After the fiery foreshadowing of an exceptionally long and loud revival meeting, a precocious nine year old decided she’d rather not spend eternity in flames. Hair frizzed from the sulfurous tirade, she slipped from the contest-packed pew and timidly made her way down the blood-red carpeted center isle of the small Midwestern Baptist church.
“Why did you come forward tonight, my child?”
She looked up at the preacher with quizzical eyes. Wasn’t there only one reason to walk down front and make a fool of herself in front of all these people? She wanted to escape hell, of course.
“Do you want to be saved?”
“Then follow Mrs. Brown and she’ll show you what to do.”
The girl had seen Mrs. Brown before and didn’t like her. A big, arrogant, commando woman, she was Sunday School teacher of the older kids. Mrs. Brown pulled her briskly down the stairs, coffee-table-sized Bible and patent leather purse over her arm, marching, as if they were heading straight to the principle’s office. Flipping on the light switch in the dark, empty classroom, she pulled out one of the child-sized metal folding chairs and squatted her butt-sprung, olive green, polyester behind down. With a hefty middle-aged hand on each of the girl’s shoulders, she pressed her knee-socked knees to the cold concrete floor.
Mrs. Brown flopped the big black Bible on her lap and opened it to a spot she had marked with a purple satin ribbon, the ten commandments printed in sparkly gold letters.
“Read this out loud.”
The girl read the verse, voice shaking a little, as she fumbled the word “everlasting”.
“Now, close your eyes and pray it.”
Looking down at Mrs. Brown’s pointy-toed high heels, the girl shook her head.
“And, why not?”
“Because I already believe it. I don’t need to pray it.”
“Yes you do, you have to.”
Again, the girl refused to pray the prayer.
“Well, alright, then. Get back upstairs.”
The annoyed Mrs. Brown huffed and pulled the girl to her penny-loafered feet.
A few months later, the girl was in the back of her friend’s station wagon, on the way to a birthday
party. Her friend’s mother pulled the car up to the curb and stopped.
“Yoo-hoo! Hi, Carolyn!”
There, in the front yard, was the same Mrs. Brown, sunning her sweaty self on a chaise lawn chair, hair in rollers and her square figure crammed into a green floral swimming suit, complete with a foam Nurse Diesel style built-in bra. The girls waved as she jumped up, trying to hide certain unsightly parts with those same hefty hands.