“Oh Lord, a priest. The Catholics are always behind this sort of thing.” Darla was a blowsy blond woman, with a ladies-who-lunch suit, big sprayed hair, long painted fingernails, false but relatively tasteful eyelashes, and gold jewelry.
“Behind what sort of thing?” asked Amrita. “I beg your pardon, but do you know why we’ve been invited here?” Her choli shirt was a brilliant cobalt blue and the sari draped around it was a vibrant magenta.
“Hell if I know.” Darla chortled. “My husband, ol’ Reverend Stick-in-the-Mud, hates it when I say that.” She nudged TingTing, whose head was shaved and who was garbed in a dull gray floor length dress.
“Hello,” said TingTing.
“Hello back!” said Darla. “What’s your name, honey?”
“Hello,” said TingTing.
“Hoo boy,” said Darla.
“My name is Rachel…” began a woman with one long braid down her back.
“You don’t look Jewish,” interrupted Darla.
“I’m not. I’m Rachel Little Rider. From Montana.” Rachel was wearing jeans, a long sleeved t-shirt, and the lace-up boots called ropers.
The priest continued to walk toward them. He was in full regalia and was carrying some file folders and a Bible. They were on the front porch of a small, spare building. It was situated on a flat area next to a sharply rising hill. The priest approached them from the direction of another tiny building opposite the hill.
“Look,” said Darla. “It’s clear we come from all different backgrounds. ‘Hello’ here is a Buddhist, I did missionary work in Taiwan, you see. Are you some sort of Hindu leader?” she asked Amrita.
“It’s challenging to explain. I am a scholar of a number of texts, but most rituals are performed at home…” she replied.
“Well, you know your stuff, anyway,” interrupted Darla. “I’m just saying, whenever there’s a party going on in the religion world, the Catholics are right there.”
“Party?” asked Rachel.
“Oh goodness me, my manners! I’m Darla. Darla Johnson, of the First Baptist Church of Turnertown, Tennessee. My husband is the pastor, of course, and I’m in charge of the education programs,” she said, just as the priest reached the porch. “And I suppose, Father, oh, how funny that sounds! You’ll be telling us why my mother left an instruction in her will that if I was to get a letter from the Vatican I should follow all instructions to the letter and why I ended up in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of other women who don’t know what’s going on either?”
It took him a moment to track her words.
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Johnson. You’re here to close the gates of Hell.”