Sunday Morning, 1957. Michael, Jeff, and Bruce
Whenever I’m in my Jeep and on the road, my soundtrack is playing, even if there is no sound at all. All driving has a soundtrack; I know nothing about plugs or points, but I know about the soundtracks. I might be driving to the beach, or to the school, or simply running out to the market for milk. It’s playing; I can hear it, and if I cut my eyes quick enough, I even see the opening credits projected on the lane beside me. The soundtrack changes with my mood, and the music started before I could drive; long before.
The Wilderness Baptist Church
11 o’clock. Any spring or summer Sunday morning, 1957.
The long hour of Sunday school was over, and Pastor Bell was about to launch into an hour of fiery brimstone, or eternity in the sky; it was always one or the other. On certain Sundays, there would be communion, and the ushers passed around tiny shots of Welch’s Grape Juice and cubes of Wonder Bread to those saved sinners in the congregation; blood and body of Christ, with a taste of jelly bread. I was baptized the year before, when I was six, for I had found the love of God in my second cousin, and wished to be baptized alongside her, in case there was chronological seating in Heaven. Normally, I would take communion, but that spring and summer, this sinner had other plans.
As often as possible, but not enough to arouse suspicion, I would complain of a tummy ache caused by the ritual Sunday school Tootsie Roll Pop. My father was an usher, so he was busy ushing, and my mother was motherly, so she would let me go outside to the car to rest on the backseat until the service was over.
I would hold my bible with one hand, and my tummy with the other, walking achingly slow out to that 1950 baby blue Ford, and as the tall double doors to the church slowly closed for the sermon, I slid in behind the huge steering wheel and turned on the radio. My father always parked under the old oaks, facing west, which was perfect, because that's where I was headed, straight out Route 3 to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Behind me was the cemetery; the tombstones a row upon row of stop signs. Stop playing, stop singing, stop that crazy rock and roll. In front of me were the mountains and the music. The car didn't have to move; the music moved me, and for an hour, the bible in the backseat, me in the front, left arm resting on the open window, right hand on the suicide knob; aloud and alone, I sang to the AM radio. The Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love.
So, I won’t be sitting next to my second cousin in heaven, but I've heard the music and I've been there before.