Secret
Radio
My Senior Year at a Christian Fundamentalist
College
By Grace Jovian
 
 
Second Edition

 
 
For those who love and do good,
even when they think God has abandoned them.
 
 
 
 
This is a work of fiction. 
All characters and the specifics of the setting are products of the author's
imagination.  Indianapolis, of course, will have to answer for itself.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fiction – Religious
Fiction - General
Secret Radio: My Senior Year at a Christian Fundamentalist College by
Grace Jovian. Second Edition. Copyright 2004, 2014 Jeri Massi. All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.  For
information, contact Jupiter Rising Books.

 
ADVISORY: This novel discusses real types of abuse that exist
in church pulpits today.  It is designed for a mature audience able to discern,
appreciate, and discuss the mature subject matter herein. This novel portrays
fictional images of damage and sorrow within the Christian Church. This novel
is not appropriate for children. Young Adult readers should read only with
parental consent, and discussion of the subject matter with parents is strongly
advised.
 

Contents

August
September
October
November
December
January
February
March
April
May
Afterward
 
 
 

August
 
 
 
 
Entry 1: Wednesday, August 06,
2003
The kids are playing at
last. Just what a mother wants—a rainy afternoon on a summer day! This morning
7-year old Rachel was being teased by her big brother Ben because she still
plays with her Elmo doll. She held up the doll and proclaimed, "He can
fly!" as though this remarkable accomplishment in a doll was justification
enough for her attachment to him. Then she just looked at me, guiltily because
she knows that I know Elmo is just a doll. But her eyes were huge and blue—still
my little girl who sees this world as an enchanted place—and wants it to stay
that way.
That one glance brought
back a sudden pain and a wealth of memories—-the first day of my senior year at
Greater Independent Baptist College. We had hot, sweltering, dorms made of red
brick, with red floors. Some of the rooms actually had no windows and were like
little prison cells.
My room that year did
have one small, oblong window. But the room smelled closed in and damp—crowded
with two sets of double beds and a rollaway trundle. The faint must of the
mattresses accumulated in the August heat and filled the room with their stale
smell.
Two high stands of
narrow drawers, one against each wall, overcrowded the remaining floor space. I
had my radio on one stand of drawers, but I knew that once my roommates arrived
I would be pretty limited in what I could play. Rock music was banned. So was
jazz, and so were swing and Big Band. I'd picked the best bed for myself (top
of one of the doubles) and made it up with my sheets and blanket.
I'd fled back school to
get away from home, but the dormitories of Greater Independent Baptist College
hardly fit the image of a safe refuge. Not air conditioned, cramped and narrow,
the rooms smelled of the used and re-used mattresses. The bleak, slightly acrid
residue of Lysol clung to the walls, the furniture, and even the hallway pay
phone. Narrow, dark, and stale, the halls could have doubled as a prison.
Yet here I had come to
escape the unexpected outbursts at home. Nothing had prepared me for that
horrible summer when my parents shouted and screamed at each other. Dad stormed
and even threatened, and then he disappeared for days at a time without leaving
word. And Mom cried and waited until the darkness came to creep into my room at
night and tell me how my father had always been this way. They terrified me, as
though the parents I had known had suddenly sloughed off every bit of safe
familiarity and morphed into clinging, demanding, wrathful strangers.
I had bolted at the
first opportunity: assured them both that GIBC needed me to come back a week
early to sort things out for my custodial crew. The lie worked. And it had been
a tremendous gamble, for nobody at GIBC was expecting me. But I had learned my
freshman year that if you just walked around like you knew what you were doing,
you could get by at GIBC—especially in the summer.
A phone call to the
administration offices secured my correct room number, and a second call to the
warehouse prompted delivery of the barrel of clothing, books, bed clothes, and
other items that I had stored on campus.
I knew how to get things
done, how to make things happen. I wasn't popular on campus, but everybody knew
who I was, because I was completely reliable, the daughter of an evangelist,
never in trouble, never complaining. Good old Grace Jovian—part of the sturdy
backbone of schools like GIBC.
But two really nasty
shocks awaited me in the silent, hot, musty haven of the girls' dorm when I
arrived:
First, a letter was
waiting for me in my school mailbox in the Admin building. It was from Betty
Rivers, a rising senior like me who had become my very best friend the previous
semester. Her father pastored one of the largest Independent Baptist Churches
in Wisconsin. I always teased her that he got paid in milk, eggs, and cows.
But the amazing letter
that delighted me when I first saw it, dashed all my expectations at once:
Dear Grace,
I am sorry that I didn't
write to you all summer like I promised I would. Thank you for your letters.
Dad has decided to send me to Interdom for my senior year. They have a very
good music program, and I may be able to get my degree on time. If not, he says
that I will go for as long as it takes to make up my credit hours. I am crying
as I write this. I wish I could have seen you.
Whatever comes in the
future, remember that you are my sister in Christ. I hope you will always think
of me in the same way. God bless you.
Love, Betty
 
I felt a stab of
disappointment, but I suddenly understood why she had been silent all summer.
People at GIBC would disapprove of her transfer to Interdom. For Interdom,
though it called itself Fundamentalist, was not strictly Baptist. It billed
itself as interdenominational. To us, that made Interdom a bunch of
compromisers. Preacher Mack, founder of our school and pastor of Indianapolis
Independent Baptist Church (IIBC) often spoke of how inferior Interdom
graduates were to GIBC graduates. But it didn't help the Baptist-only cause
when Interdom kept winning national chess tournaments, national debate
tournaments, and had graduates who were personal aides to several conservative
senators.
Betty, I thought, had
postponed the unpleasant consequences of declaring herself a student at
Interdom until the last possible moment. Some of her friends would drop her for
switching schools. But I wrote right back to her and told her I would always
think of her as a sister in Christ. And I assured her that she was still my
friend no matter where she went to school. But even as I dropped the letter
into the mailbox, I knew somehow that she would never write to me again. Her
letter had been a real farewell. I didn't understand why, not then.
Twenty years after the
fact, I think that there were some pastors who knew almost from the start what
my father had done with that church secretary. But the code of Baptist Fundamentalism
is to keep your mouth shut about the guilty and separate from them, including
the daughters of the guilty. Understanding the "code" still lay ahead
for me.
The other really nasty
shock was that the list on the door of my room showed that not one, but TWO of
my new roommates were coming straight from Julius Fallows' SONRISE HOME FOR
GIRLS. It's like getting a note saying that Ma Barker and her kid sister are
coming to stay. But don't worry, they'll have Bibles with them.
SONRISE HOME FOR GIRLS
residents were the dregs of the Baptist world—drug heads, prostitutes,
lesbians, thieves, and a few unfortunates whose folks had split or gone to the
mission field. After my first semester at GIBC, I'd learned to save my pity.
Most kids from SONRISE were poison and trouble from day one, and their huge
amount of emotional luggage just made them worse to deal with.
So that hot August
morning, when I heard this knock on the doorframe, I knew that my fate had come
seeking me. And when I looked, the two refugees sure fit what I'd imagined.
Ragged, pongee print dresses, sticky and limp in the Indianapolis summer heat,
torn fabric luggage at their feet. The first thing I really saw was that the
short one had her hand in the hand of the tall one.
Terrific, I thought. Just
terrific.
The short one's eyes
were huge. She had blue eyes with a certain, frightened, and yet unfocused
gaze. The other one, tall and thin as a rake, looked like Olive Oyl. She fixed
dark eyes on me.
"Hi," I said.
"We came from
SONRISE HOME," the tall one said. "This is our room."
"Sure, come
in."
The short one was
chubby, with a face like a Chatty Cathy baby doll: high, cherubic cheekbones
and two front teeth that you could just see between her baby doll lips.
She still held the hand
of the taller one as they entered.
"Do we pick our own
beds?" Olive Oyl asked.
"Yes," I said.

Olive Oyl looked at her
little charge. "Let's bring it in." Then they both dragged in
everything, all the assorted junk and mishmash of used, torn, ratty odds and
ends they'd been given or had stolen from SONRISE. They pulled it into the
middle of the floor.
The little one kept
looking at me as they worked, like I had done something to make her afraid, and
I hadn't. Olive Oyl rummaged in the largest of the ruined cases. She withdrew a
pad of paper and a pencil. "Here," she said. "Here, you can draw
for a little bit."
The short one took the
pad and without another word to me or her friend, sat on one of the stripped
beds and started to busily work on the paper with the pencil.
Olive Oyl just let her
be, and she asked me what drawers they could use and how much closet space. I
showed her. Then, who knows why, I helped her unpack. And all this time, the
little Chatty Cathy face drew and drew on that pad.
We cleaned up everything,
and then Olive Oyl said to me, "Is there anything to eat? We haven't eaten
all day."
And then the little one
looked up and said, "Tell her we don't have any money."
Instead, the tall one
said, "When's dinner?"
"Not for
hours," I told her. I was really trying not to care, but even if you want
to hate the kids from Fallows' prison before they turn on you and do something
rotten, I couldn't. "Maybe we can find somebody who can scrounge something
up," I said.
Olive Oyl, who had not
even told me her real name yet, looked at Chatty Cathy. "How about
that?" she asked.
"Can I stay here
and draw?"
"All right. We'll
come get you if we find anything. Show her what you've done so far."
Instantly, Chatty Cathy
turned the face of the pad towards me, and I saw myself—myself with flowing
hair instead of my limp blonde and brown hair, hunched close to a radio and
wearing a trench coat, the collar up around my face. The radio was my little
transistor radio that sat on top of the stand of drawers, but it had a vintage
1940's microphone attached to it, and my face was comically secretive and
intense, but beautiful.
"See?" she
said. "It's like you're in the war, and you have to listen to the secret
radio and you have to broadcast out in secret, but you keep doing it, because
you're part of the FF, and the Nazis are looking for you."
I didn't know what to
say. For a second I thought it was witty and funny that she'd picked out the
radio right away as something I might get caught for using, but for the most
part I was just astounded at this brilliant flash of a completely different
world—a different world where this Chatty Cathy lived.
"That's a great
picture," I said.
"Cartoon,"
Olive Oyl told me. "She draws cartoons and comics all the time. Don't you
think she's good?"
The little one looked
down right away. "I'm not that good."
"You're really
good," I told her.
She peeked up at me with
one blue eye. "God doesn't call people to draw comics," she said.
"He's called
you," I told her. With all the lies I told in the next year, that was one
true statement. That girl could draw comics.
 
