This is Part 19 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.
The ‘Love on the Run’ mobile chapel sat in the middle of a large clearing. It had been freshly painted and glowed white in the sun. The chapel was so glaringly white that staring at it made my eyes water. Even the modified truck cab at the front of the chapel glowed with fresh paint, and the chrome trim sparkled in the sun.
I heard singing as I approached the cab of the chapel, but I didn’t see Irwin Goodfellow. I circled around until I was staring into the chapel entrance. A dim figure moved far back in the chapel.
“Pastor Goodfellow,” I said tentatively.
The singing stopped. The figure walked down the short aisle of the chapel and peered out into the sun.
Irwin Goodfellow had the narrow face and bulging eyes of a fish. His salt and pepper hair was plastered into a wave, fixed like a wide fin along his head. His all white clothing magnified the unhealthy yellow cast of his skin. I stared up at him and kept very still, so caught up in the fish analogy that I was certain any sudden movement would cause the preacher to dart away.
“Greetings, faithful child. Is it council that you seek? Or do you wish to be wed? But no, you come alone,” Irwin said.
“I come seeking…knowledge,” I said.
“Ah, a seeker of truth.” Irwin climbed down the chapel steps and walked towards me, smiling. His smile faded and he stared at my feet. “Oh, no. No. You bring unclean soil onto holy ground. This clearing is sacred,” he said.
“Oh. Okay. What do I do about it?”
Irwin closed his eyes and gestured to a nearby creek. “You must remove your soiled footwear and wash your feet in the sacred waters,” he intoned.
I glanced over at the creek. “Any snakes or other potentially venomous things around there?” I asked.
“Serpents avoid sacred waters, lest their flesh be burned.”
I interpreted that to mean the creek was snake free, and washed my feet. When I was done I walked barefoot into the clearing. Irwin had disappeared. “Pastor?” I called.
“I am here, seeker of truth,” he said from inside the chapel.
I climbed up into the chapel. “Pastor, I need to ask you about a marriage you recently officiated.” The inside of the chapel was really nice. Red plush cushions on the little pews…miniature alter, hand carved…stained glass windows. “Impressive attention to detail,” I said, looking around.
“Thank you. Please, take a seat,” Irwin said, waving me to a pew.
I sat down and said, “The name of the bride was Dora. She’s originally from this state, but you married her one state over. The guy is domineering, controlling…possibly violent.”
“Love will find a way,” Irwin said.
“Yes…well. Speaking of love, Dora’s family loves her and they’re worried about her. They want to get in touch with her, make sure that she’s happy,” I said. Irwin appeared nonplussed…clearly my argument wasn’t strong enough. Time for a quick save. “I mean, they can’t celebrate this new chapter in Dora’s life if they can’t see her.”
“Surely the hearts of her family and friends feel her joy even across the miles.”
“Yes, but…uh…love is such a remarkable gift that we should celebrate together when we can. I mean, look at what you do. You don’t stay in one place to marry people. You travel all over, celebrating new love.”
Irwin’s eyes lit up. “That’s true. I go where I am called.” He stared off into the distance and said in a deep, sonorous voice, “In the city across the line where the neon shines bright, old is new. Peace has returned.”
“Was that an answer?”
He smiled at me knowingly. “Ponder the words, and the answer will be found. You are a seeker of truth, are you not?”
“Sure,” I said, my voice sounding hollow to even my ears. But Irwin Goodfellow didn’t seem to notice. It was like the world around him was a paint-by-numbers kit, and he couldn’t see or hear anything contrary to the little labeled paints and coded pictures.
“Thanks for your help,” I said, standing to leave. I offered him my hand. He shook it, looking me over.
“My prayers are with you, seeker,” he said.
I paused at the edge of the clearing just long enough to put my socks and sneakers back on my damp feet. A shadow came over the clearing and I looked up. Dark clouds were seeping over the sky, blocking out the sun. There hadn’t been rain in the forecast, but that didn’t mean much out on the plains. Storms came when they came.
Joleen Goodfellow was looking for me. I finished walking back up the hill and spotted her near the old garage, peering around with a frantic expression.
“Looking for me?” I asked.
She whirled around and glared at me. “Just what do you think you’re doing,” she snapped.
“Talking to your not-so-dead brother, Irwin. Stop it,” I said, raising a hand and glaring as Joleen opened her mouth to speak. “Don’t say a word. I’m tired of the lies and suspicion. I asked him my question, he gave me a riddle for an answer, told me to mull over the solution, and that was it. I’m outta here.” With that I brushed past her and walked over to Roger’s old truck.
“He’s not a bad person,” Joleen said, running after me.
I opened the driver’s side door and stepped onto the running board. “You know something, Joleen? I don’t care,” I said.
“He needs help,” she said. She looked at me pleadingly.
“I’m not a therapist. Don’t look at me like that.”
“If my brother gave you a riddle then he must think you are a seeker of truth. He respects you, trusts you instinctively. I’ve tried to convince him to get help, but he won’t listen to me. But maybe if we both talk to him, he’ll agree to see a doctor.”
I stared at her, a frown on my lips and a twisted grin in my head. “You lied to me, and now you’re asking for my help,” I said coolly. So tired of liars.
“He’s not a bad person.”
“You’ve said that already. And like I said already, I don’t care.”
The clouds rumbled with thunder, a throaty growl. We both glanced up and measured the storm. It was then we heard Irwin Goodfellow scream.
That can’t be good.
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