Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Phew! (02/11/10)
TITLE: Four Words and Four Hats
By Debbie Roome
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I dropped into an empty row of seats behind them as the driver dimmed the lights and the coach lurched into the night. It may have been bedtime but these women were full of verve. After stowing their hats on the overhead shelf, they started talking in earnest.
“You prepared for the conference, Merle?”
“I surely am, Sadie.”
“And you Janet? Have you made up your list?”
There was a rustling of paper and a squeaky voice penetrated the shadowy depths. “Four things that are a stench to the Lord’s nostrils: being late to church, missing Friday prayer meetings, not putting money in the offering plate, wearing skirts above the knee.”
“Phew, those are bad ones.” cackled Merle.
“I gotta couple more.” butted in another voice.
“Read them out, Connie.”
“Wearing mascara and taking secret nips of communion wine.”
Laughter erupted and I heard the rustle of a paper bag. Peeping around the seats I saw them passing a quarter jack of brandy from hand to hand.
Just then the coach slowed, brakes hissing as it shuddered to a stop. The only passenger to board was a lean black man, almost skeletal in appearance. His polyester pants were shiny and his shirt faded. The whispers started as he shuffled to the back. “Shouldn’t allow the likes of him on the coach.”
“Bad blood I tell you. He’s probably got AIDS.”
“Did you see the state of his clothes?”
Are these really church ladies, I wondered?
“Reminds me of the Jackson family,” came Sadie’s voice. “I sometimes think they’re a stench to the Lord. “Why Albert is back in jail and those girls dress like tarts. Did you see them last Sunday in those black tights and sequined shirts? Looks like they came straight from working the streets.”
“Phew,” drawled Connie. “You wonder why they keep coming to church. It’s not as though it does them any good.”
The four of them kept at it as I drifted in and out of sleep and by 4am I was totally over it. I pulled a notebook from my backpack and using my cell phone as a light, I printed four words in large clear letters. “I don’t know about you, God.” I whispered, “But this is what would be on my list.”
At 5am, the coach paused near a corner in the suburbs – a special request so I could alight near my home. As I slipped into the aisle, I stopped in front of each hat and using the long sharp pins, I attached one sheet of paper to each.
I could almost smell the stench as I turned towards home, the bus rattling into the distance.
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