Entry 2: Thursday,
August 07, 2003
Okay, so now Ben is
playing video games and has gone way over his time limit, and Rachel is
crouched on the front walkway, covered by the porch awning, snipping the heads
off dandelions with her school scissors. She calls this "weeding the
walk." I think it makes the dandelions propagate, but oh well! Propagating
is probably the only fun that dandelions ever have. I should make Ben do his
homework, but I would rather write this journal.
I forgot to mention that
the little chubby one who drew the comics and cartoons was Lilly. And the tall
one who looked like Olive Oyl had a stunner of a name—Cinnabar. Cinnabar
Silver. I don't remember when she told me her name, but at first I thought it
was a name that Lilly had given her, like a superhero name. But no, that was
her real name.
Most of us came to call
her Cinn or even Cindy. But I never forgot that this rake thin, nervous and
mathematical girl of almost no outward expression was named Cinnabar. Cinnabar
Silver. Somewhere, before the SONRISE HOME  had descended onto her like a
remorseless cloud of locusts that stripped away all her exterior finery, some
breath of heaven had descended onto her first and given her the name Cinnabar.
Maybe that was that moment when I started to see that Grace was not what they
said it was. Maybe. But Grace and I were still light years apart.
So Cinnabar and I went
outside into heat that blasted against the faded blacktop of the parking lot
and entry lane, and we explored the campus looking for food. I knew where all
the keys were kept for every door because I was a detail leader of the Bucket
Belles, GIBC's name for the enslaved work loan girls who toiled on hands and
knees at times with Amway-like products and other wholesome, Christian,
all-natural cleansers that never worked at removing dirt and stains. We tried
to keep the place clean mostly with water and useless additives. It was a sort
of microcosm of the efforts of Preacher Mack and GIBC, but I was too young to
see the irony.
The previous year I had
been promoted to crew chief, but then some of the boys had complained that
"crew chief" was masculine, so it was changed to crew captain, and
then they complained again because that title hinted that I had gained
authority over men. So at last I made a "detail leader", which sounds
more like a proof reader than a scrub woman.
I knew we would never
find anything truly useful like food unless we could get through some locked doors.
But as Crew Chief of the Bucket Belles, I could get to the keys that would help
us.
I'd been pondering my
path all week. Would I continue on the straight and narrow as I had done for my
first three years at GIBC? Or would this be the year that I cut loose?
The changes around me
kept pushing me.  Even the recent news from Betty--it was one more push.  Now I
had two roommates from SONRISE, one more thing I had never asked for. After a
summer of seeing the horrible changes in my parents, but hearing my mother say
it had actually always been like this—it was pushing away the rules, all the
restrictions, all the platitudes and the crying in the pulpit. Suddenly,
surviving meant more to me than keeping the rules. And after two days of having
sought it out as a refuge, I already felt like I was choking at GIBC.
I pushed off the
decision for the moment and considered my options. The thing is, if you dressed
up any action as Christian work at GIBC, you might get away with it. I led Cinn
down the achingly long, hard, unforgiving, and blast furnace hot lane to the
guard shack at the front of the campus. School legend had it that these guys
had rifles and even automatic weapons tucked away up there. You know, just in
case the Reds ever escaped from Vietnam or California or IU and brought their
blue jeans with them to thrust upon us young girls. (My own blue jeans were
hidden in a pillow case meant to look like a laundry bag.)
I banged on the
reinforced glass door with the hammy part of my fist, and Don Carver, son of
the school's Math Teacher and Science Teacher came to answer. Inside, I could
see that Rush Pole, not wearing a security uniform or a tie (and men were
required to wear ties up front) had his feet propped up. He'd been shooting the
breeze with Don.
Don looked unlikely in
the security uniform. He normally worked in the school's tiny bookstore, but
they must have pulled him on to security for the summer.  Normally, Linwood
Albrecht, the campus's 80 year old night watchman, manned the security booth
during the summer days.
"Hi Don, where's
Mr. Albrecht?" I asked.
Don kept his head down
as he always did when a girl addressed him directly.  "He quit," he
said.
"Retired!" 
Rush Pole called from behind him.  "Don’t you think 80 years old was old
enough?"
Don nodded and still did
not look up. Something twinged inside me.  Linwood Albrecht had been a spry,
strong man at 80.  Just last May I had seen him carrying picnic benches, one
under each arm, around the grassy area by the pond on campus.  He loved working
around the "young people" as he called us, and he said it always kept
him feeling young too.
For just one instant I
looked at Don, and I think he almost raised his eyes to look at me, but then
Rush called again, his voice slightly annoyed, "I said he retired, Don. 
Mr. Albrecht wasn't no quitter!"
"Look, I came for
the keys to the kitchen," I told him. "I'm Detail Leader for Bucket
Belles. There are some people who need to be fed."
"Oh, um,
okay," Don said, and he let the door close as he walked inside to get the
ring of keys. As it slowly swung shut, Rush said, "Let them in, Don."
Then the door closed,
but I knew Don had not let us in because we could not be in there unchaperoned
with them.
He brought us the ring
of keys. I was supposed to sign for them, but as he did not know enough to tell
me to do that, I didn't mention it.
I thanked him and led
Cinn all the way back up that lane to the kitchen. The kitchen was large and a
lot cooler than the dorm. It was dim, with shining metal surfaces and a faint
smell of old bacon.
I acted like I knew what
I was doing, and I rummaged the enormous refrigerators for anything good. Cinn
made herself useful and found wax paper in enormous rolls and brown grocery
bags that somebody had tucked away.
We worked together very
quickly and quietly and cut up tomatoes and enormous kosher pickles. Then we
made sandwiches of cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, thick slices of tomato, and
thick rounds of kosher pickles. We wrapped up everything and put it all away
and then wrapped up the eight sandwiches. Then we found chips and Li'l Debbie
Snack Cakes and bottles of pop. Pop was never given to the students, so I
figured this was faculty stash, but we took it anyway.
All this time, we hardly
spoke, but we worked well together. And somehow by the end of preparing this
swift, secret meal, I knew two things about Cinn: she wasn't queer at all, and
she could keep a secret forever. I showed her how to get back to the room and
sent her ahead with the food, all bagged up, and I took the key back to Don.
When I got back to the
room, a good half hour later, all sweaty from that incredible walk, I was
amazed to see that the bags were unopened on the floor. It hit like a jolt.
They had waited for me.
"Lilly, Cinn, go
ahead and eat," I told them. I was stripping off my panty hose in long
sweaty streamers from each leg. Then I hoisted off my dress, over my head.
"I've got to get some cold water on me," I said.
"We'll set it all
up for us," Cinn said. I was so hot from that incredible walk under that
blazing sun across acres of blacktop, that I just nodded.
I ran down, half dressed
(which was not allowed during the school year), to the showers, and went to the
sinks. I splashed cold water all over me and felt better. When I came back, the
precise and orderly Cinn had laid out our secret meal, and I sat down with
them. We didn't think to pray.
I'd already had lunch,
so I ate only one sandwich and nibbled on chips. But the two of them, after who
knows how long on the vegetarian, sugar-free diet at SONRISE, gobbled everything
down as quickly as they could. Their manners were horrible, but both of them,
especially Lilly, just enjoyed it so much. I saw it even then, but that image
has always stayed with me and become sweeter and even more poignant as I've
aged—how they looked so appreciative and thankful at the start, cramming those
sandwiches into their mouths as quickly as they could, and then they just
became genuinely happy. Towards the end of the meal, when only the snack cakes
and some chips were left and I'd taken the drunk-up bottles of pop down to the
fountain and filled them with water, Lilly and Cinn just glanced at each other
as they ate, and they were both happy. They leaned back against the bunk beds,
and we talked for a while.
So we became friends
right at the start. I still had a lot of days when I figured they'd stab me in
the back or steal from me, or maybe lie to save themselves if things got tough
and they had to turn against me. But over time those fears first turned into a
sorry kind of worry, then a hope that they would be more normal than most kids
from SONRISE, then the fears faded away entirely, and I worked to help them get
over everything and be just what they were.
 
Entry 3: Friday, August
08, 2003
Most people don’t really
know what Fundamentalism is.  If the news media sees a guy with short hair, a
white shirt, and a Bible, shooting people or planting bombs, they call him a
Fundamentalist.  I've seen Jim Jones and David Koresh both called Christian
Fundamentalists, and they were not Christian Fundamentalists at all.  They
would not have used the term for themselves, and neither would we.
A Christian
Fundamentalist believes in the Bible as the sole foundation for Christian
religion, AND a Christian Fundamentalist believes in certain core accepted doctrines:
the Virgin Birth of Christ, the eternal Sonship of Christ, the incarnation of
Christ as a man in the flesh, His literal and real death by crucifixion, His
literal and bodily resurrection from the dead, his literal and real ascension
into heaven.  They believe in the Trinity, the work of the Holy Spirit in the
life of the believer, salvation solely by faith in Christ through the grace of
God, and eternal life for the elect, with a literal hell as the place of
punishment for the lost.
So whenever a person
claims that he is Jesus and is therefore entitled to have sex with teenage
girls, or that Jesus had a brother, or that Jesus failed when he was crucified,
the news media may still call that person a Fundamentalist, but he is not a
Fundamentalist.
In the 1800's in
America, the revisionist teachings of the "higher learning" schools
of theology began to challenge the authenticity of the Bible. Those churches
that still clung to the authority of Scripture organized large Bible
Conferences that attracted hundreds of participants.
At the recurring Niagara
Bible Conference, the term "Christian Fundamentalism" was coined and
doctrinally defined.  The leaders further mapped out a definition of Christian
Fundamentalism that grew and took form in these Bible Conferences.  This
concept developed over a decade or two of thought, sermons, and writings, which
were published and discussed at these large Bible conferences. Niagara was one
of the largest, and another large, yearly conference was held at Winona Lake,
Indiana.  These two were probably the most significant Bible Conferences in the
development of American Christian Fundamentalism.
These days,
Fundamentalism appears ignorant and backwards to the secular world, but it
started out with a lot of fine scholars refuting the revisionists and
displaying an excellent knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages, the
geography of the Middle East and how it shifted over the centuries,, and the
contemporary state of archeological discovery.
But a lynchpin of
Fundamentalism is the belief that the world will end in apostasy and gross sin,
and Christ must come back to judge the Church itself and remove the false
teachers and unbelievers from it. According to Christian Fundamentalism, the
reappearance of Christ is the end of the age, when He ushers in the millennial
kingdom.
Whatever you think of
this view, it had two results: 
Fundamentalists became
enamored of monitoring the progress of the world's approach to the end of the
age, making them ready to condemn and abandon sinners—perhaps before Christ has
given permission to do so.
Fundamentalism adopted
codes of dress and behavior to show that they are separate from the decline and
fall of the present world into everlasting damnation.  And these codes of dress
and behavior tended to react against whatever the current fashions in the world
might be.  So instead of having any consistent, well-reasoned code of dress and
behavior, Fundamentalists simply reacted to whatever the world was doing  They
boycotted everything in turn as new fads appeared.  This reactionism and the
ability to condemn any new thing as sinful is apparent today.
And that's why in the
1980's, I found myself in a college where men were not allowed to have beards
(although Christ had a beard) and women could not wear slacks (although in many
cultures, slacks on women had been around for centuries).  I had never been to
a movie.  I had never danced.  I had never had a taste of alcohol (apart from
Ny-Quil, the Fundamentalist cure all for colds, flu, insomnia, depression, and
grief).  I had been kissed twice in my life by a boy, in high school, and we
had french-kissed once.  It had been revolting to me--this sudden, imbecilic
french kiss, given without affection, without warmth, without preparation. I
had been deeply shamed by it and repulsed as well.
As apostasy in the world
had grown, it had been joined by an even worse thing (in the eyes of
fundamentalists): racial desegregation.  Interdom had been most bold in
denouncing desegregation, and even in the 80's it was suspected of still
harboring racist views in the pulpit.  GIBC was much more adroit in handling
it.  The school stayed 98% white, and yet I never saw open racism there.  I'm
still not sure how they did it.  As for the church, IIBC discreetly maintained
a Sunday School time slot for "the colored neighborhoods," but I will
write more on that later.
But Fundamentalists did
not date inter-racially, and to account for this they made up stratagems of
aligning Bible verses to defend their views.  It was all hogwash, of course. 
And even in high school when I had seen a representative from Interdom
defending separation of the races I realized that—though I believe that the
Bible is the Word of God—-people can get the Bible to say anything they want it
to say.  The heart of Fundamentalism is to try to live by the Bible.  But the
left hand of Fundamentalism twists the Scripture and wrests it to suit the will
of Fundamentalist men.  Recognize that, and you will have a good comprehension
of the good and the bad in Christian Fundamentalism.
Two other things
happened:  Fundamentalists were so threatened by denominational apostasy that
they invented a doctrine of independence. And the culture of clinging to a
visible separation from the world lent itself to baptism by immersion as the
sole, crucial distinction between us and the apostates (Roman Catholics, United
Methodists, and Presbyterian Church USA).  So being Baptist became the dominant
church for Fundamentalists, and being independent of church hierarchical rule
became a cornerstone for them.  Thus, a huge portion of Fundamentalism is
Independent Fundamental Baptist.
 
