Their time was quickly interrupted by Grandpa Hank who called Henry’s cell phone. Henry jerked himself away from the pleasures of Miss Fawley and to his pocket. He knew he couldn’t let it ring; he’d already disobeyed him.
Miss Fawley seemed a little amused by his apparent fear. She smiled and grabbed his bulge teasing him while he spoke to Hank. He was on his way to pick him up. Henry had to get out of there before his grandfather arrived.
“Miss Fawley,” said Henry, “I’d love to continue this, but my grandpa will kill me if he finds me in here.”
“Oh? Are you afraid of Grandpa Hank?” she teased.
“A little,” said Henry. “I got to leave.”
“Well you better come back and finish me off,” she said winking.
Henry blushed the reddest shade he thought possible. He walked out the back and made himself walk around the house, so it would look like he’d been working the whole time, this wasn’t going to work, however, because his grandfather was parked on the curb. Henry’s whole body tensed as he contemplated how long his grandfather had been sitting there, but he relaxed as fast as he could to eliminate any suspicion.
The window was down and Grandpa Hank had his same serious face on. Henry couldn’t tell if he knew that he went into Miss Fawley’s house or not, and from all his experience lying to his parents, he wasn’t going to bring it up. His grandfather had to make the first move.
“Everything go OK?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Henry. “Everything is cut and neat.”
Grandpa Hank stared at Henry for a minute. “Well, grab the lawnmower and put it in the back. We got Bible study tonight.”
Bible study was Henry’s least favourite thing to do staying with Hank. He wasn’t into reading, and the Bible wasn’t anything his parents ever mentioned. Henry had never even gone to church, but Grandpa Hank insisted that Henry crack open the good book and sit and talk about it with old folks. It wasn’t completely awful. There was a pretty girl, about his age that came to the group. Henry believed that Hank had a thing for her Aunt, who came to the study. He always tried to look his best and often asked her opinion on whatever it was they were reading at the time.
For such occasions, Hank had given Henry a dress shirt, dress pants, a tie, and dress shoes. It was embarrassing to put on, but he had to admit he didn’t look half-bad especially with a clean-shaven face.
Henry came out of his room and down the stairs and into the dining room to help his grandfather clean up. He didn’t look have bad in a suit either, very different from his worn t-shirt and a baseball hat.
“Quit your gawking and get some more chairs.”
There were usually six people in attendance, this included Hank and Henry. It wasn’t long until the first guests arrived. The doorbell rang and Henry went to answer it. It was Bridgette, the girl his age, she had a plate full of cookies; they looked like chocolate chip.
“Hello Henry,” she smiled, “My Aunt and I made some biscuits; I hope you like them.”
Henry smiled back. “I’m sure they’re lovely.”
He held the door for her, and couldn’t help but take a turn as she passed him.
“Eyes up, Henry,” said Aunt Sophia. She wasn’t cross; she just winked at him as she passed.
Henry felt his face rise in temperature. Hopefully, Hank didn’t hear.
Henry sat next to Grandpa Hank and the Abernathys, a couple in their early 40s, and the topic of study was Numbers 25, where the Israelite men indulged in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to sacrifice with their gods. Henry was kind of hoping for a more rated R version of the text and was completely caught off guard by how God handled the situation.
“Wait,” said Henry when they finished reading the chapter. “I thought God was loving, why didn’t he just forgive the Israelites for having sex with those women? Did He really have to send a plague? Did they really need to kill one member of each tribe to appease him?”
“They only killed one,” said Hank, a little irritated.
“Still,” continued Henry, “Moses suggested they kill more.”
“It was mostly because they partook of the sacrifice to other gods,” said Mr Abernathy.
“They hadn’t obeyed the laws,” said Mrs Abernathy.
“So,” said Henry, “How do we get from this God to Jesus?”
“It’s true that the old testament is brutal, and that God was harsh, but it is all a story that should be viewed as a whole and not in portions. Jesus is the bridge between this world and the next. He came because we couldn’t do it on our own. It was the Israelites lack of faith that killed them,” said Bridgette.
“God doesn’t do these things now, right?” asked Henry.
“Got a guilty conscience?” asked Hank.
Henry grew silent. He was guilty. He’d kind of been a jerk, but he only did what he wanted, what was the harm in that? And why shouldn’t he do what he wanted? He’d never had any problems before. No God came down and corrected him. No one told him he couldn’t. He could do anything!
Something flashed in the corner of his eye. He turned his head towards Hank.
“What?” asked Hank.
There was nothing there. Must have been a shadow. “I’m just… a little concerned,” he said, “I haven’t really been a nice guy.”
“We’ve all been there,” said Mr Abernathy, smiling.
“Exactly,” said Sophia. “We’re all still growing. He’s not done with us until we die.”
Henry went to bed that night uneasy as if something was watching him. There were a couple more instances where he believed someone was there, but whenever he turned to look there was nothing, not even a shadow. Maybe it was God? But Henry really didn’t believe in such things. He’d been doing just fine without one.
He laid down in his bed and turned off the lights. It was there. In bed with him. He felt some presence just hovering out of sight. It was one with the darkness, like some ancient demon lingering, waiting for him to fall asleep. Adrenaline kept him awake. The sweat beading up on his back, his arms tensed ready to swing at the invisible force. He took it back, he’d rather be with God than against him, and in that instant, he shut his eyes and fell asleep.
Henry sat in a wooden chair in a meadow. There was a wooden table in front of him with a teapot and two cups. Across from his was his Grandfather. He smiled at Henry and poured tea into the cups.
There was no other sign of life, just a carpet of grass that stretched on forever. A blue sky with clouds and bright sun. Nothing else. No birds, no trees, absolutely nothing.
“I know what you did, Henry,” said his Grandfather offering him the cup of tea.
Henry tensed up. Hank’s face was melting, the flesh, like wax, dripped off his face. “Grandpa?”
“You did what I told you not to do… I’m afraid there’s no turning back now.”
“Grandpa, your face…”
Hank’s face had disappeared. What was left was an eyeless skull. Devil horns appeared on his brow. He lifted his teacup to reveal a hand of bone. He drank the tea, it dribbled off his lipless mouth and down his vertebrae.
“Tell the truth!” The skeleton slammed its teacup on the table, breaking it in half. The sky grew dark and the grass blighted.
In the corner of his eyes, he saw a woman. He turned his head to see the form of Miss Fawley. Her skin pruned and wrinkled. Her hair fell out and her nose grew big and hooked.
“Come back to me, Henry, and finish me off!” She cackled and swivelled her hips, dancing provocatively, flashing her sagging breasts.
Henry stood up. “NO!” he shouted. Though he fought her, he drew closer. She beckoned him and step by step he walked closer. He could not stop. He could not turn away.
Hank’s boney hand pulled him back. “This curse is passed to you… I’m sorry.”