Kennedy said. “I overheard Dad telling Mom he’s going to have a talk with the women at the church about them being more submissive to their husbands. He also told her that from his talking with some of the men and listening to their complaints that the main issue in their homes was their wives and their disobedience.”
“Dad told Mom that?” DJ asked in disbelief.
“He sure did.”
“Well, well, he’s stepping it up,” DJ said. “This I must see. If you want my opinion, I don’t believe Mom’s going to just sit back and let it happen. She’s not even obedient here. There is no way that she’s going to stand with him on that. She’s co-pastor and I predict that if Dad does not put his foot down and stand firm her name’s going to be on the marquee as bishop of Love and Peace soon.”
“Isn’t it a bit late for him to do that now?” Kennedy asked.
“It’s their thing. All I know is I want no part of all that confusion,” DJ said.
“At least Dad’s trying to turn it all around. I’ve seen a change in him since the Billy Graham Crusade,” Kennedy said.
“He’s trying to turn it around, but with Mom in the way it’s going to turn upside-down,” DJ said. “But I must admit, I do see some changes in him.”
That night as DJ lay in his bed he thought on the changes he saw in his father. He turned over in his mind his father’s genuine apology. He thought on his mother’s refusal to apologize and to simply follow her husband’s leading. He thought on the conversation he and his father had a while back and the reason his father gave him for his giving in to his wife at times: “DJ, I do it to keep the peace.”
All I know is that is not real peace. If you as the husband can’t say what you want to say in your own house then there is no way you can have peace. Sometimes you have to go to war to have real peace. If I ever get married, I am not going to let my wife have me all tied up in knots like that.
“Lord, please show me the light out of this madness, this darkness, and this confusion,” DJ mumbled before falling off to sleep.
* * * * *
Dwight continued to dig deeper into the Word of God seeking understanding so he could guide the flock. He set out on a personal study of Timothy, that young pastor whom Paul encouraged to keep on keeping on in the faith. As he read chapter three of Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, Dwight sought to see whether or not he met the biblical requirements for the office of a bishop:
“husband of one wife” – Check. Rosalind has been my one and only wife for these past eighteen years.
“vigilant and sober” – Check. I believe in prevention and thus I try to stay prayed up.
“of good behavior” – Check. I try to live an obedient life and be good to all.
“given to hospitality” – Check. I love to help people.
“apt to teach” – Check. I try to impart the Word every chance I get.
“not given to wine” – Check. I’m no drunkard.
“no striker” – Check. I would rather turn the other cheek.
“not greedy of filthy lucre” – Check. I’m not a lover of money.
“but patient” – Check. Maybe too patient.
“not a brawler” – Check. I hate conflict.
“not covetous” – Check. I am more than content with what God has blessed me with. So far so good, Dwight thought as he continued his self-check.
“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”
Mmm, Dwight thought as he read verses four and five again. “This is not good,” he kept saying to himself as he reflected on his marriage and family since its inception. “And I know Rosalind has not been the wife she ought to be as a Bishop’s wife. I’m sure the requirements for a deacon’s wife are probably the same requirements for a pastor’s wife.” It says a woman ought to keep silence in the church. She must be grave. Not a slanderer. Sober. Faithful in all things. “Oh, boy.”
“Dear God, I cannot hide the truth from You. Rosalind has a spirit of resistance in just about everything I do be it for the church or for the family. The children are becoming increasingly rebellious and are going their own way. I confess I should have put my foot down from day one of this marriage. It’s convicting to hear this coming from my most rebellious child, but in all honesty, I have to agree with him. He’s right, keeping quiet just to keep the peace leaves us with a false sense of peace. Does this disqualify me as Bishop of Love and Peace? Does this mean I have to turn the church over to another who meets all the requirements as set forth in Your Word? One whose wife is truly submissive to him? Lord, I need some answers.”
DJ got in after one in the morning as he was now responsible for seeing that the restaurant closed out each day with everything cleaned up in preparation for the next day. Dwight who called himself waiting up to make sure DJ made it home safely had fallen asleep in his easy chair with a half-eaten Lorna Doone cookie perched between his index finger and thumb.
