Grady and Gracie have been dating successfully for a while. Their secret? No religious or philosophical discussions. She goes to church on her own and he never asks her how it was.
One night they went to the theatre to watch a production of the “Taming of the Shrew” and they saw Kelsey Cadence in an unpredictable role– a janitor at the Renegade Theatre.
And Grady did something he thought he wouldn’t really have to do. He invited Kelsey to come move in with him until his brother returns from his band’s tour.
Gracie and Kelsey attended the same church. Together, both decided to join the women’s Bible Study Group on Thursday evenings and they’ve both been growing in their faith.
Kelsey just passed the 22 week mark, well into the second trimester. She was having a girl and wanted to name her Faith or Hope. She wrestled between the two names that were the most encouraging words to her in the English language.
Grady managed to track his brother’s band down through social media. Fintan’s Flood was playing at a dive bar about 4 and half hours away from Tucson and he planned on going to see his brother to tell him fatherhood was coming Alastair’s way.
As the sunsets I drive into a small town fit for lumberjacks. Hills of pine trees decorated with log cabins and small business with the occasional big gain business to shop at or eat from.
I pull into the parking lot of the Fox Hole, off the main road, which doubles as the highway. I see Dougie’s blue, beat-up minivan with the trunk door hanging high open.
Alastair comes out from the back of the bar and he looks different. He shaved his beard off and his hair is kept neat. His clothes look clean and he looks happy. A glare from his left hand catches my attention and I notice he’s wearing a gold band.
There are 3 places my brother will wear a ring. His thumb, his middle finger, and his nose– but for a man who doesn’t believe in marriage never on the ring finger would he ever where a ring.
Peggy comes out from the bar behind him and she looks well kept too. Jeans without holes, a red and black plaid short-sleeve turtleneck. I try to look at her left hand, but her back faces me and it makes it hard to tell.
I was going to wait until after the concert, but my curiosity is so insatiable within me. I conclude my brother is married and I want to find out if it is true.
Slamming my car door as I get out, both my brother’s and Peggy’s attention.
Brightly, my brother smiles and holds out his arms.
“Grady!” He exclaims, hugging me closely.
When I don’t hug back, he takes me by the shoulders and explains why he hasn’t been in touch.
“I lost my phone and I couldn’t remember your number. And you don’t have any social media accounts, so… I thought about writing you, but never being in the same spot twice, I figured why write? You’ve been getting the deposits in your account, right?”
“You couldn’t remember my cell number but you remembered my bank account number?”
“I wrote that down, man.” Alastair chortles.
“Yeah, I’ve been getting the money.”
Alastair pulls out his new phone from his back pocket and asks for my number. As I give him my number I think about how to break the shocking news to him.
Once he has my number, he takes Peg’s hand and clears his throat. Peggy rests her head in his shoulder and smiles giddily. “You should also know, Peggy and I got married.”
That was pretty obvious from hundreds of feet away. I’m not sure how to respond to that…
Granted, I would get married without telling Alastair, we’re not that close, but he got back together with Peggy for his band– not because he loved her?!
“There more to everything but we have to keep setting up for the show. Would you mind helping us?” Alastair dares to ask me.
The bar packed to the brim with fan and yet-to-be fans of Fintan’s Flood. I stood at the bar, feeling out of place not being the bartender.
One song confused me as I listen to my brother sing lyrics to a new tune. The words of the indie alternative rock unsettle me.
“I was dead until you found me/I was numb on the inside/Then Your Love pursued me/I came alive within my soul//Let my life read like a letter/A letter of Your Love/Let my life read like a letter/A letter of Your love/ Your love that saved me”
As the musical interlude is lead by Douggie on electric guitar, I remember worship songs I’ve heard Gracie play in her apartment. Sometimes, when I go to pick her up, if the door is unlocked I walk right in and some song about God’s love plays. Sure, maybe my brother is being mushy and the song is about Peggy’s love, but I seriously doubt it. I can picture Gracie saying right now that she can sense my brother is different.
She wouldn’t need to say it if she were here. Everything about him screams SUPER DIFFERENT!
My original brother is so Anti-Christ, Kelsey would have never talked to him. I’m talking about a man who joined the Satanic Church to get laid. And how is my brother going to manage marriage? He is such a free love, anyone, any time man harlot. And drugs… he loves pot, shrooms, acid… he’ll try anything and do anything but meth, crack, and heroine. Maybe he had to change his image for the band, but I’m just losing my mind. He couldn’t be “saved”…
At the end of the show, he says, “Thanks for coming out tonight. For those of you who don’t know, me and the entire band got radically converted when we were in San Francisco. We started this tour and I did not believe in God at all. I was raised by fine atheist but even on her death bed, she reconciled with God, and I remember her holding my hand right before she went to her eternal home, and she said ‘Forgive me’. I had no idea what she met by that and I was angry thinking that if there was a God He wouldn’t have allowed her to die like that… Bottom line, we don’t want to impose anything on you, but if you want to hear our testimony and hear the true Gospel of Christ Jesus, we’ll be at the bar enjoying club soda, ginger ale, and water. Please join us if you want to prove to us God isn’t real. We love you all.”
