Updated: Jun 5
~ A Short Story ~
BJ and Straightedge squatted in dappled shade beneath the umbrella of the big mimosa on the north side of the Going Gangbusters For Christ church. Surrounded by immaculately manicured lawn situated just across an imaginary line separating remnants of colored town from the sprawling university campus, it was a good place to meet for secrecy. It was early enough in the morning to still be cool but the mimosa's leaves had already spread open to provide plenty of cover behind branches sagging almost all the way to the ground. And with the tree in full bloom it smelled nice under there too. The roar of traffic racing overhead on the interstate overpass masked their plotting conversation as they discussed the daring plan.
Straightedgde handed the old family bible to BJ. She hefted it and whistled appreciatively. It was as big and heavy as Straightedge had said it was. About a foot long and more than half as wide, it was about four inches thick and bound in hand-tooled leather. A perfect choice.
"Drop that sucka on the floor in there," Straightedge said, pointing and nodding at the church building, "and it's gonna sound like a gunshot."
Sitting crosslegged on the ground, BJ nodded, turned the bible over in her hands then opened it, thinking it must weigh at least ten or fifteen pounds. "Yeah, this will do just fine. I bet it will make a good echo too."
"When you gonna do it?" he asked.
"Next Sunday, right in the middle of the sermon."
Straightedge, nicknamed for his ramrod-straight posture, stood and hooked his thumbs in the waist of his tattered jeans and rocked back on his heels. Smiling at his best friend as she continued inspecting the massive old bible, he enjoyed the thrill bringing his plan of revenge together instilled. He wouldn't be allowed in that white man's church but he would damn sure be out beneath the mimosa listening for the moment BJ dropped the bible, hoping it would have the desired effect on the God Fearing congregation.
BJ looked up at her best friend and frowned. "What's so funny?"
"What's gonna happen when you drop that thing is what's so freakin' funny. All them rich white folks in the pews hearing that big bang. It's a good thing you can get in there."
BJ scowled. "You know I'm not as white as I look," she chided.
Straightedge squatted beside her and put his arm over her shoulders. "Yeah, but you look white enough and that's all that matters."
BJ turned and grinned wickedly at him. She had told him all about how some of her ancestors had come to America on ships from the British Isles and had killed some of her other ancestors already living here before forcing some of her surviving ancestors to walk the Trail of Tears then marrying a few of the remaining ancestors which had survived that horrendous ordeal. Straightedge could relate to that without any problem whatsoever, having ancestors which had suffered the race massacre of 1921 costing some of them their lives and some of his surviving ancestors their homes, businesses and livelihoods on this very ground. Those of his surviving ancestors able to stay and rebuild were eventually pushed out by power of eminent domain which allowed their property to be seized for construction of the noisy highway bypass overhead within his own lifetime.
"Revenge," she said.
"Sweet revenge," he replied.
* * *
Sunday morning before the doors opened wide for churchgoers, BJ and Straightedge were back beneath the mimosa watching them arrive and file inside all decked out in their go-to-church-meeting best. With the new state-wide Constitutional Carry law signed by the governor and now in full effect, they saw several of them proudly wearing their holstered firearms as they ambled into the church in twosies, threesies, foursies, the preacher standing at the top of the steps to beam his saccharine smile and speak a word of devoted greeting to each and every one of them.
They giggled in unison at the garish sight of it all.
"This gonna teach them pale-face suckas a lesson or two," Straightedge intoned.
BJ, clutching the grand old bible with the picture of a blond-headed, blue-eyed Jesus smack dab in the middle of it, nodded gravely, feeling mounting portent of the moment. She was dressed up for church too, in clothes and shoes they had acquired by five-finger discount from various white-owned businesses just a few blocks west in the now throughly gentrified community displacing the old, disappearing one. They had even managed to lift a dandy white hat and pair of white gloves so popular with churchgoing females for her to wear that Straightedge had to admit made her look as cute as a button.
BJ shivered at the sound of gleeful hatred in her best friend's voice, and relished it. If their crazy plan played out as they expected it might, this bit of revenge could turn out to be blockbuster-level retribution for their ancestors. Powerless in the established system, as it were, as mere children without voice or clout of any kind, they had put their minds to work together to try to find some way to turn their enemies against each other, just like the Russians kept managing to do through their incessant election system manipulations via social media. Coming from interminably poor families, both had no access to fancy tech toys to surf the internet anytime and anywhere they wanted to, but they were in the local library at the computers there several times each week devouring news feeds and reading all about current events at home and around the world. And when they weren't doing that, they were reading history books, most of them so obscenely inaccurate and biased as to be practically useless. But they read them all the way through anyway and were able to read between the lines enough to discern enough of the truth of what had really happened here over the centuries–fueling their deep, abiding resentment and anger.
Straightedge patted BJ on the back. "That's the last of them, time to go."
BJ scurried from beneath the mimosa out onto the sidewalk while the preacher's attention was turned toward the still-open doors as the last couple walked inside the very church they had wedded in, arm-in-arm. She walked briskly and called out to the preacher to wait.
"I'm so sorry to be so late, Father," she said with an enchanting smile only the Devil could see through. Straightedge stifled an urge to laugh out load at her acting ability. The preacher turned then held out an arm to encourage the cute little girl carrying the giant bible to join his faithful flock.
"Why not at all, sweetheart. Come on in, and welcome."
* * *
BJ found a spot on a pew near enough at the back to suit her, but not at the very back, which might have drawn unwelcome attention to her presence. She wanted to fit in but still be closer to the exit than she was to the alter. Settling into her seat the preacher took his place and smiled beatifically over the congregation before launching into his sermon.
