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Old 02-08-2013, 02:32 AM   #1
Scuttle Buttin'
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Welcome to Etham, Alabama (closed)

Warning: May contain disturbing and/or violent content.





Small town America.

Deep in the south, the people held their religion close, and their traditions closer. Church on Sunday, family dinners Sunday night, parades down main street on the 4th of July and New Year's Day. They didn't need a fancy rose parade on TV when they could put on something better, more authentic, in their own town. And everyone liked to see the new John Deere tractors roll down the middle of the road, deep green with those bright yellow wheels.

Etham, Alabama, located somewhere in the vast swath of land between Mobile and Birmingham that looked virtually empty on the map, was just like any of the other thousands of small towns below the Mason-Dixon Line. Everyone knew everyone else, and rumors spread faster than the winter cold among the townspeople. Gossip was a way of life, but always in whispers.

Or at least, that's what it looked like to an outsider.

Underneath the school band concerts and church ice cream socials, inside homes and back offices, powder kegs sat waiting for a match to set them off. The right catalyst could throw the whole town into chaos, ruin lives and marriages and businesses and reputations. Just a little push in the right direction, and the peace that seemed so easy would topple, tumble, and shatter.

But the odds of that happening were slim-to-none.

Weren't they?

For you, newcomer, there is no need to worry! The water from Etham's taps is clear and cool, the breeze across it's fields light and warm, and the sun never seems to stay too high in the sky for too long. The people are friendly, the food is fresh, and the cooking is good. As long as you can handle the occasional bless your heart from a stranger, you'll fit right in.

As the green rectangular sign on the edge of town says:

Welcome to Etham, Alabama!
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:49 AM   #2
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Miranda’s eyes drew Alistair to her, the slender girl’s tie soon found its way into the Mayor’s hand, a navy blue silk leash. The girl pulled back a bit, resisting the control, but a simple, sharp yank elicited a gasp, a weakening of the knees, a tiny arching of a spine. Miranda could feel this as if it were her own body. She pulled again, gently, firmly, bringing lips close to lips, and let them hang there for a very long time. The warmth of skin, of aura, of breath between the two women mixing and changing and swirling. Springtime new and promising. They waited, aching, wanting, needing. They waited, tonguetips along the edges of their own teeth, mouths alternately watering and parched dry, breaths slowly fading away from slow, deep lung-fulls of air to the tiniest inhale and exhale, only barely enough. This first touch. This was always perfect. Needed to be perfect. Lips moved closer still, lips parted, warm, wet tongues slipped free, tips touching then retreating suddenly, as if shocked. Then again. Contact. Just touching there, the slightest of movements as the world shrunk down to
here
now
us.



“Jonathan! I can’t tell you how happy I was to see you on my morning schedule!” Miranda rose to meet her guest, “Thanks Darla, hold my calls for a while, “ she dismissed her secretary.
“Its good to see you too, Mayor Skye,” Jonathan replied as they clasped hands.
If it was ‘Mayor Skye’ it was business, she knew.
“Come, sit,” she guided him to a chair, and took her own behind her desk. If it was business, then she wanted her position to show it. The town adored authority, her authority, of course.
“Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I was just going over some of the minutes of the last town council meetings, and some of the new laws and such going on the books.”
“You’ve been taking night school classes, haven’t you, “Miranda smiled.
“At your suggestion, Mayor Skye, “ Jonathan smiled back.
“I suppose I brought this on myself, yes. Still, I want the farmers to have one of their own to look out for them. I can’t think of a better man than you, Jonathan.”
“Flattery will get you no where, Mayor,” he came back. But it always had. Jonathan had always had a soft place in his heart for little Miranda Skye. He treasured the memories of being there when she was born, a close friend of the family.
The first thing on his list would be the corn subsidies. When Miranda had taken office, the town was basically paying farmers to grow a losing crop. The only reasons were that changing from one crop to another was, in fact, no small task, and because farmers, more than just about anyone, tend to feel a deep tie to tradition and family history. They’d always grown corn, and they always would. Corn is a waste. The town was collecting taxes to pay farmers to do nothing useful so that taxes could be collected to pay farmers to do nothing useful. Everyone knew it, no one would say it. But Miranda heard whispers from the day she arrived. In towns like this, there were always whispers.
Moreover, she had already played the conversation through every way possible.
Very few people multi-task for real. They switch back and forth between two tasks, perhaps even very quickly, but they were never doing two things at once.
Miranda could parallel process. She could split her attention between found or even 5 things at once, and keep those thoughts and mental workings completely separate. She could even create yet another subset of her mind to look at all the others and synthesize, bring everything together into a sort of working Gestalt.
This is all a way of saying that Miranda Syke was a rarity, perhaps a once in a generation mind, capable of seeing the world in new, expansive ways. That was how she often lived. This is why she had been found.
There were two things that brought her focus down to a single, crisp, powerful focus.
Neither of them were corn-related.

“I’d like to start with the cuts to the corn subsidies.”


That contact grew hot, grew fiery. Hands moved, grasped. Fingernails ran over fine silks, threatened to tear through pretty girl trousers, and rip fibers of french stockings. Fingernails found small, beautiful breasts, bare under the blouse, a pinch, almost too hard, and Ali’s hips shook. Tongues lashed, fought, demanded.
Skin glistened with sweat under summer sun. Miranda’s endless legs wrapped around her girl, crushing bodies together. Now Miranda’s turn to shake, nails down her spine, head rolling back, lower lip held between beautiful white teeth. Eyes met again, locked and powerful. Cunt found thigh found cunt. Hips moved.



“But the Jacobson’s...”
“The fact that Benny Jacobson and his entire brood have refused to acknowledge the world we live in is his own damn fault.”
“But Mayor...”
“Don’t ‘But Mayor’ me. No one is asking anyone to give up farming. And trust me, there’s a lot of folks all around the country who might feel that way. We’re just trying to encourage farmers to change with the times. What do you care if you are growing corn or kale?”
“Mayor, I hate to put you out like this, but you’ve never worked the land your entire life. I should know.”
“I know, Jonathan, but I was born and bred in a land of hard-working farmers who could use two hands to count the generations their families had brought food from the soil. Do you really think I don’t understand? The Jacobson farm is welcome to grow whatever it likes. But we aren’t going to help them continue to run themselves into the ground. Doing that’s like, like giving Rich Herd money for another shot of whiskey. Just helping them hurt themselves.”


Miranda lived here, on this edge, on this storm, on this wind. Desire and loss so close so very close. It was always too much, almost. It made her weak, made her almost helpless, made her almost a goddess. And Ali, so much like her, but so far away it hurt, for Ali, it was dissolution, it was surrender, it was giving, and accepting Mira as everything. In that moment, Mira loved her, could not help but love her, Alistair was too deep within to not love her. They cried out together as bright autumn colors rushed at them like a storm of reds and yellows and earths. They fell, catching each other, drinking tears and kisses and sharing breath.


“I just think there might be better ways to spend the money than improvements to the water processing and public irrigation systems. They work fine.”
“You thought waiting for rain worked fine.”
“Thats not the same thing.”
“Jonathan, you don’t wanna fix it if it ain’t broke, and I’m fine with that. Mostly. You didn’t want the system in the first place, but you sure love it now. This is going to increase the efficiency, and reliability. You’ll be able to custom map the amount of water your fields get, based on crop.”
“Sound more complicated than I’d like.”
“You use the web?”
“You know I do. You put in the free wi-fi.”
“Then you can do this.”
The advanced irrigation systems had been installed as a public utility during her second year in office. The wi-fi during her first. She needed their lives stable, and yes, connected to the outside world. But more, she needed everyone connected to everyone else. She needed the town to be a whole. Now they were tied through land, water, and air.
“All I’m sayin’ is that waitin’ for rain seems to still work pretty well. Been a while since we even had to worry about a drought.”
A while. Since Miranda took office, in fact.
“Still, “Jonathan’s eyes got that far-away look that farmer’s got when thinking about such things, “Could use some rain soon.”


Curves and lines found their way to fit. Miranda’s beautiful rolling hills, and Ali’s endless plains. The held each other, shaking, heat draining from them, skin cold like stone, soft like snow, in the dead still of winter. Ali barely breathing, barely moving, Mira keeping her close and closer and warming, becoming the fire the girl could huddle around to keep out the cold and the dark and the rest of everything.
Here
now
us.



"Jonathan, no one likes paying taxes..."
"But Mayor Skye, 45% on our kale crops, thats not tax, thats extortion."
"Who convinced you, and all the farmers, to start growing that trendy little superfood?"
"You did, of course,but..."
"And who set up arrangements with distributors so all those New York socialites and LA debutantes could pay crazy big city prices for the crop?"
"You did," Jonathan sighed, feeling where this was going.
“And who kept all those big corporate farms and superstores out so we could keep our ways and live our ways?”
“You did.”
"Yes, I did. And it put that big ol’ flat screen TV in your living room, didn't it? Put a lot of big ol’ flat screen TVs in a lot of living rooms where there wasn’t much before, didn’t it?” Miranda's eyes focused tightly on her 'old friend'.
"Yeah, I suppose it did. OK, OK, you win, Miranda," Jonathan chuckled, conceding defeat.
" And here we are, the same people we’ve always been. Just better. Now, when am I going to get to see my God Daughter again, and taste some of Jackie's ambrosia salad?"
"We were hoping you could come by night after next, I know little Missy would love to spend the night watching Disney on your lap."
"On that big ol’ TV," she smirked.
"On that big ol’ TV. We'll see you 7ish?"
"You bet!"
They both rose and hugged. And then stood back, holding each other's hands.
"To think, I was there when you were just born and now look at you. I will never get over it. I am just so proud of you, Mira."
"We all just do what we can for our town, Jonathan. Now shoo, I have lots to do, and give Jackie a kiss for me."


There, on the floor, fingers playing idly with hair, Mira let herself enjoy the tiny pain that Ali could never be hers. That the circuit would not complete. She did not know why, but it was what it was.
She enjoyed the hurt, indulged it, but only for a moment before allowing herself to fall back into the almost-perfection.
Yes, Jonathan, there would most certainly be rain tonight.
A smile curled across lips.
Etham was working out just fine.
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Old 02-21-2013, 01:50 PM   #3
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Fuck Etham, Alabama.

Fuck the quaint little buildings, the people who always smiled and waved at her as she walked through town on her way to work, fuck the backwater, bible thumping, conservative always married bitches who looked down on her for being unmarried, and wearing men's clothing.

Fuck this town.
Alistair hated almost everything about this town.
Almost.

She didn't hate her job, as assistant to the shiny wonder girl-Mayor Miranda. Well, that was partially a lie. She hated the job. She didn't hate Miranda. For the 300th time since she woke up that morning, Ali fantasized about leaving.

She fantasized about watching the town burn in her dust, in her dreams she was always leaving. Skipping up the steps to City Hall as she outwardly smiled and nodded at her fellow citizens all the while imagining them burning up in a fiery haze of screaming and running.

The office off of Miranda's wasn't large, but it was capable for her needs, she saw to the morning meeting, got the staff taken care of and settled with some of the new changes that Miranda wanted to try out, and handled all the incoming emails. It was enough of a distraction that she barely had time to think of leaving before she had stepped into Miranda's office.

And there she stopped breathing.

Miranda was beautiful. Not in that glossy magazine, air-brushed, fake sort of way that some of the farmer's wives had begun employing once there was a little money to burn. No. She was breathtaking, her wit, her voice, those nails, the way she turned and beckoned Ali to her side.

Ali would have crossed fire to be with Miranda. Sometimes, late at night she had stolen out of her house and walked to Miranda's just because being near her made her feel better.

Until it didn't.
Until Ali noticed that her boss was casting sidelong glances at other girls. Alistair tried to justify it, who could ignore Miranda? But she knew, she knew that she'd be replaced soon enough.

Even if Miranda was fucking her right now.
It wouldn't last.
It never did.
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Old 02-25-2013, 05:34 AM   #4
Scuttle Buttin'
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Glory to the King Ministries

So blatant, it was almost laughing in their face. And yet, they never saw. People were too often predictable.

Levi King, for his part, relied on that predictability. It made things so much easier to plan, plans so much easier to execute, and executing his exit so much easier. His was a touring show, one that had crisscrossed the deep south for years, and praise be to the Lord for it.

Most towns were like all the others. He and the trophy of smiles and silence came in, obtained whatever permits were needed (a process that was usually easier even than setting things up, so thirsty was the flock for God's word), and the revival began. Each night built upon the one before it, the people were worked up into a worshiping frenzy, a starving mass of humanity that looked to the good Reverend King for their much needed sustenance.

But traveling revivals weren't easy, good people! Funding was not made by corporate sponsors, and the rich had no use for the Word. It was only they, with the money they earned through their hard work and God's good grace, that could keep his ministry moving down the road. Winning souls, saving eternal lives. Good work, and honest work, and work that they needed to help continue.

Levi was an eloquent and engaging speaker, able to work a crowd into a ball of energy with fire and brimstone preaching, or settle them into somber silence at a heartfelt story about someone he encountered in his travels. The coffers were always full.

From town to town they went, spreading the word, raking in the money, and moving on. When they found a town they could spend some time in, they'd find someone in town looking to rent a house and take up residence for a month, perhaps two. When between stops, they lived in the top of the line RV that seemed to both give them a certain kind of prestige and serve as a physical example of the costs involved in this kind of life.



--------



Etham, Alabama was not initially on Levi's list of towns to stop in. He'd never heard of it, in fact, lost as it was in the no-man's land of the state that was not within an easy drive of Mobile or Birmingham. He'd been sent in their direction by a woman that had been born there, and who told him late one evening that she thought he could work some good in her hometown. She helped him get in contact with a local minister, and after a short stop in southern Georgia, he was on the way to Etham.

It was not the smallest town he'd ever brought the show to, but certainly not the largest as well. A couple thousand people, with farmland dotting the countryside around it, and as with any good southern town, plenty of churches.

The First Baptist Church of Etham was the one welcoming he and Andrea - he hated that she called herself Andi, and would refused to do so - and it was the currently empty rental property of one of their members that they would be staying in while in Etham. Levi was unsure if they'd be around for long, he never was until he got the feel for a place, but extra room to move around, and to entertain guests, was never a bad thing.

