NOTE: In an earlier chapter, Henry told Sammy much the same story that Brother Zack tells Brenda -- only Henry mentions the children of Taylor Mountain being bussed to school. I've gone back to that scene and removed any reference to school busses. Taylor kids are now driven to and from school or, if old enough, drive themselves.
I probably should continue to point out that I'm not anti-religious -- every modern religion teaches peace and love, and the repudiation of hate. Unfortunately, there are preachers, priests, rabbis, and imams who claim hate and fear to be the message of their god; and, even more unfortunately, there are people who believe them. So, I'm nowhere close to repudiating the God of Christianity in this story; but hate-mongers who claim to speak for Him ARE fair game.
This story is gay fiction. It is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any medium without my express permission. If you are a minor in your country of origin, don't read.
I have two other series running on Nifty: GLOBAL ENTERTAINMENT appearing in the Incest folder and ILLUSIONS in the Beginnings folder. If these two stories don't give you enough hot vampires and mortals, Starbooks has just released my LOVERS WHO STAY WITH YOU, and that has 28 tales that'll have you offering your neck to the next guy who offers to lick it. <G> You can help Nifty by ordering this book through their link to A Different Light bookstore.
I'd love to hear from you -- tell me what you think of this story, Illusions, or Global Entertainment. Just please put the title of the story in the subject box so that I won't delete your message along with all the spam I get. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"You come right on into this house, honey," Reverend Phredd told Brenda as he held the door of the parsonage open for her early Saturday afternoon. "You're right on time," he told her and smiled, baring his teeth to do so. "We're just about ready to sit down to eat."
Brenda smiled sweetly at him and stepped into hallway. She followed the preacher as he led her back to the kitchen.
"This is my wife..."
Brenda nodded to the skinny, mousy woman standing at the stove.
"And you remember Brother Zachariah Butts from yesterday? He's our deacon at Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary."
The large man nodded to her from the table where he was sitting. "Just call me Brother Zack, Miss Reed. Everybody in town does."
"I thought we ought to look at just how much evil there is out on that mountain," Phredd smiled as he continued. "It's always best to know your enemy before you get into a fight with him." He sat down at the head of the table. "You did reach your daddy last night, right?"
Brenda moved instinctively to Mrs. Phredd's side. The older woman pointed to a stack of potholders as her husband spoke. She ladled butterbeans into a serving dish.
"Yes, sir," Brenda said and grinned at the two men. "Just like I told you, Daddy has a week available at the end of the month. He just asked that you call him, Reverend Phredd, so you two can go over the details of the revival." She picked up the butterbeans and carried them to the table. Mrs. Phredd brought the gravy dish to the table and quickly returned to the stove.
"Good!" Reverend Phredd yelped and clapped his hands gleefully. "We're going to save some souls this time."
Mrs. Phredd brought a plate of fried chicken to the table and Brenda realized that she'd been listening to the preacher and not doing her part to set the table. She hurried to the stove and got the mashed potatoes while the older woman reached into the oven to bring out the cornbread she'd put there to warm.
The food set out on the table, Brenda waited until the older woman slipped into the chair at the foot of the table before she sat across from Zack Butts. She watched the two men grab the chicken breasts off the plate, leaving just the dark meat. They held hands as Reverend Phredd asked the blessing.
"Brother Zack has had some personal experience with those Taylors," Reverend Phredd told Brenda as he helped himself to several large spoonfuls of potatoes. He glanced over at the man. "Why don't you tell Miss Reed about your daughter's run-in with those people?"
The large man set down the chicken breast he'd bitten into, chewed for a moment, and swallowed. "About five years ago..." He paused and obviously searched his memory. "My daughter was a junior in high school then."
"She sure was a pretty little thing," Reverend Phredd interjected while Brother Zack shoved a forkful of potatoes into his mouth. "A cheerleader."
"She started dating one of those boys from up on the mountain," the large man said, picking up the thread of his conversation. "I didn't know it at first, because they were keeping their getting together to just school."
"Our young'uns don't date those Taylors, honey," Reverend Phredd explained to Brenda. "It's been that way since Brother Zack was in high school."
Brenda nodded to the preacher and looked down at her plate rather than watch him tear a strip of meat from his breast. She'd already decided to forego the chicken because she didn't like dark meat. She tasted the butterbeans.
