by Black Widow
From a writing Prompt: How would you use this title? "When your skin cannot contain you?"
| The crowd prays silently in the rows of small metal chairs, accompanied by crickets in the heat of the humid southern night. Mid August near the river was always too hot and too wet. The plants in the audience fanned themselves with their program flyers while they sat pretending to pray. So many people showed up tonight, Jimmy wasn’t sure that his people were going to have space in the audience. Word of the boys “talents” had spread far beyond the small towns they were grifting.
Of course, Isaac didn’t know they were plants. Jimmy had to hire locals to fake illnesses for the boy to cure. The boy and his mother were delusional. But Jimmy couldn’t fault them that. They had nothing when he found them, dirt poor on the dying remains of corn field outside of town. The few farm animals that hadn’t run off or been sold to pay the bills, were dying of starvation. Isaac and his mother, Mary, had begged Jimmy to take them with him. They said they could pitch in, the boy was strong and his mother was healthy enough. Jimmy could always use another hand feeding his crew and setting up the tents. So he brought them along.
Jimmy always liked to let the tension build before he went out and “preached the good word”. His choir filed in as the crowd began to look up from their prayers. They filed in along the rows of metal chairs sitting on the slightly raised stage. As the last of them came to stand in front of his chair, they began to hum in unison. In the back row, one of them began to clap in a healthy southern rhythm. The crowd began to sway as if on cue. The steady rhythm was picked up by the audience. Then clear strong voices sang out in praise and those who were able stood to join the choir. A common “amen” or “Hallelujah” cried out here and there in the audience. Three full hymns were sung, before Jimmy made even a move to join the choir on stage. Let the audience begin to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. As the third song began to fade and the audience began to be seated, Jimmy strolled out on stage with a gentle ease and a smile that had won many hearts and several thousand dollars.
The audience had come to see Isaac, but they knew that the way to Isaac and their salvation was to go through Jimmy Solomon. Jimmy would preach a little, sing a little, pass along the collection plate, all the while lamenting the plagues and disease this world was forced to endure. But, ladies and gentleman, there was a solution, a cure to all that ails you. And his name was Isaac Christianson. A young faith healer, who lived his life in the solitude of his trailer, spent his life in prayer and reflection, with his only contact to the secular world being his devoted mother and of course, Jimmy.
Isaac was a plain southern boy; he looked like a thousand other boys who had grown up south of the Mason Dixon. His chestnut hair cut in a short bowl cut. His dull brown eyes stared out at a world he barely saw and seemed to never understand. But when he smiled, radiance far beyond him lit up the room. Isaac claimed that it was God’s gift to him that kept his mother and him alive, and the same divine providence that brought Jimmy to their door. Jimmy, however, was far less willing to leave his fortunes to Gods will.
If the boy believed he could heal through faith, far be it from Jimmy to deny his faith. Jimmy would provide him people to heal. Jimmy, for a small price, set up private meetings with the local farmers for crop blessings and livestock healing. One rancher had paid Jimmy 20,000 dollars to have Isaac at the insemination of his prize heifer. Word of mouth had it, that heifer gave birth to twins and they were the healthiest calves in the country. People paid a small fee to get into the tent revival now. The potluck dinners and bible studies over flowed with food and gifts. Not to mention the take from the collection plate. People had even started asking for Isaac to be present at their children’s baptisms, births and other special occasions.
In Isaac, Jimmy had found his gimmick; Mary saw a saint, and the crew saw a meal ticket. In himself, Isaac saw a disciple of the lord. He knew the lord had a plan for him, and Isaac accepted his duty with humility. Isaac would be a tool for the lord; God would bring miracles back to earth through Isaacs’s hand. If Isaac believed and remained faithful, God would use him to bring religion back to the heathen landscape to which Isaac had been born. With those thoughts coursing through him, Isaac stood outside the tent listening to the sermon that brother Jimmy gave. Isaac knew that Jimmy was misguided in his need for money. But Jimmy provided for his traveling congregation, for that Isaac couldn’t judge him. God would show Jimmy the right path, Isaac had to leave such things in Gods hands.
