Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CROWD (07/06/17)
TITLE: A Crippling Dance
By Phillip Cimei
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He mother hummed to her an old negro spiritual, Balm of Gilead, wilting her tense body like a spent rose in summer’s sultry heat. “Momma, I feel so alone at school.”
She gave Jessica a rolling chuckle that almost bounced her off her lap, “Oh Child, you are never alone.”
Jessica was the only colored girl at this all white desegregated school. It was the 1960’s and the tension was as ripe as the plump fall peaches in this southern Georgia town.
Jessica looked up, her brows revealing a queried frown, “But Momma, I have no friends at school, and everyone scoots their desk away from me in class. They make me feel so sad and lonely.”
Her mother drew her close with a gentle hug, “Baby girl, you are never alone. God is working his work in you and when God works his work there is always a crowd.”
Jessica pulled away with an impish grin. She knew she was in for her momma’s Jesus story.
Her mother set her on an old weathered and cracked stool, then put her hands on her hips. “You think you are alone? Jesus had people make fun of him. But he always had a crowd that followed him. He had God working his work, and oh sweet child,” her gapped teeth accentuate her wide grin and her round portly cheeks, “when God uses someone to work his work, there is always a crowd.”
Jessica smirked a little, but then whimpered another burden, “But I bet Jesus didn’t have to sit alone on the bus, or use a separate bathroom like I do when I walk to town to buy candy. Or order his food and then wait outside to get it.”
Jessica’s mother grabbed her hands, pulled them up to her lips, gently laid a few sweet kisses on them and prayed, “Dear Jesus open this sweet child’s heart.”
She reached over to an old worn family bible. It was filled with lithographs of bible events. She said, “Child, you look through these pictures starting here,” opening to the book of Matthew, “and I’ll be right back with some milk and cookies.”
Jessica started with Jesus as a baby, he was surrounded by three men in funny clothes, and angels hovering all above him in his manger. Then, he was sitting on a mountain side, and there were scores of people with a mesmerized look on their faces. She continued with the wedding feast and the feeding of the five thousand. Her mother returned.
Jessica smiled as the aroma of freshly backed chocolate chip cookies made her heart flutter, “I don’t understand, Momma, these people didn’t look mean.”
Her momma took the book as she handed Jessica the cookies. She then turned to pictures of the Pharisees gnashing their teeth and Jesus escaping their attempts of stoning. She thumbed through picture after picture, some crowds were singing praises as the sick were healed and the dead were raised. But some showed anger and contorted faces.
Jessica’s eyes widened in amazement as the pictures started showing the cruel and heart wrenching scenes at the trial and flogging, “Momma, they spit on him, like they do me, and laughed at him when they put that thorny thing on his head and that rob on him.”
Her mother then showed her the crowd of soldiers and onlookers pointing fingers, faces twisted with hate and anger, laughing when the spikes pierce his hands and feet. Jessica could not hold back tears, “Why are those people so cruel, Momma?”
A deep throated melody of The Old Rugged Cross proceeded her mother explaining the story of salvation, and how these crowds needed to be there, because this was the work of God. She finally showed the resurrection, the crowd at the tomb, and the ascension.
Jessica wept bitterly, “Momma, I want Jesus to help me so I can be strong like him.” Her tender heart found Jesus that night.
The next day at school, as the taunting continued, Jessica smiled because she knew God worked HIS work with THIS crowd by comforting her with HIS crowd— angels rejoiced and the Holy Spirit comforted. She knew it was a “Crippling Dance”, but not one she would have to dance alone.
Writer’s additional note: The phrase Crippling Dance is taken from Lillian Smith’s memoirs about the black/white rituals and expected racial etiquette.
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