Second Coming: Chapter 3
I had been able to workshop a few slogans and platform bases with The Pastor over email and the phone that week. The next time I saw him in person was that Saturday morning, out at the concrete parking pad just between the park and the plaza where the rally was taking place. They had come by car, and the volunteers that were likely brought in by the Mayor’s office had already set up plastic barriers, taped-off areas, and most importantly, a podium with a microphone and speaker system.
I was nearly blocked off from entering by one of the begrudgingly accommodating individuals who was dressed in a shirt matching the small sea of others. Sharon was able to push through and waive disarmingly at the helper and allow me through. “This fine young black man is actually our campaign manager.” She offered in a slow drawl. “You’d never guess it, though, huh? Come now, Jude, The Pastor is probably looking forward to seeing you.”
I was brought into the fray, where Joseph was calmly looking over his note cards. He was in a nice suit, which seemed slightly cold for the day, but looked as presentable as anyone could have been. “Ah, Jude! Late, are you?” He said while slapping my shoulder. “Kidding, son. We always show up everywhere a good bit early.”
I looked to his daughter, who was dressed in a coat, with her hands shoved tiredly under her arms for warmth. She forced out a smile to me as her eyes caught mine. I turned back to Joseph after a glance about the venue. “Malcolm must have been up even earlier. He’s done good for you.”
Joseph puffed out his chest and put each hand to his waist. “Good man, he is. Might see him. Plenty of people out this morning, too. I feel good about this.”
I nodded, knowing fully well that the farmer’s market a few blocks over was the cause of the occupied parking spots in the area. Nevertheless, I saw a few older folks waiting by the yet unopened blockades into the plaza. Joseph’s slow, even breaths of condensation gave a sense of confidence, but I couldn’t help feel the second-hand anxiety about him being up before a crowd of people- big or small we had yet to see- and spouting out a speech I had yet to hear in full. “I may be out of place asking this…” I spoke up.
“Oh? What’s worrying you?”
“Oh, I’m not worried,” I said with a shake of my head. “I just… this must be quite a different experience from speaking to your parish.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Joseph hummed, rubbing at his chin. “Those faithful will come before us today. That is the constant.”
Sharon came up and hung to her husband’s shoulder. “It’s a beautiful speech we’ve prepared. Joseph was practicing it for us last night.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
“Oh, and look.” Joseph perked up suddenly, jutting a finger to the street bordering the far end of the plaza. A white van with the emblem of the local news station had pulled up and slid open their door. “The word had been properly spread. That reminds me, Jude.”
“Jess, would you?” Joseph said back to his daughter who pulled something off the ground and brought it forward. “Here we go.”
Into my hands was shoved a black zip-up pouch, and inside, a fancy, seemingly unused DSLR camera. “What’s this for?”
Sharon held her hands up like a movie director framing the scene and turned herself toward her husband. “As a campaign manager, we assumed you may want to create some sort of… campaign video for the Pastor.”
Joseph nodded. “A young person like you ought to have no problems with that, right? Care to capture the speech?”
I examined the cryptic runes around the shutter button of the camera while nodding like I understood them perfectly. “I’ll definitely get your good side, sir.”
“5 minutes ’till the gates open!” A volunteer shouted.
Mayor Malcolm, who had arrived just moments before, welcomed the people as they settled into the vast open space of the plaza. The number, to be honest, surprised even me, including the presence of some college-aged people. “Good morning, good morning,” he began. “Happy new year to you all. The Election year is upon us once again. As your Mayor, I have spent much time and energy for the betterment of this city, and today, I hope to introduce a man who will do unto the country the very same. It’s not often I feel so confident in any one political figure, but after talking with this man- Joseph Cummings- I knew that he would be the one to go all the way to Washington, a proud Floridian, and someone who grew up around these parts. Without further ado, the man of the hour.”
Joseph shook hands with the Mayor ceremoniously and they exchanged places. The crowd hummed and cheered and clapped their hands. As I scanned the people who were obviously already firm in their belief of The Pastor’s prowess, then to the news cameras pointed up at the podium, I remembered my own camera in my hands, not yet rolling.
“Proud followers of this cause… I welcome you!” Joseph began, his fingers dancing out before him. The hum of voices grew like a wave, before crashing back down onto the shore. I set the camera to record video and focused on his side before stepping carefully down the stairs to get a better focus on the Pastor’s face. He licked his lips before continuing. “The two most powerful forces in this country today are politics… and religion- for reasons that without them, we would be faced only with anarchy. From the first time I stepped up to the pulpit at the church that has long since heard many of my sermons, and looked out at all the faces among the pews, I could see nothing but sheep… grantedly safe inside their flock, but nevertheless desiring… and needing… order from a higher power. And you know what? I am not that higher power.”
This line brought out a few stifled hums and huffs. His words were confident, but I hoped dearly the content was going to shortly bring out more excitement. I redirected the camera and walked about, attempting a different angle. I took an angle aimed at Joseph’s back, taking in his proud figure and neat suit. In the background was the crowd looking eagerly up at him. In that moment, I was slightly more proud of myself for getting such a shot than anything else.
Joseph’s shoulders rose as it seemed he was shuffling through his note cards. He spoke up again, “Not even in the most powerful country in the world, The United States, could someone like the president be considered the highest power… But, of course… you all know whom that title belongs to.” With a pause, he pointed his finger up to the sky. The crowd hummed, and a singular whistle rang out.
“There is a certain… calling that is answered when you take the role of Pastor… a call from that higher power… HIS higher power. Asking you to do good by him. And for many years now, I have done the absolute goodest by him, no matter what. Through recessions, social strife… hurricanes! Dishonest, unbelieving, liberal presidents!” An ebb of boos rippled about. “It’s been not only me, but all of you as well, who have risen above it all, with the power of the good Lord Jesus Christ flowing through your bodies!”
I felt the speech devolving, but alas, the crowd was nevertheless eating it up. A hum arose again, louder than before. Through the viewfinder of the camera, I caught Joseph looking up to the sky as if channeling some sort of power. The sound grew worse, inhuman. Fearing some sort of electrical power surge or strange plane flying above, I pulled my eyes from the viewfinder of the camera and looked to the sky.
I felt myself blinded as my eyes turned skyward. A bright light had overtaken the plaza, even brighter than the low winter sun to our rear. The members of the crowd cried and bellowed. As I blinked the bright spot from my eyes, I caught sight of Joseph, arms held high to the sky, as if it were he himself inviting it. His daughter and wife clung to each other not far behind him. His voice suddenly called out again over the loudspeakers. “Regard, he has come forth!”
Regard I did, a figure indeed coming forth from the epicenter of the light upon the plaza, between the news cameras and the crowd. The man resembled the same figure that one might see in the stained glass of a church window, a renaissance painting, or print on the top of one’s grandmother’s mantle; long-haired and bearded, slim, taught, and dressed in flowing tan robes. The light dissipated, but the man remained, commencing to come forth up the stairs and toward the Pastor.
“The Lord himself hath granted me this day a miracle! He hath delivered upon me, upon us, once again his flesh and blood, his son- his second coming!”