Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: Southern Popcorn
By Betty Castleberry
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The first Sunday the new reverend took the pulpit, Imogene was in the first row. I know she spent way too much on that purple dress and hat. Nelda’s Buy Low and Dress Up doesn’t carry anything like that. I bet she went clean into Atlanta to get that outfit.
The Reverend took his place at the pulpit and introduced himself. He preached a decent sermon, and most of the members decided they were going to like him. That is, all except for Imogene. I believe she decided she was going to love him.
After the benediction, she practically knocked poor old Birdy Millican over trying to be the first one to greet the reverend. She asked him if he was a hugger, and before he could answer, she had flung her scrawny arms up around his neck.
I cornered her on the steps outside. “Imogene, that’s a nice outfit.”
She stood right in front of the Lord’s house and told a fib. “Oh Euliss, it’s just an old thing I drug out of the closet.“ She smiled so wide it smeared her purplish lipstick across her teeth. I didn’t tell her about it either. “What time do services start tonight?”
“Six o’clock. You coming?”
“Oh yes. I just love this church. You know my granddaddy on my mother’s side was a Methodist.”
“So I heard. See you tonight.” She waggled her fingers at me, revealing purple nail polish.
It was a busy afternoon, and before I knew it, I was back in church. There was Imogene, sitting in the front row again, only she wasn’t wearing the purple outfit. This time she had on a yellow sweater and yellow trousers. Imogene is tall and thin. It’s not a kind thing to say, but she looked like a banana. She turned around and waved at me. Her nails were painted yellow.
Reverend Greene addressed the congregation. He was talking about the conversion of Paul, when he turned the color of a day old bruise. His eyes watered, and he coughed so loud, it shook the doves in the stained glass windows. The congregation froze, all except for Imogene, who went flying out to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water. I do have to give her credit for her quick thinking.
After a few sips of water and a sound whacking on the back by Imogene, Reverend Greene was fine. He smiled sheepishly and thanked her. To everyone’s surprise, Imogene stepped up to the microphone and went off on a tirade.
“I’ve heard the gossip. So what if I like to dress nice? Let me tell y’all what Miss Lannie Withers has done. She fed our preacher here southern popcorn right before he started preaching. She may look mousy on the outside in her beige suit and flats, but on the inside she’s a pistol. Everybody knows she’s a great cook. She’s using her culinary talents to attract our new reverend. I saw her sneaking him some homemade brownies just this morning. At least I’m open about my intentions.”
It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.
Reverend Greene touched Imogene’s shoulder. “Thank you for your thoughts. Now if you’ll just have a seat…”
Imogene stood firm. “I’m not through. I don’t think Lannie really meant to harm our pastor. She probably didn’t think about what fried okra might do right before he started to talk. Didn’t offer him a Coke, either. I do want to say for the record that I’m interested in Reverend Greene, and I know Lannie is, too.”
Imogene folded her arms in triumph and left the pulpit, an astonished pastor staring after her. She walked over to the pew Lannie Withers occupied. “The battle is on, Lannie. Fire up your stove, because I’m making an appointment at the Curl Up and Dye, for the works.” She returned to her seat in a puff of Paris Sophisticate perfume.
That left Reverend Greene in a dilemma to pick between a fashion plate and a wonderful cook. Or maybe there’s another choice. How about a level-headed gal like me?
*Southern Popcorn is a name sometimes given to fried okra.
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