It was a sunny Sunday morning in Berlin, Wyoming and Steel Brandenburg III was sitting in a modern honey-colored pew inside The Carbon Copy of Christ Church on Alameda Avenue.
Up in front of him on an elevated stage with big displays of fresh flowers at each end and a large bodiless cross that hung high behind as the centerpiece, a man paced as he preached. He was wiry and energetic. He held a Bible and wore a white suit with a yellow tie tacked to a blue shirt, and his thin hair looked greasy, but maybe it was just a manly grooming product. The dyed black hair was slicked back, and along with his pencil-thin moustache, it made him come off as a homemade dungeon in the basement kind of creep.
Creep. Jarrod Creep. Steel was sickened that he was suddenly reminded of his horrible boss at the Berlin Daily Times. And that’s when, like a nudge from the Holy Spirit herself, he slowly turned his head to the left and saw Jarrod Creep sitting with his wife in a pew across the aisle. He was sternly returning the look. He waved. His eyes were investigative slits. His wife turned her head, too. She tried to smile but she gave off the impression that her life was hell.
Did Mr. Creep really attend The Carbon Copy of Christ Church? Steel wondered to himself. It was possible. Highly likely even. But on the other end of the stick, Steel considered he was there to just spy on him to make sure he was living up to his end of the bargain when it came to Carrie Gould and the disastrous outcome for all if she decided to walk and talk.
Carrie Gould. And there she was sitting to Steel’s right. The right hand of the priesthood holder, she probably thought. Her body was pressed up tight to him and she was holding his hand within both of hers. It felt like a hand-hold cage to him, and he couldn’t break free. The skin of her hands was soft, warm, moist, puffy. He could feel the cholesterol pumping through her veins.
She was wearing a white dress with a pattern of common garden flowers flung about by a madman. She had curled her golden hair with one of those curling iron things. Steel caught the faint scent of burning hair. Her lips were doused with a much too heavy slick of red gloss. Her eyelashes were grossly plump. The rouge on her cheeks nearly resembled the blood on a deeply pink carnation after a Mafia shootout.
Carrie’s attention was fully on the preacher up front, and she smiled when he said something funny or nodded her head gently when he said something very aggregable to her. Whenever he touched on the subjects of love or marriage or relationships between men and women, she would squeeze Steel’s hand and look over at him with bewildering eyes of adore.
On the other side of Carrie, sat her mother, Melba Gould. She was an exact duplicate of her daughter, just 25 years older and with less body mass. She fanned herself with the paper church bulletin as the preacher ranted and raved about sin and purpose and the laws of spiritual physics. Occasionally she would glance past her daughter and look directly at Steel. She was sizing him up, perhaps uncertain of the new relationship he was beginning with her only and fragile child. When Steel caught her studying him, she would give him a sour smile and quickly turn away.
After the service, people filed out of the church and Pastor Craig Stikk shook hands and chatted at the exit. When Carrie Gould reached the doorway, the pastor licked at his sickly worm-like lips and grinned. He too had a thing for fetching fat girls. And especially one named Carrie Gould.
“Carrie, Carrie, Carrie,” he repeated with joy as he clutched her hand with one of his own and gripped her arm with the other. “It’s so good to see you back in the pews.” He leaned in to awkwardly hug her. Carrie squirmed. He had a sour body odor. “What did you think of today’s message?” His breath smelled like deli salami.
“I thought it was very inspiring, pastor. Very inspiring.”
Carrie’s mother squeezed forward and reached out to shake the pastor’s hand as well. “As did I,” she sneaked in.
“My, my, Melba,” Pastor Stikk said. “I can certainly see where Carrie gets her delicious beauty from. My God, if you were an ice cream cone, I’d lick you all over.” His laugh that followed was boisterous and sickly.
“Well, thank you, pastor… I think.” She giggled. “But I give all the glory to God. For he made me.”
“Indeed, he did,” the pastor agreed. “And he did a very good job… On both of you.”
Steel tried to keep walking on through, but Carrie stopped him. “Steel, please introduce yourself to the pastor. Don’t be rude and just run off.”
“I wasn’t running off.”
“And… Who is this fine young man?” Pastor Stikk wanted to know; a fog of suspicion veiled his eyes.
“This my boyfriend, Steel Brandenburg,” Carrie noted with an air of pride.
“The third,” Steel added to correct her omission.
The pastor reluctantly reached out and gripped Steel’s hand. “I’m Pastor Craig Stikk. I’m glad you could attend our service today.” It seemed to Steel that the holy man wanted to crush his bones, being that his hold was so pressurized. He looked Steel dead in the eyes. “The boyfriend, huh?”
“So I’ve been told,” Steel said. Carrie scowled at him and slapped at his arm. Steel cleared his throat and reworked his words. “Right. I’m the boyfriend.”
The pastor seemed puzzled. “I had no idea,” he said, his head moving from one to the other. “How long have you two been an item?”
“Just a little while,” Steel answered. “But it seems like forever.” He chuckled but no one else found it funny. “I mean, as in I feel like I’ve known her forever. Like I have always known that she’s the one for me. Since… The beginning of time.”
Carrie melted inside. “Awww,” she purred. “That’s so sweet, baby.”
The pastor scoffed and started to turn away to attend to other worshippers.
“Pastor Stikk?” Melba Gould called out to reel him back in.
He turned. “Yes…”
“We’re having a sort of ‘welcome to the family’ dinner for Steel at the house. We would be honored if you would join us. It would be wonderful if you could sprinkle your blessings over the two lovebirds… And the pot roast.” She laughed at herself.
The pastor searched his mind for an excuse not to attend but he came up empty. But then again, he felt he needed to do something to intervene. This young cock blocking fool Steel Brandenburg III was moving in on his territory. His very large territory. He felt threatened. “I would love to,” Pastor Craig Stikk relented. “Sounds absolutely wonderful.”
TO BE CONTINUED