DJ smiled as he awakened him. “Dad, I’m home. Dad.”
“Hey, DJ. How’d everything go?” Dwight asked as he slipped the rest of the cookie into his mouth.
“Everything went well. I want you to look at something and tell me what you think. It’s outside.”
Dwight followed DJ outside to see a two-door red mustang with a white interior parked behind his car.
“What do you think?” DJ asked.
“Is this your car? When did you get it?” Dwight asked opening the door and peering inside.
“I picked it up today before I went in to work. This is what I’ve been saving up my money for. Now I won’t have to borrow yours or Mom’s car. Besides, I’ll be needing it to drive back and forth to the restaurants.”
“So you’ve decided to accept the managerial trainer position?”
“Yes, Dad. I’ll go to college, but right now I have to make more money to give to Marsha to help take care of Nikia. Because she has not been harassing me for any money and has a great attitude about things, I want to help her out financially as much as I could. In fact, both her and Mrs. Granderson have told me more than once not to worry about any money, just to do what I can. The only thing they insist on is that I spend time with Nikia,” DJ said. “Buying the car has dug into my savings, but I believe it’s a wise investment.”
“I’m proud of you. Yes, sir, I like this,” Dwight said running his hand over the leather seat.
“Say, Dad,” DJ said as they walked into the house, “what’s going on with Mom? I notice she’s been giving you the silent treatment. I mean, how can you two live in the same house and not talk?
“Well, I’ve been talking, but she just clams up whenever I try to talk to her, so rather than make it worse, I just keep quiet,” Dwight said. “Your mother has issues. I’m trying to make some changes in the family and in the church, and she does not like those changes, so she’s stewing underneath.”
“I see. Well, good night. By the way, graduation is about two weeks away. If Mom won’t let me use her car, may I please use your car to take Marsha to the dance. Mine is a little . . . well, you know. It’s a little –”
“Sure. No problem,” Dwight said with a chuckle. “I know where you’re coming from.”
“Thanks, Dad. Good night.”
* * * * *
The sun was shining brightly on Sunday morning when Dwight and Kennedy drove to the church. Rosalind and the girls drove in her car. Dwight could hardly contain himself as he sped out to the church.
“I tell you, God’s going to do great things with this church whether under my leadership or under another person’s leadership,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Kennedy asked.
“God’s just been dealing with me about some things,” Dwight said. “Right now, I’m just praying about things and some changes that I will possibly have to make.”
When Dwight stood behind the microphone, he quieted everyone down.
“Before I give you what the Lord would have me to share with you, I have something very important to say. First Lady Rosalind will share some words with you along the same lines as well,” Dwight said.
Rosalind straightened her back.
“I’ll get straight to the point. I have been leading you down the wrong path. Hear me out before you cut me off. I have been preaching to you that joining the church, speaking in tongues, paying your dues, doing good works, and getting baptized are things you need to do to get into Heaven or to be saved. Folks, that is not true. Nowhere in the Bible does it say doing any of those things will save you. Those are things you do after you get saved. So, I have been lying to you. In a nutshell, here’s what the Bible says you must do to be saved. It’s found in Romans ten verse nine: ‘That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ That is all you have to do to get saved and go to Heaven. It is not by any good works that we do but by simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again.”
Silence filled the auditorium.
“As I study the Word of God more and as my understanding of the Word of God increases, in the upcoming weeks I will be taking each of our traditional beliefs one by one and will be showing you what God’s Word has to say about each. Is that alright?” Dwight said.
“That’s alright with me,” Mother Randall said.
Rosalind kept a straight face. She was seated in her usual spot on the podium off to the right with tambourine in hand.
“So I apologize to you all for leading you astray. I ask your forgiveness. Would you please forgive me? And be patient with me as I follow God in the direction He wants me to take the Love and Peace Apostolic Church family. I love you all.”
Some folks clapped. Some looked puzzled. Others whispered their opinion to each other. A few stood to their feet. About three people walked out.