"I was none too happy when I met the boy and found out where he was from. I wasn't going to go as far as the preacher here suggested that I go, but I did put my foot down -- those two weren't going out together alone, except over my dead body."
"How did they get together then?" Brenda asked, deciding she didn't like the butterbeans. "Do these Taylor kids all have cars?" she asked and noticed that the grease in the gravy bowl was congealing.
"Their folks do -- nice cars, too," Brother Zack said. "I guess they let their kids borrow their family cars, like most of us do here in the hollow. Those kids that can drive to school."
"Do they ride the bus to school?"
"Naw. Those folks up there think their kids are too good to ride the bus. Parents pick up a load of the younger ones every morning and bring them to school. They're back to pick up the same kids in the afternoon and take them back to the mountain."
"So, how did this boy and your daughter manage to get together?" Brenda demanded, caught up in the man's story and forgetting the food on the table.
"Like I said, they got together mostly at school. Then, he started showing up maybe once a week at the house." Brother Zack shook his head slowly. "That stopped pretty fast -- before I could get my dander up enough to say something. And my little girl started coming home from school crying her little heart out."
"Whatever for?" Brenda asked, leaning forward to hear.
"Seems his folks weren't letting him stay after school or wouldn't let him use the family car any more. They demanded that he stop seeing my girl."
"He stood up to his folks?"
"His folks and all the other Taylors on that mountain. He did it, though. I've got to hand him that. He was a good, strong boy and it was showing through."
"One Monday afternoon my little girl came home from school bawling her eyes out. That Taylor boy had been pulled from school and shipped off to a military school somewhere up north." Brother Zack's fist hit the table. "It took my little girl six months to get over that boy, too -- her moping around all teary-eyed."
"What about all the other kids on that mountain? They've got to date and all -- it'd be unnatural if they didn't."
"They marry each other, Miss Reed. Cousin marrying cousin -- and it's all arranged by some foundation that runs everything on the mountain."
"That's incest, isn't it?" Brenda asked, looking at Reverend Phredd for confirmation.
"It sure is, honey," the preacher told her. "That's a sin in the eyes of the Lord. Only, those Taylors have been marrying each other going on a hundred years now."
"Back when I was in high school," Brother Zack said, leaning forward and lowering his voice. "There were rumors about those Taylor boys, too."
Reverend Phredd nodded and Brenda's eyes bulged. "No!" she groaned as she began to understand.
"There's always been those kinds of rumor about those boys," Mrs. Phredd said, making it plain that she'd heard every word.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Brother Zack said, sitting back up and turning to her, his face red. "That kind of thing ain't fitting to be talking about at a religious woman's table like yours."
Brenda felt his embarrassment, her ears burnt too.
"It may not be," Mrs. Phredd said, "but everybody knew about those boys -- girls and boys. We left them alone. For those of us who'd been brought up right, they weren't fit to date."
Brenda looked down at her plate. She wasn't hungry any more. "Do you think this kind of thing is still going on up there?" she asked hesitantly.
"Honey, it is," Reverend Phredd assured her and reached across the table to pat her arm. "It surely is."
"Then, that's what happened to Sammy -- to my boyfriend?" she mumbled, almost afraid to give voice to the words. "He got pulled into that -- that abomination going on up there?"
"This evil's been up there going on a hundred years, young lady -- at least sixty or more," Phredd said slowly. "And it's been growing all this time. The good folk here in the hollow knew something was there and avoided it. But they didn't root it out, so it kept growing."
The preacher sat back in his chair and smiled at each of them. "Satan is smart. He knows a man can see evil when it's full-grown and comes at him, and he'll avoid it," he said softly and folded his hands over his stomach. "So, he starts off small. People he wants to destroy don't get knocked down by full-grown evil. He takes them to it in little steps, like a mama does teaching a child how to walk. After so long, all of those people have become pure evil; their children don't know no better -- they've never seen good. So, they're pure evil, too."
He paused, thinking through the extrapolation to his next point, and nodded. "Your boyfriend arrived on that mountain and those people ganged up on him. They forced him into their evil ways."
"Like a sacrifice?" Brenda yelped.
"Not exactly," Phredd answered. "They didn't put him on an altar and make him into a blood sacrifice. They probably fed him some herbal concoction that made him more amiable to evil. But they've probably carried him pretty deep into sin by now. He's already spent one weekend up there -- and is into a second one."