It was late in the evening when they arrived. The town, dark and quiet around them. Asleep. They'd sleep tonight, too, and tomorrow the work would begin. Andrea would set up the house, unpack clothes and arrange furniture. Levi would set out to meet town officials, sign permits and find the right spot to put up the large tent that was currently folded in the trailer behind the large RV.

Levi King had come to Etham, Alabama. And the town was never going to be the same again.
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:04 PM   #5
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:52 PM   #6
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There was a chill in the air. But she didn’t mind. It helped. It eased the pounding in her head and cooled the heat on her cheek. A hand clutched around a bag of garbage, she made her way down the path that led away from their house and towards the trashcans near the garden fence. With a heavy thud that seemed to comprise mainly of glass and tin, the bag was dropped within and the lid replaced carefully. Instead of returning to the house, she stood by the fence, eyes looking up at the starlit skies up above. Cathy wiped at her face a little petulantly. She hated that it still made her cry. Even after all this time. Wincing as her palm brushed her cheekbone and the area stung, bringing fresh tears to her honey brown eyes.

She hated that it never failed to surprise her when it happened. The warning signs were as clear as day, the one word answers that started the moment his boots came off, that dangerous glint in his green eyes when she’d turn and catch him looking at her. Cathy had learnt the types of things that might be more likely to set him off. Making sure the dinner was a near as it could be to being ready without spoiling when he got home. There was always beer in the fridge and a bottle of something in the cabinet. True they couldn’t really afford to keep up with his habit but like any good housekeeper she’d found ways of cutting costs elsewhere to make sure there was enough spare cash after bills and food to keep his appetite at bay. So they didn’t have fancy shampoos, so she couldn’t actually remember the last time she’d bought herself some clothes. Working in the town’s dress shop had its perks though. Spare material could be easily saved wherever possible and with some clever needle work a new dress could be made with a little overtime and the use of the shop’s machine. An onlooker would never know.

Cathy glanced back at the house behind her, their home. Their little piece of heaven. Or so it had once been. Steven was just stressed. That’s what she kept telling herself. Worried and unable to explain why. Sighing heavily she leant on the fence and let her eyes wander towards the town. To the lighted windows twinkling in the dark. The nearest house belonged to the foundry’s foreman, Virgil. He was a good man, and like Cathy and most people in town, had grown up in and around Etham his whole life. They’d been at school together and now him and Steven worked together. Her brow furrowed slightly as she stared down the road. A brisk three minute walk and she’d be at his door. A run and she’d been there in less time. A few minutes, that was all, and she could escape.

She’d lost count of the times she almost done it. Unlatched the gate and thought about running. She didn’t know Virgil that well but she was sure he’d help her. She was positive he would. Sure he’d probably doubt that the former local football star was doing what he was almost every other night but the bruises would say more than words ever could. Those awful marks she carefully covered up every day.

But she’d never done it. Something had always held her back. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was fear or some bizarre sense of duty. Whatever it was, it always made her drop the latch and wander slowly back inside. Back to him. Back to her life, such as it was. To his mumbled apologies and clumsy fingers that always followed their ‘fights’. Back to his excuses as to why it had happened and only being certain of only one thing. That his temper would flare again. Even now she knew it would be a matter of moments and her feet would slowly take her back inside. Hoping he'd be sleeping.

It was like living with a volcano. Knowing an eruption was coming. Never knowing quite when, but knowing it would cause pain and suffering when it did and knowing that one day, it might do far worse.
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Old 03-09-2013, 11:39 AM   #7
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The old F-150 pulled into the driveway and stopped, the engine cutting off into silence. Despite the age of the vehicle it was clearly well maintained, and it stopped smoothly without any screech or complaint from brakes or engine. The driver exited his door, closed it firmly - not bothering to lock it - and strode up the short walk from the driveway to the front door of his home. His shift was over for the day and it was Friday, which meant that the workweek was done, as well. And all Virgil Hawkins wanted to do was get home, get out of his grimy clothing, and have a beer.

Standing at his front door, his key halfway into the lock, Virgil glanced to his right, up the hill towards Cathy and Steve’s house. He couldn’t help it, even though he felt vaguely guilty every time he looked. Over the past few years, he hadn’t talked much to Steve, despite the fact that they worked close by each other, and he hadn’t said more than a few words to Cathy in even longer. On some level, it killed him to have the girl that he’d been so infatuated with since the tenth grade living right next door, but on another level, at least he got to see her occasionally, even if he couldn’t quite bring himself to speak with her and even if she’d seemed more and more withdrawn, lately. Virgil shook his head at his own damned foolishness and opened the door.

Half an hour later, showered and changed, dark hair combed into some semblance of order, Virgil took a seat on the couch while he figured out what to do with the rest of the night. It was a Friday night, which meant that there were three main options for entertainment – the TV, a book, or a trip into town for beers with the guys. TV was always a decent option, though he wasn’t a huge fan of most of the Friday night lineup. Getting home as late as he did from the foundry meant that most of the stuff he was interested in watching was already over. Books were also good, and he’d just picked one up on the Vietnam War that looked good, but he wasn’t really in a reading mood. That pretty much settled it, then – beer it was. A couple of quick phone calls later and things were set. A meeting in twenty minutes at the Wagon Wheel, further destinations to be decided as the whim of the evening took them.

Virgil popped the top on a can of Monster Energy as he headed back out to Old Reliable, his venerable F-150. The pickup was approaching twenty years old, but he lavished it with love and attention, particularly in his current absence of a girlfriend. Regular oil changes, brake jobs, and even that fender replacement a year or so ago – all had been done by his own skilled hands. As he approached the truck his eyes were, as always, drawn up the hill. This time, though, he was both rewarded and tortured by a glimpse of Cathy, standing by the fence. He raised one arm in greeting, not certain if she was even looking his way in the dim light, and kept walking towards his truck. Damn.
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Old 03-14-2013, 01:57 PM   #8
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Bethany King stood in the kitchen of their new temporary residence, a stack of towels in her hands. They were a mostly dull array of colors and threadbare, with one or two red patterns stark against the gray and white. In the beginning, she had tried to brighten their homes with thrift store finds: picture frames that she had no photos for, rag rugs, cheerful quilts. Beth could not recall the last time she had made the effort. Levi had never noticed, and it was frivolous of her to engender such distractions. Vain. Vanity was a sin.

The room she stood in was dull under a dim light. The linoleum was scrubbed but cracked and faded, the walls were white but yellowed around the edges from too many meals cooked with too little ventilation. The counters were narrow and the porcelain sink had stains around the drain. The one bright spot was the small window above the faucet, with a window box that held some kind of flower. Pansies, she thought. They would be something to look at as she stood at the sink and washed dishes, cooked dinner. It was something: Beth always found something.

She opened a drawer, the tracks squeaking in protest as it rolled out. A headache pricked around her skull but she pushed it resolutely away. They had only just arrived and there was a huge amount of work to do. There always was. Beth laid the towels into the drawer and straightened a crooked edge. She needed to get new shelf liners, that was a task she always forgot.

The drawer was pushed shut.

There had been many houses like this. There had been many nights in cars, in tents, in the RV: Beth could never say whether she prayed to stay alone or to hear Levi's belt as he came for her. Sometimes the solitude was too much that she welcomed even that. The loneliness crept up on her, if she let it.

So she tried not to let it.

The boxes surrounding her were taped together and flimsy, cardboard and some crates. Their contents were well-used but not loved, not treasured. Beth eyed them and felt exhausted. There was nothing to do but unpack—Levi would expect her to. As long as she stayed out of his way, she didn't exist. He wouldn't notice a box of pansies outside their kitchen window, nor a tidily arranged stack of towels, nor a well-appointed home, nor a wife that prayed continually for guidance. She swallowed, drily. There had been guidance, she knew. By Levi's hands and word she had been led to the light; her husband was merely continuing the work that her father Tilford had begun when he had dunked her in the river. So many souls, so many people to lead. Levi was a shepherd, a real man of God.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” Beth whispered, pressing fingertips to her forehead. She was tired, that was all. When the fatigue of their travel became too much her mind wandered in murkier waters. It was harder to recall the cool, comforting slip of the river and its cleansing purpose: her thoughts slowed and turned to a kind of quicksand, dragging her deeper. Beth often wondered where her prayers went, who received them. Did they drift, spiraling, unheard?

No. No, they were a candle in the dark. There was good. There were flowers in the window box. There was a cross around her neck. She just wasn't praying hard enough.

Shrugging off the doubt, Beth reached into the next crate. There were plates and cups and bowls in there, wrapped in fading newsprint. These would go in the cupboard above the drainboard. Her mind was back to ticking down the list of tasks that needed to be completed and she praised God for it. Beth was wicked for allowing herself to be distracted by unworthy thoughts. She was a wife, a preacher's wife: God sent trials to those he loved, a chance for them to prove their devotion. The work was welcome. Her resolve deepened and she briskly unwrapped the cup in her hands, the paper rustling and crackling as she placed it on the countertop. Long ago she had learned to save the packing materials, for they never lingered long enough for her to replace them if they were thrown out. The cup she held in her hands, Wedgwood china, was the last of an incomplete set that had been spoiled by her carelessness. She had placed them in a box and worried about them all the way to their next destination years ago, and had wept when that box was opened to reveal a pile of broken crockery.

Vanity.
Pride.
They were just utensils, after all.

The china was cool against the pad of her fingers, and she ran them over the pattern of a sailing ship emblazoned on the side. A corner of her delicate mouth perked up. It was still a pretty cup.

And then her thumb felt a ridge that was unfamiliar. Frowning, she turned the object over in her hands, holding it up to the weak light. There was a crack in the cup. It angled down the side, spidery and ugly. She grasped it closer, trying to see how bad it was and the china shifted, dragged on her finger, catching--

She gasped. The sharp edge had dug into her skin, protesting her examination. Blood welled at the wound and smeared onto the cream surface of the once smooth exterior. Beth dropped the cup in shock, and then desperately made a grab for it as it bounced off her hand and crashed into the kitchen floor, the now shattered pieces skidding across the dingy linoleum. She stood, stupefied, her heart ramming against her ribcage. The sting of the scrape numbed in the face of consternation, her brown eyes wide and terrified. The crickets outside kept on with their nightly chorus, and the stillness of the air bloomed like a soap bubble. Swelled.

And then burst.

A tear tracked down her cheek and she hastily brushed it away, remembering at the last moment the blood on her hand. The cup was gone. Her clumsiness astounded her, and the adrenaline rush of the initial smashing noise was still buzzing through her. Beth carefully edged along the floor to avoid stepping on any shards and pulled the drawer containing the towels open once more. Wrapped one around her hand. Bent down and started gathering the pieces. She wouldn't let him see the mess she'd made of such a simple task.

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

When they were at last all collected in the bloodstained towel, she sat against the wall, a numb weariness stealing over her. The contents of the cloth clinked together, passed over each other. Beth closed her eyes.

There were pansies outside the window.
There were stars in the sky.
God moved around her, His wisdom abounded.

Beth sat in her new kitchen in Etham, and prayed once more for guidance.

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Old 03-16-2013, 04:31 AM   #9
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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The desk wobbled irritatingly as he scribbled notes in the yellow legal pad he kept in the slim leather portfolio. The first night of the Revival was always the same - bring them in with the love and compassion, send them back out with the fire and brimstone, and watch the seats and coffers fill with each subsequent night - but he still tried to flavor it with new bits here and there to keep it fresh. It was a trick he learned when he was first starting out, taught to him by a man that had all but convinced him he knew what someone in the crowd was thinking.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Discussion with the man later proved that it was little more than a clever parlor trick, and one that had served him well for decades.

Another lesson, learned during only his second revival, was that nightly Bible study was necessary. Mandatory. Much like a student studying for a big test, he had to know what he was talking about forward and backward. People loved testing the Man of God, and if he did not have a ready answer then he ran the risk of looking weak and unknowing in front of the flock
sheep
and ruining his standing with them. A mistake that was often fatal. The uber faithful would stay, they would stay if he fucked a chicken on stage in front of them and claimed it to be an order from God himself, but they were not going to provide him with the necessary funds to continue his work. And he ran the risk of news spreading, even among these small isolated towns.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And Lord above, was Etham small and isolated.

Just north of 8,000 people, judging by what he saw of the town in the dark as he drove through, and the only way in or out was via a two-lane road that wound through trees and farmland. An actual interstate seemed to be a foreign concept here.

Etham was perfect.

Even as he sat on the fragile wooden chair in the small extra bedroom that would be his office, Levi was completely put together. Image was everything, the true first impression he would make on people, and even at this late hour when few knew they were here he had to be ready. The minister could drop by because he saw lights on in the house and wanted to welcome them to town, and not a hair would be out of place on Levi's head. The clock hand had already swept past 11, but until he slipped between the sheets after watching over Beth's evening prayers, Levi was ready.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

The pen (black ink, never blue) moving against the page was the only sound outside of the faint ticking clock somewhere behind him and the occasional rustle from downstairs as Beth unpacked and set up house. Neither sound was given even a neuron devoted to them, both his wife and the clock inconsequential tools that were doing their jobs as they should, and so his attention to either was wholly unnecessary.

While laying in bed at night, just before drifting off to sleep, his mind would sometimes turn to the question of love, and whether he would apply it to the way he felt about Beth. She was an attractive girl, of that there was no doubt. He may even go so far as to say one of the more attractive he'd ever laid with. The Lord's work, it turned out, made one rather appealing to women. And the deviant, defiling things they'd tempt him to do with, and to, them...

But love? He couldn't ever settle upon an answer. Were she to be taken from him, he felt as if he would know some sorrow. Were his right hand separated from him, though, he may similarly feel sorrow. Did that mean he loved his right hand? He did not believe so. She drew in the men that were not initially lured by the message he delivered, and she looked good while on his arm. She led the music ably enough. Her body was still tight to his needs, not ruined by child birth. Condoms were strictly forbidden, he would tolerate nothing separating them when they came together. Unfortunately, the devil had tried to ruin their lives with a child a time or two, though her body proven unable to hold up to his demands and that of the growing child. She had cried and he had told her that their Lord worked in mysterious ways, but for them he had a plan.