BJ didn't really listen to anything he was saying, instead silently counting to herself. She wanted to wait at least five minutes before doing her deed so that everyone was completely surprised. At two minutes, she resisted an urge to squirm in her seat. Several churchgoers had watched her take her seat on the long pew and had nodded and smiled and whispered to those beside them about how cute a little girl she was. It made her want to vomit.
Near the three minute mark, she opened her bible to the chapter and verse referenced by the preacher as he droned on and pretended to read from it. At the four minute mark she looked up and around at all the people still looking down at their own bibles or at bibles provided in the wooden-slatted holders attached to the back of each pew. No one was looking up.
At the four and a half minute mark, she closed the big bible and rested it on her knees, holding it lightly by the edges with her white-gloved hands.
At the four minute-fifty-seconds mark she lifted it and held it out over the floor and began silently counting down.
And let it drop just as the preacher paused in carefully calculated, drawn-out silence to let what he had just said sink in.
Straightedge had been absolutely correct. The heavy bible struck flat on the floor with the report of a gunshot and in that instant BJ uttered a convincing "Oh my!" in exclamation as she immediately dropped to her hands and knees on the floor, grabbed the bible and began crawling as fast as she could toward the nearest emergency exit which had been so very conveniently marked by a red-and-white, internally-illuminated sign above the door just a few feet to her left.
In almost that same instant almost every constitutional-carrying churchgoer leapt to their feet, drew their weapon and by the time the exit door BJ had just slammed through was swinging shut they opened fire.
BJ squealed with delight as she sprinted to the mimosa and crashed into Straightedge where he was still kneeling, his eyes wide and wild as gunfire erupted inside the church. BJ dropped the bible and grabbed Straightedge by the waist and turned to watch and listen. The shooting went on and on, much longer than either of them expected it might. They had hoped for two or three shots and possibly a casualty or two. But the shooting sounded like it must have sounded at the OK Corral so far away and so long ago.
Then came the screaming and shouting. Then the shooting ceased as someone with a commanding voice, possibly the preacher, cried out "Hold your fire!" and heart-wrenching wailing and crying began.
BJ let go of Straightedge, picked up and clutched the big old bible to her chest and gritted her teeth at the commotion. Straightedge was now on all fours, peering through the mimosa's leafy barrier at the front doors of the church. The first person to emerge was a little old lady carrying a hogleg Dirty Harry would have admired in one white-gloved hand. Her other hand was clinched into a fist at her mouth. It looked to Straightedge and BJ like she was trying to cram that fist into her mouth as she backed away from the entrance. A thin wisp of gun smoke wafted from the end of the long pistol's barrel. She had actually fired it.
After a few minutes, which seemed much longer than a few, sirens began wailing in the distance, drawing closer and closer until police cars began arriving at the scene in great number. Noise from the interstate above ceased. They must have stopped traffic, the dastardly duo surmised, as they watched cops pour in while the congregation poured out...at least as those of the congregation able to pour out could. A lot of them were limping and bleeding and still wailing and crying. The little old lady with the hogleg surrendered her pistol to a policeman without protest. BJ and Straightedge noted how she wasn't ordered to a prone position on the ground and her neck was not knelt upon. She was too damned old. Too well dressed. Too white for such harsh treatment. Instead, the policeman led her toward an approaching ambulance even though she didn't have as much as a scratch on her. Another wisp of gun smoke rose from the barrel of her hogleg as the policeman pointed it at the sky and unloaded it with much expertise.
While some police ran into the church to hunt down and kill the killer/killers responsible for this murderous mayhem the killer/killers continued rushing out of the church, spilling onto its meticulously-manicured lawn. Yellow barrier tape was already being strung up from tree to tree surrounding the church and before the tape-stringers got near the mimosa, BJ and Straightedge scurried from beneath it and straight away from the church toward the nearest ally where they slowed to a walk, turning again and again to look back toward the church with wonder at how well their plan had worked.
* * *
They played it cool for the rest of that fine Sunday morning and throughout most of the afternoon, staying home, dutifully doing their chores and finishing their weekend homework. But before the library closed, they rushed over together, hand-in-hand and plopped down at a pair of adjacent computers and began surfing the internet news sites to read all about the mass self-shooting at the Going Gangbusters For Christ church.
No one had been able to say who started the shooting, only that what sounded like a gunshot had rung out shortly after the sermon had begun which started a veritable crossfire melee as constitutional-carrying, locked-and-loaded God fearing churchgoing warriors-for-Christ suddenly unholstered, flicked safeties off and opened up to do their God-given duty protecting their sacred sanctuary from the evil, infiltrating mass shooter no one ever saw.
About a week later, BJ and Straightedge read more news reports from the internet about the mass shooting. Forensics teams had been unable to find any evidence of any gun having been fired by anyone except those carried in by churchgoers. Every fragment of every bullet recovered from the scene and from the gunshot dead and wounded had been fully accounted for. Not a single one had been fired from an unknown weapon. No evidence of an unknown assailant had been discovered. Everyone in the church had known everyone else, having seen them there together worshiping with the congregation as one for years, except for one cute little girl.
Someone had distractedly reported observing the little girl in church that day–not previously seen or known by others there–accidentally drop her big family bible and wondered if that had somehow triggered the trigger happy constitutional-carrying members of the congregation, that maybe she had done it as a prank or something.
The Chief of Police had scoffed at such a harebrained notion, attributing to it no credence. "In my professional opinion, that could never happen. God just wouldn't allow that to happen."
Straightedge looked at BJ who looked back at him and they spoke in unison: "Revenge!"