Entry 4: Saturday,
August 9, 2003
Nobody was around to
tell us to do anything at first, and it was too hot anyway. Cinn found a fan in
one of the closets and we rigged it up to create a cross breeze. Cinn and I
spent the days sitting on the hard floor, talking, and drinking tepid punch
made from an old tin of drink mix I found in one of the empty rooms, while
Lilly drew and drew and then passed her comics over to us to read.
Most of her comics were
about superheroes. That was my first observation. Later I would see more
patterns in her subject matter, but at first what astounded me was the sheer
volume of costumed superheroes that girl could invent: Coagus, the man who
could stick to things for just a second and use that delay to fool his enemies,
distract them, get their guns, etc. Timex, the time traveler, who had snow
white hair and a flowing beard (but a body like Apollo). Pioneer Una, a
brilliant scientist from another planet shipwrecked on earth "during
pioneer days," Lilly explained, showing a huge gap in her knowledge of
history. Pioneer Una fought Indians, defended orphans, and outwitted outlaws.
Pioneer Una was actually one of my favorites; and over time, as Lilly drew her
more and more, the orphans Pioneer Una protected were runaways and escapees
from an orphanage that seemed remarkably like the SONRISE home.
Two days later, Mary
came. By then other girls were coming, too, and doors were slamming all over
the dormitory, and you could hear voices and laughter. We hoarded the fan and
pretended it was ours without actually saying so.
Mary dressed nicely, had
blue eyes and blonde hair cut into a page boy. She was attractive and pleasant.
She was a sophomore, so she probably had the same thoughts I'd had about
getting two refugees from SONRISE, but she didn't show her dismay at all.
Lilly and Cinn were so
poor that they didn't have soap or shampoo or razors or laundry soap or any new
hose. (Wearing hose was required every day.) I'd been lending them from my
stuff and I had found some leftovers from girls from last year in the Bucket
Belles closet, but it wasn't much.
Mary made a list of
everything they needed and took it right to the Dean of Women's office. Our
Dean of Women, I was pretty sure, liked the girls a lot. A whole lot. Lots and
lots. I stayed away from her, because that was a terrible thing to think about
a woman in full time Christian service. But apart from suspicions about how
much she liked girls, she was a miserable old cow. She expected the girls to
fawn on her the way they did on Preacher Mack, and she was perpetually insulted
because we didn't. Her name was Sherill Stye. Yes, Stye.
She spoke to Mary pretty
coldly and sent down a few odds and ends. Mary didn't mind and wasn't daunted.
She showed around Lilly's cartoon of me to the other girls and told them that
Lilly would draw them too if they would trade her some of their things.
Mary was like that. She
knew how to get people to cooperate with each other so that nobody minded. She
really had no sense of absolute right and wrong (as we would later find out),
but she had an enormous sense of fair play and she never set out to maliciously
hurt anyone. Even at the end, she was defending herself, in her opinion. But
that comes later.
But that day, she
gathered up two full bags of soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and even a
few snacks for Lilly and Cinn. For even Mary saw at once that Lilly would share
everything with Cinn. And while Mary gathered and traded, Lilly drew and drew
for the girls. Cinnabar sorted their incoming goods and figured out how to
apportion their meager wardrobes to last through each week. Lilly didn't mind
drawing the other girls at all. It was like each girl was some sort of
superhero, deep inside under the knee length dress, opaque blouse; and panty
hose, and only Lilly could see it, and she would faithfully get it onto paper.
But Mary was also great
at finding things out.  And she directed her news reports to me.  At the end of
her first day, she told me that Claire Heathe had transferred to Interdom.  And
the Tasker twins were going to Baptist Temple in Tennessee.  All of them were
rising seniors, like me.  After three years at GIBC, why had they left?
I told her about Betty
Rivers.  Mary was puzzled, but not troubled.  "I know that my church
canceled a week of meetings that Betty's dad was supposed to hold.  He's a
Hebrew scholar and does  week-long seminars on the names of God in the Old
Testament.  But my pastor canceled it and returned everybody's registration
money.  He said there were other obligations that raised a conflict in the use
of the church for that week."
Canceling "due to a
conflict" was a nice euphemism for canceling because something bad
happened.  We both knew that.
The next day, on a
hunch, I went down to the Admin building's bulletin board and looked up the
itineraries of the school's singing and evangelistic teams.  The Sundays they
had been scheduled to visit Betty Rivers' home church in Wisconsin had been
neatly marked out.  Separation had occurred.  As was typical in Fundamentalism,
the reason would be kept secret.
 
Entry 5: Sunday, August
10, 2003
Praise the Lord for
Sunday School. Greg and I go to church, but I have not been in Sunday School
since a year or two after I got free from GIBC. I do send the kids. Not on a
bus route, though. One of us drives them in (usually Greg), and the other
(usually me) has coffee and a good, uninterrupted read of the paper. Fifty-five
minutes of quiet!Today,  I am taking the time to write my journal.
At the very last minute,
right before registration for classes started, Amy Carmichael came to our room.
I had seen Amy the year before. Everybody liked her, and yet she seemed
completely unaware of her popularity. She was tall, slender, surprisingly
strong considering her frail looks, and had enormous hazel eyes and fair skin.
She looked a little like a nyad or a dryad (though at GIBC, you never mentioned
nyads and dryads.)
When she came in, the
four of us were sorting through the toiletry items Lilly and Cinn had taken in
from the other girls over Lilly’s sketches. We all stopped talking at once.
Amy Carmichael looked at
me first, because she also knew me slightly, then Mary. Then she glanced at
Lilly and Cinn. For a moment, for some reason, we were all silent. Then she
smiled. She set down her bags. And then we all started talking.
I don't remember
"getting to know" Amy Carmichael. From day one, I just knew her.
Probably, as I look back 20 years later, it was because Amy Carmichael did so
much on behalf of others, and she did it effortlessly.
"Oh, Cinn and Lilly
have to have their ID cards made," she said as she was still unpacking.
"So I can take them to the photo room in the Admin building when I go over
there after breakfast to get my schedule. And that will give them enough time
to get in line for freshman registration."
And then later in the
day, when one of Lilly's fragile, cheaply made white blouses came out of the
washing machine with red all over it, Amy Carmichael said, "Well if we
just put this blouse in a jar of milk overnight and then wash it and hang it in
the sun, it will be as good as new. And I was just going to get some milk from
the vending machines. It's only a nickel. And I have a dime, so I'll get an
extra one."
Without struggle, with
even visibly making a decision on how to help others, she simply did, and she
made her kindness look easy and simple.
We all liked her right
away, and Lilly practically adored her. On the first night, in honor of Pioneer
Una's latest adventures with the Three Musketeers, Amy Carmichael drew curly
mustaches on all of us with an eyebrow pencil. As the girls in the dorm settled
into their own rooms to talk and make friends, the five of us—sporting our
curly mustaches—drank lukewarm punch made from the last of the powdered mix. We
listened to Lilly reading Pioneer Una’s latest adventure, while we passed
around the pictures. Every time Pioneer Una rescued a Musketeer, we would raise
our cups and shout, "Here! Here!"
By the end of the next
day, after we were all registered and dead tired from standing in lines for
hours, Lilly presented Amy Carmichael with her cartoon. Amy was drawn as a
nurse (white cap and all) in a prison hallway, with shadowy silhouettes of grim
faces and forearms hung through bars behind her. The caption said, LIKE CHERRY
AMES. I didn’t even know who Cherry Ames was until somebody told me she was a
nurse in a serialized story that was popular during and just after World War II.
Somehow Lilly, who wasn’t sure when and where the pioneers had lived, knew
exactly who Cherry Ames was.
Amy Carmichael cut
Lilly’s and Cinn’s hair for them that night, for free. She did a good job.
And—-as we were not allowed to borrow or lend—she went through her clothing as
she put it away and set aside some scarves and belts that she gave to them. She
showed them what would go with what in their wardrobes, and she taught Lilly
how to wear a soft scarf at her throat to look pretty.
 
Entry 6: Monday, August
11, 2003
You can’t start school
at a Bible college without a huge, long, drawn out church service to get things
rolling. So even though everybody was dog tired from standing in line for
everything from breakfast to class registration to ID cards to assigned bus
routes (more on that later), we had a church service.
Blue and white buses
rolled up in front of the dorms, and they packed us in for the twenty-minute
ride to the church, Indianapolis Independent Baptist Church, which took up an
entire city block on North Meridian. The rear of the vast, square, ugly brick
building faced the black neighborhoods, and the front faced Meridian Street
itself. IIBC was famous for its size—not only the girth of the building, but
the membership role. Membership was in the thousands.
Pastor Mack, pastor of
the church and founder of GIBC was there that night. We sang about 86 verses of
“When we All Get to Heaven” and about 15 choruses, starting with “I’m Satisfied
with, Just a Cottage Below” and ending with “This Little Light of Mine.”
By then the young men,
called “Preacher Boys” (which even then sounded slightly kinky to me—if I’d
only known!) were whooping it up, revved up and ready. They shouted “Amen” and
raised their Bibles. I noticed that Lilly had slipped her hand into Cinn’s hand
again and was watching the white shirted, dark coated young men from behind
Cinn’s shoulder.
Preacher Boys are
difficult to describe to outsiders. Most were rail thin, wore cheap suits and
always white shirts. They radiated a fierce energy of self confidence and
dislike for anything not clearly approved in Scripture – or really, what
Preacher Mack said was in Scripture.  At chapel and in the church services,
they banded together in groups among the pews, and they whooped and hollered
and raised their Bibles when ever they sensed that Preacher Mack needed a round
of sanctified applause.
Otherwise, they were
best known for falling asleep in class, and they regarded this as meritorious.
Some of them even made quite a show of dozing off during the academic hours of
the week. It was their way of making public how hard they worked at bus calling
and soul winning. They took themselves very seriously, and many of the girls
also took them seriously as youthful prophets.
Cinn looked bored by
them each time they shouted “Amen!” and “That’s right!”; Amy Carmichael looked
embarrassed for them. Mary was amused. But Lilly was afraid of them.
The church was air
conditioned, so after the incredible heat of the day and standing in the long
lines, I was ready for a good doze. I had all of Preacher Mack’s sermons
memorized anyway, as it was my fourth year atGIBC. It didn’t matter what text
he chose, because he always shut his Bible after reading a verse or two anyway.
For opening services, he’d
tell a lot of stories about his tough life as a kid; then he’d talk about
homesickness, and this sympathetic prelude would lead into a fiery diatribe
against “quitters.” Then he’d recite off the Baptist hall of saints: John the
Baptist (the very first Baptist), Paul the Apostle, Billy Sunday, J. Frank Norris,
R. G. Lee, and John R. Rice. I know this left a gap of about 18,000 years in
the middle of the list, but there had been a dry spell during the course of
European history when the only remarkable events had been the fall of Rome, the
Norman Conquest, the Black Death, the Reformation, the Rational Enlightenment,
and the rise of constitutional monarchy. These events were not of much interest
to Pastor Mack.  I'm not sure he even knew about them.  From what I gathered
after years of his sermons was that he regarded the entire period as “The Dark
Ages.”
The sermon ended, as
most sermons did, with his rebukes to us for not being soul winners.  A soul
winner, in Fundamentalist vernacular, is a person who leads other people to
Christ.  Pastor Mack believed that all the Christian virtues mentioned in the
Bible were summed up in the single act of soul winning:  compassion, mercy,
trust in God, joy, peace, etc.  And soul winning was really the only acceptable
manifestation of being "right with God".  If you didn't at least try
to win souls, you were not trying to stay right with God.  And if you tried and
didn't succeed in winning souls, then something was wrong in your life.
The end of the sermon
was not the end of the meeting. We always had an invitation:  a call for
sinners to walk down the aisle and kneel at the altar (actually at the foot of
the speaker's platform) to get right with God and pledge themselves to do
better. The invitation that night lasted about as long as the sermon, so it was
nearly ten before we rolled back into the dormitory drive.
Lilly and Cinn, still
undernourished and overly stressed, were pale and hollow-eyed after the long
day. At SONRISE, the days ran from sun to sun, so in spite of bad conditions
and grueling work, they were used to a lot of sleep. They hardly said a word,
changed quickly, and then went right to bed. This surprised Mary and Amy
Carmichael, but Mary went out into the hallway to get in some visiting before
hall prayer meeting began, and Amy quietly arranged her clothes and shoes for
the next day.
I told Miss Stye, Dean
of Women and our dorm supervisor, that Lilly and Cinn were sick with cramps,
and Amy Carmichael—perhaps because she thought it was true—backed me up, so
they got to stay asleep. You didn’t always get off for sickness at GIBC, but it
helped if somebody else went for you to make your excuses. It also helped if
the dorm sup had devotions all mapped out and realized she’d have to go get two
sleeping girls up if she wanted them in attendance.
After prayer meeting, we
had only a few minutes to get into bed. Just as we’d gotten Amy’s trundle
unfolded and set up, our door burst open and Pixie, one of the freshmen from
across the hall, raced in—-barefoot and in a nightgown—hopped onto the trundle
and ran down it, then leaped onto the top bunk bed against the wall—my bed.
Right behind her was
another refugee from SONRISE, Marcia. Marcia had a broom handle.
“I’ll kill you, you d— b—--!”
Marcia yelled.
Cinn and Lilly jumped
awake. Lilly slipped right out of the top of the nearer bunk bed and slid into
Cinn’s bed below for protection. Amy Carmichael screamed a short scream, and
Mary just stood there between the trundle and the nearer bunk bed, mouth open.
“Stop her! Stop her!”
Pixie yelled.
“Get out of our room!” I
shouted.
Marcia swung the broom
handle like baseball bat and narrowly missed Pixie, who was trapped against the
back wall on top of my bed.
“You loud-mouthed,
spoiled rotten, m—-- b—-- son of a r—--, big t——, with blue k——!” Marcia
yelled. She started lancing the broom handle at Pixie like she would skewer
her.
I caught Mary’s glance,
and we both fell right onto Marcia. All three of us landed on Amy’s trundle
bed. It didn’t collapse, but the springs screeched.
Mary and I wrestled the
broom handle out of her grip. Amy took it away and threw it up the hall, as
though hoping Marcia might try to go fetch it.
“What is wrong with
you!” I shouted at Marcia. I knew she was from SONRISE, and this was more of
what I expected. One glance at Cinn and Lilly had showed me that they both knew
Marcia and were afraid of her.
“She’s a v—-- b—--
bottom of a s—--, big ex——!” Marcia yelled. “And get off of me!”
“Don’t get off of her!”
Pixie screamed.
Mary, ever realistic and
practical even while struggling with Marcia, said, “We’ve got about 30 seconds
before somebody comes.” “Somebody” meant the Dean of Women or the Dorm Sup.
“If you hit anybody,
you’ll get sent back to SONRISE first thing tomorrow,” I snapped at Marcia.
She stopped everything
at once. Pixie slid off of my top bunk and ran out. Mary untangled herself from
our dog pile on Marcia. I looked up and saw Verity, another of the girls from
across the hall, standing there in the doorway. Verity was calmly watching,
like we were all in a play.
“Pixie said SONRISE
girls are all pregnant or lesbians,” Verity said. “So now Marcia’s going to
beat her up.”
“Shut up!” Mary shouted.
I looked down at Marcia.
“It doesn’t matter what Pixie says. Pixie doesn’t know anything. Just look at
her. She’s an airhead.”
Verity nodded towards
our roommate, Amy. “Pixie looks like Amy.”
She was right. Pixie and
Amy might have been sisters, the resemblance was so close. But if I agreed, it
would sound like I was saying Amy looked like an airhead, so I snapped,
“Verity, why don’t you and all your room mates go back to your room and leave
us alone?”
Then I let Marcia go.
She stood up, shook herself off, then she and Verity walked out without another
word.
Lilly climbed back onto
her top bunk, and Mary and I helped Amy Carmichael straighten out the covers on
the trundle. I’d been grateful to realize that I would have a good room this
year. But Verity, Marcia, and Amy were all across the narrow hall—all penned
into the same room with two others.
“Marcia gets mad all the
time,” Cinnabar said quietly, her voice almost ghostly. “And then she starts
hitting.”
“I don’t care if she
gets mad all the time,” I exclaimed. “She’s not swinging that broomstick in
here. Pixie will just have to keep her opinions to herself.”
“I don’t think Pixie
meant to be cruel—“ Amy Carmichael ventured.
I was still angry at the
sudden invasion of our room. “She better learn to be smart with Marcia sleeping
in the same room with her. Good night,” I said. I climbed onto my bed. My voice
was annoyed. Mary wordlessly got into the bed below mine. But when Amy spoke,
her voice was kind. “Good night, ladies. God bless you all while you sleep.”
She switched off the
light and slipped into the trundle bed, and for a long time a sudden, sweet
poignancy hung over me in the darkness. I didn’t understand it.
 