I sat the furthest away as I watch my brother share his testimony to a group of ten or so strangers.
The band was in SoMa in San Francisco. They just got done playing at a bar. They just packed up the van when they heard worship music from a street corner, the song was about the love of God. Next thing Alastair new, he and the band were amongst a spectating crowd. Many onlookers mocked them and spit on them. Some people were actually putting curses on the band.
Alastair thought back to the day his mother died. How she asked him to call a preacher named Maynard Strikes. They didn’t speak long and he prayed with her. The pastor came out and said she made her peace and will be with God. Then he left. He said I showed up just as mom asked for his forgiveness.
“I started singing what they sung and I began to feel something happening inside of me.”
Alastair and his band joined that worship band at a 24 hr waffle watery and the worship band gave them a crash course on the Gospel 101. Alastair and the rest of Fintan’s Flood made the decision to follow Jesus and have never been the same ever since.
Peggy takes over and shares the gospel. All within ear shot are engaged, intrigued about God, but mainly how passionately she spoke about God. I can’t stand to look her in the eye. I feel like something stronger than her soul is peering into mine.
I do wonder, like from time to time, is God REAL. And if He is, why was He so stupid to make us? He gave us an awesome planet and we’re about to torch it all to hell and none of us really care about each other.
I love Gracie for me. She brings me peace. She makes me happy. She makes up for the missing things in me and makes me complete and because I cannot afford to lose her, I put up with the religion.
Gracie wasn’t always pure and perfect. I know in time we’ll be intimate in bed. I may have to cough up a promise ring to get her to bed but I won’t have to get engaged or marry her right away. And because of the happiness that woman brings me, I would marry her, just so I could return something in gratitude for all the goodness she is for me.
When Peggy’s asks who wants to accept Christ tonight, everyone’s hand goes up but mine.
This is ridiculous. I came up all the way here to witness a freak-show!
Douggie hands out Bibles to everyone who just accepted Christ and gives them a list of nearby churches they can check out.
Even Douggie was different with his beard finely trimmed and no eye liner. He still dressed like a pink rocker though and kept the hot pink in the tip of his faux hawk.
Alastair comes up to me and asks, “What do you think about what she said man?”
“I think it’s a load of crap. Let me guess, you could only find a Christian Label to sign you?”
Alastair pats me on the back, “It’s good to see you brother.”
I just want to blurt it out right there that he’s about to become a father, but he says they got a deal to record music with some mega church in Cali, and they’ll serve on staff for a bit to cover the recording costs. It’s because of the worship band that led them to Christ… It’s the mega church they come from.
“So when the tour wraps, we’ll be moving to Cali. Do you think if I deposit the money in your account, you could ship out my things? We’ll be closer to Cali when we wrap than AZ.”
If God was real and my brother was really connected to Him, wouldn’t God give Alastair some urgency to come back to Tucson, for his kid?
“Tell me why here bro? If you wanted to say hello you would have hacked our social accounts and said so. Is everything okay?”
“No…” I sigh. “I going to be a-a Dad.”
“You have a girlfriend?”
“Um, she’s not my girlfriend. One night stand but she is living at the house… I came to ask if I could turn your room into the nursery, so can I?”
In total shock, he says, “Yeah. No problem. I’m going to be an uncle?”
I laugh and he joins me. Odd how we laugh for two different reasons.
“I’m having a girl. Might name after mom.”
“Wow… Do I know the mom?”
“Do you remember Kelsey Cadence from High School?”
“I might marry her. Living together is going well.”
“Well, make sure you’re in love before you decide to spend a lifetime with her.”
We stand in silence. I wait for “revelation” to drop on him to uncover my lies, but nothing does.
A fan that just got converted asks to speak with him. Alastair tells me to hold on, but I take this time to take my exit. I decide to drive straight home, because now, I have to make Kelsey fall in love with me.
Driving I realize I’m being a lunatic. I can’t break up with the woman I love, marry a stranger, and raise my brother’s kid just so he can live his dream. I mean, this is mainly why I’m doing it. With how different my brother is now, religion will make him give up music to settle down and become a family man. Well, I couldn’t be certain, but he is my brother. I was the one with the heart and religion makes men softies, he probably had double the size of my heart now. California would be in his dreams. I need to ensure it is a reality. This will be best for everybody. In the long run, I just have to trust my gut, even if religion says it’s faulty.