"We've got to save him!" Brenda cried. "He's such a good man."
Reverend Phredd and Brother Zack exchanged a pitying look between them. "The ways of the Lord aren't always clear to us, child," Reverend Phredd told her gently.
"Come on, girl," Mrs. Phredd said as she stood up. "We'll wash these dishes and let the men think on how save us all from this evil brewing up on that mountain."
Brenda nodded numbly and stood. She started picking up dirty dishes at one end of the table while the older woman cleared the other end. The two men left the kitchen and walked up the hallway to Reverend Phredd's study.
"So, you've got that girl's daddy coming up to lead this revival," Brother Zack said as he followed the preacher inside.
"We're going to save us some souls that week!" Phredd chuckled and, rubbing his hands in glee, cross to his desk. "Rastus Reed's preaching can scare the living daylights of just about any man alive."
"Think we'll get enough new members in the Sanctuary that we can catch up some of the church's debt, Philin?" Zack asked.
"We'll be able to retire most of it within a year with the fear of the Lord Reed'll put in the folks of this county."
"That'll be a miracle in itself," Zack mumbled, hoping Philin Phredd was right.
"Let's go over this thing, Zack. It's got to play good, or we'll lose it." The big man sat in the chair in front of Phredd's desk and waited expectantly. "This evil up on that mountain has flourished because folks here in the hollow just looked the other way, instead of looking it in the eye."
"That sounds pretty good, Philin."
"It should," Reverend Phredd agreed. "That way, we got a focal point for people to concentrate on -- Taylor Mountain and the evil that holds everybody there. But we've also got the complacency of these folks, too. Through their own sin, they've allowed that evil up there to grow."
"Yeah, Philin, I should've done something to help that boy back then."
"You feel guilty, Zack." He grinned as he looked out the window at the changing trees along the street in front of the house. "And that's what folks in the church are going to feel, too. Guilt is the second best way to get a man to confess his sins and get himself cleansed in the waters of the river Jordan."
"What's the first one, Philin?"
"Fear. And we'll have both of them going for us -- with a Bible-thumping, hellfire and brimstone kind of preacher egging them on."
"We're going to print up some handbills, Philin."
"A lot of them, Zack. They're going to go to every church in Tugaloo County and every shop to tape to their windows."
Phredd turned back to the big man. "Rastus Reed coming to town ought to be enough to get us on the radio here in Mountain Hollow -- and maybe even down in Seneca. We're going to publicize this revival, Deacon Butts. I want handbills tacked up on every telephone pole in the county. Everybody's going to know what we're doing."
Phredd fell into his chair, leaning against its back. "Zack, this is God's way of helping His faithful." He sat up and leaned across the desk, fixing the big man with his gaze. "This is a real miracle we've got working here."
"You've been practically begging that Ralph Taylor to let you have all that hardwood up there on the mountain, haven't you?"
Zack nodded hesitantly.
"Well, God's just given you all that wood -- at cut-rate prices too."
"How do you see that, Philin?"
"Those boys up there diddle each other, don't they?"
"We don't know that -- it's just a rumor."
"That's pure evil, Zack. That and all that being stuck-up that those people been showing the folks in the Hollow all these years." He grinned. "By the time folks in the Hollow get into this revival and feel the spirit of the Lord flowing through them, those Taylors are going to be running to South Carolina. They'll sell out -- lock, stock, and barrel -- for a song."
A smile slowly began to spread across the big man's face. "I've got you now, Philin." He nodded. "You're right as rain, too. Ralph and that silly foundation of theirs will be begging us to come cut that wood."
"Just don't you forget who your partner is in that little sawmill of yours, Zack."
"You are, Philin."
"Fifty-fifty, that's how it breaks down, don't it, Zack?" Phredd saw the dubious look cross his deacon's face. "We're going to cut down that whole mountain, Zack -- all of it."
The big man shrugged. "We just don't want it getting around about cutting that hardwood, Philin," he grumbled. "Folks could get the wrong idea, you know?"
Philin Phredd sat back in his chair laughing. "Ain't it wonderful we had the foresight to set things up over in Pickens County in South Carolina?" He leaned forward again and reached for the phone. "Now, I'll just call old Rastus and get this thing on the road."
