I didn’t know why Reverend Belcher from the Breckinville Church of the Godly called to say he wanted to see me, but I suspected it was nothing good. “We open at 10 a.m.,” I told him. “Why don’t you stop by around 9:00, and we can chat here at the putt putt.”
And the name of the star is called Wormwood…
Pus star Wormwood glowered ceaselessly in the cigarette sky. Although it was only midday, Wormwood pulled long shadows from the sour crabapple trees, whose fruit not even the crows will eat. Embittered little trees, Scotch broom, feral blackberries and scrub grass are all that grow in the brief ridges and ravines and knolls that serve as the community “backyard” throughout the valley. During wildfire season the broom pods burst and the smoky wind disperses their dusty spore. During wildfire season it’s easy to believe in hell.
There’s a feral cat watching the birds. Sparrows mainly. The birds remain oblivious, searching for crumbs which the tourists scatter unheedingly in their tracks. There are a great many tourists. It’s hard to understand why this place should appeal to the average visitor. I should know, I’m there against everything I’ve practised in my life. And, I’ve been a sinner – if sinners remain a recognised species. But I had to come. Something inexplicable drew me. Even so, the vast numbers are off putting and I’m wondering if there’s something else. Something I haven’t yet understood. Is it a bank holiday, or is there going to be a local football derby?
Locate me in the back row of the church choir. It’s not difficult. Since it’s rehearsal night, there aren’t that many of us, and even fewer if you are looking at the men’s row. That’s me, younger than the geezer profundo over to my left. I’m young enough to be the the son of the forty-something tenor to my right. He sings ahead of the beat. I was pressured to join because I play the piano. Never let them know you can play the piano, by the way—free advice. This is one of my first (respectable) adult activities: the church choir.
How all this got started was there was this guy Lee, I don’t think anybody remembers his last name. He hadn’t been in Springdale long. Quiet guy, late 20s. Decent looking. Beard, muscles, longish hair, bit of a mountain man way about him.
The Almighty was taking a bath. It had been a long week with the creation of the universe and whatnot, and He felt he was due some respite. The water was perfect, the temperature set just so. The tub big enough that he could stretch out and rest his head on the rim while playing with the two ornate gold taps at the far end with his toes. And of course, the bubbles. The good lord could never have too many bubbles. A small rubber duck bobbed up and down, it’s bright yellow head briefly appearing above the waves of suds before vanishing once more. Closing his eyes, he soaked in the pleasure of a good bath and a hard weeks work, and slowly but surely, he drifted off…
“One dollar,” young Earl C. Calder said and looked at the farmer before him transfixed on the small the blue vial Earl held in his hand.
Earl didn’t blink in the mid-day sun, all 110 pounds of himself holding steady next to Ida. The vial of elixir they had emptied the night before still floated through him, but he didn’t flinch, not Madam Wilma T.’s son, born in a brothel and groomed for greatness.