“Are we going to have church?” someone shouted from the back.
“I want you to think about what I just said before I let you go. First Lady Rosalind has something to say in the way of an apology as well. I won’t put words in her mouth, so come on, First Lady, and let us hear from you,” Dwight said.
Dwight stood off to the side as he beckoned to Rosalind to come to the microphone. Rosalind shook her tambourine. The pianist touched a few keys. Some in the auditorium clapped as she took her place before the microphone.
“Let’s have church,” the person shouted again.
“Church family, I thank you all for giving Bishop Jacobs your listening ear. I’m glad he’s following the Lord in apologizing to you. But as I told him, I don’t see where I need to apologize to you for anything. The Lord is not leading me to do so. I’m just the co-pastor here and head of the women’s group. So let’s have church!” Rosalind started to shake her tambourine. “Strike up the music,” she said to the musicians.
Dwight was shocked but not shocked. Mother Randall looked puzzled at Rosalind but joined in the singing. Whispers floated back and forth between some. One or two more walked out. After about twenty minutes of singing, Rosalind turned the microphone over to Dwight, left the services, and headed home.
When Dwight and the children and Mother Randall got home, Rosalind was in the kitchen. There was an eerie silence in the dining room as they sat down to eat.
Thank God we have a break this Sunday from the church family coming over after church, Kennedy thought as he started to fix his plate.
“Dwight, that was an honorable thing you did,” Mother Randall said breaking into the silence. “I was talking to some of the members after you dismissed us, and many of them feel good about what you did. Of course, a few said they did not know what to think. Some said they would hang around for a while to see where we’re headed as a church. A few said they weren’t sure they would be coming back.”
“That’s alright. Love and Peace is not for everyone,” Dwight said.
“It took a loving pastor to do what you did. Wouldn’t you say so, Rosie?” Mother Randall said.
Rosalind rolled her eyes as she tore her roast beef a part with her fork. “Mother, I have never been so humiliated in my life. The gall of him trying to put me up to do his dirty work just to smother his guilt. That is just childish to me.”
“You got it all wrong,” Mother Randall said. “Dwight has been enlightened to the truth and he loves us enough to share that truth with us.”
“So I guess he didn’t love me enough to not embarrass me like that before the whole church, huh?” Rosalind said.
“A little embarrassment won’t hurt you if it’s for your good and the good of others — particularly with how proud and arrogant you are,” Mother Randall said. “Rosie, I never told you this, but I got saved the way Dwight did. I believed and made it official by praying and asking Jesus to forgive me of all my sins and to live with me. I must say, I have been having a honeymoon time with the Lord. I don’t have much longer to live and, as I think about it, I could have died in my sins. You should do the same, Rosie. You know tomorrow is not promised to anyone, and it is better to be safe than sorry.”
“Oh, so now you’re siding with Dwight. Now you’re questioning my salvation. And please do not call me Rosie. It’s Rosalind. Ro-sa-lind!”
Dwight remained silent as they finished off their meal. Several phone calls came in throughout the evening. Some from disgruntled members. Some from members expressing appreciation for what Dwight did. One from Mildred who asked to speak with Rosalind.
“Rosalind, I know you and I don’t quite get along, but please hear me out. You have a great husband and, if you don’t start respecting him and supporting him, you are going to drive a deeper wedge between you two.”
“What are you talking about? And who says there’s a wedge between us?” Rosalind said.
“We’re not blind,” Mildred said. “Anyway, you were very disrespectful to him today as you have been at times. You could have at least humbled yourself and played it off considering he took the lead and the blame and thus set the pace for you. A few of the women and I were talking and this is not the first time we’ve seen or heard you disrespect your husband. To be honest with you, we don’t know if we want you to head the Women In Action For The Lord group going forward. We believe you need to take a vacation from your church duties and get some rest. One year off should do you some good.”
“Over my dead body!” Rosalind blurted out as the realization hit her that that was the same advice she had given to Apostle Dunbar’s wife, Keturah, when she, Rosalind, was trying to start a ministry there with the women of the church behind Apostle Dunbar’s back. “You just want that position yourself.”
