I had this wonderful old song on my mind, and though I might share it.
I had this wonderful old song on my mind, and though I might share it.
Oz reached in and grabbed the cord. He ran his hand down it until he came to the plug. Crawling further under the kitchen sink, he plugged the dispose-all in. He leaned out and back against the island cabinets. The floor needed mopping. He swatted the dispose-all box out of the way to find his coffee cup. That dispose-all had been sitting in plain sight on the shelf at the end of the island for close to two years. Maybe four, he’d bought the hardwire kind instead of the right kind and had to make it pluggable. Not doing that, not putting it in, is that why she’d left him?
He made his way to his feet, not near as easy to do these days, dumped the cold coffee out and poured a fresh cup. They’d been hitched 39 years as of today. Except she’d left. The house was way too quiet, but damned if he would turn that old public radio on and run it all live long day. Car Talk forever reruns irritated the crap out of him; they was wrong the first time and now he got to hear them cough up the same wrong answers over and over again.
His eyes caught the big old clock on the wall. That Scottish music show would be on, so he pressed the button and there was Fiona Ritchey telling about some crazy Spanish bagpipe player. He looked up at the ceiling fan that would not come on any more. The good Lord already knew why; he’d have to go flip the breaker off and bring up the ladder to find out. Gosh, whoever was playin’ that fiddle sure had the blues.
That job done, he put a cold hotdog on a stale bun and squirted that last of the mustard on it. He remembered Delphina making him say the word ‘listeria’ and made him promise not eat them raw. He stuck it in the microwave and nuked it for 44 seconds. He finished it in four bites. That was the last bun. He could run up to the store and get some kraut to put the last two in, if he felt like it later.
He rammed his shoulders back to make the recliner do right and set his Sprite on the side table. Putting his feet up sure felt good. Seeing a pair of cardinals flitting around in the yard made him miss her more. They used to sit under the poplar tree and make kraut so many years ago. He peeled the cabbages, picked off the worms and cut them in half while Delphina shredded them into a crock. While she poured on a layer of salt, he chopped the nubs she couldn’t shred and they’d do it again until they had two crocks full. They still had the two heavy white plates that fit perfect in the crock to weight it down, and the crocks, somewhere.
He blinked, awakened by Erica Brady saying she’d just played Bill Monroe. Dang, he’d missed it! The Lost City Ramblers was good, though, and anything with Rhonda Vincent in it. Barren River Breakdown really was a great show, homegrown from WKU. Delphina always was givin’ em money, and he guessed it was worth it. He would not shed a tear no matter how lonesome he got. He sipped his warm Sprite and while ‘why oh why’ played in his head like a record with a damned skip.
The front door creaked open and he sat up rod-straight.
“Oscar, where are you? I got Irma back home and all. You know nobody else came to see her to visit or anything? That poor woman has got nobody at all when she gets dire sick.”
He got to the kitchen nearly breathless. There the pixie stood, setting her purse by the open chili can he should have thrown away. “You’re home!”
“I had to get back to celebrate our 40th anniversary, didn’t I?”
“I thought it was the 39th.”
“You may be a wizard with most things, but you ain’t got a head for time. I’ll make that German chocolate cake you like, with plenty of coconut. That box I had to kick out the way must mean you got that garbage disposal put in. Thank you! No tellin’ what else Old Oz has been up to.” She spread her arms out wide. “Here you rascal, give your girl a hug!”
Hopkinsville Kentucky is famed right now for having the greatest duration for the US-wide total eclipse. In case you thought this place had little other merit, by golly Edgar Cayce practiced there!
The caption below the picture is from the Barrenhart site.
This song is a tribute to the world famous psychic Edgar Cayce who was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky … the town with the longest eclipse in America on August 21, 2017. We thought this amazing circumstance deserved a song! Performed by Barrenhart. Words and music by David Foster. Barrenhart is Masako Jeffers, fiddle; Hazel Johnson, mandolin; Greg Cutcliff, bass and David Foster, guitar. Special guest Brandi Button, harmony Vocals. Sound engineered by David Barrick, Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow, Kentucky. Give Barrenhart a listen and like us on Facebook(facebook.com/barrenhart4) please!
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.
