Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Might Could Suggest a Different Text

            “My text this morning is from Isaiah fifty-eight,” the priest continued, almost mumbling now, face-down in the Bible.  Mutters of dissatisfaction were beginning to be voiced in the crowd.  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen?” he read.  “To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”
            Here we go, Sarah thought.  She would mock the sanctimonious Yankee just a bit, and then bring down the house like Samson.  “I might could suggest a different text!” she yelled.
            “Hush!” Angleton barked, peering at the crowd to see who was speaking.  Sarah crouched low and invisible behind the wagoneers.
            “How about Psalm thirty-nine?” Sarah continued.  This was not her first preacher-baiting, and she had verses to hand, above and beyond the fact that she was reasonably familiar with the Good Book.  “‘I was dumb, I opened not my mouth’?”  The crowd broke into laughter, but she kept a straight, pious face for the benefit of those that could see her.
            “Who’s that causing a disturbance?” the preacher demanded in his sour Yankee way.
            Someone grabbed at her arm, but missed, and Sarah didn’t see who it had been before she pushed through the wagoneers to reveal herself.  “Whoo-wee, you’re purty!” someone shouted, but other spectators gasped in alarm at the sight of her.  Well, they could go to hell right alongside the Right Reverend Father.  She hoped one of the tentpoles fell on top of them.
            Angleton dropped his jaw and his Bible, the latter slithering off the corner of the pulpit and thudding hard to the floor.
“Or maybe Numbers twenty-five?” Sarah continued coyly.  “‘Am I not thine ass’?”  The audience erupted into a fit of laughter that did not die down when the Right Reverend Father Ezekiel Angleton flapped his arms in an attempt to calm it.
Time to end the show and get out, before the preacher or his fat servant came after her.  “Mebbe Genesis nine: ‘he was uncovered within his tent’?”  Sarah stood bold and proud, feet planted apart and hands on her hips as she faced the preacher.  Just disrupting this foreigner’s show wouldn’t be satisfying for her; she wanted him to see who had done it.  She only wished the fat Englishman could see, too, serve him right for the nasty, pig-eyed stares he’d given her.
Angleton’s lip curled into a sneer.  “What’s your name, girl?  And what’s wrong with that eye?”  He squinted.  “Are you fey?”
Come on Andy, she thought.  You missed your call.  “I said,” she yelled louder, “‘uncovered within his tent’!”
            Still nothing happened.  By now she had expected the congregation to be shrieking in blind surprise and fighting to get out from under the canvas.
            “Come here, child,” Angleton said quietly.
            This was not going well.  Better get out before it gets any worse.  She hesitated a moment and then started to back away.
            The Martinite preacher put his hand onto the top of the pulpit and picked up something that had been lying there, invisible to the crowd, all along.  It was a fine flintlock pistol, matching the one the Englishman carried, and he aimed it carefully, leveling its deadly mouth at her.
            Too late; it was worse.
            “Child,” Angleton repeated.  “I said come here.”
*   *   *
I try to end chapters on a hook, which means, with an image, idea or line of dialog that strongly incentivizes the reader to keep reading.  The above is the last page and a half of Chapter One of Witchy Eye.

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