I'm just a man ... standing in front of the world ... asking them to love my writing.
The Good Reverend
Carlisle Blackstone sat in the middle chair -- the pastor's chair -- on the pulpit, looking out at the empty pews furnishing his church.
His church ... The Walls Of Jasper Missionary Baptist Church. A house of worship with tons of history. A place where celebrities and politicians had frequented. A place that had provided sanctuary to immigrants and runaway slaves even. A lot of history to live up to.
Carlisle's charge was to honor the tradition and history of the edifice, while making sure that the sheep he shepherded continued to move forward in the present, while planting the seeds for the next generation to cultivate in the future.
Young ... 35 years old. For some, that was a bit too for a pastor. Even though he'd grown up in the church, there were some middle aged to elderly congregants that felt he hadn't lived enough to pastor a church.
Wife ... The former Latoya Scott Aberdeen. Everything to him, but there were some who didn't like her for various reasons. Some because she was older than him and they wanted him for themselves. Some because of her spending habits that seemed excessive. Others because they just didn't see her as First Lady material.
Six Kids ... Some were step children. Some were biological. But no one had any complaints about the kids when they were being watched by their father. They were complete angels. But in their opinion, Latoya's mothering skills left something to be desired. And Carlisle had heard as much when some of the church ladies didn't realize that he was listening.
It boggled his mind, because he'd seen the kids with Latoya's mom and her sisters. So he wasn't sure why she was so lenient with them when they were switching into "devil mode". Which was why he made them sit where he could see them, whether than letting them sit with their friends. As well as taking them with him as much as possible.
Active in the community ... Carlisle's went to community meetings to stay abreast of developments in the neighborhood and surrounding areas of the church. So much so that the aldermen knew him. The police chief knew him. Business owners knew him. Which meant that when he needed their support, it was not a big ask.
Writes books ... Some of the same people that thought that Carlisle was too young to pastor, stuck their chests out, bragging because he was a published author. Though others didn't realize that he other streams of income; assuming that he was a "pimp in the pulpit", stealing from the offering tray.
Speaking engagements ... One of his streams of income. Not only speaking at other churches, but also at colleges and various human affairs organizations. Which increased his profile outside of the faith community.
Women throwing it at him left and right ... This was a problem that many ministers faced. Women who didn't care about his marital status. All they saw was a man of power. And they wanted to experience as much of that power as possible. But Carlisle ignored them. Not that the temptation wasn't there, but he was strongly committed to his marriage; busying himself with other pursuits of happiness in lieu of straying from his union.
One of those pursuits was starting Hope and Divinity Avenue, a tent city where
300 teenagers lived on the street, but in shelters; fleeing from sexual and domestic violence. An over-sized lot owned outright by the pastor.
It all started with 58 tents, portable potties/sinks/coffee mugs/toothbrushes.
It was a semi permanent spot where they could cook their own food, sleep and feel safe. All with hopes that the situation would be as temporary as possible; housing and job placements on the near horizon.
Where no drugs/alcohol/cigarettes/stealing/disruptive behavior was allowed and the inhabitants who were 16 years and over would help to keep the grounds, as well as the surrounding neighborhood clean.
Though many residents were against the tent city, many others considered Carlisle a hero for this alone. And knowing that he was doing such a good work, made him sleep easy at night.
Starr wakes up with the sun; whether she gets up out of the bed or not is a different story. But its best that she does, in order to develop a routine for when she's one day blessed with employment.
Brown hair, in braids.
Born May 24, 1996. But she doesn't mention that to anyone. For fear that she would get her hopes up for actually receiving a happy birthday greeting or even a present; unlikely in this environment.
With her exotic looks, she reminds some of the actress, LISA BONET.
She leaves her tent between 4 am and noon, makes breakfast (pancakes and eggs) in one of the tent kitchens and then takes the bus downtown to panhandle; eating a free lunch at the Salvation Army before heading back home.
On a good day she can make 30 bucks an hour if she sings. On other days she might have to sit down by an ATM and ask for spare change.
