A story for the faith writers topic of “sloth”. It’s on the sad side and not much of an ending, but I ran out of words. It was fun using a non-past-tense first-person voice, though.
Tell me what you think!
“Church service tomorrow morning in Hosea’s quarters, pass it down.”
It’s a familiar message and I knew what was coming as soon as I saw Millie lean over to me. I nod, not losing rhythm in my picking. I drop the cotton I was holding into my basket and straighten up a little, not expecting how much my back would object to moving. Wincing, I lower back down, but this time I’m nearer to Micah, the boy on my left.
“Church service tomorrow morning in Hosea’s quarters, pass it down.” He licks his lips and swivels a bit to his left. I catch the whisper of the message trickling down the row until I can’t hear it anymore.
Apparently the slave driver, Jonas, can though.
“Hey!” His wrist snaps backwards and an earsplitting crack from his whip stops the message mid-pass.
“No whisperin’ plans down the work row. Sing!”
A few murmurs of disapproval waft towards Jonas, but are drowned out by halfhearted humming. He swears under his breath and his whip hand twitches again.
“Dang Negros… I didn’t say hum, I said sing!” His whip cracks louder this time and many of us jump, but Millie’s well-used voice starts in.
“Swing low, sweet chariot…” I, along with many others, join her.
“Comin’ fo’ to carry me hooooome!” The Master relaxes a little and his whip coils on the ground like a rattler resting.
“Swiiiing low, sweet chariot… Comin’ fo’ to carry me home!” The tune doesn’t carry very well, on account of so many voices cracking from thirst, but Jonas obviously doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
“I looked over Jordan and what did I see?” Someone’s voice raises high above the others. Dark fingers fly and cotton drops into the baskets like snow.
“Comin’ fo’ to carry me home,” the rest echo.
“A band of angels, a-comin’ after me,” I sing.
“Comin’ fo’ to carry me home.”
Since I was tiny, it was the day that I wished would never end. A day to rest our aching bodies and drink water when we wanted to. A day to sing songs of the exodus and dream when our day for freedom would come. Waling along the old dirt path to Hosea’s house, I begin to sing the song that is always everyone’s favorite.
“Go down, Moses. Waaaay down in Egypt land! Tell old Pharaoh… to let my people go!” I smile a little and skip for the first time in months. I get to the door of the ramshackle little house, ready for the rest of our perfect day. I stop, mid-skip and stare.
There, standing in our meeting place, the one place we have to ourselves, is the Master, along with a thin man clutching a black book. My eyes widen and I glance over at Hosea. The old man’s worry wrinkles are deep ruts in his face and he sadly shakes his head at me. Everyone else has the same sad expression on their faces. The Master smiles and pats his round belly.
“I have brought Reverend Taylor here to give you a proper church service. This is how it will be from now on for the Sunday services. I’ve heard that the songs that you have been singing and some of your sermons are sowing some discontent among the workers, and we don’t want any of that, now do we?”
He was putting on a good façade of happiness, but I see the glint in his eye as he beams at us and waddles out the broken door.
“I have a few choice verses for study today,” Reverend informs us, speaking hollowly from the back of his mouth. He flips open to one of the pieces of thread stuck in his bible.
“Colossians 3:22,” he reads, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”
I see where he’s going, and by the scowls on the faces around me, everyone else does too. The Reverend flips to another piece of string and begins to read again.
“Proverbs 6:6: Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”
I can almost see steam coming out of Micah’s ears as the Reverend shuts his bible and folds his hands gently in front of his waist.
“Now,” he says, “What do you folks think would be the practical application of those verses?”
Someday, I think. Someday, I’ll escape
That last line sounded a lot like Riley O’Mally. 🙂 But of course that would crop up.