Not so mysterious, really. Levi's plan did not include children.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

With two and a half pages of scribbled notes, he felt there was little more he could add. The meat of his message would remain the same, and much of what he'd written tonight would be discarded or edited in some way before he set foot behind the pulpit to deliver the Word. He hoped to meet with the mayor in the morning, as well as some of the elders of the church, and through those discussions more would be added or subtracted, depending on the feel he got for the town throughout the day.

Levi was a gifted speaker, able to steer the emotions of his people as if by remote control, and part of his gift was his ability to adapt as situations and information dictated. A town struggling economically was told about the way God rewarded those who gave of themselves. A town flush was warned that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. And where feminism crept in, the people were reminded of man's place as the head of the household. Beth proved quite useful then, too.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

A glance over his shoulder at the clock, and he discovered to his surprise that it was nearly midnight. He had hoped to be at the mayor's office first thing in the morning - they often proved to be quite valuable allies during his time in a town, and he hoped to get him on his side before the tent had even been set up - and there was plenty to do after that. Tomorrow was quite likely to be their longest day here, and it would likely begin just after sunrise.

These fucking farmers loved getting up with the sun for some reason.

The pen was twisted closed and slid into the leather loop next to the legal pad, and Levi flipped back to the first page of his notes to skim over them quickly. Always wanting them fresh in his mind. His eyes were nearly to the bottom of the first page when a shattering crash sliced through the silence, and Levi's eyes fell closed, jaw clenching. Did she always have to be so fucking clumsy?

The portfolio was flipped closed and he stood from the old chair, smoothing his shirt and straightening his belt once he did. He suspected he'd not be wearing one of them for much longer.

His notes were left, forgotten for the moment, as he made his way down the stairs to see what mess she had made now. He found her sitting against the wall with a towel around her hand, and another cradled in them, wrapped around something the cast out a faint clink with every movement. Another broken dish.

Truly, he cared little about the dishes unless something nice was needed for a meal with people from the town. Money and items meant little to him, outside of the power they bestowed or displayed. But clumsy and distracted fingers irritated him to no end, and she knew that. Perhaps that was why her eyes were closed as she sat there. Perhaps it was why her lips moved in a silent prayer, asking that she be spared from the wrath of her husband. The whisper of leather sliding through belt loops would be answer enough for her to know her prayers would not be granted tonight.

As he used his belt on her and filled their little house with the sound of leather on flesh, his Bible still stood open upstairs. At the top of the page, the last verse he'd read in Colossians that night waited to greet him again in the morning.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:48 PM   #10
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To the outside eye, the hush of the house would have given the impression that Beth had been alone. A nighttime lull. She knew otherwise, and heard the telltale scrape of a chair across wooden floorboards above her head. The house was new enough to her that its noises were unfamiliar, but some harbingers were impossible to misunderstand. Her spine pressed harder into the wall, her tailbone dug into the linoleum. The panic was consuming and sudden. She strove to melt herself into the wall.

Pray.

An excellent wife, who can find?

In the past the warnings had been fewer, for Beth could not predict what would tip the scales. She was a resourceful girl—she had to be, with the negligence of her history and the accompanying loneliness. She had learned early on how to care for herself, how to nurture a thought until it bloomed into brilliant fantasy. The household skills she maintained were integral but those were only a part of the intricate structure her thoughts could delve into: her survival skills. She wouldn't allow herself to consider what she may have done if Levi had not found her, without warning, outside that tent so long ago. No warning. Unprepared.

Beth had come to understand caution.

A town in Georgia, not long after they were married. Levi slapping her for stirring her tea too loudly at the table, his gaze flat and remote. Beth responding with indignation, disbelief. His hand coming for her cheek again, and her protests fading into a dawning comprehension.

There were footsteps now.
There had been footsteps before.

She is far more precious than jewels.

Beth clutched at the bundle in her hands as though it could bolster her strength in the face of what she knew was coming. What strength did she have, really? The broken crockery in her hands, the prayers on her lips, the admonishing cadence of his footsteps. Yes, she had grown adept at reading the writing on the wall. So why had she dropped the cup?

In the RV outside of a backwater in Mississippi. Beth slamming into the screen door, the rough material rasping against her face. Levi's hands twisting around her neck, shoving her like a rag doll. Her voice pleading, bargaining.

The final steps cleared, the creaks were closer now.
Measured, even.
Unhurried.
Beth closed her eyes.

Faster, she prayed faster, prayed more. She reached out--oh God, please, light his way, don't turn him from me--but there was no answer. The cup was her answer. Vain. Sin. Pride. A sob trembled in her throat and she forced it back, opened her eyes. Beth found a smile from somewhere. Beth always found something. She smiled up at her husband's impassive face. A subdued cheerfulness: just an accident. Tears clung to her eyelashes.

Oh, Levi, I'm sorry. I'm so clumsy, I-I dropped the cup,” Beth's voice was always soft, always deferential, when she talked to her husband. “I cleaned it up though, I got all the--”

His belt was sliding through loops, a snakelike release. Beth shrank back into the wall, her heels of her feet slipping, kicking the floor once or twice as she struggled to stand.

“--all the shards so you can't cut yourself, Levi--”

A hallway of a house in Louisiana, swamp air surrounding. Beth clawing at the floor as Levi drags, and pulls, and kicks. Her dress ripped. No one comes. No one ever comes.

She held out her hands, placating, dropping the towels onto the tabletop with a tinkling of broken china, backing into the corner. The table was to her right. He vacated the doorway. She scrambled for the small margin of space between the table and the wall, fighting, still fighting—how was she still running? After all of the years, and all of the pain, after all of the screams and noises of terror—but what was a wife without obedience? Beth couldn't run. Where would she go? And she loved him. Didn't she?

Didn't she?

She does him good,

“-please, no. Oh--!

And the belt struck, in the back, on her spine. The pain was intense, flaring, a nerve protesting such direct treatment. She clung to the door frame but only briefly, another blow following, aimed at her thighs. A snap on skin, making her hop, staggering away into the next room. Weeping, but not out of surprise. Not out of shock at the pain. The tears fell without restraint, with no notice, though Beth had tried desperately to suffer in silence. Her penance. Her contrition. The tears fell because she could not change it, because the cycle repeated again and again. Alone, always alone—for the hopes that had blossomed, to be dashed when they ended in a rain of blood and cramping agony. He comforted her then. Didn't he? Didn't he?

In the bathroom of a church house in Florida, smaller than the current one, a wooden cross on the wall. Levi's breathing in the other room, relaxed and slow. Beth's own breathing labored and painful, ribs cracked. Too excruciating to weep.

Beth was at the stairs and she grasped the banister, trying to shield herself with its sturdy build. The blows kept coming, inexorably. She couldn't see his expression, the tears blurred her vision. She used to try, to look up and catch his attention, to beguile him. He was handsome, she had always known that. He was charming and sophisticated. He could be patient, he could be kind. Through the word of God, he saved so many—his hands dipping down into the licking flames. He could be...

and not harm,

The belt licked out, and she buckled into the staircase, leaning hard against the risers. Beth felt the sharp pain in her knees, knowing she would have to cover up the bruises somehow for the opening tomorrow. Unless he would kill her. Would he kill her? Was this the time?

Repeating the only words she ever knew to say.
Please, no. No more. I'm sorry.

Outside of a tent in northern Georgia, pressing the knuckles of Beth's hand to his mouth. Touching her hair. Smiling a secret smile.

Flinching away from him.
Trying to disappear.

...all the days of her life.
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:37 AM   #11
Scuttle Buttin'
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"We turn tonight, my friends, to the book of Jonah."

They are in the one stoplight town of Alma, Georgia. Population somewhere around 3,000, though he is able to draw more from the surrounding towns in Bacon County. It is not far from the coast, but the heat is oppressive tonight and many in the crowd are fanning themselves with little paper fans stapled to the ends of Popsicle sticks. Sweat stands out on Levi's forehead, darkens the underarms of his shirt. His suit jacket has long since been cast aside over a chair. His tie is loosened.

But the heat seems to have energized him. He feeds off of it, just as he does the repeated "Amen" that rises from the crowd before him. His people. They are in the palm of his hand, all eyes on him, following as he stalks about on the small stage. When he pauses, you could hear a pin drop were it not for the sound of the cicadas droning their song outside the tent.


Wetness on his back, making his shirt stick to his skin. The muscles in his arm burn, but he ignores it.

No.

He welcomes it. An obstacle to push through. The heat in his bicep will not still the belt in his hand. Her "no," her "please," they are just as ineffective. They are, in fact, the opposite of ineffective. They drive him on, urge him forward. Just as Jesus drove the demons out and into the pigs, so too he must

"-get thee to Nineveh, the Father told Jonah. But our Jonah here, he had no intention of going there, did he? Jonah, he thought if he just ran, if he just hid, that God would not find him! A foolish thought, if ever there was one, am I right?"

"Amen!"

"Amen my friends, amen indeed!" The Bible was on the small podium, open but for the moment ignored. Levi had hit his stride, and had not intention of derailing it now to check his notes or reference a specific verse. He was rolling, and they were rolling with him.

"Jonah though, 'Maybe if I run to Jaffa, maybe if I get on this boat and sail to Tarshish, maybe there I can hide-


"-it? All wrapped up in the towel, and not even tell me? Why must you always do this to me, Beth?"

The belt hung at his side, the tapered leather end swaying a bit just above the ground as he spoke, his voice low and tinged with exertion.

"I do not enjoy inflicting this onto you, Bethany, but you leave me no choice in the matter when you act with such a foolish spirit."

Levi fell silent, his head shaking slowly. A puddle of disappointment in the face of an ocean of delivered pain. His eyes drop to glance at the watch on his wrist, and then lift back to where she clung still to the banister, tears streaking her face.

"It's late. Go clean up. I'll be up in a moment to watch over your prayers-"

"-in the belly of that whale. Because that's when we pray, isn't it? When we've run from God until our skin is dusty and we've worn down our shoes. When we're exhausted and cannot go on anymore, that's when we finally turn to God."

"Amen!"

"When the mortgage is comin' and we don't know how we're going to pay it!"

"Amen!"

"When the crops aren't growin' up like they're supposed to!"

"Amen!"

"When the hurricane is bearin' down on us, shutters flappin' and cats and dogs are pouring from the sky!"

"Amen!"

"We wait until we're broken down, until we have no
choice but to fall to our knees before we gettin' on them."

He stopped at the edge of the stage, and let the silence swim among the sound of the cicadas as the seconds drained into the night. When he began, his voice was low, reaching to the back of the tent but scarcely beyond it.

"Because that is where we should start, isn't it? On our knees, askin' what it is that is wanted of us. It is there we find our answers. There we show that we are truly giving ourselves over to God and saying, 'Here I am, Lord. Here is your servant, askin' what it is you want of me.' Instead of tellin' Him what it is we want, we should be thanking Him for what we have. It is there, on our knees-"


"-for your prayers. Don't dawdle, Beth. I'm tired."

He stood at the foot of their bed, his shirt off, chest bare and dry. His feet were bare as well, shoes standing next to each other near the closet door, and behind it on a small hook hung the belt that had reddened and marked her skin minutes earlier.

"I know it hurts," he said with some approximation of sympathy in his voice, "But you can thank God for that pain, and the lesson that it gives.

More pain would follow. It always did. Her marital duties were still expected, whether her skin stung with each movement or not, and Levi took a particular pleasure in rough touches where the belt had lapped at her skin. On her knees at the end of the bed she had only recently made, she would worship one master and begin the worship of another. A penance on her knees.

"And leave the light-"

"-on for as long as you all would like, dear friends. Stay, and fellowship in the spirit. I'll stay here until the sun rises up! Any that need help, that need to stop running and find their way down to their knees, I'll be waitin' here for as long as it takes."
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Old 03-31-2013, 01:34 PM   #12
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Every night Beth wore a white nightgown to bed. It was cotton, with an intricate lacy pattern along the edges. It had short sleeves. It stopped at her knees. When Levi had first taken her from Followill, it was one of the few items she had bought for herself in preparation for their marriage. Get a white nightgown, girl. Brush that hair 'til it shines. Beth did it every night. The gown. The brush running through her chestnut hair. Her wedding ring on her finger.

Her nightgown often smelled like bleach.

A ritual.
Some things stayed the same, like brushing her teeth, washing her face.
Some things changed, like braiding her hair so it would curl the next day or leaving it long and loose.

She tried to braid the silken strands but her fingers balked at the complexity. Beth instead left her hair drifting over her shoulders. She had rinsed her toothbrush, set it aside, turned off the faucet. The cap of the toothpaste was screwed back on. A drop of water fell from the spigot, landed in the sink's basin. Echoed throughout the room. The places his belt had struck were raised into long welts and they would ache. The cross around her neck gleamed silver in the valley of her throat. The towel she had taken from the stack was folded and hung on the rack. She smoothed it with trembling fingers. Nice and neat.

There had been a time when Beth stared into the various bathroom mirrors, seeking answers or absolution. The light in the bathroom in Etham was instead turned off without comment, without the audience of her reflection. Levi stood by the bed, which she had draped in old percale sheets and a blue quilt earlier that evening. Were they in the same night? How much time had passed? It seemed like a lifetime had taken place since she dropped the cup—a pang of regret there, still, for her clumsiness—and she was dazed. But so life went for her, with giant leaps from flashing immediacy to long waits.

Comfort was coming. Levi was right, she could offer it up. The floorboards were cool under her bare feet as she passed by him, hesitating at his nearness. Carefully she lowered herself to her knees, drawing the hem of her gown up so it wouldn't tug. She placed her elbows on the bed, clasped her hands together. Her chin tilted but only just, the bow of her lips resting briefly at the place where her thumbs crossed. Her body protested. Her thighs cried out at the contact of cloth on her skin. But she could offer it up.

Beth closed her eyes.
Beth began to pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, bless me on this night.

Dear God, please let him fall asleep without touching me.

Watch over me, and give me guidance, and forgive me my sins.

Let him be repelled by me.

Give me guidance, God. Show me the way to glory.

Wash away his desires.

Bless my husband, Father. Bless his patience and willingness to teach me how to be a good wife.

Or let him be pleased with me, God, for one night, one night.

His work in Your name is true and strong. He leads us as You guide him, in Your wisdom.

If You could tear the roof off of this house,

Bless those who seek to join us, who wish to be rid of sin. Give them hope--”

if You could crack my life open,

“--and lead them to Levi, to You. Please, Father--”

if You could give me wings,

“--watch over us--”

I'd fly into the sky.

