applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([pretty] world below)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-03-04 12:51 am
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LJ Idol - Week 16 - Open Topic - On Time

The Hanikwa County Friends of Jesus Pentecostal Sanctuary midweek services begin every Wednesday night at seven thirty on the dot. Hardy Quitman, the faithful choir director and only church member permitted to touch the platform's groaning old piano (a gift from the pastor's grandmother, a terrifying and particular woman of ninety-eight) slams into a double-time rendition of "Heaven's Jubilee," Tallulah Sloan outfitting the chorus with as many trills as humanly possible and Sister Lillie Jolene Anderson shouting hallelujahs on the front row. The routine is comfortable for the church congregation, a meager collection of fifty-four souls (not counting Sister Maggie Rooney's libertine niece, who only comes because Sister Maggie won't allow her to live at the house if she doesn't and who makes eyes at all the men during altar call), and as the minute hand slides toward seven thirty-five, their eyes turn expectantly to the platform door, from which the pastor will soon emerge.

At seven forty-one, there is a distinct shift in the praise-singing. Brother Hilburn is the source of the Sanctuary's oil-smooth punctuality, insistent on beginning precisely on time and never so much as a minute late to the pulpit. Though his singing abilities rank slightly below those of Laronda Mullins, whose off-key warbling can be heard from one side of the room to the other, the faithful have always taken comfort in his dedication to the praise service. Carrying on without him sets them reeling and before long, "I Have A Friend In Jesus" has taken on a distinctly sour note.

At seven forty-five, assistant pastor Sullivan Rockshell takes the pulpit, his usually immaculate pompadour sinking like a collapsed cake. Obediently the congregation turn in their Bibles to Acts 2:38, but their eyes shoot messages over the gilt-edge pages and Truetta Gibson can be heard hissing whispers near the back wall. Before Hardy Quitman begins to plunk out the trembling notes that signal ending prayers, at least fifteen theories have been formulated, spread, and rebutted by the church family, and there is an edge of panic in the air. Rodrick Swindal makes a valiant effort at tongues and interpretation to get everyone back on track, but his heart just isn't in it. Even Sister Lillie Jolene is quiet, her watery eyes sharp and nervous.

Church ends early that night, for the first time in a decade. The congregation return home, their hearts cold and unfulfilled.

At eight thirty-six, Terry Hilburn boards a nonstop flight to Miami. His white panama hat and brilliantly colored Hawaiian shirt draw a few stares, but he ignores them all with a smile. In his mind, he is already sitting on a beach chair on the deck of his new condo, a sweating bottle of Bud in his hand and some sweet little thing in a black bikini beside him. It has taken him ten years - ten years of tithes, offerings, garage sales and church fundraisers - to afford his dream, and now the time has come. Can they really say he is unfaithful, just because he sees God in tequila sunsets and barely-there beachwear, rather than in a book or a song or a crumbling church building? He doesn't think so.

"Please fasten your seatbelts."

Terry Hilburn winks at the blonde stewardess, buckles his seatbelt, and closes his eyes. Ten years, three Christian children, six affairs, and fifty-five church members (he does count Maggie Rooney's niece, and he'd do a lot more with her if he ever got the chance) in his way, but already those memories are fading. As the jet engines roar him into a blackening sky and a new life, Terry Hilburn hums a few bars of song.

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, oh glory
I'll fly away in the morning
when I die, Hallelujah, by and by
I'll fly away

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