88 A Bump in the Night

Kitty pulled up, next to the Plenty For All truck backed tight into the opening of the storage unit. Afraid of her displeasure, Woody and Tad were being careful with her stuff; they’d seen enough of that with the man who’d come about the elevator. She peered inside. Tad thought she was glaring at him and dropped his side of the mattress. Unable to hold it up any longer, Woody let go of his side and the mattress came thumping down on the truck floor.

“Getting weak from hunger, boys? Tell you what. I noticed a pizza place a few blocks back. Tad, hoof it over there and bring back whatever you both like. Woody and I will keep at it.” She fished out folded bills from her inside jacket pocket, black gloves silky in the artificial light, and peeled back some tens. “That should do the trick.”

“Thanks! Anything for you?” Chapter 88 Asserta

“Go.” Tad obediently set off.

“There won’t be much to eat at the house, Miss Doyle, if you’re going to stay there tonight. Fixings for a small sandwich, if you’re lucky. They’re always talking about spiritual hunger and forgetting there are other kinds, too.”

“What’s this place like? Tell me. Let’s sit down.” She tucked herself up, knees to chin, in the middle of the fallen mattress. He perched on one edge.

“It’s our old house. After the ministry took off, we moved to a better one. The ministry bought the little house for traveling preachers, meetings, and training. There’s a bedroom for my kid brother and an office. Dad likes having Moth living there, to keep his hand in.”

“Moth?”

“Short for Timothy. Anyway, my Mom said she didn’t want all those people in her new house.”

“What’s her name?”

“Myrtle. Can you believe it? You have a nice name, Kathy.”

“You can call me Kitty.”

“Even nicer. You’re like a pretty kitty, all curled up like that.”

“Have you been trained, Woody? What’s that like?”

“Who, me? No way. I just work here. Don’t believe in any of that stuff.” Woody tested. “Do you?”

“Guess I’m about to find out for myself. Do you like to do that, Woody?”

“Do what?”

“Find things out, for yourself.”

“Depends.”

“Like me, for instance.” Kitty uncoiled and lay on her side, her head coyly resting on her wrist, inches away from him. Platinum strands flicked and dangled through her free hand. “What would you like to find out about me?” Kitty drew that wanton hand down, drawing a picture of her curving side, suggesting where he might begin.

“Same thing you want to find out,” gulped Woody, “about me?”

“How hungry are you?”

“Starving.” Woody knelt on the mattress, sending up a quick prayer before partaking, a truck-bed conversion.

“Better get it quick, before Tad wants some, too.”

“Leave your gloves on.”

“Woody, where are your manners? Say please.”

*     *     *     *     *

Tad arrived, bearing his hot and aromatic boxes. He couldn’t see that they’d done anything much. He’d taken his time, hoping it would be all over, that he could just eat at her expense and leave.

“We left the mattress down, Tad, for a table.” Kitty winked at Woody. “It’s a multi-purpose mattress.” Her phone buzzed. It was Herbie. “Just feeding the five thousand. Or two boys, anyway. Are you waiting for me? How sweet.”

Another hour later, Herbie stood in the blare of the front porch light, directing into the dark. “Park over there. On the drive.” She dragged her luggage into the entry. “Were Linwood and Thaddeus satisfactory?” Kitty murmured her appreciation. “You’re very late. I see you have cases. Your room’s upstairs.” He didn’t offer to carry anything for her. He had the air of a man accustomed to having his own bags bell-hopped.

“Herbie, I’m a bit hungry, and you promised everything I could ever need.” As Kitty rummaged through the kitchen cupboards in uncharacteristically curious fashion. She was alarmed to find no coffee, nor a coffee-maker. This boded very badly for the morning; she envisioned an early start, a drive out for a drive thru’. A disheartening surplus of carbohydrate basics spilled from the shelves, and one barely scrape-able jar of peanut butter. There were no eggs, no apples.

“There’s quick rice or noodles.” Herbie was testy. “We eat supper at five before our evening work begins, not at this hour. We take early nights to rest for early mornings. Bible study begins at six sharp. We take in God’s word before we break the fast. I’ve left the reading, selected especially for your arrival, by your bed. You’ll need to be familiar with it. You’ll be introduced to the rest of the team and be expected to participate. You must call me Pastor Herb. I’ve got to go. It’s unseemly for us to be here alone at this hour. Moth’s in bed.”

Kitty lugged her bags up the steps, reviewing the evening: a ravenous, agnostic son, a kept, younger brother, a regimented, prurient father, and a house-proud mother. Quite a lot to take in on an empty stomach; that was the only way she could swallow the readings, targeted for dawn. Something about a handmaiden, whatever that was. Nobody she knew.

  • * * * *

The Minosa family. Plenty for All’s Pastor Herb, his wife Myrtle, their elder son Linwood ‘Woody’, and their younger son Timothy ‘Moth’.

The gloom of that meeting room at six was surpassing any gloom she had ever known. Dark she reveled in but illuminated, candlelit. This was just dark; a small, heavily paneled, windowless room – more a closet – the table oversized, with discomforting sticks for chairs wedged between it and the enclosing walls. The door was shut and the room stifling, the only air moving out of pontificating, cheerless lips, black looks darting at her from sunken, suspicious eyes. Wan, female faces gazed, pinched by the poverty of their point of view, and unkindly framed by unflattering hair, worn tightly back. Herbie had confiscated her purchased coffee at the door; she must resemble them all. Instruction continued for some interminable length of time with just Bibles; no pencils, no paper, no room for thought, interpretation banished like her consoling caffeine.

Herbie, unrecognizable in his severity, canted…”the gold standard of female behavior. What all women must aspire to, must become.” Kitty acknowledged her failure to meet this imposing degree of self-regulation but wasn’t inclined to confess it. Myrtle was glaring at her from across the table. Kitty guessed that she didn’t know what her Linwood had been up to the previous evening. “Do you accept service on these terms, Miss Doyle?”

“The Lord being my helper.” Kathy dutifully replied. She’d read the required responses.

“Then we will proceed with your training. Report to me in this room, at eight.” The group silently exited. She hoped for a shower and a spot of make-up, sprinting upstairs to be first in line, if there was one.

“Kathy?” She reluctantly turned, to face Myrtle Minosa. “I understand you met my son Linwood, last night.” From Kitty’s advantage up the stairs, Myrtle dwindled in size, became a Minnie Minus, evermore.

“Oh yes, Mrs. Minosa, and Thaddeus, too. Most helpful, and so eager. Will I be seeing more of them? They said they were staffers.”

“You may, from time to time. Ours is a large organization, with many people in it. I hope you’ll take our high standards very seriously. From now on, you represent us all.”