“--and give me strength to--”

Here Beth stuttered briefly, stopped, swallowed. She had been about to ask for strength to fly away.
No, not that. Not that?

“--give me strength to continue spreading word of Your blessings to the world. Keep me free of sin. Keep me safe, Father. Thy will be done. Amen.

She whispered, again,

Amen.

As Levi's hand came down into her hair, so helpfully kept free, Beth thought of wings. As his fingers twisted around her arm, as his hand snapped her head back and brought her to standing, she thought of flying. What are wings? His fingertips dug into the flesh of her thighs as he yanked up the bottom of her nightgown. His palm pressed into her cheek, shoved her face down into the blue quilt. Her legs dangled over the side of the bed, not kicking, not fighting. I could fly.

The air on her body, chill, exposed.
A vicious thrust, and he was inside of her.
The tears came.
They always did, no matter how much she fought them.

As the quilt became a navy blur, as strands of her hair tore painfully in his grasp, as she cried out once—how was there still pain? Beth wanted to run away in her mind, to think of a sea of stars above, with wings that stretched and shimmered in the light. A body that was cradled in the glow of the moon, a sky full of peace. But Beth never went away. She was always there. His hands always crawled all over her, dragged over her. He was always inside her, his words and his touch. Her tears ran down and dampened the quilt. The weight of him pushed her down. The bed creaked and sighed. His breath was hot at her neck.

He twisted her arm up behind her back, and picked up his pace.
I'll fly away.

-----

The morning came. The bed was made. The nightgown was bundled to be washed. The brown hair was combed. Beth wore a yellow dress and had put up her hair. She wore a white sweater to cover the marks on her arms, and the skirt stopped just below her knees. She greeted the day with a hopeful smile. The night was the night, and the shadows were gone in the light of day.

Weren't they?

She stood at the sink, and the pansies winked at her through the open screen. Beth washed the plate in her hands, feeling the water run over her wrists and palms. She resisted the urge to keep scrubbing and placed the plate in the rack. Today she would need to go start organizing the preparations for refreshments, music. There was always something to do. Beth always found something. The church ladies were waiting for her. Beth King, they would say. The blessings of your life. Right by your husband as he leads the charge of glory! I am just so pleased to meet you.

She dried her hands, leaning against the counter. Levi stood up from the table, lifted his suit jacket, shrugged it on.

No children? Not yet? Well, the Lord knows best. You'll be blessed soon, I just know. With your sweet nature? You'll be a wonderful mother. You'll raise them right, honey.

Levi kissed her forehead.

And your husband is just such a powerful preacher. What a fine man of God.

The door opened, closed.
The towel was folded.
Beth looked at the pansies in the window box.

What a fine man of God.

Last edited by thestruggle : 04-11-2013 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:08 AM   #13
Scuttle Buttin'
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"These religious assholes are ruining this country!"

"Not in front of the children, Robert!"

With a snort and a roll of the eyes, the newspaper was closed, folded, and tossed onto a pile that would later turn to kindling for the fire.

Levi's father, Charles Grey, was a professor of Biology at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and one of a growing number of atheists in his department. He had no patience with religion or the religious, banishing the topic from his house unless one were to be cursing it.

His mother, Marilyn, a housewife and former Catholic, was not a fan of the cursing either, and would admonish Charles when he'd do so in front of either of their two children. Levi's sister, Julia, would occasionally giggle when her father would let loose a 'naughty word.' Levi, for his part, couldn't be bothered to care one way or the other.

It is 1978. Annie Hall would win best picture. The World Cup would be played in Argentina. Pope Paul the Sixth would die, with Pope John Paul the First named as his successor. He would die 23 days later, and be followed by Pope John Paul the Second. In Guyana, Jim Jones and his People's Temple cult would commit mass suicide.

And in Hamden, Connecticut, Levi Grey already views his parents as lesser, only occasionally useful people. Though unknown even to him, he was learning from them things that would be useful for the rest of his life.





The day dawned bright and clear in Etham, Alabama. Levi showered, dressed, and ate in virtual silence. The marks of the previous night still burned into Beth's skin, but all of them were, of course, her own fault. Why she couldn't be trusted with simple tasks at times was a mystery he planned to devote no brain cells to today.

"I'll see you at the church this afternoon. Have the chairs unpacked so they can be set up as soon as the tent is up."

They were the only real words he said to her, delivered more as statements than even instructions as he put on his jacket and adjusted the cuffs. The bang of the screen door closing was the next sound he made.




"Dude, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? She's crying!"

The winter of 2000. A heavy blanket of snow covered the campus of Brown University, and much of Rhode Island moved at a cold, slippery crawl. Inside a dorm room that was almost freakishly clean and organized, Levi Grey sat on the edge of his bed in a pair of boxers, and took another pull from a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Behind him, a thin blond girl lay naked and covered nearly up to her wide eyes by a dark comforter.

Standing just in front of him, his eyes also wide, was a useless Polish faggot named Albert. They had been roommates for just over a year now, though theirs was always a tense relationship. Albert didn't approve of the girls Levi would bring to their room to sleep with - mostly because they were rarely his girlfriend - and Levi didn't approve of the men Albert brought to their room to sleep with because they were men. Still, occasionally promiscuous though he would be, the numbers clearly did not lie: Levi had far more partners in his bed, and seemingly an easier time getting them there, than Albert ever did.

Another of those number had been in his bed when Albert returned to their room with Levi's girlfriend. She was devastated to find him fucking one of her Sorority sisters, and Albert was upset that he was doing so without any kind of warning written on the dry erase board stuck to their door. Levi, for his part, was annoyed that he'd not been able to finish yet. The girl, whatever her name was, had no idea what to do.

Levi's only reply was to stare at Albert until he got frustrated, shook his head, and left to go find Melissa.

Once the door closed, the cap was screwed back onto the bottle and Levi stood, pushing the boxers down his hips, and turning to the wide eyed girl staring at him from the bed. A hand reached out, fingers curling into her hair, and he pulled her, not entirely gently, to him.





The day was warm already, even though it was just past 8:00 a.m., and Levi walked towards the smallish building that housed City Hall with more determination than was perhaps necessary. The nice thing about small towns, even outside of the generally oblivious populations, was that the size made walking virtually anywhere in town a rather simple thing. It also gave him time to be seen among the town, and let the word of his arrival spread. Free advertisement nearly by stepping out the door.

This meeting with the mayor had been arranged by the same minister that he had connected with to bring him to Etham. Whenever possible, Levi tried to meet with the powers that be in a town, so that he could convince them that they should come to the opening of the Revival that night. For the good of the town. Bringing people together. Giving everyone a sense of community. So simple and eager to please were most of these people that it very rarely failed.





"Please, call me Levi. Mister King is my father."

He smiled pleasantly at the young woman as she sat across from him, hands smoothing the blue gingham dress against her thighs. Her parents thought her a troubled girl, unable as she was to decide on a college, a major, or a boy she'd like to see. She'd been kissed, twice, and both times found the experience pleasant until clumsy hands began groping at full breasts that had seemed to be more trouble than they were worth. It was now the summer after her senior year, and Mississippi was experiencing a heat wave that people would be talking about for some time. Even as they sat under a spinning fan, Levi's eyes followed a bead of sweat as it rolled over her collarbone and dove into the valley between her breasts.


Fucking high school boys, he would think as he watched the sweat and she prattled on incessantly while staring at her hands in her lap. Fucking high school boys had no idea what they were doing with this one. Such wasted potential. So many missed opportunities.

He would fuck her two days later, taking her virginity on the desk he used in small study of the house a church member had given them use of. Try though it may, the small window air conditioner couldn't keep up and both of them were covered in sweat by the time his seed was mingling with it on her body. The open Bible under her had all but attached itself to her wet skin, and flimsy pages tore when she was lowered back to her feet. The girl was certain she was going to hell, perhaps as early as that evening for tearing the Bible. Levi couldn't help but to roll his eyes at the foolish child, who apparently didn't even want to acknowledge the fact that she'd just been fucked on top of the damn thing.

The girl proved to be naturally talented with her mouth, and it was only when the L-word came tumbling from her lips after he'd fucked her across the couch while Beth slept upstairs that the Glory to the King Revival had run it's course and needed to move on. She was crushed, but understood that it was God's will that Levi move on and spread the Word. He promised to write. She promised to wait for him. Levi knew only one of those had the possibility of happening. The second... it wouldn't surprise him if she did, for a time. He was her first, after all. To the first black girl he fucked, Levi shared no such attachment.





8:17 a.m., and he arrived at City Hall. A small sign extending off the wall and into the hallway pointed him to the Mayor's office. Just outside the door, Levi took a moment to adjust his tie and pulls his collars down. Far too often these small town mayors had an overinflated sense of importance, and Levi walking into the man's office looking rumpled would give off a bad first impression. At all times, unless moved by the Spirit on stage, he must look put together and presentable.

Once finished, he turned the knob and stepped into the small, and currently quiet, outer office. Turned away from him and looking through an open file drawer, who he assumed to be the receptionist was the only other person in the room with him. Door open still, Levi stared at her back with a slight, puzzled frown. The clothes were distinctly male, but the hair was long and free like a woman might wear it. The shape of his... her?... body was hard to tell given the attire, and for the first time he wondered just what kind of town he'd walked into. Either the men were wearing their hair like women, or their women were dressing like men. Both options could prove to be excellent fodder. Surely the rest of the town didn't approve of such behavior.

Clearing his throat, Levi spoke up.

"Excuse me..."

Miss? Sir? Fuck it, move on.

"...I have an appointment to see the mayor. I'm a little early, I know, but I thought if he could see me early I might get out of his way sooner."
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Old 04-14-2013, 03:19 AM   #14
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"One day I'll fly away
Leave all this to yesterday"


A pipe dream, leaving Etham, running away from this one horse town, this town that was almost languidly killing her. Another signature, another piece of paper with the motto emblazoned across the top, confugii civitatem. Refuge. The paper was tossed aside and another grabbed, too quickly, slid along nimble fingers where paper tore asunder the skin beneath it, tearing a gasp from the girl who held the paper, the town, the mayor together.

For Ali, it was but a drop of blood. Refuge.
It felt like universal vindication that this place was going to bleed her dry.

Another sigh. Another piece of paper with another signature, added to her growing pile. The blood was ignored. No nursing the wound, no spilled and sorry tears from her, for this town.

She would leave.
Or she would die here.

What more could your love do for me
When will love be through with me
Why live life from dream to dream
And dread the day when dreaming ends


She had no anchor to this town, aside from her ailing father.

No man.
No woman.
Though Miranda played her for a beautiful fool.

Miranda, in all her brilliance, her quiet but strong governance, how it had won over her body, her mind and she tugged at Ali's heart. Too many times recently, had Ali caught a sidelong glance at a pretty face in a pretty dress, walked in on a meeting where hands that should be on a powerful desk were instead on a leg.

Why live life from dream to dream
And dread the day when dreaming ends.


"Excuse me...I have an appointment to see the mayor. I'm a little early, I know, but I thought if he could see me early I might get out of his way sooner."

A glance. Not long enough to catch anything but a suit. Another one of those. A stuffed shirt, pretentious wannabe, who thought in gender binaries and cried seeing the eagle, the flag and the cross in one place. Useless men who never thought beyond their own conservatism, and most of them did not know what to do with her. Ali never looked up.

"I remember your appointment, Mr. King. Have a seat, and I'll let Miranda know that you're here."

She might have grinned to herself when she disclosed that the Mayor was in fact, a woman.

"Our Reverend Aaron made sure to let us know that you were arriving today. Welcome to Etham."

It was then that Alistair looked up. That she finally paid attention to the man in her office. It was then that she stopped breathing for a moment. Levi King was a man who sucked all of the air and energy from the room, and replaced it with his own, the kind of man who made her want to sometimes be small and feminine. He held her gaze for a second, and she tried to smile.

"Ahem. Excuse me." She walked into Miranda's office quietly.

"Yes. Yes. Please darling, I will see you there! 8pm." The phone was promptly hung up, and Miranda looked up to meet Ali's eyes. Ali swore that something guilty lurked there, she knew it couldn't be her imagination.

"Your 9am is here." She said curtly, quickly turning on her heel and walking out on the woman without a word, moving quickly back into her office, "Mr. King, Miranda will see you now."

She gestured towards the office and let him walk past, closing the door behind him.

That. Bitch. She knew Miranda was going to hurt her.

One day I'll fly away
Fly fly away...
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Old 04-23-2013, 05:36 PM   #15
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Guilt was the last thing stirring in Miranda's heart. The subtle shimmer in her knowing, piercing gaze was, at best, a brief hint of sadness. She enjoyed Alistair. The woman was a rare beauty trapped in a town that would never fully understand her. She was the intensity Miranda craved. The kind of woman who would leave scratch marks and gasp for air as her mind tried to process what her body was going through. She was different in a sea of uniformity. She was all of that and more, but it was that "more" that was starting to become a problem.

Miranda didn't whisper promises in the dark. Even at thirty-three, she desired nothing beyond a night's pleasures. Ali wanted more. She wanted the night to extend to the morning, the afternoon, the next evening, the next day. She wanted the promises Miranda had no intention of giving. She saw it in the flash of anguished fury in those beautiful eyes, a flash that was happening more and more frequently.

As she set the phone calmly back into the cradle, she made a mental note to be home in plenty of time to prepare dinner. Her recipe for zesty Italian chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus would do in a quick pinch. Alistair's anger was misplaced. Her 8pm dinner date was with her sorority sister and her husband. The adorable couple was driving through Alabama and wanted to stop by Etham for a quick visit with Miranda. Ali's anger should be at the woman who was coming three hours later. It was a shame, really. Miranda genuinely liked Ali's sharp, quick mind as much as she adored the deliciously tempting package it came in. She was mildly disappointed Ali didn't understand, but she would never blame the woman for wanting more.

It would be a distasteful task. Because Ali was a woman of passion, Miranda didn't expect her to go quietly. There would be a temper tantrum, kicking and struggling, screams and tears. She would make a large mess around town that Miranda would have to clean up quietly. The steps she took down that path would have to be careful ones.