Terp swayed with the rhythm of the pounding piano, the well-melded bass voices and the ethereal sweeter-than-birdsong women’s voices. As they began the jubilant Hallelujah part of the refrain, an angry roar swooped in. Singing stopped and children screamed as the freight train roar deafened them. They watched the roof over their heads lift and swirl away into the yellow-tinged black sky as they held hands and prayed aloud. Easter Program announcement flyers flutter down among them. Hail started stinging faces, hopping and popping on the littered paper.
The tornado twisted up into the ominous clouds and soon the adventurous folks of the congregation went outside as others swept and assessed the interior. Terp joined the outside crew and they found the only damage to the church was the missing roof. He stared at the broad car-less strip across the middle of the parking lot, with intact cars and pick-ups on either side. The Preacher’s house, the two beyond it and the little post office were piles of splinters and porcelain fixtures with clothing strewn everywhere like bizarre ornaments.
Terp wiped tears with the swipe of his sleeve. He jerked from the destruction and walked behind the church to look past the cemetery. The farmhouse across the dale looked untouched. A ray of sun shined on a brown and white cow that returned his gaze. He heard the Preacher and his wife walking among their wrecked home sobbing with the twin girls held at the edge, screaming that they needed to find their Nintendo games. His mind felt blown to the four winds at the same terrific force as the tornado; he could not think. There seemed to be nobody hurt, a miracle. He said a few goodbyes and walked swiftly up the road until out of sight. He went home.
Argento, the Choir Master, appeared at the pavilion arch and marched over. “Terpsander, you missed the singing in of the newest Archangel. You know your voice is unmistakable and quite conspicuous by its absence. The effrontery!” He crossed his arms and tapped a toe. “Have you naught to say?”
Terp had sat on the cold, hard stone floor too long anyway. He arose stiffly and bowed to the shorter man. “I apologize Master Argento, I got lost in thinking about something that happened recently. I missed the event without malice or hubris, only from carelessness.” He stood straight. “Do you think I should go tell Yownay how sorry I am?”
“Your attitude is uncalled for. I doubt she’d appreciate your brazen mockery.”
He shrugged; he’d been sincere. “I honor her promotion. May I make amends some way?”
Argento started to pace on the tessellated paving. He stopped abruptly in front of Terp. “I have been granted permission to go down and aid a small group of Kentucky faithful. Seems their church is missing a roof and some houses are kindling. Do you know anything about that?”
Terp peered into his eyes seeking evidence of a cruel ruse or tease. “I do, yes. I held hands with the others in that church as it happened. You knew?”
Argento relaxed a little. “Terp, I cannot reveal my source. We may go help.”
“We? That’s a real surprise.”
“The one who is aware of your above-the-law activities suggested it.”
“Are you going to supervise me?”
“You are going to clue me in on how to move, how to communicate, the vernacular in use. I have never been down there, not anywhere. I trust you are willing?”
Grinning, Terp held out his hand and they made the deal.
On a beautifully cool and sunny Spring Wednesday morning, two angels descended to Earth, stuck their hands into their brown jacket pockets and hiked toward the church in question. They heard the commotion before they saw it. Rounding the corner, Terp saw ladders lined up on the wall of the building. Each ladder had somebody on it with a rock in one fist, clutching the top rung with the other. The rocks appeared to be tethered to a huge blue tarp bunched up in front of them.
Terp recognized the Preacher running the activity. “Not until I say ‘throw’, okay? We all have our rocks back? Great. Over the top and all the way across, right? Like pitching baseball! One, two, three, throw!”
They’d erected rudimentary truss over the roof that might hold the weight of the tarp. Terp and Argento strolled up and joined in the applause as the tossers climbed down.
“Excuse me, Reverend Barlow, I don’t know if you remember but I got hailed in the face with the rest of you last Sunday, I’m Tom. This is my friend Gene. We came by to see if you needed any help.”
“Let me get this cover pulled over and fastened down and we’ll have a chance to talk. Don’t go away!”
As he trotted to the far side of the building, the woman with a silver-gray braid to her waist that had played the piano waved at them, motioning them to the food table.
“Sister Dolores! Meet Gene, a friend from school. Gene, you should hear this woman make one piano sound like six.” Terp nodded toward the roof work. “The money is spread too thin ’cause of the extensive damage from Pikeville to St. Louis, isn’t it?”
Dolores held out a tray with a few cinnamon rolls left on it, but the men shook their heads. “You know it, son. Y’all get any damage up your way?”