“No, I don’t,” Mildred said. “I’m doing too much already at the church, plus taking care of my expanding family. I don’t need any more on my plate. But you pray about it. Have a good evening.”
“I can’t believe this. Now do you see what you’ve done?” Rosalind said to Dwight after hanging up the phone.
Dwight had a questioning look on his face.
“I don’t even want to talk about it. Just know you haven’t heard the end of all this,” Rosalind said. “If you’ll excuse me. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.” Rosalind left to go to her bedroom.
“Pay no attention to her, Mother. God’s dealing with her, but she’s strongly resisting. It’s nothing but pride. All we can do is pray for her,” Dwight said. “Children, eat up, then you can go to your rooms. You girls can clean up the kitchen later.”
“She has always been a strong-willed child. But there is no person who God, through prayer, can’t change. Yes, I’ve seen Him change a lot of people. I’ve even seen Him change me after laying the hammer down on me,” Mother Randall said with a chuckle.
“I hope you’re not in a hurry to go home, Mother, because I like to relax after I eat,” Dwight said. “I feel my La-Z-Boy calling me.”
Mother Randall laughed. “I’ll just make myself comfortable here on this couch. All I need is a couple pillows and a blanket and I’ll be alright.”
“We’ll get it for you,” Rachel said.
“And you can sleep in my bed tonight,” Jessica said.
“Well, then, it’s settled,” Mother Randall said with a laugh. “I guess I’ll be spending the night.”
* * * * *
Kennedy waited up until DJ came in.
“You should have been there,” he said to DJ after telling him about the church services. “Dad did not even preach. In fact, he says his preaching is going to take on a new tone going forward. Mom was so embarrassed. She’s been in her room all evening.”
“Like I said, I want no part of their church business. Too much confusion. Too much mess. Too much hypocrisy,” DJ said. “I haven’t told anyone this—not even Marsha, but I’ll be getting my own place right after graduation. Don’t say anything to anyone.”
“I won’t,” Kennedy said. “Do you want some company ’cause I’m ready to take off myself.”
“You could come, but you need to at least finish high school. Plus, I’m not going to be settling down in any one place. I’ll be taking the managerial training position and I’ll be traveling to the various Sonic restaurants in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida. I’ll pretty much be in and out of hotels. The company will be paying for all my travel and hotel accommodations.
“Brother, you got it made. I’m envious of you. But I am very happy for you,” Kennedy said. “Well, I’m going to get me some sleep. I got to put in my hours at the grocery store after school.”
* * * * *
Apostle Morton gave Dwight a call the next evening.
“My daughter Dimples told me what took place at Love and Peace on yesterday. Brother Dwight, I’m proud of you. And don’t worry about the number of people who may leave. The devil has them blinded to the truth. As for your wife, we just have to pray for her. God is still in the heart-transplant business.”
“Thanks for the encouragement,” Dwight said. “You can rest assured that I’ll be calling on you more and more to seek your advice.”
A coldness settled over the Jacobs’ residence since Dwight’s apology, but he did not let that deter him from the new vision God had placed within him. On top of that, he was still struggling with what to do as far as not meeting all the qualifications of a Bishop as mentioned in the book of Timothy.
“What’s wrong with you, Rosalind? You’ve been walking around here looking madder than the mad hatter. Don’t you think it’s time for you to get over your anger and just go with the flow? Or should I say, ‘Roll with the punches’ as you wrote in DJ’s yearbook?”
“I roll with whatever I choose to roll with, and I don’t go with the flow,” Rosalind said. “I’m not in the mood for any conversation with you and you already know why.”
“No, I don’t know why, so why don’t you tell me,” Dwight said.
“The audacity of you calling me up before the whole church to apologize. Apologize for what? Nothing. But like I told you, you’re going to regret it. And in more ways than one,” Rosalind said.
“You need to get over yourself and change when it’s time to change,” Dwight said. “That’s a mark of maturity. I’m beginning to think I married a child.”