But Alistair was a problem for another time. The problem that demanded her immediate attention was the early Mr. Levi King. A little more than thirty minutes early spoke volumes about him. He was a man who refused to work on anyone else's schedule but his own. He likely believed he was better than anyone who lived in Etham. The priorities of a small town Mayor didn't compare to the importance of his work, of his time. She was tempted to make him sit in the waiting room until she was ready to deal with him, but Ali had already shown him in. So, Miranda put on one of her most charmingly professional smiles and studied the man who wanted nothing more than to rob the people of Etham blind for as long as he chose to stay.

A perfect suit draped over an equally perfect male physique. His smile was just as charming, just as fake as hers. His eyes were friendly and warm, but they didn't fool Miranda. He was a public speaker by profession. He made his living from preying on the weaknesses of others, conning them out of their money. He was likely good at it, if he was making enough money to still travel. She didn't doubt the words that would come out of his mouth during this little meeting would be dripping with sweet honey.

Miranda couldn't fault him, entirely. There wasn't a place in the United States where people didn't depend on the hope of freedom from whatever suffering was currently making their lives miserable. But it was easier to take advantage of in the South, where religion was so deeply rooted in the fabric of society that people sacrificed everything they had for it, including their freedom of thought. While Miranda couldn't blame him completely, she could disapprove of his chosen profession, and she could do what she could to ensure his stay in her town as brief as possible.

She didn't have to double check her own perfectly tailored, feminine cut business suit. She knew nothing was out of place. Her blonde tresses were styled into a loose bun that was, somehow, entirely professional while still giving the impression that she was approachable. Not a single strand ever fell out of place. Her make up was never smudged and always complimented her attire. Her nails were always manicured with clear, clean polish. But even if the smallest of those things had fallen just shy of perfection, it wouldn't have been noticed. Miranda Tate shined, and it wasn't because of what she wore.

Her office was much like the woman herself. Everything was clean and had a place, as if she had placed a ban on dust. There were small photographs of her parents and close friends in classy frames in discrete places. There were tasteful, subtle landscape paintings created by local artists along the walls. It was painted in soft, neutral tones. The office was warm and inviting, but it was clearly a space where work got done.

Miranda rose from her desk as King entered, ever the southern debutante turned corporate. But she didn't move to the other side of her desk to greet him. She made him walk the path alone. She made him come to her if he wanted to do the polite thing and shake the slender hand she offered, a hand that possessed a strong, firm grip. Confident, competent cerulean eyes found the preacher's. Held them. Didn't back down from the charisma in them.

"Ah, Mr. King. You're quiet the early bird. Welcome to Etham. I'm Miranda Tate. It's my pleasure to meet a man who travels to spread the word of the Lord. Won't you take a seat? I can have Alistair bring you some water or coffee, perhaps."

With her other hand, she gestured toward one of the two chairs in front of her desk. Whether he shook her hand or not, she sat down and crossed one leg over the other, the sharp spike of a black stiletto heel catching the natural sunlight spilling in the room from the open window. She slid a fresh legal pad off her desk and into her lap. A pen was pulled from the sliding middle drawer. Writing implement in hand, resting on the legal pad, she never once broke eye contact. Her smile only got sweeter.

"So, tell me, Mr. King. What can I do for you this morning?"
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Old 05-05-2013, 05:06 AM   #16
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The town's mayor is a woman? How very... interesting.

Levi had been in Etham for less than 24 hours, and this was the first truly interesting thing he'd found within it's borders. There were few small southern towns that allowed themselves to be run by women, prone as they were to be ruled by emotion at least once a month.

His eyes swept over the front office girl as she left to inform the mayor of his arrival, and he wondered just what kind of person would hire a girl that dressed in men's clothes to be the first face anyone saw when they came to this office. Even before she had disappeared from view, another thought bloomed in his mind.

Secrets, little girl. You have secrets. But who from? The mayor? The town? Me? Yourself? All of the above, I suspect...

He licked his lips as he heard the girl announce his arrival, the hunter salivating for the hunt, and was smiling when the girl returned to the outer office.

Oh yes... I can smell it on you. You and I are going to be spending time together, you confused thing.

He would make it a point to acquire her name, and extend an invitation to the revival, before he left. This one had a jungle gym in her head, and he wanted to swing from every bar he could.

"Thank you, miss," he said with a cheer that made him seem as if he belonged in this place, at this time, and he knew it. Rising, he buttoned his jacket and moved past the girl, eyes sweeping her once more before he was beyond her. Her scent still lingered in his nostrils, an essence he committed to memory, as he entered the mayor's office and found her standing behind her desk.

Etham, you delicious little nugget, you just keep giving me gifts...

She extended her hand, and held his gaze, and smiled right back, but it was on him to come to her. It was well played, a fine opening move in a game most people didn't realize they were even playing, and he was only more than happy to cross the room and return her firm, confident hand shake. By the time he unbuttoned his jacket and sat across from her, Levi was practically beaming. Meetings like this had become so easy that the manipulation of the supposedly powerful man across the desk from him was barely fun any longer. Miranda and her girl with secrets and this little town around them seemed like they just might change that.

"A pleasure to meet you Miranda, and please call me Levi," he said, still holding her gaze, the smile he'd worn since the 4th grade still shaping his lips. "And thank you for the offer, but I'm fine."

Alistair. It had to be the girl, and no wonder she wore the clothes of a man. Who names their girl Alistair? Confused from the beginning, and she must just be crawling with secrets...

"I won't take up much of your time, Miranda," he said, shifting gears into a more businesslike tone, "I just like to stop in with the mayor of the towns I visit, to get a feel for the area, see if there's anything they might like me to focus on during my time here."

He paused, leaning forward a bit, his tone lowering as if what he was about to say was for their ears only, but his eyes never left hers.

"I know in small towns sometimes the teenagers can grow bored and turn to drugs or alcohol, some places have problems with vandalism or things like that even. Bless their hearts, I know it is not because they're bad kids, of course, but who isn't prone to a little trouble at that age?"

The question was rhetorical, asked with a grin, and he sat back and let the lowered voice fall away as he continued.

"That is not a knock on the job you are doing here, certainly, but it's been my experience that everywhere could use a refocusing on the Lord. Even fine little towns such as this one. But," he turned his hands out, palms up, a bit of a shrug, "That is more my job than yours, isn't it? If there's nothing specific you'd like me to focus on from the pulpit, then I'd be happy to say a short mornin' prayer with you, Miranda, and let you get back to your important business.

"Oh!," he said, sitting up straighter and smiling sheepishly as if he'd just remembered, "And also, I'd like to extend an invitation to both you and... Alistair, was it?... to my humble little revival. I'm sure you're very busy, with your duties here," his eyes left hers for the first time here, and flickered down to her empty fingers, then just as quickly back up to hold her gaze again, "and wanting to spend time with your family too, so I'd certainly be understandin' if you could only make one night. But the wife and I, we'd love to have you for the opening night, if you could spare the time."

A fine opening gambit, dear mayor. Now let's see how you react to another's moves...
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Old 05-07-2013, 07:13 PM   #17
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He crossed the room on long, confident strides. She expected nothing less. Hands met, joined, refused to give an inch. She listened to his every word, gave him her full focus. She watched him lay card by card on her desk, set his scene. Levi King liked to dance. He was good at it. So far, he hadn't missed a step. He made a subtle jab at her ability to run the town, and covered it with the polite truth that Etham was no different than any other town. Children would be children, as he said, but she wasn't quite good enough, special enough, to have a crime free town. It was bait she didn't chase. There was no need to defend the crime rate in her town, nor her involvement in preventing it. It didn't come close to chipping her armor. She let his statement go unanswered, for the moment. Her smile remained open and friendly, the confidence never wavering. Her clear, sharp eyes held his as he layered on the charisma. She leaned back in her chair, relaxed and took it all in.

She let him get through all the useless and boring fluff, the comments and mannerisms that made him look like he could fit in anywhere or nowhere at the same time. She let him share his opinions, fueled and based off of his vast experience of the world and religion. None of it was of any importance, and Miranda found herself counting the seconds, wondering if he would ever get to the real purpose of his visit. When it finally came, she almost rolled her eyes.

He wanted her to come to his revival. Her presence would add to his authenticity, give the people of Etham just one more reason to possibly drop a few extra dollars in his plate. It amused her, but it was hidden behind the mask they both wore. Miranda had planned on going to the opening day to his little show. It had been in her schedule from the moment she was informed of his coming. Mr. King had his cards to play. She had hers. Once he had finally said his piece, Miranda answered, bit by bit.

"Well now, Levi. Who would I be to tell a man of the Lord what he should or should not preach? Just as you wouldn't tell me how to keep this town afloat economically and politically, I would never dictate what messages you deliver. There isn't a doubt in my mind, Mr. King, that you will find the right words for Etham."

Her voice and tone were full of practiced politeness, business-like and efficient. But, much like all civilized conversation below the Mason Dixon line, there was a hidden message that was coated in the infamous hospitality and propriety of the South. She waited until their broken gaze reconnected. There was no sheepishness in Miranda, genuine or fake. She refused to pretend for the preacher. She wouldn't be anything other than what she was, a shark. A creature deadly in its beauty.

Her lips curved in a pleased smile. "You flatter me, Levi, coming all the way down here to personally invite me to your revival. Of course, I'm coming," she paused, a heartbeat of silence filling the room before she finished," with the fire marshal, to ensure all your tents and equipment are up to code. We wouldn't want the citizens of this quiet little town to be injured, would we? I'll be there bright and early, coffee in tow. I'll gladly help you and your wife set up in any way that I can. I wasn't always the mayor, so I'm no stranger to hard work. It will be refreshing to get out into the open air. I'm excited to hear your sermons."

With nothing worth writing in her notebook, Miranda set it down on her desk, pen resting neatly on top of empty pages. Levi was not worth noting. Long, crossed legs unfolded crisply as she rose from her chair.

"If that was all you needed to see me about, take comfort, Mr. King. There is no where I would rather be that day than your revival."

Miranda was a good southern woman. She went to church every Sunday. She had a bible in her home. She knew her verses and the lyrics to all the songs. She participated in after church activities. But she was not a woman of faith. All of those things were expected of her, and so they were done. She studied the bible out of duty, but also because she knew she would need to know the text from which her opposition, mainly the strongly conservative of the town, would use against her as her subtly liberal plans for the town started to move forward. She threw the ball back into the preacher's court. It was routine and painless to indulge him.

"I think a morning prayer would be the perfect end to this meeting and a beautiful start for the rest of my day. I'll follow your lead, Levi."

There was the smallest of hints of something sharp in those sapphire eyes as they held his, never once having lowered. The game was set. Miranda had made her position clear to a man she knew could both read between the lines and hide within them.

When her head bowed, Miranda's mind was already moving to her next appointments. She reviewed data and planned. They drifted to her time after work. Isis would, naturally, need a walk. She ran with the Rhodesian Ridgeback every morning, but the two year old still had her puppy energy. There was meat and fresh vegetables in her refrigerator. Dinner would be quick and easy. A very subtle smile touched her lips as the thought of Tiffany spilled into her mind. Yoga instructors were so amazingly flexible. A sudden realization had her fighting to keep her mask of friendly hospitality plastered to her pretty features. Why was it, that every time she fell into prayer, her thoughts reliably found their way to pleasured screams and greedy pleas? To the intoxicating, slick feeling of a woman craving to be touched? While others begged Levi's deity for forgiveness, Miranda day dreamed of drowning in sweet, blissful sin.
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:00 AM   #18
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There may be no music playing in the mayor's office on this fine Spring day, but the thread of a dance was clearly being spun out around them, and the mayor seemed to be keeping with him step for step. There were times when this would be a frustration for him, a cause for anger or lashing out. There had been times it may have led to violence. But this was not the Levi that sat across from her today, and instead he only soaked in it and moved right along, beat, stepsway, beat stepsway...

The smile never faltered. Even when she mentioned the fire marshal, he took it in stride and nodded, as if this was expected - nay! welcome! - all along. Another move in the dance, and this one, oh, she had more up her sleeve. In his head, Levi had the image of a roast chicken sitting on her desk. Browned and plump and juicy, ready for the devouring. It was not the meat he was after in this one, though. The real shape was underneath, to be found in the bones after it had been taken apart. The pretty bird hid the shredded carcass underneath, and all it took was a little work to find it.

"Then we welcome both you and fire marshal, bless his heart, to join us," he said, brightly, with a nod as he spoke. "Some of the other wives in the church have generously donated their time, but we'd be happy to have you join us to set up, too. The Lord does provide in times of need, doesn't he Miranda?"

Levi rose from his seat as she did from hers, smoothing his tie and buttoning his coat once he'd straightened up, and he nodded again, smiling as if things could not have possibly gone better. Yet the smile never quite reached his eyes.

"But let us pray, and I'll let you get back to your busy day."

His hands moved to clasp behind his back, head bowing forward, and he closed his eyes.

"Merciful Heavenly Father, we come together in fellowship today thankful for this beautiful day you've given us, and for this opportunity to work together to spread your message and glorify your kingdom. I thank you, Lord, for bringing Miranda into my path, and thank you for your holy light that I can see shining within her. I ask you to continue to bless her, and to help her lead the fine people of Etham as they grow and prosper together. Watch over her day, Lord, and help her to avoid the temptations the Deceiver will throw in front of her."

As he spoke, Levi's eyes opened, and he lifted them to her face, though his head remained bowed forward.

"And watch over us all, Father, as we prepare for the revival that you have guided into this city. Help us to bring your light into the heart of this city, and to cast out the sin and darkness that tries to replace you, Lord. In your name we pray," he said, and like a switch being flipped the smile was back on his face, "Amen."

Eyes open already, he lifted his head and looked to her once again.

"Thank you for taking the time out of your day to meet with me. I look forward to seeing you at the revival, as I'm sure does the rest of the town. Have a blessed day, Miranda."

He did not offer a hand shake, but merely a slight inclination of his head and he turned to move out of her office. Just inside the door frame leading to the outer office he paused and turned back to her, as if he'd just remembered one final thing.

"Oh, before I go?" The smile spread a little more, and now it did find his eyes, which were bright and alive with light. "Please let my wife know if you'll be having a husband or boyfriend join you. I'd like to save you a seat up front, and would like to have him sitting with you, of course. Thanks, Miranda!"

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and disappeared into the outer office. His eyes were quickly on Alistair, and the smile did not leave him.

