The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

Nobody’s Child
Joseph Grant 

He arrived at the church still drunk from the night before. With some struggle and less semblance, Chuck climbed over the few people next to her and slid down. Felicity, never one of his strong points; he had disrupted the service.

The pastor eyed his disdainfully from the pulpit with mouth open in mid sentence and hand in mid-gesture but said nothing. He did not acknowledge the man who, last year, donated the parish the most monetary gain of that year and the man whom he had called at that time, “a God-fearing Christian” from that very pulpit. Everyone knew it was a lie. The priest knew it but also knew all too well that faith was a business like any else; the only difference being it was tax-free. Instead of making a prime point of the abuses of excess, his sermon that morning, he chose to turn the other double-faced cheek.

Chuck began to berate and curse those around him. He then eyed the main guy. “Who is that asshole up there?”
Lisa shot him a petulant eye. She wasn’t sure if her husband was speaking about the priest or being evilly blasphemous. People gasped around him, but Lisa did not show any emotion nor did she answer him, instead choosing to try and concentrate on the sermon.
Chuck continued his assault before being “shh-shhed” by those around him. He glared at them. They were all hypocrites, sticking their holier than thou noses where they didn’t belong.
“Why don’t you listen to the sermon?” Someone leaned towards him from the row behind him. “It might help.”
He muttered a vague obscenity to his left and the person sat back and shook their head. He continued to verbally abuse his wife, those around him and the priest until the sermon was half over. The person whom the temperance lecture was really aimed at had passed out cold.

It was of little consequence that Chuck and Lisa had been married only a year.  The repercussion came in the fact that his wife had recently delivered a stillborn son. His faith shaken, he didn’t like coming to church any more, nor did he pay much attention to Lisa after that. He chose the bottle as his sole companion. It suited him. Hell, he said, he didn’t like getting up on Sunday mornings, anyway.

When the services came to an end, Lisa, with the aid of the few fellow parishioners he had not yet alienated helped her get him to their car. He came to as if never having been drunk and calmly turned to his wife. “Lees?” He murmured. “That’s the last Sunday I spend in church. I’m through. I just don’t believe anymore.”
“What do you mean?” Lisa asked, alarmed. “You have to go, we’re both Christians. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Nope.” He said as he took the keys away from her got into the car.
“What’re you doing, Chuck?!” She looked around nervously. “You can’t drive! You’re still three sheets to the wind! Give me the keys, honey.” There was no one around to help her. The priest was closing the doors and everyone else was driving away. “You’re too-“
“Too what?” He stopped her dead in her tracks. “Get in or walk.” He said as he turned the key. Lisa reluctantly got into the car and slammed the door.
It was the last thing that Chuck would remember for months.

The police report said that the accident was possibly the worst they had ever seen in Calabasas County. Worst of all, Chuck had swerved into the other lane in order to miss hitting a small animal, thereby crashing head on into a mother and infant driving northbound, killing both instantly.

Out of the twisted wreckage, they pulled Lisa. She sustained little in the way of injury. A broken arm, a busted leg, a sprained back and that was the extent of it. Chuck, on the other hand, had to be wrenched out of the wreckage by the Jaws of Life and air evacuated to the nearest trauma center. There, he was given a 50% chance of survival. He had a grievous subdural hematoma and lapsed into a coma for seven weeks. In addition to this, he suffered a broken neck and his spleen had to be removed. His face and body were covered with first and second degree burns. The prognosis was not good.

He survived and when he was released, he went straight to jail. His blood alcohol level had been twice the legal limit. Doctors said he should have been dead already. But through intensive physical therapy, guilt and a near deathbed conversion while in the hospital and visits from a local priest in the joint, Chuck became a new man. He began to spend much of his time reading the Bible, power lifting and reading and listening to public speaking courses in prison. He had found the Lord. Almost as importantly, he had found his purpose in life, his ministry, as he called it.

Upon his release from prison, he started to attend anti-abortion rallies and quickly became involved in their programs and platforms. Soon, he became their most noticeable spokesman. His skills as an orator increased in each new town he spoke. He was charismatic, fearless and played the part extremely well. His suits went from trash to flash. “Suffer the children” became his battle cry.

Lisa knew full well that people who had suffered blunt head trauma often went through psychological changes. She had even read where some develop completely different personalities altogether. He lost his temper more frequently. He was prone to violent outbursts towards her or anything he deemed as insubordinate. Lisa was not sure if it was the drugs he was taking, the steroids or the guilt phases he was going through. She also knew that the only way her husband could forgive himself for taking two innocent lives was to develop a God complex.

Initially, Lisa resisted this new side to her husband. The stranger next to her in bed at night frightened her, spewing Gospel texts in his sleep and asking her religious questions at all times of the morning. Their marriage began to drift apart until Lisa found out she was pregnant after so many years. Now a mother-to-be she desperately wanted to save her marriage. At Chuck’s insistence, she began to attend the very same rallies, even if she secretly believed in a “pro-choice” platform.

