Divine Intervention – posted 2018-02-08
It was a brisk morning. A sheen of frost had spread across the windows of the van overnight. Samuel shivered and pulled his jacket around him as he huddled in the back seat, watching his dad aggressively scrape off the thin layer of ice from the windshield, as the engine moaned, trying to warm up the vehicle. Samuel hated Sunday mornings. Being pulled out of his warm, cozy bed was bad enough on school days, but on a day off – it was criminal. He could still feel the soft feathers inside his pillow cradling his head and the fluffy duvet wrapped around his shoulders, enveloping him all the way down to his feet. The van was cold. He could see his breath coming out of his mouth like wisps of smoke. His mother had said she needed to get to church early that Sunday because the choir was practicing for the Christmas concert. That meant another month sitting at the back of that cavernous church room, in those hard pews with his dad, waiting. Waiting to then sit even longer in the ever-hardening wooden bench to listen Pastor Nichol rage and whisper and plead, then demand the crowd of people sitting before him do as he say, to become better people. Samuel decided they must all be all doing a pretty poor job on their own. His older brother had found a job, and worked on Sundays now, so he didn’t have to go to church. Samuel wanted a job too, but his mother told him he was still too young. She said they would talk about it when he turned twelve. That meant he was doomed to church on Sunday Mornings for a few more years.
“Besides,” she had said, “don’t you like watching us practice?”
Sometimes, he would play with Pastor Nichol’s kids, just for something to do. Even though they were a few years younger and just wanted to colour or play hide and seek, it was better than just waiting with his dad. The only activity he could think to do, sitting in those slippery hard pews, was trying to kick the bible out of its little box attached to the back of the pew in front of him. Colouring and hide and seek was stellar compared to that.
Today would be better than most Sundays though, as he was picking up Yuvraj, his friend from school. Yuvraj often came over to Samuel’s on the weekends. He had better video games. The Dodge van pulled up in front of the Yuvraj’s red brick house, and idled, while Samuel watched the front door open, Mrs. Ukrani waving her thanks, hugging Yuvraj, and then Yuvraj running down the path to the van.
“Morning,” chirped his mom. “Find the seatbelt ok?” Samuel just slowly shook his head and closed his eyes. Yuvraj always had it clipped on before she finished her breath. He figured his mother really thought everyone was pretty stupid.
“Thanks Mrs. Pine. I’ve got it.”
Samuel leaned over and whispered, in a clandestine fashion, to Yuvraj….“Did you bring it?” Yuvraj tapped the outside of his jacket and a grin spread over his face. Samuel leaned back in his seat, satisfied. They were both uncharacteristically quiet and contemplative on the drive to the church.
There were already cars lined up along the road when they arrived. They had to park a block away and then began their march down the sidewalk to the church doors.
“Looks like everyone showed up for a change,” said his mom. “Should be a good
practice. You guys ok?”
“There’s always coffee and cookies to ease the pain,” started his dad but Samuel noticed how he quickly wizened with the shrivelling look his mom shot back at him. Samuel always felt a small victory knowing his dad got that look too.
“I mean, we’ll go and find something to drink and eat before service. Have fun.“ He leaned over to peck her cheek with a kiss. “We’ll see you after.”
There were the regular greeters at the door. Mrs. Murphy who wore flat black boots with a bit of fur at the top, black leggings and a black wool skirt that hung down to the top of her boots, a dark green sweater with small round wooden buttons down the front, a bit of her breakfast on the edge of one button and a small hat with a little blue, sagging feather on one side. She had folds on her face like an apple doll, and large round lenses in her glasses that had dark green frames. She would creak her way down to hug Samuel, and gingerly shake Yuvraj’s hand. She smelled of ivory soap and lilac bushes.
Mr. Smith, opposite Mrs. Murphy, leaned on his cane and handed out papers listing the events of the morning. He always wore a blue suit, a blue shirt and a blue tie. Samuel wondered if those were the only clothes he owned. He didn’t smile much, just said good morning and handed out the papers. Samuel wondered if he would rather still be in his bed too.
They made their way downstairs, where treats awaited, Yuvraj clinging to his coat. Samuel noticed his dad went over and hung his coat in the closet. He held his coat out to his dad, Yuvraj would be next. Samuel stiffened, his eyes widening ever so slightly.
“Oh, thanks, but I’m still feeling cold. I’ll just keep jacket on,” said Yuvraj. Samuel gave him a nudge. “Nice,” he offered.
There were lots of cookies and muffins to choose from. They were really supposed to be for the social after the service, but Samuel knew his dad felt it was a bit early to be there anyway and wanted another coffee, so they all got a treat. Yuvraj put a few cookies in his left pocket and reached out with his left hand to take the juice Mr. Pine was offering.
“Did you hurt your right hand Yuvraj?”
“Uhh no, just keeping my jacket warm and cozy,” and he wiggled a little, pulling his right arm tight against his body and lifting his shoulders a little. Samuel noticed his dad raised one eyebrow for a moment. He held his breath.
