Preacher - Madison Faye Page 0,3

my mama thinks, it very well might be in her head.

“Mama, the white dress is white.”

“Exactly. Pure, clean, chaste.”

“Yeah, and see-through when it gets wet?”

My mother’s face turns redder than the dress she’s just pulled away from me, and she looks absolutely scandalized. Lordy, I feel scandalized now that I’ve said it and now that she’s reacted like that.

“Delilah May!” She gasps, bringing a hand to her heart. She looks at me sternly. “Watch yourself, child,” she says tersely. “You’re close to wicked thoughts, honey.”

Wicked thoughts. Right. The concern that my dress will be completely see-through once a stranger dunks me in water is a “wicked thought.”

“Mama!” I hiss back, a little scandalized myself. “I just mean… you know! I don’t know this preacher, and—”

“He’s a preacher, honey,” she sighs. “A man of God. A shepherd, come to tend this shepherd-less flock.”

“Only temporarily, ma!” Paul, my older brother, crows from the other room.

“Eavesdropping is a sin, Paul!” I yell.

“No it ain’t,” he chuckles. “And besides, I’m just reminding mama that once my church is up, we’ll have no need for traveling preachers like this Gabriel guy.”

Mama shakes her head and puts hand to her heart as she raises her eyes heaven-ward. Her lips move a little, and I smile. Mama’s piousness might be a little much sometimes, but it’s one the character traits that I love about her.

“Well, this Gabriel guy,” mama mutters. “Is only going to be preaching the Lord’s word for a might longer, and if you don’t get going, you’re going to miss it!” She turns to me. “White dress, Delilah. Don’t be sinful.”

I sigh. “Okay, okay.”

She smiles. “Thank you, honey. Now get ready!” She pokes her head out of my bedroom door. “Paul! Are you dressed?”

“Nah, mama, I can’t go. I promised to bring Mayer Pearson some coffee so we could talk about zoning.”

The front door opens loudly, and my father bustles in, grinning. “That’s right!” he beams. “That’s my son the minister with his very own church!”

Well, not yet, but, that’s the plan at least. Paul spent a long time being what mama would call “aimless”—working some odd jobs, hanging around town here in Canaan, and even a year or two living the city life in Savannah—a place both mama and papa agree is a wicked, wicked place. But now with a year of divinity school under his belt, Paul has apparently found his calling, which is to raise the funds to build a church here in church-less, small-town Canaan and be its minister.

“Delilah!” papa calls from the kitchen with a muffled voice.

“Jedediah!” mama hisses back, storming from my room. “You darn well better not be getting into my baking for tonight!”

I can almost hear my father swallowing pie crust from here, and mama can too. She sighs with a smile and turns to point a finger at me. “White dress, right now, honey.”

“Okay, okay!”

“You comin’ too, dear?” Papa calls.

“I need to finish the prep for supper,” she laments. “But if you and Delilah don’t hurry—”

“Oh we’re hurrying! Delilah!” he bellows in his big belly voice. “Truck’s leaving in two minutes! Let’s go!”

“Alright, alright!” I shut my bedroom door and quickly start yanking on the white sundress.

Twelve minutes later, papa’s pickup truck bounces off the dirt road onto the little patch of grass where the other townspeople are parked.

“He’s the real deal, honey,” papa gushes as he puts the rumbling truck in park and turns off the engine. “Gene Parsons said this guy visited his cousin’s town up in Tenseness last summer?” papa whistles. “Said it was the best dang sermon he ever did hear. Moved him in ways the Lord is supposed ta move ya.”

Papa reaches up with his perpetually grease-stained hands from the garage and puts a hand over his heart. He doesn’t show it much, like he doesn’t really show much of himself that a shirt with rolled up sleeves would show, but I know he’s touching the crucifix tattoo over his heart. Canaan isn’t exactly a place you’d find much tattoo ink, and if you didn’t know my father all that well, you’d never guess that he does, either.

But papa spent a number of years when he was young and before he met our mother in what they both call a “bad crowd.” He calls it his dark past, or his “forty years in the desert” before he met mama. There’s a lot more tattoo ink besides a crucifix under his shirt, but he doesn’t like to talk about it, at