Isaac knew the people he healed every night were paid to be sick, he could see it. Isaac listened to the small still voice inside him; he reached out to those he could, while creating the show Jimmy needed him to create. He would heal a sick child here, cure stage one cancer there, nothing big, nothing noticeable. The Holy Spirit inside him told him it wasn’t time yet. The lord would give him a sign; Isaac had to wait for his own version of the burning bush. As Isaac prepared to go on stage tonight, the small voice spoke up.
“Just one extra tonight Isaac, you will see her, you will know.” The small voice whispered in his head, blocking out the applause of the crowd and the song of the choir. Isaac thought it was weird to have a theme song anyway. He didn’t see the point in it. None of the Apostles had theme music, if they lived without it, so could Isaac. But Jimmy had insisted, so Isaac left him to it.
As Isaac stepped onto the stage, he could see a soft glow in the third row, a pale girl of about 7 or 8 years old. Her face brightened in a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, there was fear there. Her lips were red where the coughing fit had brought a little bit of blood. A napkin was clutched in one hand. Isaac held a hand up in praise as he greeted Jimmy on the stage. They shook hands and hugged. Jimmy spoke some words into the microphone, and a bunch of hands darted up in the audience. A few of the hands were darkened in Isaac’s sight, signifying true illness. Jimmy waded through the crowd grabbing hands and leading them to the stage. A line formed at Isaac’s feet. To Isaac’s surprise some of those who were in front of him were actually sick. Isaac healed the first few, praying over them, laying his hands on them and then leaving them to move on the next.
Those who were healed went over to the audience to let them inspect their health and see that they were healed. Isaac would move on to the next and ask him or her what ailed them, and they would tell him something that they had been paid to say. For a few, Isaac would send Gods love into that place where they were hurting and heal whatever was wrong with them, regardless of what they would say. Then he would whisper to them to go and tell no more lies.
When Isaac had got through the entire line, he stepped off the stage, like any normal night. He was supposed to wade his way through the crowd, and exit through the rear of the tent. Then he would retire to his trailer for more prayer and bible study, or so the world believed. Yet, as Isaac walked down the aisle between the rows of chairs, he stopped, reached out to the little girl. In a strong clear voice, he spoke to her.
“God has told me you would be here tonight Ruth; He has great plans for you. He wishes for you to be a beacon of his word in this world. Can you do that Ruth? Do you promise to try to live in Gods love, and by Gods words?” Isaac asked while caressing her cold hand. Beside her a woman cried softly, thanking God that Isaac had stopped for them.
“I will try my hardest, if God will relieve me of this Leukemia, I would surely dedicate my life to his service.” The little girl said in a weak and quiet voice. Isaac smiled and gathered her up in his arms raised his face skyward and began to pray for her. The small voice inside him joined him in his prayer. Isaac felt warmth grow inside him as the choir began to sing a simple round of Amazing Grace. Ruth’s mother cried next to them, praying as hard as she could. Ruth let out a long sigh and smiled up at Isaac as he ended his prayer. Isaac set Ruth down and the little girl and her mother followed him from the tent.
At the podium, Jimmy stared at the spectacle with mixed feelings. On one hand he was angry for the deviation in the schedule, on the other; Isaac had put on quite a show. He made a mental note to have the little girl looked in on. Perhaps they would follow up with her, make a big enough deal that they could raise prices. He wondered as he closed the evening services when Isaac and his mother had time to add a plant of their own to the mix. He would have to have Mary watched more closely, perhaps the girl was her family.
Weeks passed without another deviation, the girl was all over the local papers and her father turned out to be a local newscaster. She was all over the media, and Jimmy’s little tent revival grew bigger every night. They had needed an extra tent by the second week. They had stopped moving from town to town, the local law enforcement asked them to stay in one place until the media hype died down. They were causing traffic jams on normally quiet country roads.