Entry 7: Tuesday, August
12, 2003
Ben has at last caught
on that spankings occur only if he strikes his sister, and now I realize he has
been figuring out how to torment her without actually striking out. He hid her
Elmo doll and then pretended to help us look for it for a good thirty minutes
last night. Every time his father or I would get close to it, he would ask us
to help him move something to look for it, and while we did that, he would hide
it again in a place we had already checked. And of course, all this time Rachel
is crying because she doesn’t remember having Elmo in the car with her (I
remembered, though.) and she was afraid she’d left him in the dark church, and
he would be alone in there all night. She even went to the window, and I heard
her say, “Elmo, I’m sorry!” It was rending.
We caught Ben hiding the
doll, and then he tried to get out of it by suddenly laughing and saying it was
a joke. It was so cruel of him that I was shocked—me, after thinking nothing
kids did would ever shock me. Then Ben had a shock coming. I had a serious talk
with him because I thought his father was ready to go through the roof. And
then, much to Ben’s amazement, I told him to hold the edge of the kitchen table
and I gave him five with the switch. Usually I am very careful to let the
children know that I love them very much and want what’s best for them, but I
told him the Lord has never yet used a cruel man or had any respect for a cruel
man. Then I sent him to bed. He was truly upset about what I told him, and I think
my own shock startled him. But I wouldn’t see him. I took Rachel and Elmo from
her father’s arms and held her with the doll and told her it was all right. Her
feelings were hurt, too.
We put her to bed, and
then we went to bed. In the middle of the night, I got up and looked in on Ben.
His face looked unhappy, even in his sleep. For a good long moment I worried
about his complete lack of sympathy with his little sister. But I also felt bad
for him, so anxious all the time about so many things. Ben is just a driven
person. Then I did what I thought I would never do because it was one of the
corny, unrealistic things that the IFB pastors would always talk about their
mothers doing: I got on my knees alongside his bed and prayed for him. “Please
don’t let him be like them,” I asked.
First chapel of the
school year was always on sexual purity, and Pastor Mack went four for four the
next day. Sermons on purity always started the same as any other sermon. Once
we had all filed into the chapel on campus and had sung a short Gospel song, he
opened his Bible, read a few verses, and then closed his Bible and told us what
he thought.
And it always ran the
same way. After an opener on how great it was to wait until marriage, he
addressed the problem of women being so desirable and emotional, and how normal
it was for godly young men to want to have sex with any one of them who passed
by and showed flesh above the knee. Somehow, it always came out to be our
fault. I never once heard a sermon at GIBC or IIBC about how foolish the
adulterous young man in Proverbs is, as dumb as a calf going to slaughter, how
irreligious in outlook, how carnal in thinking. No, lust was normal, and sex
was sinful (before marriage). And since lust was normal, girls had to protect
men from their normal thinking and actions.
That particular day,
Mack got off track and started talking about the “wimmins libbers” and their
agenda and the way they dressed in “britches” with hair cut like a harlot. He
called it brazen, openly seductive beauty. Had this guy ever really taken a
good look at Bella Abzug, I wondered. Or Gloria Steinem?
Now that I’m grown,
married, and have children, I realize that Mack and the IFB movement prescribed
a specific type of beauty that they liked. Nobody wants to have sex with a
rock, but good Christian Fundamentalist men have sex with women who look like
children—big eyes, long hair, heavily muffled breasts, lots of ruffles
everywhere, rosebud lips, and complete dependence. And, these preachers thought
about sex—with the right king of woman—in great detail, all the time. It
consumed them. They never spoke about respecting a woman, or listening to what
she has to say, or thinking over her opinion, or protecting her feelings. They
focused on how she should look. And they expected sweetness from her—and
complete obedience.
That day, after Mack hit
the wimmins libbers so hard, Lilly started a new comic named Femm-Bomm, Menopausal
Mistress of Mayhem and Carnage. Femm-Bomm attacked Christian womanhood by going
around blowing up Bible believing churches and could only be stopped by taking
away her IUD.
I didn’t think Lilly had
a completely systematized understanding of menstrual cycles, reproduction,
birth control, and menopause. These very real things were just props in her
comic book stories. The reason I thought this was that, in the first story
about Femm-Bomm, the heroic Daughter of Light (who looked a lot like Lilly
herself) snatched Femm-Bomm’s IUD from Femm-Bomm’s back pocket. I later
explained to Lilly that the back pocket is not normally where a feminist woman
keeps her IUD.
Eventually, Lilly
changed the character to say you could gain control of her by taking away her
birth control pills, which was a more believable thing to find in the back
pocket of a man-hating, rapacious, “woman-on-top” sort of person like
Femm-Bomm.
But the first couple
adventures of Femm-Bomm began to shine a light into my slow comprehension of
things, and I started looking at Lilly a little more closely: Her wide,
innocent blue eyes, even the chubbiness she still wore like a soft and
protective mantle, her instinct to run to Cinnabar (or Amy Carmichael, or me,
in that order) for protection or comfort, and the huge gaps in some parts of
her education. It dawned on me at last that she seemed so child like because
she was a child. Literally, not just psychologically. I didn’t know Lilly’s
history, but I realized that rather than be separated from the capable and
protective Cinnabar and left behind at the SONRISE HOME, Lilly had managed to
slip into GIBC under the radar. I couldn’t figure out how she'd done it
successfully, but I became more sure as the days went by that Lilly was a lot
younger than a college girl was supposed to be. My best guess was that she was
about 14.
 
Entry 8: Wednesday,
August 13, 2003
Well, the day started
out better. First day of school, for one thing. I woke up Ben with kisses, and
I asked him to be kind to his sister. He pretended to be too sleepy to
understand, but before he left he told me that he would make sure that Rachel
got to class all right.
“I can trust you to take
care of her?” I asked him. And he said yes. I’m anxious to see some real sorrow
in him for teasing his sister so much, but it’s more guilt in answering to me
that prompts him to behave. Greg took them to the bus stop. Most of the fathers
do the first day; I’m not sure why.
I started well by doing
the dishes and making beds, but it’s just past ten and I’ve got the computer on
and a fresh cup of coffee in hand. I wonder how much I will get done today.
The room across the
narrow hall also had five girls in it. I’ll describe them, as they became a big
part of my life during my final year. Marcia—the girl who introduced herself by
chasing Pixie with a broom stick— was another refugee from SONRISE. Cinn told
us she had a terrible temper, but on the other hand had been very fair with
things like chores and never bullied or bossed people around. She just didn’t
put up with anything she didn’t like. Putting her in the same room with Verity
Constance, who had been on my hall the year before, was like having dynamite in
the same room with gasoline. It only required a spark.
Pixie had learned after
her first day not to say things that Marcia didn’t like. Verity, on the other
hand, said everything that everybody thought, immediately, without any judgment
at all. As I would learn during the course of the year, she was always
genuinely shocked when Marcia would hit her for saying that SONRISE girls
usually ended up in jail, or observing that only the students with learning disabilities
could not get through English Composition. After the first Dean of Women’s
meeting with the girls, Verity said right in front of everybody in our room
that the Dean of Women was a lesbian. And when Amy Carmichael tried to hush
her, Verity just said, “Well I saw her in bed last year with—“ and Mary swung a
pillow at her and smacked her across the face with it to stop her from saying
who.
Whoever it was, by tacit
consent we all agreed it was probably some freshman who didn’t realize what was
going on. We didn’t want to know. But delicacy like this never occurred to
Verity.
But fear worked. Marcia
warned her to shut up about the queer stuff or she’d ram a sock down her throat
and pull it out her backside. The threat worked. Oddly enough, for all that
Verity would say to the girls with no thought of censoring herself, she never
told on anybody, not even Marcia.
Kaeron was a senior,
like me, and we knew each other as good acquaintances. Kaeron was incredibly
tall and pale and moved with a slow grace and ease. She was not quite as pretty
and empty headed as Pixie, and not quite as insightful and kind as Amy
Carmichael, but she was very nice, and for the first several months, she and
Pixie and Amy Carmichael became friends. They were all very gentle people and seemed
to get a lot of pleasure from the small courtesies of life.
By default, I became the
lead person in our room—the one most likely to speak on behalf of the room, to
show the others how to get things done, and to make the plans required to keep
us from demerits. Across the hall, Polly was the lead person the moment she
walked in the door. Even Marcia was second to Polly.
Polly’s real name was
Elizabeth, but she’d gotten the name Polly her freshman year when she took over
the post office. The initials for the role were POL (Post Office Lady), and so
she became Polly. Her dad was a well known Baptist preacher in the south. 
Polly idolized Preacher Mack. She could quote him on all the topics dear to him
(wimmin's libbers, submissive wives, sexual purity, and soul winning), and she
called him "my preacher", as though the two of them had some sort of
deep, spiritual bond.  On her first day back in the dorms, she spread a 17-inch
by 22-inch poster on the wall that said, "Win More Souls for Jesus." 
And then she issued a "challenge" to her roommates to be better
women.
Polly stormed at people
and threatened them with every bad thing that would happen to them if they
didn’t do things her way. She was a bully, and she did nag. She kept things
organized and always had the room ready for white glove inspection. But she
knew her way around, and you sure didn’t cross Polly. She knew more ways to get
behind your back than anybody I have ever seen. She could charm the important
kids, and she made life miserable for anybody she figured could not stand up to
her.
However, she did have a
sharp effect on my spiritual life—entirely beneficial.  Any time I was feeling
low, or fretting about my parents, as soon as I heard Polly from across the
hall, I would remember that God had spared me from being her roommate.  He had
sentenced some very nice people to the doom of rooming with her, and so I
sharply felt the grace that had spared me.  I often thanked Him for this bright
spot of His mercy, and I did—in all sincerity—pray for her roommates to endure
to the end.
I knew that Marcia and
Polly would end up fighting, eventually, and I just hoped it would happen on a
day when I wasn’t around. But at first, Polly set her sights on the pretty and
witless Pixie. Of course Polly never hit her, but she berated Pixie and blamed
her for everything. And even when fiery Marcia stood up for Pixie, Polly would
assemble such a truckload of evidence against Pixie as justification for
blaming her that Marcia would have to settle down and be quiet.
Pixie was perfectly
lovely and there was a sweetness in her, in spite of her complete witlessness,
that made this difficult for us to watch. Amy Carmichael would invite her in
with us to study together. Pixie was always glad to be in our room, but she
never studied, so that was problematic.
Eventually, as Lilly
loved to draw, Pixie would come in and read Lilly’s comics while the rest of us
studied. Polly complained about this, but Amy Carmichael insisted that Pixie
stay and study with her.
 