The media picked up the inspiring story of the man who had turned his life around. In the religious arena, he was fast gaining ground as the poster child for zealots everywhere who preached a “zero tolerance” approach to abortion. Chuck was earning good money as a key speaker at churches, auditoriums and televised gospel shows. He and Lisa were becoming the quintessential couple in the fight against abortion clinics. Lisa learned to smile through out their appearances. She was even asked to speak at some engagements. Chuck said she would “give a voice to those who had no voice”. It was after one particularly extremist rally in Atlanta that Lisa had finally had enough.
Chuck?” Lisa asked as they got off stage and towards their car.
“Yes?” He said as he walked through a throng of people, some offering their babies for him to kiss.
“I need to speak to you.”
“I don’t think I can do this anymore.”
“Why?” He asked, alarmed. “Is it the baby? Are you getting too fatigued from being on the road? We can always work something else out, maybe videotape your spots.”
“No. It’s not the baby. I can’t do this anymore.”
As they walked through the crowd and towards their car he turned to her. “Can’t do what anymore?”
“This, this whole act.”
“What whole act? The Lord’s work is not an act.” He said and grabbed her arm and pulled her towards their car. “Blessed be the-“
“Chuck, it’s not your baby.” She cut him dead.
“Whose is it?” He demanded after an interminable silence.
“That’s not important.”
“I said whose is it?” He growled at her and smacked her. “Get in the car.”
Stunned, she got into the car. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Well, I must say your timing is impeccable. You picked a hell of a time to bring scandal and ruin to my house! Just when I’m starting to make a name for us, make good money for us, you tell me you can’t do this anymore and if that isn’t bad enough, you tell me that it isn’t even my baby!” He screamed at her. “Whose little bastard is it? I demand you tell me!” He gunned the car out of the parking lot.
“It’s no one you know. We weren’t getting along at the time.” She could not ever admit that it was another spiritual leader who came to “comfort” her while Chuck had been away in prison; someone he knew.
“That’s of no consequence to me.”
“Besides it’s over now.”
“I don’t give a good gosh-damned if it’s still going on, you behave like the whore of Sodom and you expect me to care that it’s over?” He grumbled. “That’s supposed to make a difference?”
“Chuck, I want to keep the baby. All that we do here now makes sense.” She lied to him. “And we can finally have that baby we always wanted. Just think a little innocent baby we can raise as our own, we don’t have to tell anyone. It’s just that I can’t be up there speaking, being a hypocrite. I can’t do that anymore.”
“You mean a whore-a-crite.” He stung back. “Ohhh, no, no, no!” He spat. “I’m not keeping any baby that isn’t mine.”
“I want to keep this baby, Chuck.” She said firmly.
“No way in hell are you keeping a souvenir from your whoring around.” He belittled her.
“Then we’ll give it up for adoption.”
“There will be no record of this child. Period.” He told her. “You have no say in the matter. We’ll get it taken care of at a clinic.” His agitation almost made him veer off the road.
“Watch where you’re going!” She yelled.
“I don’t care.”
“But what about Mr. Big Anti-Abortion and all of that?” She called him on it.
“That’s other people’s children and other people’s wives and girlfriends. When it comes to us, it’s different. I will take you to a contact I know of who helps people in our line of work and he will get this taken care of for me. I cannot afford to have any disgrace ruin my mission.”
“Mission.” She mocked.
“Don’t you dare start. You’ve already done enough.”
“I want the baby Chuck. I’ve decided to keep it.”
“Over my dead body. I am the man and you will do as I say.” He smacked her again, only this time it drew blood from her lip. “I will not let you destroy everything I’ve worked for, we’ve worked for because of one fling. Yea, I say unto thee, the flesh is weak..” He started to quote.
“Don’t start going biblical on me.”
“The Bible is what you need.” He corrected her.
“Get real.” She shook her head. “Our marriage was in trouble. You were never at home.”
“I was making a living. You didn’t seem to mind it once I started to bankroll you from the two room in Calabasas to the six room we have now off Toluca Lake. You certainly spent enough of my ministry. I didn’t hear you complain then.”
“You didn’t pay any attention to me, just your Bible.”
“If you would have stuck to my Bible, you would have known not to stray and keep your legs closed. A wife is supposed to cleave unto her husband not every Tom’s dick and hairy.” He said, using a course joke she hated.
“Go to hell.” She said sarcastically. “Oh and by the way, the Bible doesn’t have all the answers.”
“What did you just say?” He glared at her, his mouth twitching. “You will suffer the eternal damnation if you harden your heart. I will save you even if I must make you suffer here first.”
“I said nothing.” She cowered. His temper was razor thin with all of the meds he took. Lisa knew full well that if she continued, he would beat her to a bloody pulp. He would do it in the name of salvation he would say as he did so.
“Now, you will get this problem taken care of, as much as it kills me and we will rid ourselves of this mess once and for all. Vengeance is mine, so sayeth the lord.”
“Sure.” She said as tears blurred her vision. “Whatever you say.”
“You will continue to accompany me after this is over. We will just tell everyone that you lost the baby. You will continue to smile and speak when you’re spoken to on the podium and play the loving, supportive wife or so help me God I will beat the unholy sin out of you.”
“Sure…Whatever you say.”

© Joeseph Grant March 2006

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