“And if you ever bring that submission stuff to the women after I already told you they do not want to hear it, your title won’t be ‘Bishop’ anymore; it will be Widower—Widower Jacobs. And I won’t be dead either. Now keep on trying me.”
* * * * *
Rachel awakened with an uneasiness in her stomach. Her moaning awakened Jessica.
“Are you feeling sick again?” Jessica asked.
“Just an upset stomach,” Rachel said. “I think I ate too much last night.”
“You’ve been eating too much for the past three days. Do you want me to get Mom?”
“No. Don’t bother her. Some Pepto-Bismol should take care of it,” Rachel said hurrying out of the room as quickly as she could.
Jessica waited a few minutes then went to check on her sister.
“Rachel, are you still in there? I need to use the bathroom,” Jessica said knocking on the door.
She was answered by the flushing of the toilet.
“Rachel, open up,” Jessica said banging on the door.
“What’s going on?” Rosalind said trudging into the hallway. “Stop all that noise before you wake everyone up.”
“It’s Rachel. She woke up with a stomach ache again. She’s taking some Pepto-Bismol. It sounds to me like she’s throwing up,” Jessica said.
“Rachel, unlock this door now,” Rosalind said turning the doorknob back and forth.
Rachel unlocked the door and looked at her mother sheepishly.
“What’s wrong with you now?” Rosalind asked.
“I believe I ate too much last night. But I’m feeling better now,” Rachel said.
“You have about an hour before you have to get ready. Go and lay back down,” Rosalind said. “Are you sure it’s just a stomach ache?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Rachel passed on breakfast but went on to school. She met up with Seneca in the restroom.
“Do you have it?” Rachel asked.
“Yes. Here you go. Make it quick so we won’t be late for class,” Seneca said.
Rachel came out of the stall with a grim look on her face. “Positive. What am I going to do?”
* * * * *
The family made it to DJ’s graduation. They clapped until their hands burned as DJ walked across the podium.
“Yes. You can use my car tonight,” Rosalind offered, “but under one condition: you must come out to eat with us. I’m sure Marsha would want to go home and get some rest before she stays up partying all night with you.”
“That’s a deal,” DJ said.
“I really wish you would reconsider and go right into college. You know we’re not rich, but we’ll do our best to help you,” Rosalind said.
“I know you will and I appreciate it,” DJ said.
“Make sure you take heed to what I wrote in your yearbook and roll with the punches,” Rosalind said.
“I will,” DJ said. Very ironic to hear that coming from you. If you had rolled with the punches in this family our family life would have been much better. DJ thought of voicing his thoughts, but he did not want to run the risk of an argument ensuing and his mother taking back her more stylish car on this important night, so he kept quiet.
“Whatever you decide to do with your life, make sure you don’t forget God. He’s the One Who’s brought you this far,” Dwight said. “I’m proud of you. You’ve done something I never had a chance to do. Of course, things were different in my time. Now keep moving forward and continue to set the pace for your siblings.”
“I will, Dad. Thanks to you all for everything. You too, Grandma Randall,” DJ said.
“You are quite welcome. Always remember I’m praying for you,” Mother Randall said.
* * * * *
Rosalind awakened early the morning after DJ’s graduation intending on preparing a special breakfast. She found a note on the kitchen counter. It read:
Dear Mom and Dad,
By the time you read this note, I will probably be in a hotel somewhere in Mississippi. As you already know, I have accepted the managerial training position and will be back and forth in various cities training workers. I would like to thank you both for all that you have invested in me. I know you both had other plans and expectations for me, but life is leading me in another direction. Don’t worry about me. I’m in good hands. You have taught us to be fighters and as you know I’m not one to give up easily. Yes, Mom, I’ll roll with the punches. I will be contacting Marsha so you don’t have to say anything to her. Kennedy already knows about my leaving. Tell Rachel and Jessica I will be in touch.
“I did not see this coming at all,” Dwight said when Rosalind tossed the note at him. “I had no idea he was leaving so soon after graduation. Did you?”
Rosalind looked at him without saying a word. He’s not the only one who will be leaving.
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