Entry 9: Thursday, August
14, 2003
In the first week that
classes started, Julius Fallows came to preach in chapel. School chapel lasted
for about 40 minutes. It was held every day except Saturday (when we all went
bus calling) and Sunday (when all students spent almost the entire day at the
church).
The chapel itself was a
brightly lit, well designed auditorium (fitted with cushioned pews rather than
chairs). It sat on the east end of the classroom building. High windows on one
wall let in plenty of sunlight. Some architect had envisioned a chapel being a
place of light and refreshment for the soul, for the room itself was calm and
yet cheerful. In the spring, the tall windows glowed like walls of light.
But the atmosphere of
chapel would have been more suitable with a pro wrestling setting, a circus, or
a ride at Disney. I don’t think I ever heard a sermon on prayer, though we were
often admonished that we did not pray enough. Preacher Mack was always held up
as an example of prayer to us. It was said he prayed for an hour each morning
and an hour before retiring to bed. He once remarked that he had a map of the
United States in his “prayer closet” so that he could pray for each state and
each city. Nearly all of the preachers claimed that the battle for the Lord was
won on our knees, and though this provoked some ribald smirks from a few male
students, the rest of us were left clueless by this claim. Most of us felt that
we had not yet learned the secret of prevailing prayer, and yet nobody ever
preached on it.
And I knew, of course,
that Julius Fallows would not preach on it, either. He always came the first
week of school as a sort of tonic for us. Brother Fallows was a big believer in
salt water enemas and fasting for health and physical stamina. He accorded
processed foods, salt, and sugar as part of the same decay of America that had
created the Gay Liberation Front, abortion clinics, and the Equal Rights
Amendment. Salt water enemas, fasting, confession of sin, Bible reading, and
the steel resolve to serve God were also all part and parcel of each other as
well. Life, in his eyes, was one huge battle to scourge the flesh into
submission and enter a blissful state of stubborn refusal to do anything
anybody but God told him to do, and be completely convinced that he had his own
personal hotline to the throne above.
The officials in New
Mexico had doubted his assurances that he was running his various children’s homes
in accord with the Revealed Will, however, and they had closed down a couple of
the homes and tossed him in the pokey for a week. This, of course, made Fallows
a saint and a martyr. It helped that the New Mexico officials were about as
narrow in their views as he was, but with a different objective. Whereas
Fallows wanted kids under his care no matter what conditions they had to live
under, the New Mexico officials wanted good conditions in every home no matter
how many kids had to live on the streets until the homes were up to standard.
As an adult I look at it as a classic case of the stupid extreme Right butting heads
with the stupid extreme Left. But back then I felt only some serious twinges of
doubt. I respected his love for God back then, but in a lot of ways I suspected
he was a kook.
He stood in the pulpit,
and most of the kids enthusiastically gave him a standing ovation. I couldn’t
see Marcia from where I sat, but I saw Lilly and Cinn, and they were not as
eager as the preacher boys were, but neither did they demur in applause.
After we sat down, he
went on for only about five minutes about his heroic stand for the Lord in a
New Mexico jail, and then he actually did preach. He preached against sin. In
25 minutes he hit on the usual fare: lust, women wearing britches, movies, and
rebellion against authority.
We considered Fallows
more insightful than most preachers because he attacked the welfare system as a
form of reverse discrimination. Even now, when I consider him a crackpot from a
forgotten sub culture, I respect him for that opinion. Other preachers bellowed
against welfare because they had to contribute to it. Fallows bellowed against
it because it was degrading to the people it was supposed to be helping.
Fallows worked with
honest poor people as much as he worked with the drug addicts and prostitutes,
and he respected minorities. It was said that all the farmers around his homes
gave him their surplus when they had any, and in bad years he would give them
money whether they were believers or not, whether they were white, Indian, or
black. He doctored their animals for them, and he would bury their dead when
they could not afford formal services. Somewhere under all that bluster was a
man who had once believed in human dignity and cherished it. But life at
SONRISE had been so bad that Cinn and Lilly never spoke of it unless one of us
asked a specific question.
Yet for all his heavy
handedness, he absolutely refused to see race as a factor in anything. The only
African Americans at GIBC were young men recommended by him, and they were as
fanatically pure as he was.
Anyway, chapel was
supposed to last for no more than 35 minutes, to allow us time to get to
classes. But just to show that he was under God’s authority and not man’s,
Julius Fallows would preach the whole 40; sometimes 45.
He ended as he always
did, with his 24 rules for good health and a godly mindset: Read the Bible
every day was the first rule, followed by prayer, then several regarding diet,
then some on exercise, the standard “don’ts” applied to smoking and drinking
(and candy), and finally the last two—take salt water enemas weekly, and fast
at least four times a year. Those of us tempted to giggle at the enema part
never dared to do so while in chapel. We always waited until we were safely
back in our rooms.
But after the sermon, as
was customary, a few of the students went forward and confessed to having
sinned over the summer. Some were shipped home if the offenses were really
gross, and others were quickly restricted from going off campus or dating. A
few even lost school offices or minor posts they had gained teaching Sunday
School. Then everything settled down again. We’d had a good purge and it was
time to get to work.
 
Entry 10: Friday, August
15, 2003
I just realized that few
people comprehend the classes taught at a school like GIBC. Men could major in
Bible, Missions, or Christian Education. Women could major in Christian
Education or Christian Womanhood.
All the women students,
no matter which major they chose, took courses on Christian womanhood (as
though some of us might stumble into the wrong restroom without proper
training). Our classes included,
-0- Christian Woman 101,

-0- Women in History
Used of God (Christian Womanhood 102),
-0- Christian Marriage
for the Wife (201),
-0- Principles of
Communication for the Christian Woman (202),
-0- Christian Service
for Women (301).
That was just five of
them. There were more. My roommate Mary shocked me when she listed them this
way:
-0- Shut up 101
-0- Shut up 102
-0- Shut up and Have Sex
with your Husband 201
-0- Shut up and I Mean
Shut up 202
-0- Shut up and Make
Dinner 301
As freshmen, Cinn and
Lilly had to take Christian Woman 101. I was a first semester senior, so by
that time I was ready to take Great Women of the Bible. It didn’t really matter
what you took; each class was about the same. They were taught by Mrs. Mack, wife
of our great preacher, who was so concerned that women should have ladylike
voices that she spoke too quietly for anybody to hear her in class. Or they
were taught by the queen of Christian womanhood, Ursula Wondell, wife of the
college president. Mrs. Wondell went all around the country promoting Christian
Womanhood, so we were made to feel that we’d been given a great favor to have
her right at our campus to teach us how to be what God had actually already
made us.
No matter what class you
took, you learned the principles of being submissive, the chain of authority
from God down to women. It ran like this: God would tell the preacher; the
preacher would tell your husband or father; your husband or father would tell
you. If you should skip right to God, you’d broken the chain and would probably
get sick or something.  And we were told, in spite of our status of being
submissive, that we could still be soul winners and bring more people to
church.  The edict that held us to being right with God by virtue of winning
souls was just as applicable to women as to men.
We also learned how to
match our clothes, how to pick which colors looked best on us, how to plan
meals, and how to walk like ladies. Neither Mrs. Mack nor Mrs. Wondell ever
talked about hair, but most of the girls assumed that good Christian women had
really big hair, like country singers. Certainly, Mrs. Mack had bouffy hair.
Mrs. Wondell’s hair was a little more yankee in style, but very old fashioned
and still fairly high compared to styles in the 1980’s.
French braids were
popular that year on campus, and long straight hair was always a safe favorite.
I had shoulder length hair, blond and brown, that had been cut in layers and
that I curled to make wavy. I thought it was graceful but business-like, but I
gradually realized it was not really the best hair for a Christian woman, not
in the opinion of the reigning queens of feminine deportment. But by then I
didn’t care. I didn’t want to be stupid and silent like Mrs. Mack, and I kept
that opinion to myself. But I knew that whatever my life held for me, it had to
be more than just saying nothing and smiling no matter what.
On the first Friday
after classes were over and we had an hour before supper, I came back to the
room to find Lilly busily drawing cartoons of Fem-Bomm, Mistress of Menopausal
Mayhem. But Fem-Bomm had undergone a slight transformation. It was only very
slight at that point, but instead of immediately losing in her struggle against
Christian Womanhood, Fem-Bomm was trying to explain her evil ways to two
high-haired super heroes in sweeping gowns. She lost of course, but this time
as she went down a whirlpool of wind and fire into hell, there was something of
pathos in the defeat, for now it was clear that Fem-Bomm did not understand what
had been expected of her. I told Lilly she’d better put that story away, out of
sight.
 
Entry 11: Thursday,
August 21, 2003
The summer had worked
changes in me, and the rush of getting new roommates pushed out other concerns.
But as soon as classes started and the normal routine kicked in, I realized
that I would have to deal with Chester.
Chester and I had dated
the year before. When he’d first come to GIBC, he’d been shy, self-conscious
over his name, and kind hearted in a stumbling, clumsy sort of way. We’d known
each other through the bus ministry (which I will explain later), and we had
started dating my junior year.
But that awful summer at
home had changed me. The first moment I saw Chester, I think I knew I had to
end the relationship (such as it was), but I told myself I had to be fair.
Chester was getting
ready to become a preacher. Maybe that was one of the things that changed him.
At GIBC becoming a preacher meant that a young man entered an arena of being
extremely self conscious, extremely jealous of all his rights and privileges,
extremely loud about how well qualified he was because of his soul winning.
We had lunch together
early in the week, and he was eager to tell me a lot about his summer, his
plans, his latest classes. But as soon as I could get a word in, I dropped the
bombshell on him that had hit this summer:
“Chess, my mom is
thinking of leaving my father.”
That caught his
attention, all right. For one thing, though I did not realize it at the time,
it automatically made me damaged goods in his eyes. The preacher boys were
warned not to marry girls from broken homes, We were considered far more likely
to leave our husbands than other girls. But I did not realize that. What was on
my mind was that my father was a fairly well-known preacher, and he had been
accused of having an affair by the very woman with whom he’d had the affair
(the church secretary—-it all sounds so typical!). He had admitted it to my
mother. And then after weeks of arguing with my mother (in the guise of getting
counseling) and alternating between angry shouting and sullen silences, he’d
gone away—a preaching engagement. I had not heard from him at all.
“Why would she leave
him?” he asked.
“He’s had an affair.”
His mouth opened
further. “Does she know it’s true?”
“He admitted it to
her.”  Actually, he had blamed her and said it was her fault, but I didn’t say
this.
Without further
question, without asking me how I was dealing with it (for I felt tremendously
betrayed by my father. Sometimes I think I felt more betrayed than my own
mother did), Chester passed his judgment: “She needs to forgive him and take
him back. That’s God’s will. She has to forgive him. She’s in danger of
becoming bitter.”
"Chess, he's done a
terrible thing. He harmed that other woman and her innocent husband and
children. And he's harmed my mother and me."
He took in this answer
like a dozing cat takes in a ping pong ball that goes past its head, dismissing
it almost at once.  "Grace," he said after a moment.  "Your
father is a tremendous soul winner.  Not as great as Preacher Mack, but he
still brings them in.  If your mother cared about souls, she would forgive him.
You don’t want people going to hell just because your mother couldn’t forgive
your father and forced him out of the ministry."
That was when I knew I
had to end it with Chester. I don’t think I said anything just then, because I
was afraid that I would shout at him or start crying. I don’t remember the
exact moment that I broke up with him, and I don’t even remember what he did or
how he reacted. Knowing Chester, he got another girlfriend as swiftly as
possible so that he could enter the arena of being a preacher boy with as many
assets as possible. I don’t know what ever happened to him. He has gone into
obscurity in the ranks of Fundamentalism. Maybe he got out of it.
Anyway, the rules at
GIBC stipulated no touching whatsoever between men and women students, so
dating was an odd situation—girls all made up in what was the prevailing style
on campus, and making themselves look as insipid, passive, and sweet as
possible. And the men trying to find that right mix of brash recklessness that
was their interpretation of masculinity, tempered with the minimum gentleness
and consideration necessary so that the girl would not break up with him. Then
the couples would talk with each other or eat together or, at certain outings,
go bowling, yet without touching. We were told it was better this way, as we
had to learn to communicate. Regrettably, the entire place was so artificial
and allowed so little privacy that even the conversations were based on what
was expected and not on what anybody actually thought, believed, or needed.
Well before the weekend
came, the guys without girlfriends (and one or two who did have girlfriends)
descended in a hungry circle around Amy Carmichael. She was not the most
beautiful girl on campus, but she was probably the most attractive. There was
something fresh and lively in her, refreshing and kind and directly sincere.
She was the only girl I ever saw at GIBC who would literally have guys
following her down the hall to get a chance to talk to her. And she was
oblivious to it. Amy Carmichael was in love with a boyfriend back home who was
building a house for the two of them with his own two hands. His name was Jim, and
he wrote to her just about every day. She would soon pay dearly for this
relationship.
Across the hall, Kaeron
was a final semester senior and was planning on marrying over Christmas break.
Her fiancé, Buck, was a preacher boy in the graduate program, a big and
handsome guy who was good enough at preaching to give sample sermons in the
preacher boys’ class. Everybody knew that Buck would someday do well in the
ministry.
Buck was the first guy
to take Amy Carmichael aside, speak to her as a “guy friend” and tell her that
the distant-Jim was probably too worldly to deserve her as a wife. After all,
Jim was a blue collar laborer trying to build his own business in construction.
Clearly, he was of a worldly mind and was interested only in making a lot of money
and having a beautiful wife. Buck encouraged Amy Carmichael to re-think her
priorities and yield to the Lord’s will. With so many fine preacher boys around
her, she deserved more than Jim.
Mary also had a steady
boyfriend, a faculty kid that everybody called Skip. His parents had her over
to their house all the time for big dinners, and they always gave her all the
leftovers to bring back to us. We liked that.
As for Lilly and Cinn,
they had the lower dregs of the male population looking them over, but Lilly
never spoke to the boys at all if she could help it, and Cinn wanted to speak
to them but—we all discovered—she was painfully shy. She would try to talk to a
guy and then come back to the dorm room and cry. Some of the preacher boys made
fun of her. Cinn was a perfect pencil—no noticeable hips or bustline. She
looked like Olive Oyl. As I expected, some of the boys called her this behind
her back, but not so quietly that she did not know what they said. It was
cruel, but they were cruel.
One of the first things
a preacher boy learned at GIBC was how to be cruel to people who failed to meet
his expectations. You see it even now in the way that so many Fundamentalist
preachers and evangelists speak and write. Cruelty is normal to them because
they are so sure that God has appointed them to speak with complete freedom. It
hurt Cinn, but I was already learning to despise them.
 
