THE DEACON & MY MOTHER

The following is an excerpt from – Screams from the Trees: My Escape from a Cult.

A few weeks after my first Lock-In I went on a field trip with The Youth Group. Christmas was just a few weeks away and though winters in Houston were a bit balmy, tonight we were experiencing one of Texas’ notorious Cold Snaps. Mom buttoned up her coat as we waited in the parking lot of Christian Life Ministries with the rest of the crew. Once everybody was accounted for and assigned to carpool vehicles, we caravanned to Malibu Grand Prix to drive go-carts around a little racetrack.

One of the adults chaperoning was Burdell, the creepy Deacon from North Dakota who had been praying for a “Faith Wife” for four years and had a reputation for being “touch-feely” with several of the girls in the Youth Group. Behavior like that was usually shrugged off by the adults, accompanied with whispers about side hugs. I figured Mom must have drawn the shortest straw because she and I were assigned to ride in his vehicle.

I wound up in the back of his black Ford work van, tossed in the cargo area with several unseatbelted teens surrounded by loose tools, nails, screws, blades and various candy bar wrappers and other filth. As we bounced down the road, I found myself staring out the grimy front windshield.

Burdell looked like he burst through the loins of Burt Reynolds and Frankenstein’s Monster. From what I could tell from all the tools flying around, Burt’s Evil Twin worked construction. 

“Hey, Nathan!” Lisa said. She was one of the Hernandez Girls, she and I were the same age, and she was blossoming quite voluptuously. She had big green eyes, but I wasn’t gawking at those big things.

“What?” I yelled.

“What’s up with that?” she pointed over my shoulder.

“With what?” I said, stalling, watching Lisa bounce up and down.

“That!” she said with an emphatic nod. I twisted my body as my gaze went from her nips poking out her red sweater, up to her shoulder, down her arm past her elbow and along the line of her index finger that was pointing out the dirty windshield. 

What’s out the windshield, I thought. 

Lisa gave my head a nudge, and I saw it.

Burt’s Evil Twin was holding hands with the passenger. I followed the passenger’s hand up the forearm, to the elbow, past the bicep and to the shoulder, all the way to the head, and at first all I saw was a familiar coif of wavy hairsprayed blonde hair.

When the babushka turned to speak to Burt’s Evil Twin, there was no mistaking it then. 

That was my mother’s profile. 

That was my mom.

She was engaging in something funny, as in she was laughing.

Laughing at whatever Burt’s Evil Twin was telling her.

As astronauts do when they are weightless in a space shuttle, I crawled from the rear of the cargo hold of the van to the cockpit and after slowly turning my head from left to right observing these two Star Wars characters gaggle for an eternal few seconds, I poked the shoulder of the lizard-woman sitting in the co-pilot’s chair.

“What,” I said, motioning with my chin, “is this?” referring to their clinched mitts.

In what sounded and smelled like the belch of an African camel, Burt’s Evil Twin grumbled with a mouthful of sunflower seeds, “I’m marrying your mother.” 

I turned my head toward the sound of that pronouncement and was immediately met with his blocky mug peering over large rectangular eyeglasses, gargantuan eyebrows reaching over the frames like the arms of a hundred tarantulas, moist fragments of sunflower seeds clinging to his blockade wall of a mustache. 

I looked at my mother. 

She stared out the filthy windshield with a slight grin on her face and a vacant look in her eyes.

“Mom!”

She turned her head and said in monotone, “Burdell is right, Nathan. I’m his Prayer Wife. And he is my Prayer Husband. My Boaz. My Redeemer. It’s been confirmed.”

While my body remained weightless, the gravity of her statement yanked my soul from my guts and pulled it through the Houston clay, the bedrock, the molten core of the earth, through the Indian Ocean and spat me out like a meteor across the constellations of the southern hemisphere till I landed somewhere in the jungles of Tasmania waiting to be discovered by the Palawa Kani.

When I realized I was still in the back of a rape van, I blinked.

“What?!” I yelled.

“We have to be obedient to The Lord,” she said. “Now just sit down and we’ll talk more about this later.”

Later never came. Their wedding did.

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