"Alistair, was it? I don't believe we've had a chance to properly meet each other." Levi's eyes still were alight with happiness, and he extended his hand to her, covering it with his other when they shook. "I'm Levi King, but I suppose you already knew that didn't you?" He laughed lightly, happily pointing out his own silliness at needing to point out something she already knew, and as he spoke he kept hold of her hand with both of his.

"I just wanted to take a moment and personally invite you to join us at the revival out near Reverend Aaron's church. I believe Miranda is joining us as well, and it would be quite a blessing to see both of your smiling faces there, for the town and for myself. Think about it' won't you?"

Her hands released, and again he didn't wait for a reply from the woman. Less than two minutes after leaving Miranda's office, Levi was back out in the sunshine and making his way towards the church to check on the progress of things. Each step there held a bit more bounce, and a smile accompanied him nearly the whole way.

Levi was having fun.
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Old 05-19-2013, 09:27 PM   #19
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Alistair so wanted to be strong. She wanted to be like Miranda, to show the world her brilliance and rule it, to be like the church ladies who ruled their families with an iron first and an evil eye. Ali was none of these things. She was not dull, but not strong. She pined for freedom, and attachment, to fly on the wind but to land with the one she loved most.

Ali questioned herself a thousand times a day.

Am I in love with her?

"Put those files in long term storage, see to the city hall briefs, and set the next two months scheduled meetings. Thank you."

Or do I fancy myself in love with her?

"Don't change that it's right on the memo. Make sure the school board knows. Talk to Jim Duncan on the board, he's a fan of Miranda's."

Am I in love with her?

It was never ending, her work. Busy work. She ran the office efficiently. Levi King was a blip on her radar. A good looking man. A good looking man with a penchant and need for God. A being that Ali had no real belief in, just a forced sense of respect and comfort because she was southern and all good southern girls attend church. It's what you did.

The church man grasped her hands and wished for her attendance and though she felt drawn to him, it was nothing like what she felt with the woman who's office he had just left. Nothing.

Still she smiled at him, and put him out of her mind. She would go if she was asked to go. But Levi would be here and gone and she could care less about him. Even if he was somehow alluring.

Ali avoided her bosses office until she had a stack of things to talk to the woman about, she knew that she would have to be brief and distant.
Brief and distant, Ali.
Brief
And
Distant.
Remember!

So it was that when she finally stepped into Miranda's office with an armful of paperwork that she couldn't look at the woman. Couldn't think about the times that she had fallen into those arms, kissed those lips, pulled those legs around her hips.

"You have the town hall meeting in a week. Is your speech prepped?
Do...
"The Jenson family has pledged their support in the upcoming elections."
you...
"We have the survey results, and I've created a google doc for you to peruse them, perhaps a few items can be used to trickle out some new services."
love...
"I took care of the city brief."
me, Miranda?
"Anything else?"

Ali straightened her tie and stared at her hands. She refused to look up. It would hurt too much. She knew it.
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Old 05-29-2013, 05:45 PM   #20
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After the preacher left her office, Miranda moved on. He wasn't forgotten, but tucked away in the back of her mind. Another task for another day. She sat down at her desk and pulled up the rest of her work for the day. She poured over reports, statistics, proposals, and meeting notes. Her mind worked non-stop, jumping from one neat, organized task to the next.

Ever constant, in the corner of her mind, Miranda noticed Alistair had kept her distance. It was a telling sign. She was beginning to understand the nature of things, and was hurt by it. But there was nothing that could be done about it. Nothing that would be done about it at work. Personal lives were personal for a reason. Miranda's life was under constant inspection, her truly private moments sacred. She hoped Ali would have the good sense to leave their stolen moments at home or in her head, where they belonged.

It wasn't until the end of the day that Ali finally came into her office. Miranda finished the last paragraph of her speech before raising her eyes, locking them onto the woman before her. Her mouth almost watered. Alistair was one of the most beautiful women in town. Her refusal to bow to the gender normative the town clung to, her refusal to hide, added a unique flavor to her that Miranda wouldn't get anywhere else. Ali's screams filled her ears. Her taste danced across Miranda's lips, the feel of the other woman's skin a ghost against her fingertips. She wanted Alistair. She would always want Alistair. There was a spark between them that Miranda would be an idiot for ignoring. There was already a sadness, a disappointment in her heart. The beginning of a quiet mourning for the loss of one whose company she genuinely enjoyed. But Miranda wouldn't bend. Their needs were just too different, and they couldn't have a future if their visions didn't align.

She listened to the run down of completed work and answered in kind.

"I just finished the speech. Its in a doc. I'll share it with you in a minute."

She watched that lowered face, the uncertainty on the woman's features. There was none in hers.

"Solid work. We need to start pressing the Hamiltons next. I think they are close enough to the fence that we can bring them over."

She hoped the flare in Alistair wouldn't die. The skittish woman before her wasn't the woman who raked nails down her back and bit dangerously close to the spots on her neck that could not be hidden.

"I'll take a look at them tomorrow and get some proposals set up based off the data."

All business. Never any hints of the lust that simmered just beneath the surface. Nor the disappointment.

"Thank you for taking care of it. It needed to get done and it was buried beneath a million other things on my desk."

There was no answer to the question Ali sought, not in those icy eyes. There never was within the walls of the office. There was only ever professionalism, a layer that Ali knew was a mask. But it was impenetrable.

"No, I think that's it, Ali. Thank you. You should take off a little bit early. It's gorgeous out. I'll lock up."

She kept her gaze strong, hoping Alistair would raise hers. Miranda always wanted to lose herself in it, and there would only be so many more times before she wouldn't allow herself to tumble again. A teasing torture. Bittersweet. Fire and ice. Shadows and dust...And then there would be Tiffany, the pretty yoga instructor who lived just outside the gym.
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Old 05-30-2013, 03:07 PM   #21
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"Your daddy ain't gonna ever let you leave, girl."

Her father's nurse laughed, and waddled off to see to Clark's bedtime rituals. He just hung on, the disease slowly eating at him, while Clark's fat nurses just grinned their stupid, insolent grins and laughed at her. Ali hated her father. The controlling man was insufferable, and he was never happy with the fact that he'd been gifted a daughter by his frigid and unhappy northern wife. Ali's mother had died when she was young, a beautiful woman by all who had known her, she had hated living in this tiny backwards town, even married to the town doctor, who had showered her with expensive things and trapped her here. She talked about leaving, often. Clark never told his daughter that her mother was in heaven. She was gone. All dead people were gone. That was it. Grieving was a biological reaction and acceptable, talking to her mother in heaven was not. After she died, Ali began to mimic her mother's wishes to leave Etham. As if leaving would bring her mother back.

Clark made sure it wouldn't happen till he was done with his daughter. She would make him proud. She would carry on his name. She would stay. He had approved of her position on Miranda's staff, had pulled some strings to make it happen, and made a hefty donation in her name to Miranda's election campaign. Ali was good at her job. Very good. But her daddy had made it happen. Even when the church ladies cooed at her position, they all knew it was because Clark Hutchens wanted his daughter in Etham, his weirdly strange masculine daughter.

"No, I think that's it, Ali. Thank you. You should take off a little bit early. It's gorgeous out. I'll lock up."

Ali met her bosses eyes, they were all business. The lust that usually clouded those eyes when she looked at Ali was gone. Alistair knew this would be the end. Or likely very close to it. She quailed, bit her lip, nodded and left the room.

She quickly packed up, taking no work home with her, striding quickly out the door with her head high and a tremble in her lower lip. Ali barely noticed the walk, or the town or the people, her thoughts of the demanding woman she'd left behind, her life raft after a lifetime of forcing herself to be okay with being on the outside. How she curled herself around Miranda's hand inside her, how those coos and sweet kisses found their way into her dreams and woke her in those hot Alabama nights and Alistair couldn't tell if she was sweating because of the heat or because she was thinking of Miranda's nails down her back. Those nights all ended the same, with wayward fingers finding her own wetness beneath the sheets and between parted legs.

She never told Miranda about those nights.
But she was sure she knew.

The large oak door opened to her house and she threw her keys down on the library table in the hall and stopped.

There was crying nearby.

No.

She walked down the hall to the back room where her father had been set up in his own little hospital room, her footsteps echoing in the large house. Later she would recall the feel of the door as she pushed it open, the light in the room causing her to blink after the darkness of the foyer.

Her father's face was covered by his sheet and his nurse cried nearby. She stopped. Why was his face covered? Who would do that? Isn't that what they do in movies? Why do they do that?

She rushed over and ripped the cloth down, staring into the wan, blank face of her father. Ali choked on her own screams. She hadn't loved him.

But this hurt.
He was gone.
She was free.

But this hurt.
He chose now to leave her? Now? He chose today to die?

"You bastard!" She screamed at him, "You had to die today?! Why? You couldn't torture me for one more day? You couldn't? Just had to meet your maker today!?" Her hands tore at the blankets around him. She wanted to slap him awake, for him to look at her in that stern way and tell her she was acting out of control and she needed to walk away from him.

"Miss Hutchens, stop!" someone called to her. A masculine voice, it barely registered as she ripped off the sheets and screamed at her father for leaving her. She was dragged away from his bedside by hands and arms stronger than hers, while she struggled, screamed and tore at them to be free, tears streaming down her face. Hot hands held her down in the foyer while a sting in her arm told her that the nurse was suddenly involved.

"You bitch!" Alistair screamed before the drugs took hold and her body relaxed, the hands loosening on her as she settled back onto the floor.

"This child is crazy, jus' like her momma. Rest her soul...." These words from the black nurse as Ali faded were the last she heard, before falling asleep.

Rest her soul.
But there is no soul.
Mother! Are you there? Is there a heaven? Why did you leave? You always wanted to leave. Why did you leave?
I hated Father. He hated me so. Is he in heaven?
What is heaven? Am I dead?
What is this?
What is this?
What is this?

Why is there no pain?
What is heaven?
Father said there was no god. But you're both gone, and I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what to do. No god. But the pain is so intense.
So intense.
So fucking intense.
Why am I hurting?
Where am I?


Alistair's eyes flew open. The pain rushed in around her heart, and she gasped as it settled in. Miranda. Miranda would make this better. She would go to her, and soothe herself in Miranda's arms.

It took every ounce of strength to sit up, every thing she had to stand, her head spinning as she did so. Ali needed Miranda. It became like a cadence in her head.

Miranda.
Stand.
Miranda.
Step.
Miranda.
Run down the stairs.
Miranda.
Ignore the nurse who is yelling for you to stop.
Miranda.
Run. She's waiting. It's dark. She's waiting.
Miranda....
Wait.

Ali stopped. Walked up to her bosses house. The lights were off, except in the back where the bedroom was. Ali tiptoed to the back, on silent, trembling feet. She wished she hadn't, her heart thumping hard enough to kill her, anxieties crushing her insides and her stomach crawling. She knew what she'd find.

Ali didn't want to see it.
She did.

Miranda was entwined around another woman. Fucking her. Both of them loudly moaning and gasping. Ali wanted to die, right there.

"Harder my sweet girl!"

Ali stopped breathing. That's what Miranda called her in the throes of sex. She tore out of the bushes behind the house and out into the street.

Her father left her.
Her mother left her.
Her Miranda had left her.

She was pathetic and drowning. Ali ran. Tears streaming down her face. While she sobbed and ran and ran till her sides burned and she couldn't see for the tears and runny nose. She hardly knew where she was. It didn't matter. She could die here and no god, no person would care. She didn't matter. It didn't matter.

Alistair wept openly on the road, on her knees, hating her life, hating everything. When she found a moment to breathe she looked around. Outskirts of town. Lights to her left. She frowned.

The revival.
She'd lost everything else.
Maybe God was an option.
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Old 06-28-2013, 04:37 AM   #22
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As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

The tent, a thick canvas that gave enough space to safely house 150 people when erected, was up and ready. Chairs were lined up, row by row, with papers sitting neatly in the center of their seat. More were lined up just outside the tent, overflow for when the crowd grew too large to fit inside, all also with a small collection of papers on their seats.

A welcome, an introduction of who Levi and Beth were, what their mission was, and how the person reading could help them out.

A string of lights, clear glass bulbs with glowing yellow filaments in the cores, lined each wall of the tent, the edge of the stage, and twisted like vines up the support polls. At the end of the center aisle, waiting to lift Levi above those that would gather here tonight, sat the small stage. Front and center, and currently holding only Levi's Bible, a small podium stood like a sentry, allowing only a select few onto this stage. His stage.

Outside the tent, far off where the earth met the sky, the sun was burning the last of it's rays into the atmosphere as it slowly worked it's way below the horizon. Deep reds and purples were sketched across the sky overhead, and beneath them shadows grew long and began melting together. In homes scattered across Alabama, lights were turned on as houses grew darker. Headlights dotted the highways and back roads. Families in Etham were finishing their supper before making their way to the new revival that had come to their little town.

Levi King saw none of it.

Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

Quick steps carried him from one end of the tent to the other, up onto the stage and back down off of it, outside past the open front flaps and up the center aisle to the back entrance. This was the single worst part of every new town, the span of time the night of before the revival itself started. There was no preparation left to do, nothing left to set up, nothing left to see to, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

He was losing his mind.

His goddamned mind, he was losing it.

A frantic, kinetic animal was running circles in his chest, needing to burst out.

There was nothing.

Fuck, nothing.

Pacing, and pacing, walking and stomping and traipsing, and pacing and nothing.

Too early to put on the tie and jacket, though the rest of his dark grey suit was already on, and that would take, what, five minutes?

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

He raged, he fought, he begged his mind to come up with anything.

There was nothing.

How did people live like this? How did they not send a bullet soaring through their brains and end this interminable, unholy misery?

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Fuck, he was going to die if something didn't change soon.

The grass underfoot would be worn into a path that he blazed with each furious step through every free inch in the tent.

How was there nothing?

How did time move
so
fucking
slow?

Was this the benefit Beth had in being such a dimwitted child? Did it make these times easier to bear?

He couldn't imagine it. Didn't want to imagine it. Nothing to do and she would've been fine. Stared off at the sky with that stupid fucking smile on her face. Isn't it just beautiful? He wanted to slap that fucking smile off her lips, slap her and slap her until she cried until she bled until she was silent

Nothingnothingnothing.

He was losing his sanity. Was this Alzheimer? Is this what it felt like? Dementia? A parasite in the brain? It had to be.

