The Healer

Good night Deacon Smith. I’ll see you at prayer meeting tomorrow. I’ll just clear up the things and go to sleep. She saw him out and closed the door behind him. Walking back into the sitting room she went over and cleared the table. The ten handerchiefs she put in a basket. The candlesticks back on the cabinet. Picking up the bucket of dirty water she headed for the door.
Cat! Cat! Come out of there. I want to go to bed. Come out of here. The cat looked at her from the corner of the room. After a few seconds it ran through the door. After turning off the light Mrs Brown closed and locked the door. The cat ran along the corridor into the kitchen. “Come out of there. I’m, going to lock that door too.” She hobbled along to the kitchen sink and emptied and cleaned the bucket then put it under the sink.. "After I finish this tea you have to find somewhere else to go. I’m not having no cat sleeping in my kitchen.” She put on the kettle and sat at the table.” What a day” ,she sighed. Mrs Brown was used to speaking to herself. She pulled up a chair and put her feet up. “Cat. If you could talk eh? Mr Smith gone home to rest. It’s all right for him. I have things to do. If they ever find out at church. But who’s going to tell them? You can’t talk and Mr Smith sure ain’t gonna want them to know.” Mrs Brown picked up the brown envelope. “Deacon Smith,” she read again, “My husband gone off with some young girl he meet at work. I want him to come back home. Pray for me. I put a hanky in the envelope with the lavender incense you ask for. Please I beg you. Pray for me. I can’t bear the shame and scandal if he leave me again. I had enough trouble last time but the Bible say you must forgive and forget but lawd, Deacon Smith it hard, hard. I can’t forget the shame . But I can’t sing in the choir and hold all this in me heart. I take it to the Lord in prayer like the song writer say but every night I lie in my bed and the pain won’t go away. Oh I put the money in the envelope too. When I get me pardner next month I’ll give you the rest.Thank you. God Save your soul. Darlene.” Mrs Brown emptied the envelope on the table. “Fool, she says she’s a Christian too but she paying Deacon Smith to work for her. If she knew that I knew And if she knew what else I know. Her husband out there with every young girl he could find. Yet she hold up her head in church and pretend everything so good. Instead of she cook him up. She spending all this money for prayers. But I mustn’t complain cos she still have to come and pay me to work something for her.”
The kettle was now whistling. Mrs Brown got up, turned it off and made a cup of cocoa. Reaching into the cupboard she took out some cream crackers. She went back and sat down turning the envelope round and round. Let me see this one. The writing looked familiar. Deacon Brown, Greetings in the name of our lord. I got this letter today where they say I owe £50 on the gas. I don’t see how this happen cos I give me husband the money to pay last week. He went out and come back after 2 hours and say it all settle. Now they sent this letter. Pray to God for me Deacon Brown. I can’t afford live in the cold no more. I can’t ask anybody in the church `cos when they come to the house the heating always on. If only they knew that I turn it off as soon as they gone. We gon get pneumonia if we carry on like this. The bottle of rum that you ask for is in the bag I give you with the food. In Jesus Name. Maisie.” “Maisie, the rum was good. Me and Smithy drink every drop when we come home. You should have seen us.” Mrs Brown put down the letter and did a dance around the room. “That’s enough of people’s problems for now. I have my own problems to deal with.Cat! Cat! Where are you? Come out. I have things to do upstairs.”
The cat ran to the kitchen door. Mrs Brown put her cup on the sink and turned the lights off. As she locked the kitchen door she turned on the passage light. The cat stared at her. You stop downstairs. I don’t want no cat in my sleeping quarters.” Cat obviously understood her because he curled up by the kitchen door. At the bottom of the stairs Mrs Brown stopped to pick up a pin. “all day long bring good luck, she said” Slowly she climbed the stairs. Arthritis was killing her. She stopped at the bathroom. Minutes later she came back out. She had bathed and put on a long white gown. She unlocked her bedroom door and walked towards the window to draw the curtains. She never ever turned on the light before drawing the curtains. Her mother had drilled that into her. Feeling her way in the dark she went towards the door and turned on the bedside light. She pulled back the covers and felt the mattress.. Something else her mother had taught her as a child. She still wasn’t sure why but she thought it had something to do with feeling to see if someone had left something in the bed. Her husband. God Bless him, always searched the bed before he got in it. Everynight he turned the mattress over to see if anything was under it. “Poor fool”, she said aloud, “as if I would leave anything where he could find it.” She took her Bible from the bedside cabinet and opened it at the `Prayer for Protection.` “God, I don’t know what’s happening but I know there’s something brewing.` She opened the cabinet drawer and took out the matches. She crossed the room to the little table and let the big red candle. “Father, forgive me for my weakness,.” She began. Within minutes Mrs Brown was rolling around the floor repeating the same words, “Father forgive me for my weakness” Suddenly she started to cry. “God what is happening to me?” she howled.” What have I done? What have I done?” She repeated. She finally picked herself up from the floor and went back to the bathroom.
After a few minutes she went back into the bedroom, and got into bed. She put the Bible on top of her and went to sleep. She twisted and turned for a few hours then suddenly she sat bolt upright in bed. Something had wakened her. What was it? She looked at the clock. 3pm. Not a good time she thought. She reached for the phone and dialled the number. “Gloria, I just woke up. It’s been like this for 3 weeks now. I wake up every night after twisting and turning. It’s always 3 o’clock. No I haven’t heard from that no-good son-of-a-gun. I suppose he’s still alive or I would have heard by now. Yeah I know it’s 10 years since he left but I still can’t hold my head up. He shouldn’t have done, what he did though. Me an upright member of the church. Choir-mistress to boot. He shouldn’t embarrass me like this. And as for her. For two years I try to get her to sing properly. She still can’t sing for toffee. That’s life. That’s how people pay you back. But as they say back home, “You spit up it fall back on you”. Yes Gloria. I know I shouldn’t seek revenge after all `revenge is mine sayeth the Lord` “ Yeah. I still think Brownie should rot in Hell though” Anybody who get up and leave a sick woman on her own deserve to rot in hell”. Yeah Gloria I better let you go. I am going to try and get back to sleep. I promise to go and help clean the church in the morning. We have a funeral. I was too tired to go to the wake last night. Well that’s what I telling them but I was busy making money. The quote is: the love of money is the root of all evil. Not what you just said. Good night from this side of the world. “
Mrs Brown got up and went to the dressing table drawer. She pulled out a pair of red underwear.” I’m not superstitious but I feel something gone happen tonight”. She put them on and got back into bed.
“Brownie. What you doing here.”
“I come home, I come home at last”
“Come home. Why you come home after all this time? I’m used to you out of my life. I go to church every day of the week and I’m choir mistress now.”
”I know Mel. I know everything”
“How you get in the bedroom anyway. The doors locked, I got red paint on the steps, the mirror at the top and I burn everything before I fall asleep. “I know Mel but it takes more than that to stop me. You and me got back over 40 years. None of your juju gone stop me.”
“But Brownie, you don’t belong to me anymore. You forget. You belong to myused-to-be best friend.2
He sat on the bed. “No Mel. I belong to you. I always belong to you`
“Well I don’t know why you chose tonight to come.”
“You forget the date eh?”
“What date?”
“Today is our wedding anniversary.”
“Good Lord. I forgot. It’s a long time since I remember that date.”
“Well I’ve come home for my wedding anniversary.”
“When I watched you killing that chicken today. The way you still wring the neck like you used to when we first married….I had to come and see you. I want you to forgive me Mel. I never mean to hurt you but the flesh was weak.”
“Weak. Is that what you call it?”
“Mel. You have to forgive. Your Bible says so.”
“Brownie, go back where you come from. Go rot in Hell. I need to sleep.I have a hard day tomorrow.”
“Okay Mel. I just come to say hello. Good night. I’ll come back and see you soon.”
“No you won’t. I know just how to stop you.
“You can’t Mel. We belong together. Till death do us part.”
“Ha. Brownie You died in my heart along time ago.”
“Okay Mel. Go back to sleep. Sorry to bother you but I just had to make peace with you.
Mrs Brown looked at the clock. 4 o’clock. Did she really have a conversation with her husband?. Why was she having these dreams.
“Gloria. It’s me again. I just see Brownie. No. I didn’t dream it he was here. Yes. I’ve done all that. The mirror is on top the stairs. The bottom step is red. I have on red underwear but he still come and stand up in the room then sit on the bed. He ask me to forgive him and reminded me that it’s our anniversary. I can’t take this anymore Gloria. I have to stop dreaming about him. Okay I got a funeral today so I’ll just have to collect something to use later. “

