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After the rousing final hymn, the congregation seated themselves jubilantly to receive the Reverand Doctor Silbus McInnery’s benediction. They bowed their heads and holy smiles under the protective ark of his raised arm, and they waited within a collective inner peace, as the Reverend Doctor paused to receive his words from God. And at last the glory of them came.
The Reverend Doctor’s booming voice filled the cavernous sanctuary, washed over the congregation to complete this Sunday’s cleansing and send them forth with freshened godly vigor. “May you receive and extend the blessing of the Lord. May you be faithful and trustworthy in all things. And may you serve with full devotion the God of All things, His hands and feet in a world of desperate need.”
There was a pause, and then the organist broke loose with his postlude, all stops, full organ. Some parishioners stayed seated to listen to it in its entirety, despite the titillating incident of a bombshell named Val strutting into the service dressed like a hooker. But despite the benediction, most of them were abuzz with unwholesome curiosity as they filed out from their pews, chomping at their worldly bits to press Miss May for details.
Plain, bespectacled and makeup-less May sat dazed on her pew. She put a skinny, pale hand tenderly on the place where Val had sat before she’d left in a panic during the final hymn. May could still feel the fullness of Val’s femininity, could still hear it whisper of its power over men, could still smell a hint of lavender in the essence of Val’s female eternity. And despite Val’s inappropriate makeup and flesh-tight, flashy red attire, May bloomed with love for her, for entering her church world and awakening her to her own feminine potential. May was as a bare tree in the dead of winter compared to the wild flowering of Val, and she knew without question that she desired to flower, too.
May felt a shadow press down on her, felt the unpleasant sensation of a heavily powdered face too proximate, and she jumped from the grating sound of old Mrs. Bird’s voice, “Will you be joining us for fellowship presently, Miss May?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” May answered low, perturbed.
Mrs. Bird withdrew her face and patted May’s shoulder. “Good girl,” she said, and tottered on her way to the fellowship hall, delighted, in anticipation of firsthand news of “the hooker.”
Other of the church ladies were heading May’s way with the same looks of evil delight and anticipation on their faces. Normally, these ladies wouldn’t give her the time of day. They saw her as odd, devoid of qualities and interests that might endear her to a man. And without a man, there would be no family and without a family she was considered a lesser being in their eyes. Here she was at age twenty-six, a member of the church’s singles group for five years now, and the fruit of a marriage had not been produced. She was deemed hopeless, a poor, mousy thing only Jesus could love.
May braced herself out of duty and stood up, weary. She shuffled to the aisle, and let the sea of ladies overtake her, all of them working exceedingly hard to be friendly to her and to conceal what they really wanted to know. But once they’d crossed the threshold to the fellowship hall, they didn’t even bother with coffee or cookies. They commenced immediately to closing in on her and barraging her with questions with respect only for each other’s status within the church.
Mrs. Bird was one of the oldest deacons and therefore was allowed to go first. Beads of sweat on her forehead were threatening to roll down and make mud of her face powder. She fanned herself madly with her church bulletin. “May, dear, do tell us about this flashy red Val person! Was she a real, live hooker?”
“No, Ma’am, she was not,” May said.
The ladies paused in wait for more.
Mrs. Kline couldn’t stand it. She was next in status and jumped in, her lips quivering with her questioning. “Well, what was she like? Did you have a chance to talk to her at all?”
“She was polite, Ma’am,” May said. “And really, we had little chance to talk. We did talk a bit about salvation and then the service began.”
May fidgeted. She wanted to tell the ladies that she and Val had looked kindly at each other, and in their exchange of smiles had made a genuine connection, that she could tell Val had a good heart. But the ladies’ desire for lurid details was palpable and she thought it best to keep her thoughts to herself.
Mrs. White exaggerated a sigh and stepped closer to May, put a hand on her arm and smiled artificially. “May, dear, surely there is more to this whole thing,” she singsonged. Then she stepped back and blustered, “Now, do tell! What all was running through your mind when this Val person left in the middle of the final hymn? And do you think she’ll be back?”
May had had enough. She answered hurriedly, “I don’t know if she’ll be back, Ma’am, and I suppose she was late for an appointment.”
Mrs. White said snidely, “With one of her clientele?” then she tittered, and all the other ladies followed suit.
May looked at the clock and feigned alarm. “Ladies! I’m actually late for an appointment myself! Please do excuse me.”
“You have an appointment?” Mrs. Kline raised an eyebrow.
May smiled. “Yes, Ma’am, I do.”
She didn’t tell Mrs. Kline that it wasn’t an existing appointment, but one she’d only just decided to make. May dug in her purse for her car keys, found them and smiled politely at them all. They stood, shocked and unmoving. Only until May took a step forward did they begin to part like the Red Sea with each of her steps.
May walked quickly to the side door and burst out into the sunshine. She clutched her bible to her breast and ran to her car, got in and started the engine. It had come to her that God had brought Val to her to effect this awakening in her. She joyfully turned her car onto the main drag and headed toward the mall. It was time for an extreme makeover.
This fun little ditty, “May flowers,” was written with the Sunday Scribbling prompt “#197 – Extreme” in mind and is a spin-off from my story “The Salvation Skits,” that was published in the online literary journal, “disenthralled,” on January 1, 2010. See Special #3 in “disenthralled” for the full story. And click here for more on prompt #197 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.