Once back at the tent city, she cooks dinner and hangs out in her tent, reading by the light of a battery operated lantern. Musicians throughout the campus entertain with their guitars, harmonicas and such, so she doesn't worry about having a radio.
There are piles of clothes and blankets available, provided by the church. And if she didn't think too hard about it, more often than not, this really felt like home.
Downstairs In The Church Basement
Audra Webber, August Parker, Dena Frye are the mean girls at church; hanging out in the basement talking mess about ladies of the church, in particular, the first lady, Latoya Scott Aberdeen Blackstone.
"Who does she think she is with all of those last names? Erica Kane?" Audra Webber asked her friends, referring to the heroine of the former daytime soap opera, All My Children.
The 5'4, dark skinned with the 115 lb, 34C-23-34 body was a stunner who had no problem getting a man of her own -- though keeping one seemed to be a bit of a problem -- yet she coveted the man that promised himself to Latoya. And she'd tell anyone who'd listen, how much she couldn't stand the designer dress wearing "status seeker". The fact that she'd slept with many of her male co workers at her newspaper job's mailroom was not up for discussion.
Size 8 shoe.
Size 8 dress.
A beautiful woman with snobbish attitude. The fact that these ladies were her friends was a miracle, because she didn't tolerate many women. But that just went to prove that these three were peas out of the same pod.
She was had black widow tendencies. No, she didn't love men and then kill them. But she did do damage to their hearts. Using them before they used her was her motto. Which was why there were a couple of deacons and a couple of men in the choir who looked in her direction with glassy eyes, even though they were the farthest from her mind. She was a teacher at a special needs school.
Then there was Dena Frye.
5'6, 141 lbs, 36C, Size 8.5 shoe and of Puerto Rican descent.
A paraprofessional in August's classroom Dena liked to gamble and party her check away; trying to keep up with her best friend who obviously made more money.
She had three daughters and was actively looking for a father for them. But it couldn't just be someone that they liked -- having paraded a bunch a men in front of them. It had to be a man who could do the most for her and them financially, which left out poor Dewie DuPonte
Dewie Dupont was a jack of all trades who served in the kitchen every Sunday; cooking church dinners for sale -- corn bread, candied sweets, pot roast, green beans. Cake and homemade ice cream for dessert. One scoop for 25 cents and two scoops for 50 cents.
His father was the original pastor. And besides owning one of the few service stations left in the region, he was madly in love with Dena Frye. But unfortunately, she couldn't see past the the caked up, hard to remove, car oil embedded in his fingernails and skin.
The Married Couples
Kayla Miles dated Wyatt Abbott back in the day and was still madly in love with him, but because she believed in sanctity of marriage, she would never leave her beloved husband, Barker Beckham. The man who loved her with all of his heart and soul and was willing to do anything to make her happy.
Wyatt married Penny Hendrix, who would do absolutely anything to make him happy. So befriending the Beckhams was easy. Another couple to go out to dinner with, go to the movies with and take weekend trips. Not a problem.
In order to make it easier for Kayla and Wyatt to continue sleeping together the duo went to their mates individually and proposed an idea. The idea of swinging. A strange request. An unthinkable request ... Well, as long as it with a couple that we trust .. How about the The Abbotts? Could they? Would they? With pressure and guilt trips, maybe.
So they tried it.
It happened on three different occasions. But neither Barker nor Penny wanted to continue. Neither felt comfortable being in love with one, but sleeping with another. So as far as they both knew, it was a thing of the past. Until Barker finds out from Penny that Kayla and Wyatt are still sleeping together behind their backs.
Barker is so hurt, but doesn't want to leave his three children. So he and Kayla begin living separate lives with him threatening to leave after their youngest turns 18 years of age.
Kayla kids herself into thinking that this is an empty threat. After all, they are still sleeping together and she's still cooking for him and playing the loving wife. That is until the youngest child turns 18 and goes off to college.
Barker also left home to move in with the new love of his life.
© 2022 LaZeric Freeman