Those Who Believe

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chapter-5

drop-cap-nathan was dreaming before Mama shook him awake. He tried to hang onto the dream, to remember what it had been about, and groaned. It had been a nice dream. And he was still tired. He wanted to go back to sleep and keep dreaming it.

“Wake up, Nathaniel. It’s time to get up, honey.”

Nathan tried to remember what day it was. He worked through the days in recent memory, trying to untangle the threads. “It’s the weekend, Mama,” he protested. “I want to sleep in.”

“You’ve already slept in, baby. And yesterday you slept almost the whole day. It’s time to get up now.”

If he’d slept all of yesterday, than today must be Sunday. Nathan forced himself to sit up, rubbing his eyes and trying to convince himself that he’d had enough sleep and would be able to get through the day without being tired today.

“That’s a good boy,” Mama approved. “You get up, and we’ll have a nice brunch together, okay?”

Nathan nodded and scratched his leg. “Okay. What else are we doing today?”

“We’ll have church. Praise God on his Sabbath.”

Nathan got up, shuffling toward the bathroom. “Are we going out to church, or staying home?” he questioned.

“Staying home. We’ll get a congregation, but I haven’t had time enough yet.”

“Okay. Be out in a minute,” Nathan said, and shut the bathroom door behind him.

He took a long time in the shower, knowing that Mama would need some time to get brunch together. Brunch usually meant pancakes or french toast. When he got out, Nathan could smell sausages. He wrapped a big towel around himself and pattered down the hall back to his room. He pulled on a t‑shirt and bluejeans, and combed his hair, and headed for the kitchen.

“Hi, baby. Feeling better now?” Mama greeted.

“Yes’m,” Nathan said. And it was true. He felt like a real person for the first time in days. He’d really needed the weekend, just to sleep and get some energy back.

She glanced over her shoulder at him, smiling. But when she looked at him, her brows drew together in a frown. “You need to get your Sunday clothes on,” she said.

Nathan groaned. “Not yet!”

“Today is the Sabbath. I want to see you in your worship clothes. All day.”

“I don’t want to spill breakfast on it,” Nathan tried. “I’ll dress after.”

“You’ll change now, young man. You know that. Ain’t that always been the rule?”

Nathan nodded, but she wasn’t looking at him anymore, her attention back on the stove. “Yes’m. I guess so,” he admitted.

“Well, that isn’t going to change because we moved somewhere new. Now go get dressed.”

“Yes’m,” Nathan sighed. He turned around and headed back for his room. He saw Mama’s laptop on the table as he walked by. “Mama!” he complained.

She turned around to see what he was upset about, and smiled when she saw the image on her screen. “I can’t help it,” she said with a giggle. “You’re so cute when you’re asleep.”

Nathan read the words she had posted beside the picture.

“You can’t come in and take pictures of me when I’m asleep,” he protested.

She shook her head. “I don’t know why you’re so embarrassed,” she said. “It’s not like you sleep in the nude, or in your little undies or something.”

Nathan’s face got hot. “Mama—you wouldn’t!”

She laughed at his expression. “I wouldn’t do that,” she agreed. “I don’t post anything that might be taken the wrong way. But that,” she looked fondly at the picture of Nathan fast asleep, his hair awry, mouth open, and a dribble of drool down one side of his chin. “That is just cute, Bug.”

“Don’t take pictures when I’m asleep,” he pleaded again.

Mama smiled and shook her head. Nathan headed back to his room. He reluctantly took off his casual clothes, and looked in his closet for the neatly-pressed, long-sleeved white shirt. He pulled it on, yanked on his black pants, socks, and dress shoes. Feeling tired just from that, he sat down on his bed and opened his drawer to look through his ties. He picked out a nice bright red one, and tied it loosely around his neck. Before going back out to the kitchen, he looked in the mirror to comb his hair again and tucked in his shirt.

Nathan walked back into the kitchen as Mama was putting dishes on the table. She looked up to see him, and smiled broadly.

“That’s better,” she approved. She walked up and took both his hands while she looked at him. She adjusted his tie, snugging up the knot to lay right against his throat. Nathan swallowed and loosened it slightly. “I have such a handsome boy,” Mama said. She gave him a tight hug, and kissed him on the cheek.

“Thanks,” Nathan said, his voice coming out a bit gruff. He patted her on the back. “Brunch looks great.”

She released him and turned around to survey the table.

“It’s going to be great,” she agreed. “I love our Sunday brunches together.”

