Strolling down Gardner Street that warm evening in Opikwa Idaho, Terp listened to the distant train and smelled the mélange of roses, leather, sweaty people and those chattering people eating their grilled steaks. He’d ventured back down to Earth because he wanted to breathe the rarefied mountain air and adored the sound of passionately sung gospel. Alas, this staid little town featured equally staid services. Why had he felt such a pull from this place? He could have alit anywhere, but something told him he needed to be here. So he walked about.
He both smelled and heard the steaks on the hoof at the rodeo grounds. The odor of manure got a bit strong, so he turned off onto Pitt Street. After a couple blocks of light industry, all closed for the day, he picked up the sound of a fine tenor singing. He angled over to Ott Avenue to find out where it came from.
He loved ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’! He yearned to enjoy it inside but couldn’t knock on the shed’s door and interrupt them. When it was over he did knock. Voices inside sounded worried. Soon a young man cracked the door open and asked, “Who is it?”
“Tom Jenkins. I heard you folks singing and wondered if I might come in and listen.”
“Look, we don’t want no trouble. Why can’t you let us be?”
“Honest sir, I’m from out of town. I thought you might be having a service and I do love the singing.”
The door opened wider. “You don’t know who we are?”
The door clicked shut. Terp couldn’t make out the discussion inside. About to give up, a big man with dark hair and long sideburns opened up. “Ricky says you want to hear us singing. Is that really all you want? We’re a bunch of queers and nobody comes around us.”
“Sir, I feel the Lord led me here. Yes, that’s really all I’m asking.”
“I’m Burt.” He frowned and looked Terp over, perhaps searching for weapons. “If you say so. Come on in. We’re recording, so keep quiet.”
The five men of various ages watched as Terp unfolded a chair and sat. “I’m Tom, and I’m very sorry I disturbed you all. I simply couldn’t turn away after that last song. Please continue and I’ll be quiet as a church mouse.”
They resumed with ‘Farther Along’ followed by ‘The Glory Land Train’ using the same sublime harmonies accompanied by guitar and an electronic keyboard. They altered just enough in each song to make each sound fresh and alive. Right after starting ‘He Touched Me’, something twanged and they all stopped. As Burt began changing a guitar string, they all heard a muffled curse through the north wall. They heard a giggle and running feet.
Terp felt a strong foreboding. “Get over here quick and cover your heads!” He raced over to a row of saddles on a rail and pile of tack jumbled behind them on the south wall. “Hurry!”
They all looked to Burt; when he sped over with his guitar they hurried behind him. Most of them made it to the sheltering tack pile when the north wall exploded. Sharp wood shards and nails flew at them like missiles. Dust and dirt. Smoke and flame. Ringing ears. They sat up and immediate called out for Ricky; he had not reached the protective saddle rail in time.
Terp and the others leapt up to see Ricky on the floor bleeding from a dozens of places, blood pooling on his back. With smoke thickening and sirens approaching, the men lifted Ricky gently and took him outside, out of the choking smoke. Terp rocked Ricky in his arms. Burt knelt by the unresponsive Ricky and prayed.
In the confusion of the ambulance, the police and the firemen, Terp slipped away and went back home to clean up and be seen where he should be.
The next morning, Terp found Ricky in a hospital bed talking to Burt. Burt looked up and stood. “We stood there like idiots. Thanks for trying to get us going. Speaking of going, Tommy, Raul and Arlo are heading back to Coeur d’Alene today.” He glanced down at Ricky. “Maybe we’ll go with them if you get out of here in time.”
Leaving? Terp’s alarm made him blurt, “You’re going to finish your recording?”
Burt shook his head slowly. “Half my equipment is ruined. I doubt it.”
“Please tell the rest of the boys you will; your music needs to be heard far and wide. I will do what I can to help. Please.”
Burt shrugged and sat back down.
Terp knelt by him. “The apostles were beaten and chased many times and never quit. They blew up your church, a building. You’re all still alive. Keep singing.”
“It was a shed, not a church. We’re not welcome in church.”
“Where two or more gather in my name, I am there says the Lord. That’s church enough for me. What’s your phone number? And can I get a copy of something you’ve recorded?”
Burt reached into his satchel and wrote his number on the disc case. “Here, from last night. Take it.”
Terp considered doing his research via the Guardian network, but he had no names to cross-reference the appropriate angels. The phone book did not help. He had neither a computer nor the skills to use one. That left the big database upstairs. He hesitated to tap the venerable repository of accumulated knowledge since he’d leave a suggestive trail. He bit his lip and soon got an excellent lead in McAllister, Colorado where an established if small recording studio published gospel music.
He chalked landing amid several elks up to being distracted. After an hour of walking around and asking at a few stores to no avail, he noticed a weathered, arrowed road sign that stated deliveries for Gospel Ship Records … something too faded to read. The little brick building a half mile down the road seemed rather small for a studio but Terp went inside regardless.
Terp used the boom box on the counter to play the CD for the owner, Mr. Dunstan. Dunstan wordlessly took the CD back into the studio and Terp saw him listening intently on headphones. Dunstan returned to the counter and handed the CD back.
“The business my grandfather established will go belly-up without a miracle. Son, if these boys are for real they just might be that miracle.”
Terp called Burt.