One night after a particularly profitable show Jimmy was approached by a man asking to televise one of the revivals. Isaac had made national news and the national networks wanted a story. Jimmy got Isaac and Mary’s permission, and they began to plan for their first national exposure. Jimmy had the choir outfitted in new robes, which of course, had been donated by local patrons calling themselves Jimmy’s new congregation. Chairs were donated by all the local churches. One or two of his crew were talking about setting down roots and starting up an honest church here.
Isaac spent those weeks in prayer. He studied furiously, the small voice preparing him for the miracle he was about to show the world at large. Word had been sent to the local churches and flyers printed up, all who couldn’t afford healthcare, all who needed a doctor but couldn’t see one, all who were faithful or wanted to see the lords grace were welcome. That night, the tents were set, the walls left off and the chairs set out in long rows. People began to show up in two and threes, then in tens and twenties. Banquet tables were set with food overflowing, somewhere a large BBQ was burning and the smell of the meat permeated the air.
Jimmy surveyed the crowd, his mind already counting the cash that was rolling in at the gates. If everything worked out tonight, he could have his own show. He could stay in one place and run this scheme on the television like all those televangelists. With one exception, he had Isaac. There was something about that boy. He drew in the fanatics and the skeptics alike. People flocked to see him. He barely spoke a word, just stated his simple faith and people followed him where ever he led them. Jimmy was thankful for Isaac. He had to make sure that, when they settled Mary and Isaac got a nice big house to settle into.
The choir took its place, the lights for the cameras glowed in the darkness, the crowd murmured. The choir began its music as they always had, sweeping the crowd up in their music. And when it had faded, Jimmy took the stage to a roaring applause that took a few minutes to dampen. Jimmy preached that sermon like he was born to it. He played to the crowds, the camera, the camera men, and the audience watching at home. Jimmy preached, and sang, and passed the plate, and preached some more. Then he asked the crowd to grow silent. He asked that all be still to hear the voice of God within them. Jimmy invited Isaac out to the stage quietly and calmly, like it were any other night.
Isaac reached the stage with a humble glory, he waited patiently as Jimmy asked for those who were sick to come forward that Isaac may lay his hands upon them and they would feel gods love. But the voice spoke, and drowned out all that Jimmy was saying.
“Now Isaac, Go forth into the middle of our people. There God will create you as his miracle in this place.”
Isaac raised his hand, stopping Jimmy, Isaac strode to the center of the crowd and cried out.
“Lord God, Work your miracle through me your willing servant!” Isaac felt the familiar warmth grow from the center of his being, light grew around him, far above him he heard a thousand voices joined in a chorus of praise. Then all Isaac knew was light and warmth.
Jimmy glanced over at Isaac in shock, a small fear growing in him. An annoyed thought crossed his mind about Isaac ruining the big night. As Isaac walked into the crowd and cried out to God. Jimmy half shook his head in amazement at the showmanship the boy possessed. Jimmy couldn’t have planned that if he had tried, and he was glad he hadn’t. It looked better not scripted. Then Isaac took on a glow around him, as if he were drawing all the light out of the room and into himself.
Jimmy looked around and saw awe and peace on the faces around him. He felt like he had been the only one left out of a big joke. Jimmy looked back at Isaac as the light grew and spread, points of light spinning through the audience embracing hundreds at once. Isaac spread his arms and the light brightened and spread outward over the crowd, embracing everyone in warmth, light and a golden peace. Then it was gone, shooting upwards like a star falling in reverse. And with it went Isaac. One moment he was at the center of the light, then it was as if he were the light, and then the light and Isaac were both gone.
The faces around him shone with tears, those in wheelchairs cried out in praise as they stood for the first time in years, voices that hadn’t spoken in decades spoke again in praise. All around him there were murmurs of thanks, people crying, people shouting their hallelujahs to the heavens. And there, finally turning on him, were the TV cameras. The camera men took in the scene with their cameras, a few of them laughing or crying as they did so. They turned to Jimmy to pick up the pieces and answer the questions. Fear gripped Jimmy’s heart, how could he explain what had just happened? Who was he to answer questions in the face of such happenings?
And from somewhere inside James Solomon heard that small still voice for the first time.
“Fear not Jimmy, I am with you,always.”