* * *
Troy still wasn't sure that he believed it. Three days ago, he'd been living in almost a shack outside Jacksonville. He'd just fucked Rastus Reed and voiced his need to get out of the escort line of work when things started to change.
Now, he was living in a set of rooms in Rastus' beach home outside Brunswick. He had five nice suits from Macy's at the mall with shirts, ties and shoes to go with him. And he had a job paying twenty-five thousand a year as the youth minister of Rastus' Gospel Baptist Ministry. One of the deacons was a Ford dealer, so Troy was leasing a red Mustang 5.0 convertible with every gadget Detroit could put on it. He was even taking his meals at the table with Rastus.
Admittedly, Mrs. Reed's cooking left something to be desired. He snickered. That wouldn't be a problem after Monday when the little house near the church was painted and he could move in. He just wished he didn't have to read so much of the Bible, that was getting real old. But Rastus gave him a list of reading every day and grilled him on them the next day.
He was spending a lot of time with Rastus each day, too. That'd worried him at first. But the man spent the time explaining how the church and television ministry worked -- and teaching him how to preach.
The man hadn't touched him once since that morning. It was almost as if Troy's ten inch pole didn't even exist any more. The moment he'd told the older man that he accepted Jesus, their past just seemed to disappear. That was all right with Troy.
Rastus said he was learning fast and was already good enough at preaching to lead Gospel's first youth service the coming Sunday. It felt good to be finally past whoring. The life he was beginning to see stretch before him looked even better.
All he needed was a sweet little sugar, and this new world would be perfect.
He dressed hurriedly, thinking that he'd brown-nose old Rastus a little at breakfast, now that it was looking like he wasn't going to have to feed the man his dick with any regularity. He was actually beginning to like the man some -- even though he kept thinking of snake oil every time he saw him.
He winked at himself as he pulled on his jacket. He'd find a way to get over to St. Simons in the afternoon to check out the beach bunnies. He might find his sweet little sugar early -- at least, he might find someone who'd try out for the role. He didn't mind holding auditions.
"Morning, Troy," Rastus greeted him as he entered the dining room. Mrs. Reed looked up from her plate and studied him for a moment before returning to her toast.
Troy was sure the woman didn't like him. That didn't bother him much; he knew she was just an ornament to Rastus, to keep people from guessing about him. But he did wonder why -- he'd been nice to her and he was dead certain she didn't know about him.
"Morning, Reverend Reed ... Mrs. Reed," he said as he sat beside Rastus. Glancing down at his plate, he saw that Mrs. Reed had scorched the scrambled eggs again. The bacon was limp and the toast looked pretty dark, too. He decided he'd wait to eat until he could get away from Rastus and find a greasy spoon.
"Troy," the fat preacher said around a mouthful of egg he'd just scooped up with a piece of toast. "So far, you've been meeting the grown-ups who make our ministry possible."
Troy leaned forward, giving Rastus his undivided attention.
"Tonight, though, you're going to meet the vanguard of your flock."
This was news. Troy hadn't heard of anything being on for the night. He put finding someone to audition for his sweet little sugar out of his mind for the day.
"What do you have in mind?" he asked.
Rastus rocked back in his chair and laughed. Mrs. Reed studied her last bite of toast before she put it in her mouth.
"Troy, the very first thing a successful servant of the Lord has to do is to his control over his church and the people in it -- from the very first minute he steps foot into the place."
"But Gospel Baptist is your church, Reverend," he said quickly. "Your ministry..."
h politics had been learned. "The girls will fall in love with you at first sight; it'll take the boys a little longer to come around. Just find out what turns each of them on and make sure you sound interested when you talk with them about it. Kids are easy to win over." "And you're Gospel's Youth Pastor, Troy. Those kids are your church." Rastus snickered again. "You should've gone through the list of our youth groups your first day and seen when and where they meet."
Troy blushed. "You're right," he mumbled.
"Tonight, the Ambassadors are meeting at the church -- they're our senior group." Rastus smiled. "You'll want to be there and make sure they all like you."
Troy nodded, knowing full well that he'd found one of the major negatives to the preaching scam and trying not to show it.
"Just be yourself tonight, Troy," Rastus told him, relaxing now that his big lesson in church politics had been learned. "The girls will fall in love with you at first sight; it'll take the boys a little longer to come around. Just find out what turns each of them on and make sure you sound interested when you talk with them about it. Kids are easy to win over