 
 
Entry 12: Friday, August
22, 2003
It was really hyped that
our church was the fastest growing church in Indiana, but ¾ of the attendance
was made up of kids scooped up on buses and hauled in for 90 minutes of
singing, magic tricks, and some preaching. Indianapolis Independent Baptist
Church, the church that backed and funded Greater Independent Baptist College,
was a microcosm of the college itself and the entire world of Baptist
Fundamentalism—an inflated superstructure built on uncomprehending children and
desperate poverty.
The means to keep it all
standing was hard work and frenetic, unquestioning energy. The church had two
dozen bus routes carefully mapped out. Every college student was assigned to
work a route. On Saturdays, everybody fanned out with their bus teams and
knocked on the doors of the houses on their bus routes to invite people to send
their children to church on Sunday.  This was called "bus calling". 
It was mandatory.  We spent all day Saturday bus calling, and then on Sunday
morning we rolled out in the busses and picked up the kids.
We bussed in kids from
all over Marion Country and the surrounding counties. To keep them controlled
(“entertained” was our word of choice) we held Sunday school on the buses.
Bus-route Sunday School was as empty of any doctrinal teaching as children’s
church. We sang songs with them, many punctuated by jumping up and down or
clapping or shouting slogans. And then one of the male bus workers would do a
magic trick or a comedy routine, and then there would be a word or two of
so-called teaching, and then an invitation to get saved.  Winning souls was the
number one priority of the Christian, and we jostled against each other in our
fervor to cram those little souls into heaven so that we would maintain our
status of being right with God.
On that flimsy basis, we
would promise many small children that they were now going to heaven. I still
think about it. When I see my own two privileged children, lying asleep in
their beds, with parents who had both grilled themselves over the need to be
good parents before they made the attempt, then I consider those other children—so
many of them unloved, undirected, untaught—and we gave them those glib
assurances of going to heaven because they’d repeated a prayer! I have often
asked God to forgive me for dispensing assurance like Kool Aid.
The Lord Jesus said many
who seek to enter heaven will say, Lord Lord,” thinking themselves to be saved,
and He will tell them He never knew them. How many will say, “But a bus worker
from Indianapolis Independent Baptist Church told me this was the way!’ And
then what will the Lord say? Does He take it into account that they were
deceived as innocents? I used to pray for second chances here on earth for each
one of them.
We never told them
anything else except to repeat the prayer, get baptized if they could, and keep
coming to church. And we added up our tallies of how many had come on the
buses, how many had “made decisions,” and how many had gone forward for
baptism. The fact that some were baptized over and over never deterred us.  The
bus routes with the highest number of riders scored points that were tallied for
different contests.  We also had contests for the greatest number of decisions
to be saved and the greatest number of baptisms.  The whole system ran on
numbers.
Rain or shine, snow or
hail, we labored from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon every
single Saturday. During my freshman year, I had been dutiful and I had been a
part of a dutiful team. And probably, we had one of the better teams in terms
of really doing something. The leader of each team was called the bus captain.
Our bus captain was a guy named Kevin, with red hair and freckles, and he
really did know how to talk to kids.
Kevin preferred
playgrounds to door-to-door. Kids tended to congregate around him, and he spoke
gently and firmly with them. He could do magic tricks, and he always spent a
few minutes pushing them on the swings or talking with a certain one or two.
There was something in him that was true and sincere. I remember him crouching
down, and the kids in their open parkas and wool coats surrounding him. His
voice became very serious, and they quieted right down, as he said, "Now
kids, we want to take you to God's house tomorrow. Wouldn't you like to come
and see how God lives, and hear about how He wants you to live when you're in
your houses?"
When Kevin was on the bus,
he actually did teach the kids, and a few times he brought one of those flannel
boards on the bus and did stories for them to show them what Christ had done.
As for the team, when Kevin was captain, we started each Saturday morning with
coffee and a doughnut and pooled our money to pay for them, but Kevin would pay
for it all sometimes. The other guys in the bus ministry teased him and called
him “The Manager,” but I think Kevin was trying to be what he thought a good
bus captain should be. There were plenty of people at GIBC who really tried
their best.
He left after that year.
Some people said he'd gone off the deep end and believed that Preacher Mack was
all wrong and had lied about something.  I never believed those stories about
Kevin. He was one person at GIBC I had always respected. But as that had been
my freshman year, I came away with a pretty high standard of how to do bus
work. My next year, our bus team was a lot less conscientious. The bus driver
and bus captain (both roles were always filled by men) would go off together
for a few hours of door-to-door. We suspected that after a few hours, they went
to the mall, though we never pursued the matter. The girls broke up into
two-person teams. My partner and I would canvass until we’d hit all the apartments,
and then we would sit in a playground and just talk. If we saw anybody else
from GIBC, we would get up and walk away like we were going to go someplace
else and canvass. We never meant to be dishonest, but there was so little
direction and teamwork that we really didn’t know what to do with ourselves.
By my junior year I had
it figured out, and I was considered a solid bus worker. I took my partner
around and visited our core people, and I started developing relationships with
parents. For me it was more visitation than canvassing, even though I would
give out about 100 flyers each week. Everybody in every neighborhood already
knew what the buses were and when they would come. The important thing for
God’s work, I realized, was to try to make real contact. My bus captain that
year didn’t like it because I would spend as much as 30 minutes at some places,
but he let me alone overall. I think this was because he saw that I had a solid
core with a few people on my route, and causing trouble with me might bring in
unexpected reinforcements to take my side. Indianapolis Independent Baptist
Church wanted to always appear good and kind; we were instructed to never cause
trouble anywhere and never quarrel in public.
So by my senior year I
was ready to go on as before. I was grieving about my own family, and there
actually were a few tough, hard bitten women with kids from multiple fathers
who, I thought, might be able to give me both the sympathy I wanted and some
hard, true advice.
 
Entry 13: Saturday, August
23, 2003
The first Saturday after
classes started was the beginning of manning the bus routes for the new year. I
worked fast and brought Lilly and Cinn onto my route. Now that over a week had
passed, we were friends, but our friendship was hardly equal.
I kept seeing the two of
them as real people, and this was new to me. Up until then, some of the more
odd and more extreme kids at GIBC were just figures to me—cartoon characters
who jumped up and down. I guess I had learned to be cruel, too, in that unthinking,
sarcastic way of the preacher boys. But Lilly and Cinn blew away that
superstructure of excuses and self justification. They were roommates, so I had
to deal with them and find a successful way to do it. And they were from
SONRISE; hence, white trash.
And yet they were as
bewildered and as helpless as a couple of children. So I tried to help them
negotiate the complicated and rugged life at GIBC: I explained things to them,
I kept them with me in situations they found unfamiliar, I tried to bargain for
things that they needed.
They knew full well that
they were no match for life at GIBC. In the ways that they understood, they
expressed gratitude for me. Lilly drew comics galore for me. There was no end
to the characters and stories she could think up. Cinn was always agreeable and
helpful, and she tried very hard to take care of Lilly so that I wouldn’t have
to. But even though it was unusual and required a lot of thought and effort, it
was nice. They both tried to keep the room pleasant. When we would hear Polly
berating Pixie across the hall, and Marcia storming at both of them, we were
all glad that we worked hard to have a good room. And taking care of my
“SONRISE refugees” as Mary called them, actually took my mind off of my
parents.
By Saturday, Lilly’s
pictures and comics dotted the hall. Magneto Man warned girls to turn off
lights. Nylon Serpentine reminded the girls that red, purple, and black panty
hose were not allowed. Ona QT held a finger to her lips and whispered that
everyone must be quiet after 7:00 at night. And in the privacy of our room, we
enjoyed the further adventures of Femm Bomm, who was becoming more and more
human and less and less terrible.
I showed my bus captain
Lilly’s more tame comics. He thought she was just more trash from SONRISE, but
at sight of her obvious talent, he agreed to have her and Cinn on our team. Any
gimmick to get the attention of the kids and entice them along to church was
always put to use.
 
Entry 14: Sunday, August
24, 2003
Oh, the kids have
started school. That’s where I’ve been. They had one day each a week or so ago,
but now they’re back in earnest. I told myself that life will be less hectic
with my kumquats at school, but this past week has been one long blizzard of
errands. Errands in blistering, searing heat. There were clothes to buy, and
that started out as just a few things a day or two before their orientation
days, but then this past weekend I noticed that the two of them are sprouting
like weeds. And they go through underwear as though their bottoms were made of
stone. I want to ask them if they stay awake at night and chew up their
underpants, but that would create a giggle-fest that would never end. But
honestly, neither their father nor I go through our own undies at the rate that
they do, and we weigh more!
So there were clothes,
and then shoes. And once again that turned into getting school shoes, church
shoes, and play shoes. Then school supplies. I did that a couple weeks ago. But
after I got all the school supplies, the school sent home a list of suggested
supplies, so back we went. All in 100 degree weather.
Then dear Greg, who can
never take no for an answer or just let things be, was at the table when Ben
said that only babies use crayons (poking fun at Rachel). I rebuked Ben, but Greg
told Rachel to bring her crayons, and she did. And then Greg made the loveliest
picture for her. He really has a lot of artistic talent, but he thinks art is
sissyish. (“You really are a Fundamentalist!” I tell him.)
So while Ben first
protested and then watched in jealous regret, Daddy made a beautiful picture
for youngest sister. This has turned into quite a project, and after they
reached the point of melting the tips of the crayons to create intense color, I
knew I had to go buy more crayons. So I did. Ben is now at the “It’s not fair”
stage of recognizing that his quip has backfired, and I told him that his
father is a gentleman and will always defend a girl, so he’d better learn not
to pick on Rachel. This provoked some truly honest questions.
Ben, always quick to
learn new things, wanted to know why a gentleman defends a lady. But I could
see a real horror in him at the idea of the responsibility he has been saddled
with simply by being born a male.
Meanwhile, back to GIBC.
After I got Cinn and Lilly onto my bus route, I took them with me for a few
hours on the next Saturday to show them which apartment complexes were ours and
where our bus route bordered the other bus routes.
Then I led them to the
real reason I had wanted them on my bus route. We were in a blue collar part of
Castleton, which is in a corner of Indianapolis, and there were strip malls
everywhere. One of them hosted a dry cleaners, a very tiny pharmacy, and a
comic book store. At first we stood outside and just looked through the front
glass. Lilly, not at all to my surprise, started rattling off all kinds of
titles and characters. I have recently seen the X-Men movie ads, but the comic
existed even back then, and Lilly knew all the characters.
A hugely fat young guy
with thick glasses and hair like uneven straw kept smiling at us from behind a
counter inside. He was six feet tall (or even taller) and very fat, but I liked
him from the moment I saw him staring and smiling at all three of us. He had to
know we were from GIBC, and GIBC was not popular with a lot of people because
of our extreme views. But he was a gentle soul. Three girls staring in wonder
at his shop was enough to prompt him to a certain unrefined but sweet chivalry.
At last he came around
the counter and asked if we would like to come in and look around.
“Hey it’s air
conditioned,” he said. This was invitation enough. I was all right in the heat,
but Cinn and Lilly, in their clumsy clothes and ill fitting shoes, were
grateful to have a cool respite.
He introduced himself as
Chad, and after a few minutes—when Lilly went right to the rows of filed comic
books and went through them like an expert while Cinn and I looked on—he showed
us around. It was a good tour for such a small shop. He explained the most
popular comics, and then he showed us some of the more underground stuff, and
then the comics that had cult followings. Lilly spoke the most, and even though
she was still shy, there was a keen interest in her eyes. She didn’t show off
any knowledge to him or to us, but Chad was more perceptive than he appeared.
Pretty soon he pushed
aside a flimsy curtain behind his counter and showed her his own drafting table
and the small corner where he drew his own comics in the hopes of striking it
big. At first I was dismayed to think of plowing through this guy’s attempt at
comic humor. But the single-panel and strip-style drawings he showed us were
pretty good. I thought they were at least as good as anything I’ve read in
newspaper comic strips.
His central character
was a skinnier version of him, a hapless young man always falling sincerely in
love and never getting the girl. But there really was a sweet humor in the
comics. I was surprised. They were almost all reflections on the incredible
puzzles, inconsistencies, and ironies of romance (or attempts at romance), but
a lot of them were really thought provoking or just funny.
Within less than an hour
he and I had pooled enough money for soft drinks from a machine outside, and we
were all talking away. A few customers came and went, and he would interrupt
himself to help them, but most left without buying anything. This did not
disturb him in the least.
At last I asked Lilly to
draw him a picture of Femm Bomm, but Lilly’s hands, I saw, were trembling. I
was surprised and tried not to show it. Cinn quickly said that maybe next week
Lilly could bring some of her drawings. And Chad, innocently supposing that
Lilly was just one more hopeful comic book artist, gallantly said he would like
to see them. But I knew by then that he had an eye for what was good. And I
knew he would be astounded by her talent.
The school provided sack
lunches for Saturday bus calling. We offered to share with Chad. He had a tiny,
second hand fridge back in his drawing corner, and he brought out some fruit
and cheddar cheese and chocolate milk, and we shared everything. Then I said we
had better go. He asked us to come back next week, and we promised that we
would. Lilly’s eyes were shining when he asked us back, so I knew she liked him
and loved the store, but I didn’t understand why she had been afraid to draw in
front of him.
 
