EXT. HEMPHILL BAPTIST CHURCH—SUNDAY MORNING 1965

You’re at the door.  Service is over and the pastor is shaking hands of the men and bowing to the ladies as they make their exit.  There are no sweaty hands.  No nervous gestures.  Each to each their purpose given.  For that’s what the pastor spoke about—hands—what’s in God’s hands.  How nails in them brought salvation.  How but a few fishes and loaves of bread in certain hands fed five thousand.  How hands know their purpose and by their sweat or lack thereof you know if they’re fulfilling their purpose or not.  If what you are is what you should be in any given moment.  If you’re at odds with your fate.  The pastor’s voice bass in tone.  Deep and in assurance with itself—the voice of a man not hunting or fishing, not feeling the emptiness of any destiny as a hunter gatherer or that proper work of a man as a woman would show it in her destiny, for he is a minister to all those worries and fears that cause sweaty hands.   This even before what’s in the offering buckets has been counted.  He is a man who preaches, and as a preacher (this being mating season where the men search for the rut of bucks on trees and the territories marked with urine) he needs no gun no bow and arrow no trap that is set—his service just that—a service.  To all those needs of destinies and roles.  To the man who must be what is a man and to a woman who must be woman.  In what’s cooked and what’s brought to cook.  A director of all sewing circles and the talk circumspect of hidden distilleries and home-brewed beers.  And so this man, this preacher, shakes the hands of men and bows to the ladies on the make.  The purveyor of all their stories their secrets—what they don’t want the town to know it being a small town and what you don’t want other people to know he hears not as in some catholic confessional but still the Hail Mary’s full of grace to the money we must all have when our gardens don’t grow and our deer stands remain fallow to the shortening length of days.  When what we do with our hands has not the produce we hope, and he—the preacher—steps in with faith.  The people walking out assured of that.  They feel it.  They feel it in their hands as they leave.  In the voice, the preacher’s voice, that greets them in their departure.

CHURCH WOMAN 1

He gave a mighty fine talk today—don’t you think?  I feel uplifted.

CHURCH WOMAN 2

Yes it was a good sermon.  I know it’s what I needed to hear.  Time goes by in a week and all you hear is you didn’t do this or you should’ve done that.  Like the whole world is against you.  But then you come to church and you hear what you need to hear.  And even if you’re wrong even if it’s all wrong and you feel so messed up and all alone you come here and it’s like it’s all forgiven.  You feel like you’re forgiven even for that—what makes you all alone in the choices you’ve made—what you did or didn’t do.  It ain’t like the rest of the week.  Nobody beside you except time as a companion… Time don’t talk back.  Yet it seems like it does a lot of talking…

CHURCH WOMAN 1

It’s because you hear all the reasons why you’re alone…  It’s hard to go home to that I’m sure.  A room that once housed an enemy to your feelings and then a room where even the enemy is gone…  But don’t you feel like that sometimes?  When the pastor announces meet and greet?  When the piano is playing and the musicians are playing and the choir is singin’ a hymn and you turn to the people in your pew and the pew in front of you and behind and you shake hands?  They could be your enemy.  Someone you owe money or someone you had an argument with in the department store the past Wednesday over a last item on the shelf.  But the pastor tells you to greet the folks around you and you smile and shake hands and after a while everyone joins in on the hymn.  It all seems like a strange dream sometimes…  We all need the comfort of friends, Cecily.  Divorce is never easy.  How you been holdin’ up?  Are your kid’s still mad at you?

CECILY

Oh I’m just tryin’ to take it one day at time.  I still try to get my beauty sleep.  Ha Ha…  But thanks for asking, Dora.  It’s hard.  Forty-five years.  Kids all grown…  You know my boy Jeremy’s doing fine.  Got himself a church in Port Arthur and he and his wife have two boys to carry on the Bloodwood name—not bad for the son of a country doctor…  I don’t know what happened.  What happened to our marriage.  It’s like we forgot somehow.  We forgot what it was like holding hands…

DORA

Sometimes I don’t know what’s worse.  Promises you don’t keep or promises made to you that aren’t kept…  I don’t mean to dish the dirt or nothin’, but didn’t you hear?  Hear about Bethany Lebeau?  She didn’t keep her husband’s hand neither.  And didn’t you have to keep her away from your son?  But that’s not what’s going around now.  It’s her daughter—Dulcy.  Folks are sayin’ she’s leaving town because she’s with child.  Bethany’s done packed up to stay at a cousin’s over in Louisiana for the winter.  Took her son Benjy with her.  And her ex-husband, a man who goes by the name David Threnody, some musician she met in New Orleans who’s from East St. Louis and who stays over in Austin most of the time now is going with her.  Talk around town is who the father is…

CECILY

God, I haven’t thought about Bethany Lebeau in years…  I knew her mother.  We had a falling out way back during a Mardi Gras pageant at church when were just girls…  Yes, Jeremy had a crush on her, but then some man came to town, this back in ’41 or ’42 I can’t remember and she almost ran off with him before he got caught stealing from the church coffers and he left—crossed the Sabine and never came back…  Jeremy used to walk with her from Sissy Walker’s place and there’s that whole story about my ex’s brother Warren Bloodwood and what happened with Wishbone, Sissy’s husband…  Can’t hide nothin’ in a small town.  Promises kept or broken.  Don’t see Bethany’s mother come to church that often, or Bethany for that matter—raisin’ her children godless.  Course what can you expect being born by that mid-wife and havin’ her children born by her—that old woman that lived out in the swamp—she died just a few years back—Marie Toussaint…  So who do they think is the father?

DORA

That’s the thing.  Folks are talkin’ and there are all kinds of rumors, but nothing’s known for sure yet.  But I do hear there’s talk of a white woman—goes by the name of Maddie—lives up above Sunset Inn Again here in town, and talk’s been she’s been seein’ both the father and the son…

CECILY

Who?  The father of Dulcy’s child?

DORA

No…  Bethany’s ex-husband—David Threnody.  And their son—Benjy…

CECILY

God above!  I miss church for a few weeks and I don’t know what’s happened…

CHORUS

Have you ever seen a spider spin its web?  You have to see it in darkness with a light shining through.  The light at the right angle through the gossamer threads.  Maybe on a back porch hanging from a corner to a still wind chime.  The web not made by hands but by a small spider.  And then you see it destroyed.  Not by the wind of movement through the chimes, but by a large moth attracted to the light, the light that enables you to see the web and the small spider at work, a moth too big to be ensnared by the web.  This is when you know.  You know and are not afraid.  Death wants more death.  And what matters is merely how big you are.  For are you smaller than the web, or is the web smaller than you?  Either way the web is always built close to the light.  Not for you to see it.  Its location is for another reason.  A web is always built by the light to attract the moth…

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