“Me too,” Nathan agreed. After making sure that everything was on the table, Nathan pulled Mama’s chair out for her, sliding it forward as she sat down.

“Thank you, sir.”

Nathan sat down, and folded his hands for prayer.

“Would you like to offer it today?” Mama suggested.

Nathan cleared his throat and nodded. There would be lots of opportunities to pray today. He might as well take an easy one. He gave a brief thanks and blessing, and then they were ready to eat.

The cable had been hooked up. Nathan didn’t remember the cable man getting there, it must have been while he was sleeping on Saturday. Mama flipped through the channels, and they found and watched a couple of worship services. The second one was just ending when the doorbell rang. They looked at each other. Mama got up and answered the door.

Nathan heard Delia’s voice. “Can Nathan come and play?”

“No, not today,” Mama advised.

“Is he still sick today?”

Nathan vaguely remembered that the doorbell had rung several times on Saturday, and he supposed that at least one of those had been Delia inquiring after him.

“No, but today is the Sabbath.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It’s our day of worship.”

“Oh… so you’re getting ready for church?” Delia inquired.

“We’re worshipping at home today.”

“Oh… for how long?”

“All day,” Mama said, with a smile in her voice.

“All day? Whoa.”

“Would you like to come in and join us?” Mama questioned.

Nathan expected Delia to say no, but she was apparently up for anything, once. “Sure,” she agreed.

Mama stepped back from the door, and Delia entered. She came into the sitting room. “Wow,” she observed, looking Nathan over. “Don’t you look spiffy!”

Nathan felt his cheeks flush. He scratched the back of his head. “Uh, thanks.”

“So,” Delia looked around the room. “What are you doing?”

“We were just watching one of the TV services,” Nathan explained. “But now, we’ll probably…” he trailed off, looking at Mama for guidance.

“How about some scripture stories?” Mama suggested.

“Okay,” Nathan agreed. He motioned for Delia to sit down, and she sat on the couch close to him. “Do you have a favorite Bible story?”

Delia considered. “Yeah, how about the one about Noah?” she suggested.

Nathan grinned. “That’s one of my favorites,” he said. “Lemme show you some pictures I have from it, and then Mama can read it to us.”

He went to his room and examined the shelves, eventually pulling out the illustrated stories that he was looking for. He went back to the sitting room, and sat beside Delia again.

“Here, look at these,” he said, opening it up and thumbing through to find the pictures of Noah and the animals.

“Ooooh,” Delia crooned, looking over the gorgeous spreads. “Those are so beautiful. You can see… every hair and feather…”

Nathan flipped the pages slowly, giving her lots of time to look at each picture. Mama started to read the story from the Bible. Nathan sat back, closing his eyes and envisioning it. He’d seen all of the pictures, could see them in his head, Mama’s words bringing them to life.

Nathan became aware that Delia was poking him. He jolted upright. “Amen!” he declared.

Delia giggled. “You fell asleep,” she accused.

“I wasn’t asleep,” Nathan protested. “I was just imagining it. All those animals… it must have stunk.”

She giggled again. Mama stood up, putting the Bible on the shelf. “I think we’d better do something active, and wake Nathaniel up,” she suggested.

“I’m awake,” Nathan insisted.

“Come on. On your feet,” she encouraged.

Nathan got up and stretched, trying to suppress a broad smile of embarrassment. Mama was fiddling with the stereo, and Nathan knew what was coming. He motioned for Delia to get up too. She stood up, looking nervous because she didn’t know what happening next.

The music started up, loud and fast. Mama bumped the volume back down a bit so that they’d be able to hear their own voices. Mama and Nathan started clapping, and it didn’t take too long for Delia to get the idea and join in. They all clapped to the rousing beat, and Nathan and Mama sang out the refrains. Delia managed to get a few ‘amens’ in, even if they were off-beat. At the beginning of the third song, Mama grabbed Nathan and danced with him. They shook to the beat, and whirled around the room, sometimes holding hands and sometimes apart. Nathan managed to make it to the end of the song, then collapsed on the couch, huffing and puffing and holding his hand over his pounding heart.

“Hallelujah!” he finished, with an arm-pump.

Mama laughed. Her face was pink and glowing. She motioned to Delia. “Come on, dance with me,” she suggested, as the next song started up.

“I don’t know what to do,” Delia protested.

“Just do as the Spirit moves you! It don’t matter, just give glory to the Lord!”