 
Entry 15: Monday, August
25, 2003
If Lilly had been
reticent in front of Chad to speak of her own comics, she dropped all
reluctance once we were safely back on campus, away from the other members of
the bus route. She and Cinn were “full student workers,” which means they had
to put in 25 hours a week to help pay their school bills. So as soon as we got
back to the room, they quickly changed into dining staff uniforms. But Lilly
chattered the whole time. She talked about X Men and Spider Man and Silver
Surfer and a slew of other names I had never heard before.
Mary had been back for
an hour or so, and she was reading a newspaper on her bunk. She looked up in
surprise but didn’t interrupt. Mary would not have told anybody that we’d spent
nearly four hours in a comic book store instead of bus calling, but neither
Cinn nor Lilly actually said the words “Comic Book Store” in front of her.
Lilly just prattled on about all the comics themselves. Then they hurried off
for another four hours of work. I realized that Cinn and Lilly did almost
nothing but work. They went to class, worked a bus route, would soon be working
in children’s church, and worked in the dining hall and cleanup details. All that
work, yet they didn’t have a dime between them.
Mary was looking at me.
Instead of talking about Lilly and Cinn, she said, “Marcia and Polly really
went at it today on the bus ride back from church.” (The bus workers all met at
the church to divide into their teams. Then they went back to the church; and
from the church, buses took girls to the girls dorms and men to the men’s
dorms.)
I rolled my eyes. “Was
Polly picking on Pixie?”
No, Polly tried to make
fun of Marcia, and Marcia turned it around. Polly said something about the way
Marcia’s cooking would taste, and Marcia said anybody as buck-toothed as Polly
couldn’t eat like a lady anyway. Then before Polly could say anything back,
Marcia talked about how bow-legged Polly is and asked her if that was from
getting laid all the time or just wishing she could get laid—“
I fell onto the lower
bunk and burst out laughing. Only a SONRISE girl would ever dare talk that way.
Mary didn’t laugh, but
her eyes twinkled slightly. All the same, it was coarse language. “She
shouldn’t say ‘getting laid,’ Grace. It’s really wrong.”
“Maybe it will teach
Polly to shut up and just ride the bus.” Of course we knew that the strict and
hyper Polly was still a virgin. Mary and I were both virgins as well. The vast
majority of the girls were virgins and expected to remain so until marriage.
“Well, that wasn’t the
end of it. Then Marcia said that Polly’s hair is really kinky and her legs are
bowed, and down in Texas that means her daddy must have come out from the
woodpile one night.”
I looked up. “What’s
that mean?”
“That her father is
black and her mother is white.”
I let my head fall back.
“I don’t think Polly’s ever been talked to that way.”
“And then,” Mary added.
I sat up in amazement. She continued, “Polly said, ‘Just you wait. See if you
ever get any mail again!’ And Marcia said, ‘What’s that, mulatto baby?’ And
Polly screamed it at her, right on the bus." Everybody heard it.”
“So?” I asked.
“Well Marcia says it’s a
federal crime to with hold mail, and now she’s writing a letter to the post
master general about the way Polly runs the school post office. So after we got
back here, Polly ran straight to the Dean of Women’s office, and Marcia went
straight for the typing room. Marcia says every girl on that bus heard Polly
make that threat, and we better not lie to the postmaster when he asks us about
it.”
I was astounded at this
bit of brilliance from Marcia. “What do you think’s going to happen?”
Mary became offhand.
“Oh, I think Miss Stye will talk Marcia out of sending any letter to the
postmaster general, but I bet Polly gets fired from the post office for making
a threat like that.”
We looked at each other
for a moment. Polly’s whole life was that post office. Her enormous need for
power was satisfied in running it all by herself. And Marcia, this creepy,
bellicose kid from SONRISE, had just about snatched it from her. Then reality
hit. “I don’t know, Mary. Polly’s dad is pretty important. He’s even preached
in chapel. If he calls the school, they’ll probably back down from firing her
from the post office.”
Mary shrugged and went
back to her paper.
 
Entry 16: Tuesday,
August 26, 2003
It turned out that Polly
was not fired from the post office, but it was a near thing. I heard that she
got screamed at first by Miss Stye, our Dean of Women, and then by Mr. Jurgens,
the head of the student work program. Mr. Jurgens could be really savage when
he berated people, and we’d heard of guys breaking down into tears. So Polly
apologized to Marcia for the threat to interfere with her mail, but anybody
with half a brain could see that Polly passionately hated Marcia. However,
Marcia had way more than half a brain, and she liked living on the edge of
wrath. Anger was what she knew, so she was pretty happy with the situation.
What mattered most to her was that she had driven the vengeful and aggressive
Polly into a full retreat.
Pixie was delighted with
the situation (though she kept her mouth shut). For nearly two weeks, Polly let
Pixie entirely alone. Sweet, disorganized, dim-witted Pixie was a walking
invitation for people like Polly to attack and bully her, but the forced
retreat imposed by Marcia temporarily relieved Pixie.
Kaeron was the only one
who couldn’t take the tension. She and Buck were working on wedding matters at
a fast pace. He had another year of graduate school, but after that he would be
free to candidate for a church. And so their wedding was not only a social
event for their families but also an opportunity for him to test his influence
and impress some of the bigger names in the Independent Baptist movement. He
had sent invitations to some of the big names and at least one or two were
coming. They were always on the lookout for a good associate pastor or youth
pastor, and Buck looked every inch a preacher. And he did well in his sermons.
Buck met the entire room
of girls for pop in the small café area and tried to approach the subject of
room tension as a mediator. But Verity kept talking about everything that
crossed her mind, so at first he couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And then
Polly said she had to go, so she left. And Marcia drank all her pop in about
four gulps and then burped right at him. Pixie, dumb as an anvil but always
well mannered, was horrified and apologized for both roommates’ behavior.
Kaeron just sighed with resignation. Buck tried to take it well. But according
to Pixie even he got a little grumpy. He told Kaeron that what Polly and Marcia
both needed was a good paddling and a stern lecture, but they were too old for
that. It was a shame, he reflected, that their upbringing had been so
neglected.  And quite frankly, he doubted either one of them was much of a soul
winner.
This was the typical
thing a person at GIBC might say about Marcia, but it was pretty shocking to
say it about Polly. But Buck said it was absolutely true.
When this got back to
Polly and Marcia (through Verity, of course), Polly was furious and Marcia
laughed. Polly kept careful records of how many kids she brought in on the
buses, how many decisions she got, and how many hours she spent soul winning.
She tallied them all up and kept records. For a few weeks she sent the weekly
totals to Buck. As he ignored these glowing reports of her labors for the Lord,
she started to attach her neatly printed totals to the large soul winning
poster she had made. That way, at least the girls on the hall would know that—whatever
Buck said about her—she was a soul winner who was right with God.
 
Entry 17: Wednesday,
August 27, 2003
Kaeron, Amy Carmichael
and I were all seniors, and we could sign ourselves out to walk down to the Gas
N Go that was about a quarter of a mile off campus.
The Gas N Go was just
like any other fuel stop: a tiny, square building set behind a rack of gas
pumps.  Inside, soda fountains and plastic cups adorned one wall.  Next to them,
bubbling, automated coolers of pink punch and lemonade offered a sugary solace
for tired travelers or GIBC students.  The ever faithful coffee urns stood at
the ready, filling the corner with the stale, slightly bitter fragrance of old
coffee.
Shelves of canned goods filled
the two short aisles in the middle of the store: rows of Vienna Sausages,
Beenie Weenies, SPAM, and Deviled Ham were neighbors to jugs of 10-W 30, cases
of anti-freeze, and cheaply-made screwdriver kits. The candy array was
impressive.  Bags and bags of Brach's in their pink bags hung above row after
row of Hershey's , Hershey's With Almonds, Krackles, Heathe Bars, M&M's,
and Reese's.  Below them were the second string of caramels and hard candies.
And the magazines by the door remained inoffensive.  Perhaps in deference to
the school, the X-rated stuff was kept behind the counter.
Air conditioning made
the store a welcome retreat, and GIBC students would desperately find something
to purchase to earn the 15 or 2o minutes of store time that we used to cool
off.
That day, just as Kaeron
opened the front door, making the entry bell tinkle in welcome and letting a
draft of the cold air rush out to greet us, I saw a familiar, battered blue
Datsun pull up to the pumps.
"Go in ahead of
me," I said. "I'll be right there!"
I hurried to the car. 
Mr. Albrecht, his faded blue denim cap tugged rakishly to one side, got out
without seeing me. He tugged the pump from its bracket and started to fill up
the dusty old Datsun.
"Mr. Albrecht, I'm
so glad to see you!"  I exclaimed as I ran up to him.  "They said you
retired."
For just one moment a
look of surprise and then a strange, sorrowful recognition crossed his lined,
aged face.  He looked right into my eyes with his eyes. They were crystal
blue.  He took my hand, a gesture he would never have allowed himself on
campus.
"Grace," he
said.  "What a sweet young lady you are to come over and say hello to an
old duffer like me.  I'm so glad to see you, my dear."
"Do you like
retirement?"  I asked him.
He cocked his head, and
just as I said it, I realized he had not retired.
"I felt ready to
leave the school," he said after a very awkward pause.  He released my
hand, and his voice became husky.  "But what a fine young lady you are. 
And remember the faithfulness of Christ," he told me.
I didn’t know what he
meant.  "I will," I said.
"Grace, do you know
why we say that Christ is faithful to us?"  he asked.
I nodded. "Because
He keeps His promises to us."
The pump dinged to say
that the tank was full.  He removed the nozzle and cradled it in its bracket. 
The raw, pungent smell of the gasoline went into my senses as he said, "It
means that in whatever condition you find yourself, Christ is with you.  If all
men abandon you, Grace, Christ is the everlasting comfort of His people."
I don’t know if it was
the rawness of the gasoline or the odd tone of his voice that made my eyes
suddenly sting and fill up.  I looked at him.
Technically, I was not
allowed to walk up to a man off campus and start talking to him. We both knew
that.  So he didn’t linger. He opened his door to get his wallet, but he looked
up at me.  "The innocent may suffer with the guilty, but Christ is
faithful to his own, Grace.  Trust in Him, and never once suppose that the God
who has saved you from sin will accuse you or deride you.  God will lead you. 
God will forgive you of your sins.  He is just and faithful to forgive His
people."  He hesitated, his crystal blue eyes looking up at mine, and then
he stood and shut the door, still looking at me.  With an expression of deep
regret on his face, he said no more and walked me up to the front doors of the
building.  I entered and went to the back to join the others.  Without another
word, but still looking sad and regretful, he paid at the register and left.
 