This wasn't natural.

This wasn't right.

Meningitis? What the fuck was that again?

No no no.

This is what it was like. This was the waiting he was forced to suffer through, his penance to be paid before he could have them. It had happened in the last town, in the town before it, and the one before it.

Calm down.

Think.

How did you fight this off before?

How..

How...

No, who.

Beth.


He stopped suddenly, standing just before the podium in front of the stage, and smiled. The thing that needed to burst out of his chest settled, just a bit, and he knew what he needed.

They would leave their RV parked at the tent so they could change before the nightly revivals, have a place to grab something to eat or a private place to slip into for a moment... or, when Beth was at the house, a place Levi could bring someone to so she and he may converse privately. Beth was in there now, getting ready for the evening, and it was there his feet now carried him. His fingers worked on his belt as he approached it, opening it so buckle and strap hung out away from his body.

The door was yanked open and he entered quickly, pulling it firmly closed behind him. Not seeing her right away, he assumed she must be in the small bedroom still. No matter. He didn't plan to need a bed, and so she could come to him.

"Beth!" he called as he opened the button and lowered the zipper on his trousers, "Come here."

He stepped out of the pants, folded them carefully, and set them aside. Left in dark socks, plain dark boxers, and his white button down shirt, he pulled out one of the chairs in the kitchenette and lowered himself into it. The seconds ticked past, and the desperate rage grew again with each one.

"Now, Beth."

A short pause, and his hand curled into a fist and slammed down on the Formica tabletop next to him.

"Now!"
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:30 PM   #23
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Beth waved goodbye to the last of the women who had helped get the tent in order for the start of services. The worship under the canvas would begin, as always, at dusk. The heat of the day would fade into muggy evening and the only disturbances to the still night air would be the desultory flapping of paper fans, with murmured or shouted “Amens.”

“Amen,” she said, and pushed damp tendrils of brunette hair away from her aching neck. It was a good ache, a promising ache: one that told of work worthwhile and goodness to the bone. The rest of Beth's body suffered as well, but for reasons that didn't carry any such assurance.

Unthinkingly, she smoothed the palms of her hands over the front of her dress and winced delicately at the stinging skin. She was some kind of fool. It could be easy to forget in the sun-soaked labors of the day, with chattering ladies and crying babies and ice tea urns that never ran dry – it could be easy to forget that a belt had clanked the night before. Her eyes moved involuntarily to where Levi surveyed their handiwork from the stage. Not a hair out of place. Not a wrinkle in his suit. She touched a finger to the cross around her neck and looked away.

He made that stage. He measured his steps with powerful gospel. He poured out words with thunder and honey. It took both, to catch anything worth catching. It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory. Well, they still listened, as befit good Christian people. They came to his call, and by his way, the Lord's. Those boards underneath his feet were trod as long as it took for parishioners to open their hearts and let the light shine through. Even the sun had trickled through a crack in the tent's side to shine past Levi's head and point like a flowing arrow of illumination onto the podium. Its glow was turning into that golden serenity of evening meals and family togetherness. Beth herself doubted she could get anything down before the service started. Her stomach just couldn't be settled. She would clean herself up and change her dress. The yellow frock was perfectly serviceable but a darker color would be better. Through all of these thoughts, Beth kept her expression carefully trained to one of pleasant approval as she mentally checked through the tasks accomplished. She did approve, it was true. The pride she felt when the tent went up and she glimpsed her husband on the stage – it touched something deep in her that she could never name but knew she could not live without. Levi did good, there was proof. They did good. They would live in glory. They were doing the Lord's work.

One of the matrons finished unwrapping paper cups and set them tidily in stacks upon a fold-out table. The crumpling of cellophane recalled Beth to her duties and she moved over to the woman with an outstretched hand, an easy smile appearing as she reached the table's edge.

The woman – Sunday school teacher, Emma Jane, housewife but works as the dentist's receptionist for pin money – made a flourishing gesture at the organization beyond them. “I'm all done in! My, but it looks wonderful. Just one day's work and here we are.”

Beth nodded in agreement, scanning the chairs and hanging lights. She deliberately avoided looking at the stage as she dropped the cup wrapper into a wastebasket set next to the table. She replied, her girlish tone a counterpoint to the louder woman's drawl, “Oh, yes, isn't it just a wonder? We go from town to town and I never get tired of seeing it come together like this.”

Most of the other women had gone home already, to return later in the evening. They had suppers to cook and children to wash and husbands to harry. Soon the tent would be full and the sight of its occupants would be as astonishing as its current empty state. Emma Jane was smiling, her left hand rubbing against the side of her neck. Beth caught sight of a double wedding band that seemed quite at home on Emma Jane's working finger. An anniversary ring, most likely. The freckles of her aged skin seemed muted in the sweet evening light, somehow. It was a kind time. It was the quiet time. Beth remembered her position and reached out to clasp Emma Jane's free hand in her two much smaller palms.

“Thank you so much, Miss Emma. I am so grateful for the goodness of all the church women, helping set up like this. There is no way that Le—Reverend King would be able to preach the good work if we hadn't received such generous offers from ladies like yourself.” Beth swallowed quickly and prayed that the woman hadn't noticed her swift correction. She could not bring herself to call him Levi outside of their home. Levi was the name she called him when they were alone, and in her prayers. Levi was the name he had used to introduce himself, with a winsome smile. Levi was the name he insisted upon when meeting others, as a piece of casual rapport.

He was Mr. King. She could not change the colors of his name in her mind. She could not change its sound.

Luckily, Emma Jane was more than happy to receive her thanks and offered some well-wishes of her own. She said, gaily, “Well, Mrs. King, that's just fine! Don't you worry about a bit of it, we were more than happy to help. Such a worthy cause, you know. Your husband is just known for his preaching, and we are so thankful he chose our little town of Etham. You know, this is much better than the Peanut Festival or even the county fair.”

Emma Jane wrinkled her nose and leaned forward, her voice a stage whisper, “Partying, you know. Men gettin' drunk all over the place and Sheriff Maynard havin' to use that lock up. Even some girls last year. Why, I - “

Beth gave a minute clearing of her throat and Emma Jane's face cleared, and she retired to a somewhat less clandestine position. “Oh, but honey, that's nothing for you to worry about. I ought to be gettin' on home for supper and then we'll head back this evening for the service.”

Emma Jane patted Beth's arm in a motherly sort of way and went to pick up her handbag from its resting place in the grass underneath the table. As a thought struck her, she turned back to Beth and asked, “Do you think Reverend King would consider blessing our newest grandbaby at the service tonight? It would be... well, it sure would mean a lot. Reverend Aaron is a wonderful preacher but...”

Beth had laid her hand upon the table's surface and felt her palm slick over the edge at the question. Her voice was entirely steady as she replied, “Oh, I wouldn't want to speak for Reverend King but I'm sure such a precious blessing would be an easy chore. Not a chore, Miss Emma, but a gift. I'll tell him. Thank you again. Bye, now.”

The two women smiled at one another and at last the housewife helper took her leave, exiting through the folded back entrance of the tent. Beth allowed herself one moment of unguarded relief and pressed her hands against the small of her back. It was always the same. And it would always be the same. She exhaled. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the joy others embraced when children entered their lives. There was absolutely nothing wrong with seeking protection and security, for wanting their safety. Beth felt ashamed of herself. She was just a bit worn out, that was all. Etham seemed to create a larger sense of exhaustion than any other town they had yet visited. She loved seeing the children running through legs before being hushed at the revival nights, the babies propped on hips, and the dozing heads of fluffy hair against mothers' shoulders. They were all familial scenes, and they were such treasures. Beth knew it was time to rest, before she felt the familiar thoughts creep up on her.

A satisfying pop came from the pressure on her spine and she crossed to the tent opening, pausing at the flap. Levi was still at the podium, she could feel his presence at her back. Never mind, that. She wouldn't disturb him now. Her thighs objected at the light weight of her dress but there was nothing for it, and she tried to ignore the sensation as she slowly walked through the grass towards their RV. The dark blue dress that she had in mind was laying on the bed in the tiny back room. The afternoon had turned into an approaching evening that barely had a breeze at all, but the one that drifted around her was enough. Her face had been flushed, with heat or emotion or both. The grass tickled the tops of her feet that her flat shoes didn't cover, and she felt like the tent behind her could be a boat in a drifting sea of green. Perhaps she could just keep on floating, find safe harbor elsewhere.

Her hand waited on the metal handle of the RV's door. Oh, for safety. For an answer. The distraction was at a pause now, just for a little while. The grass shifted, the bugs sang, and the trees gave only the softest of sighs as their branches moved with peaceful rustling. O Lord, make me dwell in safety. And she was. For now, she was. It would be enough. It had to be enough. Levi was in the tent, and she was not. Beth pulled the door open with a clatter and walked into the heat of the closed off trailer. As she passed through to the back bedroom, she brushed the sweat from the nape of her neck once more and began to peel off the yellow sundress.

The Lord makes allowances, he gives us what we need.

She hung the dress on the doorknob, reluctant to let it wrinkle on the floor.

And I know, oh, I know – I know I ask for too much. I'm not grateful enough. I'm not Levi's helpmeet in all things. I hide from him. I'd avoid him if I could.

Unwillingly, Beth looked in the small mirror and caught sight of the angry lash marks that shouted from her skin.

What is enough? Am I not enough?

The dark blue dress was light in her hands and she pulled it over her head, absently straightening the hair that she felt shift after the movement. She could tie a pretty bow. Her fingers buttoned up the front and did the tying by rote, fast and sure. The dress covered her knees. No bruises were visible. She straightened the hem and studied the effect.

I could ask these questions in circles, forever and ever. But they're just circles.

She searched for a cheap plastic brush in her handbag and once found, began to pull it through her hair. Beth had wondered if it ought to be washed again but there wasn't time. She would pull it back. Her eyes closed as the teeth of the brush ran through any gentle tangles caused by the minor stresses of the day. The heat in her cheeks wasn't going away. The emotion wasn't subsiding, but instead turning into cemented restlessness. How could something so fleeting feel so permanent?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.

Beth retrieved a washcloth and got it wet with a bottle of water, sponging it along her neck and arms – helpfully swept clear by the high arrangement of her hair. The surface of her skin felt stretched too tight and the soreness was as familiar to her as breathing. It was how she breathed. The night before didn't flash in front of her eyes, anymore than the rest of them did. There were too many to recall. If she glimpsed one bruise, she glimpsed them all – laid out in front of her to survey for the rest of her life. A different dress, hair up or down, a different house. And so much of her still longed to turn back to Levi and plead with him to tell her how to love him.

The crunch of feet on rocks outside the window screen made her hands cease their motion. Her body was still, head tilted into the cloth, its coolness receding as a trickle of water ran down her cheek. The screen door made the usual clatter and the noise stirred her once more, making her hastily drop the cloth onto the top of her bag and blot hurriedly at any stray dampness left upon her skin.

It's a circle.

She looked at her reflection again and saw her eyes staring back from the frame, round with apprehension. What could he want? What did he want? Oh, there were times before the meetings like this. But he couldn't. He wouldn't.

Beth!

Levi was moving around in the kitchenette. She was on the other side of their flimsy bedroom door. When she heard the soft zzzst of a zipper Beth leaned her head against the wall in an overwhelming feeling of despair. He could. He would.

Just a circle.

She wasn't enough. Was this enough for him?

Now, Beth.

She glanced over at the tiny windows as she picked up her handbag and slid her fingers into the folding door's handle. There was--

Now!

Beth opened the door, the folded pleats moving back and into a bundle which she tied back with the necessary snap. Her fingers skated up to check that her hair was smooth before she walked beyond the wall to stand by the sink, her purse over her shoulder. She wrung out the washcloth in the sink and said, “I'm sorry, Levi, I was finishing up. The heat has been something fierce today. I never meant to keep you waiting. Are you ready to--”

Here she looked at him for the first time, and took in his state of undress. She swallowed hard and fought yet another lump in her throat. Beth whispered, then, as though she could change what she saw by speaking. “--to go? Is there anything else you needed?”

She slumped back a bit into the counter and her delicate features blurred as the wrongness surged. Beth knew her duty, but even as the words left her mouth she wanted to bite them back. He would take whatever it was he needed, and she should offer it. “I'm sorry.”

She had dallied long enough, she couldn't stretch things out any longer. Beth took one step away from the counter, and placed her purse on its surface with studied casualness. She patted it once, and then turned to cross the briefest of distances to stand next to his chosen seat.

Like a tent.

Her hand reached out then, faltering once at half-passage, before laying itself with infinite tenderness upon his shoulder.

Am I enough?

“How can I help?”

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Old 09-15-2013, 07:40 AM   #24
Scuttle Buttin'
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"No more words, girl." It was all he said to her, the only words spoken before he leaned up from the back of the cheap and slightly unsteady chair. His hands were smooth and warm, rarely cold even during the harshest of winters that the south threw at them, and it was no different as he placed one on the back of her neck. Already he was hard, before she'd touched him with hands or lips his need was apparent, straining against the cotton that concealed him in only a singular sense of the word.



"...he reigns, from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love, our God is an awesome God..."

People trickled in still, slipping as quickly as they could into position in front of back row seats, trying not to disturb those who stood and sang. One of the men from the church stood on the stage, a guitar hanging from his shoulders used to provide the only music to accompany them. Fans sliced through the air, up and down, up and down, as those who wielded them swayed with the music, left to right, right to left. Voice joined in song, issuing forth from the tent's every opening and rushing out into the steamy night air, a people gathered together to praise their Lord. A people gathered together by him, and because of him. And, though they didn't know it, for him. They may worship Jesus, but they belonged to Levi now.



She was resigned to it, her posture and the slow way in which she moved said as much, a woman who knew the train was coming down the tracks and had accepted the knowledge that she could do nothing to get out of the way in time. It was not possible for Levi to care any less than he did about this, enthusiasm not something he required or wanted. Her hand around him, her mouth on him, her work to bring him to fulfillment and give his mind something else to focus on for a time, these were the things he needed of her now. Nothing more, nothing less.



"Thank you, brother Paul, for that wonderful playing. Amen, yes, amen!" All was said as Levi took the stage, walked to the podium front and center, and placed his worn Bible with his notes folded inside atop it. "Hello, brothers and sisters in Christ! Thank you for joining us tonight and, if I may, let me take a moment to introduce myself and my wife, and tell you a bit about us."

