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Ninety Days Inside The Empire: A Novel by William Appleman Williams

The Reverend

Page 7

The straight-up black telephone made a harsh noise. It did not awaken Robin Griffin Jones, the pastor and minister and preacher -The Reverend- of the religious assembly called The Abyssinian Baptist Community Church. He had been up since four-thirty and out and about and around a bit between five and six. Saturday was his day. No patients, not even the rich whites sneaking into his office after hours for help from one of the best osteopaths in Texas. No business of counseling sessions at the church. Not even any meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Saturday was his day. No time even for Loretta.

The Reverend (R. G. or Griff to a few special friends) invested Saturday in wandering through the city and on out to the Air Station, talking with all kinds of folks, reading books and magazines, thinking on his sermon, and just being his own man. On his feet before first light and not again to bed until about two on Sunday morning. By the juiced-up for the service at 11.

The br-r-r-r of the infernal machine caught him flipping back and forth in one of his favorites-the 1928 edition of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It seldom failed to center his mind for composing the sermon. He never wrote it out; just stored it in his soul so it could pour out like a river flowing easy. He was reading aloud softly to himself.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things....

"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?....

"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good....

"We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness ... and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us ... Have mercy upon us....

"And humbly beseech Thee, O Heavenly father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou has prepared for us to walk in...."

-- God is not helping us with the damn telephone!

The phone kept ragging the pages of The Book of Common Prayer. The Reverend was seriously annoyed. Saturday was his day. He formed a choice naughty phrase. He knew a large number of such words and could fit them into various imaginative combinations. No mindless shits and fucks, or cunts and cocks, for The Reverend.

-- May your Mother's milk make you piss blood.

But he answered the phone. That was one of the reasons for his presence and power as The Reverend. Sooner or later he was always there.

"This is Reverend Jones. How can I help you?"

About to hang up, Mr. Hank froze.

"Please. How can I help you?"

Then all in a rush. "Reverend this is Henry Blake and Maggie got hit on again last night and she says I got to call you and I know I ain't been to church much lately, but -"

"Just you calm down, Mr. Hank. You and Maggie take a nap. I'll be there 'bout 10 and you be ready with a nip and then we'll take a ride and talk on it." Down the phone.

-- Well, one way or another, I'm goin' to get a sermon out of this Saturday.

One of those lines came back to him: "...and do all such good works as Thou has prepared for us to walk in...."

He moved to the kitchen and scrubbed his breakfast skillet and mug and dish. Then he climbed the stairs to look in on Loretta-Lette. She had thrashed about in her dreams or memories and was sprawled out naked. He pulled the curtains, eased a sheet over her, closed the door, and went back down to do a ramble.