“No ma’am, you wouldn’t know there’d been a storm. Isn’t that right, Gene?”
“We were thinking about having a big fundraiser. Gene’s a great singer and I can carry a tune, so we can join in if you allow us.” Terp’s smile fell as she poked her bottom lip out.
“Boys, where you going to have that fundraiser? How you going to get the word out? What can we do that everybody around here hasn’t heard before? Have you ever run something like this? I played session in Nashville for years and I know good and well that you can’t wish a show into reality. Do you have a real plan or just pie in the sky?” She gave them a ‘you idiots’ look when they didn’t reply and shouted, “Verna! Verna, we need you!”
A magenta-haired young woman in a bright pink pair of overalls left the clothes gathering excitement at the Preacher’s house and put her phone in her front pocket before getting very close. “Dolores, I can text and look for panties in the woodpile at the same time. And gentlemen, how do you do?” She took Terp’s hand and held it. “I remember you, Tommy.”
Dolores persuaded a connection in Nashville to bring up their outdoor soundstage package. They set it up with the pine green backdrop between the tarped church and the house remains such that when the camera pulled back to view the crowd, both would be in the frame. KET set up the filming, and said the show might be shown on public stations across the country. Verna arranged for seventeen church groups from all over the state to get transportation and coordinated twelve local church groups. Four local restaurants and seven chains with banners that fought for attention provided food for all starting on Good Friday.
“Well, Gene, have you learned anything about these folks yet?” The church grounds were kept clear for the eager audience. The farmer across the way allowed his fields to be filled with rows and rows of tents. Terp and the Choir Master sat behind the church on the pews that had been taken from inside for the singers.
“Do you think all the ones who committed to be here will actually make it here?”
“Sure. Verna’s posting all the names and places and progress, and most groups are posting from where they are. She said she had over 1200 followers as of dinner. Who would renege with all of that?”
“So many services and businesses have donated. Where did the speakers from here to Farmer Bob’s come from? The Red Cross is here, the National Guard for security, and the money for rebuilding is pouring in. We did nothing!”
“I heard a children’s choir sing a song once, it was about how a mere spark can get a fire going. That’s how it is with love, my friend.” He leaned back and surveyed the grand arrangements. “The weather report forecasts a magnificent sunrise.”
“I’d love to see them sing in the dawn on Easter morn. Alas, we must get back and attend our own duties. I have to coordinate the transmissions of worldwide Easter celebrations for the Archangels’ grand exhibit at the Promenade.”
Oh, how Terp resisted that awful thought. In a few scant hours one church after another would sing about their love of Jesus Christ, all with joy and energy. He wanted the visceral experience of the wind and the laughter and the miscues that always accompanied live performances, not an edited set-piece. “You go ahead; I’ll come back in plenty of time for our next service.”
Argento raised a pointed finger at Terp. “I’ve been warned that you come down here and get into trouble. Don’t! And we had best not see you on exhibit!”
He’d visited many churches over the ages, but had no memory of such a passionate collection of rustic voices. They shouted to glory! The singers held nothing back, the exuberance of the spirited women and men, the divine harmonies between them strummed his inner lyre with joy! He loved a full church and this one had every pew filled.
His limbs tingled with energy, his grin felt permanent. Scanning the rapt faces in the chorus, one face switched the light streaming into his soul off. This sable-haired, acne-faced boy had a dark and forbidding aura. Terp had decided to come to a country church for the music; some other influence may have helped him choose this church. The offering plate went around and the preacher released the youth to their Sunday School classes. That one boy did not go with the other teens. Noting which room the kid went he sidetracked to the Office and left a note for the Preacher.
He opened the door slowly to avoid scaring the young man.
He darted a hand to slide an open bible behind his back and tried to appear casual, leaning back on the kitchenette counter to hide it. “Who are you and why’d you follow me here?”
“You need help.”
“I need you to get outta here and leave me the hell alone.” The boy’s agitated, jerky movements made it clear that the contents of the hollowed out bible were vitally important to him. To have profaned the Word bothered Terp, but he made himself let it go so he could address the person who did it.
Terp looked back over his many other interactions with troubled persons and found nothing solid to guide him. Sailors with opium in snuffboxes. Lawyers with cocaine in gutted fountain pens. Just as he began a pitch designed to make the kid understand his problem was an age-old one, someone pounded on the door to the outside. The boy turned and clutched his bible secretively and told the man at the door they had to leave quick. A loud car sped away.
