The church was white-washed stone standing on a rocky rise sheltered from the ocean by a belt of palms and Caribbean pines. The doors were open and fans turned overhead and condensation dripped down the windows. There was a missionary priest there that evening. Ed had arrived in the middle of a song, the place was rocking.
The song ended and a woman in the congregation stood up. “The sixteenth of December 1986 that was the day I started running for my life . . . Lord Jesus! I know I don’t have a voice but I want us all to hear this” With that the celebrant launches into a song and immediately she has the whole place behind her.
The place is rocking. Everyone wearing their best clothes. Including jackets and hats. The song ends to make way for another testimony which is met with a universal “Praise the Lord!”
The lady at the lectern reads out the first line of the next song. The brooch pinned to her black beret says JESUS in glittery letters. A man clears his throat and spits out the fire exit door. Two guitarists and a drummer start up, after a few bars they are playing the same song, just in time for the voices to blend in. It’s loud and it’s inspired. And the place was rocking again.
Ed had scored a job as caretaker of a field station in the Bahamas during hurricane season. All the American staff were on vacation, but the locals were friendly. Emily was the breakfast cook at the field station. She was 75 island-years old, so sweet and kind and quiet and humble and against-the-odds-happy, living in a wooden shed in that belt of palms and pines.
She levers herself up from the church pew and with her eyes clenched tightly shut, and without waiting for the microphone she sings out “I tell you. I tell you! When the Lord comes for Emily Johnson she ready!”
It takes the roof off the place, everyone is shouting at Emily
“Save me Jesus!”
Ed was a believer of Neil better to burn out than fade away Young and James live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse Dean. Emily I ready Johnson was messing with his head. Here was an apparently happy person who was happy to die. Is that not a contradiction?
** time passed **
Ed was now beginning each day by sitting up in bed and saying a prayer. Except he really didn’t like that word, so he didn’t use it. Prayer is what religious types do. When he sat up on the bed each morning he made a heartfelt wish. One of the first times he did this, out of nowhere, Emily J came to mind;
“You have to feel the feeling of your prayer otherwise it’s not answered…”
They had been sitting on the porch looking at the clouds and dark water beyond the reef. Emily would often sit there in the evenings, humming and gently rocking.
“…Ask and ye shall receive – within reason o’course, just don’t be askin’ for nuthin’ stupid.” she added.
“Receive from where?” Ed had asked
Emily stopped still and went silent, heaved herself round and looked at him squarely, smiling kindly,
“From the other side of life o’course.”
She went back to her prayer and swaying.
Are you ready? is an excerpt from RUNNING CONTRA DICTION and the flight of a soul athlete – available on Amazon and all good bookshops