Delia jittered to the beat, looking around self-consciously. Mama clapped and stomped and spun around. Delia copied her movements slowly, awkward and off the beat. Nathan tried to clap to the beat to encourage her, but was exhausted from his dance. He hummed a little to the song, watching the girls spin around the room, rejoicing with the music.

Mama only lasted one more song, and then she collapsed next to Nathan and gave him a big hug. Delia stopped dancing and stood there laughing.

“That was fun!” she said. “What else are we going to do?”

Mama ruffled Nathan’s hair, looking down at him. “I think Nathaniel’s going to need to lie down a spell.” She kissed the top of his head. “He tires easy lately,” she explained softly, as if Nathan couldn’t hear her if she spoke quietly.

“Is he sick?” Delia questioned. “What’s wrong with him?”

“The Lord tries all of us,” Mama said. “Nathaniel’s challenge is infirmity in his body. Do you want to pray with me for him?”

Delia twisted her fingers together, shifting her feet around. “I don’t know how to pray,” she said. “I mean… I know you talk to God, but I don’t know the right way…”

“Come here.” Mama held her hand out toward Delia, who came closer and let Mama take her by the hand. “There ain’t no wrong way to pray. Whatever comes into your heart is right. It doesn’t matter what the words are, it doesn’t even matter if we can understand the words. It’s all right.”

“Maybe this time, you could pray,” Delia suggested.

Mama nodded. “Ya’ll come here. Hold hands together.”

Nathan and Delia joined hands with each other and with Mama. Mama raised her voice to the Lord, praying for Nathan’s healing. He concentrated on her words, trying to hold them in his heart. If he just had enough faith, maybe he could be healed. They’d read lots of stories of people being healed. Watched them on the TV, too, and seen some in person. He knew his faith was small and weak, and prayed for it to grow bigger. Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. Nathan thought that his must be about the size of a dust mote. He needed faith like Mama’s. Faith that was strong.

When Mama said ‘amen,’ Nathan and Delia echoed her. Nathan opened his eyes and saw that Delia had tears in her eyes. He looked away.

“All right, Bug,” Mama said. “We’d better let you rest now. Say ‘bye’ to Delia.”

Nathan nodded at Delia. “See ya.”

Delia gave a little wave. “I had fun,” she said. “Thanks for letting me come.”

“Everyone is always welcome at our worship,” Mama said. “I’d love to be able to get my own little congregation going. You feel free to join us any time, and invite your friends and family.”

“I will!” Delia agreed. “Bye, Nathan.”

“Bye.”

Delia headed out the door.

“Do you need a hand?” Mama asked Nathan. “Or do you want to lie down on the couch?”

Nathan considered just lying there, not having to move anywhere, and sighed in frustration. “I gotta get a drink and use the john.” Mama held out her hand to him, and Nathan climbed to his feet with her assistance. “That was a great dance,” he told her.

She smiled back at him. “It was,” she agreed.

She walked him to the bathroom. “Okay now?” she questioned.

Nathan nodded. “I’ll be fine, Mama.”

“Okay. Holler if you need me.”

Nathan didn’t sleep the rest of the day away, but was back up in an hour or two. They didn’t dance again, but read their scriptures together silently, played softer gospel music, and talked.

“Do you think you got that job at the store?” Nathan questioned.

“It was a good interview. I think I will.”

“That will be good.”

“It’s a manager’s job, not cashier, and the hours are good. Mostly while you’re in school.”

“Will it give you enough time for church work too?”

“If it doesn’t, I’ll find something else.”

Nathan nodded.

“What are you going to do? Ring doorbells?”

“To start with, probably. Start seeing who is interested. Maybe Delia will be able to bring along someone else next time. She seemed to have a good time.”

“That’s because you’re such a good dancer,” Nathan said, snuggling up to her on the couch.

“My boy has always loved the dancing,” Mama declared, putting her arm around him and giving him a squeeze.

Nathan murmured his agreement.

“You can invite your friends from school, too,” she reminded him. “Anyone you think might be interested.”

“When I get to know people a bit better,” Nathan said, and smothered a yawn. “I don’t know who might be interested yet.”

“Well, it never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is no.”

The worst that they could do was to tease and bully him about it for as long as they went to school together. He’d seen it before, and he would be pretty careful before ever inviting anyone out to services again. He had to be sure that they would really want to come, before he’d do that. Certainly not in the first week that he knew them.

I hope you enjoyed this sample of

Those Who Believe

By P.D. Workman

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