His voice was warm, his smile as genuine as it was possible for a smile to be. The Bible and podium were left for the moment, as he stepped to the side and stood right at the edge of the stage, the toes of his polished black leather shoes reflecting the light as they hung over the edge of the stage. He was casual as he stood before them, one brother in Christ talking to his brothers and sisters gathered before him, relaxed enough even to slide a hand into one of the pockets of his pants.



His gaze swung unguided, the work of her tongue on his demanding arousal leaving him a bit unmoored for the moment. An arm's length away, his pants were folded and laid aside so that she may serve him on her knees as she did now, the little sounds she made still registering in his ears even though he didn't watch her.

"This," he said suddenly, his full attention returning to her as her lips moved along the length of his cock, "Is what I needed. They'll be arriving soon, and I - ah! - and I can't be seen pacing a hole in the ground..."

His voice trailed off, and in relative silence he watched her. It was impossible for him, impossible for everyone he assumed, not to compare the skills of the woman kneeling before him with those of past women who had been in her place. Women as recently as the last stop on their revival, who seemed so eager to fall to their knees for him. It was where he wanted them, too. The silence when their mouth was full was nearly as glorious as the reason their mouth was full.

Beth was serviceable, yes, and his orgasm would come just as it had virtually every other time (she paid for her transgression when it didn't, Lord be praised), but he had met women who were fucking
artists with a cock in their mouth. They were impossible to forget. Like their purpose on this earth was to be kneeling and serving, and they did it with pride. Beth served purposes they didn't, couldn't, but in this she could be found wanting.



"My name is Levi King. I was born in a little town in South Carolina, and received my education at nearby Bob Jones University. I've been a believer for as long as I can remember, and knew I wanted to travel this beautiful country of ours spreading the Word of our Lord for nearly as long. Which is what brings me here to you today.

"My wife," he said, the hand not in his pocket indicating the woman who sat in the front row on his right, "Is Beth, although I'm sure some of you have met her already. We met in a little town in Georgia, and I knew as soon as I saw her that God meant for her to be my wife. If you need me for anything and can't find me, please feel free to let her know and she'll get word to me.

"Together, we travel from town to town, and state to state, spreading the message of redemption and revival, or salvation and servitude to the one true God, can I get an amen?"

"Amen!" the crowd replied on cue, in unison. Pavlov's fucking dogs.



His head had tipped back as far as his neck would allow, eyes heavy-lidded and staring almost blankly at the ceiling. Her mouth and hand worked on him in tandem, ending the one-sided conversation he'd begun earlier. Voice could be heard outside, the distant thump of closing pickup truck doors, meaning Levi had to remain quiet as Beth worked.

He was slumped in the chair, knees parted to allow her space to kneel, his cock rising lewdly from the plain cotton boxers he wore. He sometimes watched her, entranced as his eyes followed the point where his length knifed into her mouth and forced her lips into a wide, round shape around him, but such sights could be more distracting than arousing at times. She had been the distraction he sought, but the time when things began grew ever closer, and he was ready for this to be over. She would need time to clean up, swish some mouthwash and check the mirror for any stray drops of his seed that may have clung to her lips or cheeks without notice. Once, she'd nearly walked out with a bit on her chin, and would have had he not still be there and happened to look up as she moved past him to the door.

He spend the next three nights emptying himself on her neck and face, and then making her wipe it all off in front of a mirror while he watched. She seemed to have learned the lesson, and he likely would've continued it for a few more nights to be sure, but he began fucking the bored and neglected wife of one of the sponsoring church's deacons shortly after, and grew quickly bored with teaching her this lesson.




"Amen, yes! Then let us begin, shall we?"

Levi moved back behind the podium, and flipped open his Bible where a red ribbon had been folded between the pages to serve as a bookmark.

"We're going to start tonight, then, with Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, and we'll be reading from Ephesians 6. Some of you already know where I'm going with this, don't you? This is where we find the armor of God that we are supposed to outfit ourselves with. Read it with me now, chapter 6 verses 10 through 18:

"'Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

"'And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.'

We've all heard of these a thousand times, yes? Dressed our children in little outfits of plastic armor, had them carry around a little plastic sword. But I tell you now, brothers and sisters, this is the gear we need for real warfare, the weapons and armor for every day of our lives. Read verse thirteen again with me!

"'Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.'

You see that, brothers and sisters? 'When the day of evil comes.' But I'm here to tell you, even in a God-fearing state like Alabama, yes, even in a beautiful town like Etham..."

He paused, here, and his eyes settled on Miranda in the crowd. And remained.

"Evil has already come."



One hand gripped the chair under him, the knuckles and beds of his nails grown white from the pressure of it. His other was on her, not in her hair but atop it, forcing her into a quicker and deeper rhythm. His chest rose and fell quickly, the tie previously tossed over his shoulder and out of the way having fallen back, and it was now along for the ride. Lips parted, jaw falling so his mouth his open, each breath audible and rapid.

"Yes... yes. Ah..."

His teeth clenched, his chin tipped forward so he looked down at her.

"Ah...
Yes."

It was the only warning given before he his orgasm flashed through him, tensing seemingly every muscle in his body as he spilled his seed. What happened with it was, and would always remain, her responsibility. She didn't have to swallow, he cared fuck all if she took it down her throat or caught it in her hand, but it must always be contained. None on him, none anywhere on her that would require any real length of time to fix. A chin could be wiped off, but hair would have to be washed again and clothes would have to be changed.

And if it was his clothes... pray for divine intervention.

He kept himself mostly quiet, and as he began to come down from it he felt satisfied that no one outside of the little structure had heard him. His hand moved away from her, resting on the Formica table next to him, but he made no other move to stand or otherwise disengage from her.

"Don't forget your prayers."

It was all he said in a voice that was still a bit breathless, and this time his eyes were on her and nowhere else.

Her prayers.

Every time, she was to remain on her knees and thank God for the gift she had received. God had killed Onan for spilling his seed on the ground, and Levi had read the passage in Genesis to her more than once to show her that every drop was a gift from the Lord. As such, a holy woman must thank God for such a gift, and Levi would tolerate no less from her.

Once said, he nodded in satisfaction and rose for the first time. The chair was returned to it's spot under the table, and his trousers were taken in hand.

"It sounds like more people are arriving. Don't keep them waiting."

She would greet people as they arrived, welcoming them and helping them find seats when necessary. Once the show began she was to be seated in the front row, the picture of a Godly wife. But until that time, Levi did not abide by sloth from her.

He redressed carefully, stepping in front of the mirror to make sure there were no signs of semen on his clothing, and no wrinkles that betrayed him. With everything in place, he made his way out of the RV and into the night, ready to shake a few hands before the revival began.
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Old 10-14-2013, 05:36 PM   #25
thestruggle
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Beth knew Levi's hands. His hands were as recognizable to Beth as her own. It was impossible to erase their prints from her, even though she did not keep an itemized list – I never hold it up to him – and she did not seek them out. His hands held the Bible, they held his belt, they held her life. Girl, your life is in the hands of God. But Levi was her keeper. So the creak of the chair came as he leaned forward into that expectant silence, and his hand came up to the back of her neck with no expectation of refusal. A tendril of her hair was tucked behind her ear as she came down, gritting her teeth against the pain from her bruises. The floor was rough underneath her knees, as she brought up the skirt of her dress to clear it from any wrinkling. The act of drawing that fabric up her body shamed her. Beth couldn't say why. She thought fearfully about the open window, but all seemed quiet. The thought didn't bring much comfort.

There wasn't any need to say why. All us sinners.
But never Levi.

Her throat trembled. She knew what he wanted her to do, what he expected her to do. It wasn't about wanting. Beth guessed it was her duty. After she had knelt she kept her eyes fixed on his leg, because she did not want to look. It was childish, it was like hiding her eyes under blankets in the dark. Those hands, her keepers, her safeguards – not rough hands, not like her daddy's hands, but just as purposeful. Beth needed to move. She glanced up once, just briefly, to look at his face. He was implacable against the slight furrow of disbelief in her brow, the tiniest plea that she allowed herself. The brown of her eyes seemed dull as she lowered her gaze back to her hand that inched over his leg and reached into his shorts. Beth's hands were small and cool. His skin blazed against her palm. Swallowing her own sense of disloyalty, she delicately wrapped her fingers around his length and freed him from the fabric. With the back of her free hand, she brushed her bangs from her eyes and scooted forward belatedly on her knees. Beth tried a tremblingly reassuring smile, but it felt wrong on her face, and she was left looking helpless as she bent to her task. That same hand steadied itself for a moment against his thigh, as her lips parted and she closed her eyes. It wouldn't make any difference to look at his face.

Her tongue passed over the tip of him as she brought her mouth down. Her hand held him at the base. The trailer was very quiet.

And hadn't he told her, hadn't he expected this of her? Even if it was a sin – because it had to be a sin. Didn't it? And his eyes always watched her but they never smiled, he never smiled -

His voice broke through the silence. Startled, she lost her pace as her lips slid off track. Beth hurriedly covered up her mistake with a soft kiss to the underside of his length and then began her hesitant stroking of him again. She knew he was watching her and it made her face burn. But it was her duty.

And what about her hands? Stroking, carrying, always soft. Would they fit inside of Levi's? Did he keep hers safe? They were his tools. All the work she did, and she kept the work of her hands hidden. She felt herself to be Levi's greatest misfortune.

Beth took him too far into her mouth and she coughed around him, pulling back. Hastily she murmured an apology, wiping away a tear that tracked down her cheek. It would be easier next time, she remembered. Her lips were soft as she mantled them around him again.

It's the bargain. No vanity, no pride. Serve your husband.

She couldn't fit him very far into her mouth, but she made up for it with her hands. Some small part of her registered that she wasn't as clumsy as she had been the first time (Are you denying your husband, girl?) but she felt at sea still. Her hands grew slick with the saliva from her mouth, as much as she tried to be neat. She would have wiped them off but it made it easier to stroke him, even with the shame. Even with the shame. Because the shame of this, of kneeling in front of him, even if it was her portion as helpmeet – it wasn't the kneeling. It was this intimacy, this closeness, and this mystery that surrounded what made a marriage that he wouldn't share with her. His eyes watched her from so far away. As her tongue ran over his head, another tear fell from her eye. That one had been forced, too, but not from her aching throat.

It'll be over soon. Close your eyes.

And there it was, his chair creaking in protest as he clenched it under his fingers, his palm inexorable above her hair. Beth sped up, although she never knew if she had done it right – only that the slap never came – and her head bowed over him, with her breath leaving her nose in bursts. She didn't understand how to breathe, he filled up her mouth. As his breath panted out, his monosyllables tense and aimed at some destination, she blinked up at him with the same amount of panic she had always felt. Beth fought against the choked feeling in her lungs and breathed through her nose, his length gliding past her lips and hands and back again.

I don't want -

Her hand cupped under her chin as his legs tightened up and her mouth pulled back as far as she could in that small space, the white and hot liquid spilling from him. Over her lips, the matte pink of them obscured, and into her curled fingers. She drew a breath, deep and greedy, as silently as she could. Her vision began to focus; instead of the confused bobbing of before, she saw the expanse of Levi's chest and the tie that bisected it. Beth bowed her head at his stillness, as his breathing evened out. They sat, recovering – or at least Beth recovered – with her hands trembling from the effort of holding them away from her dress. Like a supplicant, she looked up at him.

Don't forget your prayers.

The moment stretched for no longer than a few seconds. Beth was almost too exhausted to be afraid of what would happen if she didn't. But not quite. From over near the tent she heard someone yell, “Did you grab that pen?” Her fingers were taut.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift given to me today. Thank you for my husband, Levi. Thank you for blessing our marriage, Lord. K-keep us in safety and harmony, please, Lord. Amen,” Beth whispered. Her voice was hoarse.

She waited until he nodded and stood. She edged away as far as she could from his seat so he could stand, and bemusedly gazed down at her hands. His pants were replaced and he moved away to check himself over. Only when some distance had been gained did Beth look for a towel on the counter of the kitchenette. Methodically, she cleaned the most of the mess from her fingers, trying not to notice the stickiness left on them. She looked back in the bedroom and saw him readjust his tie.

Where does it go? How does he disappear?

He didn't look back at her. Beth stood up with an ache wracking her body and took a bottle of water, wiping off her mouth with a hastily swiped paper towel. As she cleaned her hands, she heard him moving back towards the door and looked over her shoulder.

I'll be right - “

The screen door slapped shut behind him.

“ - there,” Beth finished, to the empty room. She looked down at the forlorn remains of their encounter: a few crumpled paper towels and an empty bottle. Her hands and face were clean.

I love you,” she ventured.

After a few beats, she went back to fix her hair and head to the tent. The words felt like they didn't fit in her mouth, and she was running late, anyway.

-----

The lights in the tent blazed later, and the chatter before everyone took their seats filled the air. Beth stood at the entryway, her face smiling and serene in the glow. She shook hands, listened to thoughts, humbly accepted praise. The moments in the tent were so wonderful. So many people were searching, so many people were lost. She thought there was no greater blessing than being able to see people receive succor, to be able to comfort themselves. Beth did her part as best as she could by helping people to feel at home. She helped the last few latecomers to seats and redirected a small boy that darted past her.

Get next to your momma now, honey,” she said, smiling and steering him by the shoulders to a seat. His mother pulled him down and thanked Beth. “We're just about to start.”

She quickly found her own seat and craned her head left, then right. Everything seemed ready. The room gradually quieted and everyone stood for the music. Beth stood, her hands together in front her chest, with shining eyes. As they all began to sing, it was as though everything would become clean and clear. Even Levi seemed happy under the tent. It was the best time. It was the time of grace. As they all sat down again, and Levi began his introduction, Beth crossed her ankles carefully and clasped her hands in her lap.

Maybe this time would be different. Maybe it would be different.

"My wife is Beth, although I'm sure some of you have met her already. We met in a little town in Georgia, and I knew as soon as I saw her that God meant for her to be my wife.

Pretty little girl like you.

Maybe it would be different.

Beth tried to smile at Levi and pretend that the bruises on her body were from falling down the stairs.

Last edited by thestruggle : 03-10-2014 at 01:31 AM.
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