Mrs Brown turned over and went to sleep. There were no more interruptions. She got up at six because she had a hard day ahead. After putting her apron in her bag and letting out the cat she set off for church.
“Mrs Brown. You’re up early.”
“Yes Darlene. I could say the same about you. Where are you going so early?”
“I’m coming to help in the church. We need to make sure it’s spotless because Sonny’s family will notice every spot of dust and still find time to criticise though they`re supposed to be burying him. “
Darlene and Mrs Brown walked through the door together. Maisie was already dusting the pews. Oh so you couldn’t sleep either. “No man. I sleep like a baby. But we have to clean this place so that Sonny’s family…they finished the sentene together “don’t have nothing to complain about.” They burst out laughing. “What’s so funny ladies?”
It was Deacon Smith.
“Oh nothing,” offered Darlene.

The Healer

Shirley Cooper (B)Lake

Birmingham, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

An extract from my unpublished novel “The Healer” This is book two of a trilogy. The others are `Boxes` and `Karaoke.` I have uploaded this section as we are exploring the “Healer” at a Black Theology talk tonight.
This is, to Quote: An extract from a contemporary novel explofing the tensions between conventional Evangelical Black Faith and African dreived religious practices in Britain.

Artwork Comments

  • Shirley Cooper (B)Lake
  • cougarfan
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