“Here, I”ll just leave your juice right here for you.”
“Thanks.” Samuel exhaled as his dad walked over to talk with some of the other non-choir folk, huddled in a corner of the basement meeting room, their Styrofoam cups of steaming tea or coffee in hand. Samuel and Yuvraj went and sat in chairs on the opposite side of the room.
“Did you bring all the pieces?”
“There’s only one.”
“Oh ya, right.”
Yuvraj gave him a slight scowl.
“I know, I know,” said Samuel. “Does he know you took it?”
“Of course not, or I wouldn’t have it under my coat.”
“Ya, right.” They fist bumped.
“Why did Mr. Beattie have it in the class anyway?”
“I donno. Maybe some medieval pioneer thing.”
“Ya. Maybe. Think it will be like the one in that video game?”
“I hope so, it was cool.”
“Ya,” said Sam, patting Yuvraj’s jacket.
“I took it, you put it back.”
“Fine. I’ll take it when we drop you off. You coming over after church.”
“Ya, they’re not expecting me back until around dinner time.”
“We can sneak it upstairs to my room when we get home. See where we get better reception, here or there. ” They giggled and nibbled on their cookies. Samuel could hear the choir singing upstairs and Pastor Nichol’s voice directing them. It was the same voice he used when he was telling the people sitting on those hard benches what to do. Samuel was always surprised how everyone seemed to listen intently, except for Mr. Smith, he usually fell asleep and snored.
“Pastor Nichol is such an ass,” said Samuel. “He thinks he knows everything. I bet the spirits here at church have a lot to say and no way to say it. Way more important stuff then Pastor Nichol.” He sucked the last bits of juice out of the box with a resounding slurp.
“Ya, church is church, right? I mean, we have lots of Gods in our religion, I bet they’ll come and talk to us here too”
“Oh ya, for sure. It’s called God’s house, any God can visit.”
“Let’s see if we can sit in the balcony today. There aren’t a lot of people up there. We can get a pew to ourselves.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“I’ll go ask my dad.”
Samuel was told that there weren’t too many people attending that Sunday, so if they promised to behave, “no silly giggling, you know, stuff like that, ok?” they could sit in the balcony. Samuel promised with big brown round innocent saucer eyes.
After the choir finished practising, people began filing into the sanctuary and took their places on the hard-oak pews, choir books and bibles waiting impatiently on little wooden shelves in front of them. The boys found a great pew at the far corner of the balcony. The choir took their seats and Pastor Nichol began to speak. It was then that Yuvraj unzipped his jacket. Samuel rubbed his hands together, back and forth as Yuvraj pulled out his contraband. He opened the game board and placed it carefully on the pew between them. He then brought out the small wooden game piece and both boys ceremoniously placed their fingers on either side. They closed their eyes, and lifted their chins every so slightly, reverently.
With eyes closed, Yuvraj whispered, “we are going to feel vibrations today.” They hovered in their silence, Pastor Nichol’s voice echoing throughout, fading into the back of their minds, soon not penetrating their bubble of sanctity.
“Did you ask a question?” Yuvraj asked Sam.
“Yup. Shush, give them time to think of the answer.” They sat, fingers on the device, waiting for a spiritual moment, just like in the video game. Soon, they felt their fingers tingling and felt the device wanting to pull to the left. Their eyes sprung open at the same instant.
“It’s going for the letter T.” They were holding their breath. It was amazing. Something was communicating with them. Everything else faded from their awareness. There was nothing but their fingers, the tingling, and the collection of letters. They could have been sitting on an iceberg in the arctic.
“No, I think that was an E,” whispered Sam.
“Oh, ya, E.”
There were long waits between letters. ‘A’ was next. They were mesmerized with wonder, as if a christmas present was sitting before them, waiting to be unwrapped. Their patience was huge for such small boys, their focus intense. They were not aware of the adults standing behind them until they each felt a hand on their shoulder. Then a voice, piercing in its depth, chilling in its tone, resonated close to their ears, “what have you brought into God’s house.”
“Oh fuck,” whispered Samuel, his eyes popping open.
Yuvraj swallowed hard. “My mother’s going to kill me,” he mumbled.
Samuel heard one of the older women scream, “Oh My God, it’s a Ouija Board. They’ve brought the devil into our midst.” He watched as she waved her hands in front of her face, feigning a fainting moment. All gasped. Samuel watched as Pastor Nichol picked up the board between two fingers and handed it to his dad. Then he felt his shirt tighten around his shoulders as he was lifted out of the pew, Yuvraj was caught in the same clutch. They were promptly carried out of the church by the scruff of their necks. Samuel could see his mother crying and apologizing to everyone as they made their way down the stairs and outside. His dad was beside him, resolute, but Samuel detected a thin smile behind his eyes.
“Boys, we will talk at home,” was all he said as he ushered them down the sidewalk to the van waiting on the curb.
Yuvraj looked at Samuel, he leaned over, and in a very quiet, solemn voice asked, “What do you think the next letter is going to be?”
Samuel’s eyes widened, as did the grin on his face.