The Church of The Coveted Glen (Conclusion)

Read part one here.

Lucy practically moved into his residence. Greta, at first, took great umbrage at the Lucy Pharr invasion. This, in itself, was extremely unusual. Most of the congregational women that had fallen under the spell of the passionate minister had not even registered the flicker of an eyelid belonging to the now almost otherworldly Greta. Lucy aroused a jealous fury that had hitherto been undetected within the ailing wife.

Greta cried out, she railed, she protested. Her repetitive rant was that her beloved had come under the spell of Jezebel and from this unholy union there would not only be no chance of redemption for his befuddled soul but also, she screeched, an evil would be unloosed upon the world and this tainted being would bring great harm to the weakest of our brethren.

This tirade continued until Miss Lucy, now a few months pregnant from the seed of the good shepherd of the Church of the Coveted Glen, recommended a special medicine to add to the regimen of drugs that Greta was taking on a daily basis.

It was a simple medication, one that had been in use for so long that it was found in the pyramid tombs of the ancient pharaohs of Egypt. No doctor’s prescription was necessary. All it took was a signature. They called it an exempt narcotic. The brand name was Robitussin A-C.

Nathaniel administered two ounces at bedtime according to Lucy’s instructions.

* * *

Greta dreams. She walks a busy city street, turns onto a narrow lane. Small establishments line the tiny boulevard. The smell of incense fills the air. Greta follows her nose into what appears to be a quaint tea parlor. A sign on the wall says, “Fortunes read from your tea leaves.”

Greta orders tea, asks about a reading. A slim wiry elderly oriental woman slips into the seat across from her. A little boy—they could be related—slides a curtain aside that hides a doorway to a dark room, walks slowly to the table, stands and watches as the old woman stares into the light brown liquid in her cup.

A startled expression crosses her face. She looks at Greta with sad eyes.

“The leaves tell me nothing,” she says.

“But,” Greta begins to protest, as the woman rises and walks hurriedly away.

The little boy emits a chuckle. “It is too late. Your husband’s heart has begun to decay already,” the boy says. “She is in it. The child is coming, faster than we all think.”

“My God, I have to go back. I have to save Nathaniel.”

Suddenly she is spinning, hanging upside down over a vast lake. The lake is clear. Greta sees to the bottom. Green dragons with mottled red chests mill around men dressed in animal skins. The men are tending fires, some of them rotate spits over the fire pits. For a second, it isn’t clear what the men are roasting.

One of the men lifts a spit away from the fire, slides the object from the stick, holds it loosely in his hand as a dragon comes to him. Then she sees what it was on the spit in the split second before the dragon takes it between its teeth, bites down hard.

It was a heart that was still beating.

She shapes her mouth into an O, feels her vocal cords working yet there is no utterance of sound.

The boy’s face swims in a sea of chaos before her. As he fades away, she hears his voice saying, “They call me Ar Lain Ta and you are my first visit.” Then he is gone and she wakes.

Greta does not know it but four months have passed. Right now Lucy is squatting and straining. Nathaniel watches in horror as the child emerges from between Lucy’s thighs.

* * *

In his last moments, Pastor Round felt his heart strain like a rickety old engine. Many times, when Lucy was holding him close, skin to skin, at the moment he would spend himself his heart skipped. Afterward, as she held him close, he felt himself gasping for breath. Almost as if his lungs were refusing to drink the air. He could feel his heart labor as if there were pieces of cotton clogging his ventricles.

Lucy peered up at him, smiling, as she lifted the baby boy into her arms, the umbilical cord writhing like a snake. He never noticed before, like he did at that moment, how reptilian her eyes looked.

“Thankssss sssyou,” she hissed at him, and then, when a forked tongue flicked out of her mouth and caressed the baby’s face, Pastor Round felt the cotton close down his heart for good. The thud that followed was his already dead body hitting the floor.

* * *

The first searchers to enter the rustic cabin were greeted by a strange sight. The half-naked body of Nathaniel Round lay on the floor next to a cooing baby boy that was attempting to suckle his nipple. Lucy Pharr was nowhere to be found. According to all follow-up reports, she was never seen again. She vanished as if she had not existed. Memory of her faded and, had it not been for the presence of the boy, she might have been forgotten altogether.

When the autopsy was done on Pastor Round, it was determined he had died of heart failure. The one puzzling factor, which was not included on any official report, showed that his heart had been dead for weeks before it stopped. No one could explain it. No one tried.

As for Greta, she underwent a remarkable recovery and soon became not only the primary caretaker for the little boy but, after a few months, she began to assume the duties of Pastor Round, bless his name, at the Church of the Coveted Glen. She also took back her maiden name.

With that accomplished, she began adoption proceedings for the little boy, and when that was done, because there was no one in the world to contest her heart’s desire, she gave him her last name.

No one, surely not Greta Harpkin, had any idea of the events that would take place almost thirty years in the future when the son of God knows what would take a job as a sheriff’s deputy in the Worcester House of Correction and covet the wife of an inmate by the name of Cowboy.

The day Chet Harpkin graduated high school, which was one week before he entered the U.S. Army to be all that he could be, Greta Harpkin, at the graduation ceremony, moaned once and fell from her chair. She never rose again.

 

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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