“The Preaching Game” by Bronwyn Mauldin
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Bronwyn Mauldin takes us to Charlotte, North Carolina, where there are so many churches you’ll die before you can see them all. Next week, join Cezarija Abartis in Sartell, Minnesota and encounter some teenagers with deadly intentions.
I was halfway through a draft of a blistering sermon on Romans 1:18 when I was startled by a scratching at my office door. My staff and parishioners knew to leave me alone on Thursday afternoons. I looked up to see a vision in turquoise.
“Why, Ginny Porter, as I live and breathe.” Her dress plunged and shimmied in all the right places. My little man below the desk stirred. Ginny was the girl I’d nearly been thrown out of seminary for.
“It’s been a long time, Frank.”
“What brings you to St. Stephen’s?” They say there are enough churches in Charlotte you could visit a different one each Sunday and die before you’d seen them all. In the preaching game, we call that righteous hyperbole, exaggeration to make a true point. “Tired of small town life?”
Ginny shut the door behind her and locked it. “You’ve been keeping tabs.” She dropped her brown leather purse on the desk and waved a pint bottle at me.
I shook my head. “I haven’t touched the demon rum in years.”
“It’s not rum. It’s Wild Turkey.”
“My favorite. You remembered.”
Ginny poured a good measure into the empty coffee mug on my desk and tossed it back. Then she refilled the mug, sauntered over, and held it to my lips. Her perfume hit me like a downhill semi that had lost its brakes.
“I remember everything we learned in divinity school,” she purred.
Bourbon-soaked Saturday nights in Ginny’s bed had made it hard to rise on Sunday mornings. I’d been a fool all these years to think I’d gotten her out of my system.
“You haven’t changed a bit, baby,” I said, and drank deeply. I pushed keyboard and Bible aside to make room for her on my desk.
“You’re popular,” I said as I dabbed a bead of sweat trickling between Ginny’s breasts with the edge of my polo shirt. “Your phone hasn’t stopped buzzing since you walked in.”
She put her purse on the floor. “They can wait.” She took a small crystal guitar statuette from the bookcase and read the engraving: “First place, Christian Contemporary.”
“Girls youth choir. We’ve won several awards.”
“You still play?” she asked. “Guitar, I mean.”
“I know exactly what you mean, baby.”
I leaned in for another kiss, but she’d already started putting her dress back on. “Those azaleas out front need a trim, Frank.”
“Old biddies on the budget committee won’t let me hire full time landscaping.” When I’d made the request, they’d accused me of putting on airs.
“Trim them yourself.”
“And get stung again? I’m not putting my life on the line, not even for azaleas.” I reached down to pull up my khakis.
“Oh, that’s right, you’re allergic.” She puckered up to her lipstick. “Doesn’t matter. It’s not like you’re in Myers Park.”
I felt heat rise in my chest. “What the hell does that mean?”
“They may have moved you to the big city, but they stuck you here in down-market Sedgefield.”
“That’s bullpucky! Sedgefield’s on the way up. I’ve got five hundred parishioners, including a retired NASCAR driver and two Bank of America executives, while you’re still preaching to shoeless rednecks out in the boonies.”
I slapped her. It felt good, so I slapped her again.
I gave her another smack, but she came back with a barrage of fists and elbows. Suddenly, I was on my back on the floor, dizzy from booze and pinned by Ginny’s knees. “You’re the asshole who hasn’t changed, Frank. Only this time, Daddy can’t bail you out.”
My mouth went dry when I saw what she was pulling out of her purse: a mason jar with holes punched in the lid. Instead of fireflies, it held bees buzzing furiously.
“For God’s sake!” I shouted. I tried to twist away, but her legs held me tight.
Ginny smiled as she unscrewed the jar and placed it upside down on my belly. A few bees escaped, but most were trapped. My whole body jerked when I felt the first stinger prick my flesh.
“My epi-pen,” I gasped.
“You mean this?” She held it up and snapped it in two. Epinephrine dribbled onto my lips.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” she quoted softly.
I tried to finish the verse, but my throat was already swelling closed. She patted me gently on the cheek. “Say your prayers, baby.”
BRONWYN MAULDIN grew up in Charlotte, NC and now lives in Los Angeles. She’s the author of The Streetwise Cycle and winner of The Coffin Factory’s 2012 very short story contest. Her work has appeared in CellStories, The Battered Suitcase, Blithe House Quarterly and Clamor magazine. Her latest novel is the literary thriller, Love Songs of the Revolution.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jul 14, 2014
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