The man lying on the couch stretched, yawned and surveyed his blue-socked
feet, draped over the Queen Anne arm rests.
“Poor preachers always got holes in their socks.”
He glanced around for the remote, then shrugged, stood and walked to the set.
As he clicked the TV off, his image stared at him from the green screen. Leonard scowled. He reached up smoothing his glistening
hair, wondering how his baby-face would look with a mustache—a tiny one. The ladies said he was handsome. Now Jesus,
he was unremarkable. Not comely, lest anyone desire him. But that was him and this was Leonard Soudo. Reverend Soudo. And
frankly, he enjoyed being desired.
“Because your ointment is poured out, therefore, the virgins love you.”
He didn’t remember the rest of the passage from Song of Solomon. Nor was he certain what he remembered was right. In
any case, it sounded good. And it applied, did it not?
He smiled, thinking of the heavy woman in the red parka, from the newscast:
Mrs. Wilson, a staunch member of his church’s women’s circle. She’d been a quick study when that gent came
to teach the Weeping in Ramah group how to be effective protesters. Except she was a white lady, she reminded him of his grandmother,
his Me maw.
Flossie Soudo was black, and she was sassy. She was the reason he was a preacher.
When he was ten, his momma took one too many pills. His me maw raised her hand in the funeral service, amen, hallelujah, and
praised the Lord she could raise two little devil’s spawn boys to fear God. His daddy didn’t have nothin’
to say about it, being’s he was in prison at the time, but his brother Raymond yowled about it. They sent him to some
school somewhere and Leonard didn’t see him again.
Me maw Flossie, she never laid a hand on him. Didn’t need to.
“I’ll preach the meanness out of you, boy,” she’d
said over and over. Flossie’d preached and he learned not to be mean…when she was around. He learned something
else, too: people smiled and made over a good lookin’ black boy who knew the Word. They were willing to part with a
few dollars to help out a kid fixin’ to be a preacher.
Me maw Flossie didn’t care. She just knew his grades were good, real
good, and he spent a lot of time reading his Bible. Amen. Hallelujah. She was proud and she told him so.
He two-stepped in the middle of the room, pausing to look out the window at
his shorts-clad neighbor raising the hatch of her Lincoln Navigator. “I like my women just like my coffee. Sometimes
hot and black, sometimes with white sugar and cream.”
The phone interrupted. He reached it on the second ring.
“See the news?”
“Is this Wilson? Yeah. They looked good, yes? The cops didn’t have a chance. When God is for you, who can
be against you.”
“God, and the guys with the bucks. Sanchez called. That pile of junk he drives
petered out on ‘em halfway to Thornton. They had to call back and get Lambert to pick ‘em up. Said they were sweatin’
it, sittin’ on the side of the road waitin’. Couldn’t afford to have State Patrol nose around.”
Leonard whistled softly. “Those boys sure know how to make an afternoon
exciting. But they got there, right?”
“They got there.”
“And the charge is set?”
“You’re sure nobody’s going to be there.”
“It’s Sunday, Preach. Who’s going to be in a place like
that on a Sunday night? Take you… you’re goin’ to be behind that big, shiny pulpit of yours encouraging
“Yes. Well, if anything happens, call me at the number on the website,
not the church number.”
“Nothin’s goin’ to happen. Beyond the boom, that is. But
when that old guy, Sorkin, hears about it, he’ll close his doors for sure. We’ll get these guys shakin’
in their boots.”
Soudo hung up and barefooted across the gold carpet to retrieve his shoes.
He slipped them on, double-knotted the laces. Me maw Flossie taught him that. Kept the shoestrings from dragging, getting
caught in the sandburs plaguing the field they crossed on their way to church.
Her image came before him, heavy joweled, painted lips, bright eyes missing
“You’d be proud of your boy for trying to bring down those Rolex-watch
baby killers anyway, Me maw. Even if the other part...”
For just an instant something pinched in his heart. He cocked his head, sucked
in breath at the feeling. Then it was gone. Across the street, the neighbor had lowered herself into the driver’s seat
of the Navigator and was pulling in her tanned legs.