 
Entry 18: Thursday,
August 28, 2003
We had meetings called
“Jubilees” once a month. These were for girls-only, except that Preacher Mack—pastor
of Indianapolis Independent Baptist Church and founder of Greater Independent
Baptist College—was the speaker. When I say he was the speaker, I am giving
only his official role. During my freshman year he had been a speaker. We
thought it was great that he would kick off his shoes, sit on the edge of the
chapel platform, and just talk to us.
Over the years the
jubilees had become less and less formal, and by my junior year they had turned
into something else. The girls cheered for him when he came out on stage, and
he played a game with us, pretending that he would not come out unless we
cheered loudly enough. He threw candy to us, sometimes wrapped in twenty dollar
bills. He had pizza delivered to the jubilees, (which was nice at the time),
and there were jubilees when he canceled the school debts of some of the
poorest girls. He spoke less and “demonstrated” more. By that, I mean he turned
each meeting into a pageant of his concern for us and our devotion to him.
As the first jubilee of
the year approached, the stories from the older girls infected the new
students. Lilly and Cinn looked forward to any treats he might provide, and
they hoped he would cancel their debts. Mary warned them that canceling debts
was the sort of thing he did halfway through the year, and he'd never done it
for SONRISE GIRLS, as they were locked into a work system that paid their way.
Mary was far too
self-controlled to scream and squeal and clap for him, and she said the
meetings were more silly than anything else. Amy Carmichael said they helped
the younger girls who needed a father figure.
But when the year's
first jubilee came, and we were ushered into the chapel at night to cheer for
him to come on stage, a sudden pang hit me—a doubt. I could see Linwood
Albrecht's eyes looking up at me with open sorrow and concern.
Preacher Mack, a man of
middle height, slightly bald, with powerful shoulders under the blue jacket,
bounded onto the chapel platform holding up a hundred dollar bill. This
isn’t what a pastor does, I thought as he paraded up and down on stage and
talked about a poor girl who had been working ever since she had come to GIBC.
I couldn’t imagine Paul or Barnabas, let alone the Lord Jesus, behaving this
way. And I recalled that when Paul had seen to the freeing of Onesimus by
offering to pay his debts, he had done so discreetly, by writing to Philemon.
But the pang was just a
pang.  I had no clear objection to the culture of GIBC.  The look of worry and
concern on Mr. Albrecht's face had touched me, but I did not comprehend the
reason for it. For the heroic, brash quality of manhood was trained into us
constantly, and the men at the school made a pageant of their generosity and
virtues before all the girls in the same way that Preacher Mack did. It was all
I knew, and so even though I started to question the excesses of the jubilees,
it never did strike me as odd that these men focused so much on being praised
by the young women around them. Many girls would write “letters of admiration”
to men on the church or school staff, and I did not think to question that
practice, either. We all expected that men should be praised and admired, and
they viewed themselves as praiseworthy by the girls at the school.
 
Entry 19: Friday, August
29, 2003
Pixie lived in a happy
dream world of idolizing the faculty and staff men around us.  She called them
her role models.  When I reminded her that no woman would ever hold the offices
that these men held, she told me that they were the role models she would hold
up before her children one day.
She lived in a half
dream world that was nothing like Lilly’s imaginative universe of outlandish
characters and science fiction gadgets. In Pixie’s dreamy version of reality,
she would worship a man, and he would bestow his generosity onto her and show
her off to others. Pixie believed that women were somehow “made” by men. As an
adult I would say that “she got her validation from men” and believed that this
was the way that reality worked.
So one day when Pixie
told us that she had been specially selected by Brother Fuller to serve as the
pilot student for a church secretarial internship, I could see that she was in
heaven. This was what she’d dreamed of, to be singled out by a man in a
leadership position as having some sort of potential. The fact that Pixie
almost never studied, thought reading was boring, and liked clothes and jewelry
more than she liked books, ideas, or theology had never hindered her from
hoping and believing that one day she would be discovered and prized for her
abilities.
Her first meeting with
Brother Fuller was to be very private, an evening interview at the church. Mrs.
Fuller would drive her to and from the church. Brother Fuller was head of the
financial staff of the church, and though I did feel some concern about Pixie
having any duties that involved organizing church funds, I kept quiet and tried
to be happy for her.
This new standing that
Pixie gained also quelled Polly. Polly measured all people by how important
they were, and Pixie’s unexpected rise in favor set back our local bully a good
bit. Marcia was nobody important, but she was far too ferocious and quick
witted for Polly to openly bully. And Verity was as dim-witted as Pixie yet she
had one even worse flaw: She blabbed everything with the unrestrained
regularity of a garden hose gushing water. She would never report anybody to
the Dean of Women. But you still couldn’t tell her a secret; you couldn’t have
a private conversation; you couldn’t include her in anything, because in the
worst possible moment she would open her mouth and pour out everything inside
her head. That saved her from being bullied.
I was sure that Polly
would turn to Lilly or Cinn to bully, or both. But she had nothing on them. Amy
Carmichael, Mary, and I kept everything that we said and did private, to
protect them. Polly continued to cast about, but for many weeks we were safe
enough.
 
Entry 20: Saturday,
August 30, 2003
Back on the bus route,
we learned that Chad from the comic book store was busiest on Saturday mornings
from 9-11, so we would canvass that area for two hours and then come to visit.
One of my regulars, Mrs.
Marge Lauderback, had been gone a few Saturdays in a row, but when we visited
the next Saturday, she was home at the low-rent apartment complex where she
lived with her children.  She was still in her robe when she invited us inside.
Gina and Lorenzo, her two youngest, also in their pajamas, were sprawled in
front of the television set in the large front room, watching cartoons.
The "Mrs" on
her name was purely honorary from what I could determine, but I supposed she
did not want to embarrass the church girls (as she called us) by saying she'd
never married.  She tended bar late into the nights on weekends, and she had
four kids—-two of them in their mid and late teens, and two of them younger
than ten.  She wanted them all in church, though she never went, herself.
"You're not going 
be white trash," she bawled at the younger ones when they saw us and
started whining about going to church the next day. "Come in girls!  Come
in and have a bite of breakfast if you like."  She ushered us inside and
then shouted at her two youngest: "Lookit me, pregnant at sixteen. And
why?  Cause I never darkened the door of a church!"
"Ma, you don’t get
pregnant that way," Eddie, her oldest said as he came out of his bedroom
in pajama bottoms but no top, scratching his bare ribs and looking around the
kitchen.
"Oh thank you for
explaining that's why I've had four of you pop out and no ring on my finger! 
Come here and I'll smack you!"  she shouted at him.  Eddie thrust his face
at her, and she framed it in her broad, strong hands.  "The only good thing
I got from being pregnant at 16 was you, Eddie!" she said.  Then she
pulled his ear.  "But don’t push your luck!"
Eddie and Doug, her two
oldest, had been snagged by a Lutheran youth group several years ago.  They
seemed to like going to the youth activities and even though they were polite
with us, I could see they thought GIBC girls were crazy and far too restricted.
Cinn took Lilly around
the sofa into the living room to draw cartoons with the children, and I sat
down at the kitchen table while Mrs. Lauderback put on the coffee maker.  The
narrow kitchen faced the wide living room with only a tiny breakfast bar as a
divider.  Oddly enough, in the complete noisiness, it was easy to have a
private conversation.
"Are you having a
good year, Grace?"  she asked.  Then she swore with happiness and added,
"It’s good to see you again.  You are one dependable young lady.  We've
been to Chicago for my kid brother's wedding, but the kids will be ready for
church tomorrow."
"I was wondering if
I could talk to you about something," I said.
The request startled
her.  "Me?"  she asked.  Then she cocked her head. "About men,
huh?  I know all about men!  Well, go on.  You want a doughnut, honey?"
"I want a doughnut,
Ma,"  Eddie said.  She thrust the box of doughnuts at him and he selected
one, then carried the box to me.
"My parents are
really mad at each other," I said.  "I'm afraid they're going to get
divorced."
She swore again in
amazement and then said quickly, "I'm sorry honey.  I'll watch my
language.  Eddie, go get Mom's cigarettes, ok?  I'll have your coffee ready in
a second."
The amiable Eddie went
off to get the cigarettes.  He returned with them, took up three more
doughnuts, and then went into the living room and flopped on the sofa to watch
Lilly draw cartoons of Gina and Lorenzo.
Mrs. Lauderback lit up,
brought me my coffee, and then brought hers.  She sat down at the cheap dinette
table across from me.  "Did he do something wrong?"  We both knew
what she meant by "wrong".
I shot a glance towards
the living room to warn her to be quiet, but Lilly and Cinn were busy with the
children and were not listening.  So I nodded at her to say that yes, he'd had
an affair.
"You sure he really
did, honey? Sometimes a wife'll say that to get the old man's goat."
"He admitted
it," I said in a low voice so the others wouldn't hear me.  "I've
never been this scared in my life.  It’s like I don’t even know them."
She drew on the
cigarette and thought a moment.  "He's never hit your mother?"
"No, never."
"Then he's not a
complete bastard—sorry."  She hesitated. "Can you tell me what you
know about it?"
So I told her.  I still
remember, as she took a thoughtful pull on that cigarette, and the end glowed
like a bright little berry, how her eyes narrowed in conflicting thoughts.  She
knew right then it wasn't his first.  But she also knew I was too innocent to
know such a thing.  And she chose to shield me from the truth by giving me an
easier truth.
"Usually in these
situation, it's the woman's choice," she said as she finally exhaled. 
"In a family like yours, the woman makes the home, Grace.  He don't want
to lose that home any more than you do."
"Then why couldn’t
he just say he was sorry?"
"Cause he's mad he
got caught, young lady.  He's mad that he got caught."  She threw a look
over the sofa to assure herself that nobody was listening to us.  "But no
matter what he threatens, or even what he does, he'll work his way back to your
Mom, if she'll have him back."
"I'm not
sure," and my voice sounded frightened, even to me.
"It might be a year
when he does cruel and cold things,  But once he settles down from having his
pride hurt at being caught, he'll want to keep the marriage together. Then it
will be up to your mother. That's another reason he's so mad now. He knows
that.  In the end, it's her choice and not his, and he must hate that.  She's
got the power."
I looked at her.  She
took another drag and didn’t say anything, just kept her broad face: fair
skinned, blue eyes, dyed blond hair, as mild as she could.
"You’re
right," I said.
"Stand up to him if
you have too, Grace.  But don’t humiliate him. He did what he did.  Your job is
to make your own life."
I nodded.  "Yes. 
Yes, OK.  Thank you."
 
 
Entry 21: Sunday, August
31, 2003
Lilly brought her
drawings to Chad, and he was impressed. His comic strips were sweet and
refined, but her garish, vivid adventures captured his complete admiration. He
began to teach her how to do inking and how to draw more efficiently with blue
pencil and very frail sheets of paper that Cinn called onion skin.
While he did this, Cinn
would gladly watch the store. In no time at all she learned how to run the
register and had started overhauling his inventory system. Chad was a bit
disorganized, but Cinn figured out how anybody could just step into the store
and take over for him if he were to get sick or had to attend a comic book
convention.
I had worried that the
impoverished Cinn might be tempted to steal from the register, but such a
thought never entered Chad’s head, and—apparently—it never entered Cinn’s head,
either.
By our second visit, I
was incredibly bored. While giving my two roommates this nice retreat made me
happy for them, I was not and never would be an avid comic book fan. But we
were not allowed to go out and canvas alone. The girls had to stay in two’s, at
least.
So by the beginning of
October when Chad offered Lilly and Cinn four hours work each on Saturday
mornings, paid, I knew I had to think of something. It was the week of my first
deliberate lie to the leadership at GIBC, and it started on a small scale.
I told our bus route
team that Cinn and Lilly had a project going to super-saturate two apartment
complexes, and so I needed a partner to visit the regulars. This plan was
granted by our bus captain, and so every Saturday the two of them were dropped
off just a few blocks south of the comic book store, and they went to work for
Chad. Another girl and I were dropped off a few blocks north of the store, and
I managed to steer her away from the store until nearly one. Then we would meet
Cinn and Lilly on the corner just out of sight of the store and eat our sack
lunches or go buy a hamburger before venturing out for the rest of the
afternoon to either canvas or wander around.
Chad paid each of them
twenty dollars for their morning’s work, yet he also found the time to help
Lilly with her drawing skills. But Cinn assured me that they did every chore
needed. For Cinn, of course, soon made up a roster of chores and tasks and
bookwork that had to be done on a weekly and monthly basis. She pulled out
Chad’s unused rolodex and made a card file of all the things that had to be
done to keep the place neat, organized, and running. And she went right to
work, and worked hard, and Lilly helped her. And with the $20 a week, they
thought they were rich.
This is the end of the excerpt