As he’d supposed when he hid under the table against the wall and napped, someone crept into the room from that unlocked door a couple hours later. Two someones. The kid and the man he’d driven away with. The man carried a long metal bar as if it were a sword. He followed them to the church office. He saw the man pry the door open with the metal rod. As they gawked into the empty strongbox, Terp stepped inside.
“Gentlemen, it’s over. We can pray for forgiveness and repent or we can call the police. You decide.”
The man swung the metal bar wildly. Terp had no difficulty grabbing it and increasing the momentum along the vector such that the man fell forward and hit the floor face first, right in the doorway. Terp put a boot on the man’s neck to hold him. He waved to get the kid’s attention. “Son, you can get help. The Grace of God is all-powerful and can lift you up from this deep hole. There are good people who can help keep you on the straight and narrow path. Jesus without any doubt loves you no matter what you’ve done.”
As he spoke, the boy opened his bible and loaded a syringe full, past the ragged tape that marked a spot about half way. All the while he held Terp’s eye. The kid knew a full syringe would be his last one. The kid knew Terp would not risk the violent man’s wrath by stepping off the guy’s neck to stop him. Those hopeless eyes understood self-preservation, looking out for number one.
Terp clearly stated, “I know who and what is most important here.” In two strides Terp held the boy’s arm inches from completing the mortal injection. The boy still kept Terp’s eye as he said, “I don’t know who you are and I guess it don’t matter. I repent and beg Jesus for forgiveness.” The kid dropped the syringe and shoved Terp backwards, to one side. He hit the Preacher’s desk and fell to his hands and knees.
The heavy metal bar meant for Terp cracked the kid’s collarbone and more, making the young man collapse. Without thought or volition, Terp snatched up the syringe and jabbed it into the demon-infested man’s thigh.
Terp held the boy whose name he never knew and sang his soul into the loving arms of his guardian angel Denis. He watched the murderer on the floor writhe in fatal ecstasy with two thoughts prominent. One, ‘vengeance is mine says the Lord’. He had not willed his hand to slay this person, but his hand had done it. This would haunt him, but now was not the time to linger. The other thought urged him to get back, that choir practice would begin soon and he needed to clean up. He heard an approaching siren. A silent alarm at the office door?
Hours later he sat at the long table careful to pull his jacket close, having no time to clean up after all. “Hello, Yownay. I didn’t expect to see you away from your friends.”
“Oh look, the above-the-law choir boy. I didn’t expect to see you at all.” She rose and walked away serenely.
Altus hurried in and took her spot. “Is that blood on your shirt? Where did you go?”
“Hello Altus. Have you a spare robe? I’ve forgotten mine.” He tugged at his jacket.
Altus tapped his own collar. “Benna said she’d bring one up, said she saw you race by.”
The older man’s bright manner did lighten his mood some. “I went to check on a few things. I hope Benna hurries, we’re due over yonder.”
“Yonder this.” When he turned, Benna tossed the white robe at his face. “Is that blood yours?”
“No.” He turned his shirt collar to the inside and slipped the robe on.
“I covered for you but Yownay came asking specifically for you. She said fooling around those Humans and getting arrested was not a game. Were you arrested?”
Altus stood and shook his head. “You should be concerned about what Yownay says and who she says it to. You don’t want the Archangels on your case.”
Terp stopped and looked at his companions with incredulity. “Do either of you seriously think I am attempting to deceive the Archangels?”
Benna smirked. What’s the difference between discreet and furtive? You go down there with no permission and no authority.”
“I need to go. Can we get on before we hold up the entire practice?”
They followed him toward the choir chamber. Just before entering the vast hall, Benna tugged his shoulder and rubbed something off his face. “You do look worried. It’s the high notes in the big solo, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, that’s it.” His smile might be interpreted otherwise, but it was really for the boy he’d sung the highest notes of all for. True, if he hadn’t interfered both of them would be alive, perhaps. Would surviving in ruin and danger under the horror of an ever-engorging addiction be called living? The kid nearly suicided. How many more children would that devil have destroyed? ‘Vengeance is mine says the Lord.’ Might the criminal have experienced an epiphany and been a force for good? Could his soul have been saved? Terp had eliminated the man’s choices. But not by will.
The Choir Master tapped for attention and Terp joined in on the opening stanza.