This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 742 words.
After that first experience of the prayer group, Jimmy did a deal with his mum. He would wheel her there on Sundays, but not stay for the meeting. He had to tell the scary old lady not to bolt the door, and then made his escape before Reverend George appeared. There was something about that man he really didn’t like. He would hang around for an hour, then collect her for the trip home.
At least the broken ankle stopped his mum from going to the shopping precinct, or standing outside the Londis shop.
The downside was that she was off sick from work, and around all the time. At least he had school to get a few hours away from her, but she started going on about God as soon as he got home, so he retreated to his bedroom at the earliest opportunity. More used to the the very old-fashioned style of writing by now, he had got as far as Judges, and was almost up to Ruth. The main conclusion he had reached so far was that God was a very vengeful God, and anyone who crossed him was in serious trouble.
School was going well though, as long as he could avoid the taunts of the boys who teased him about his mum. They called her ‘Bible-Basher’, or ‘God-Botherer’ and one asked Jimmy why Jesus hadn’t just reached down from Heaven and healed her ankle, to save her having it in plaster. Good news was that he won a prize in Chemistry, and when he told his mum she said she would buy him a small statue of Jesus to keep in his bedroom. Jimmy would have preferred some chocolate-covered Brazil nuts, but said nothing.
He took his exams that summer, and when the results came in, he had Grade One O-level passes in Chemistry, Biology, Maths, and Physics. The passes in English, French, and Geography were not so great, but that didn’t bother him, as he intended to be a scientist. He would be going on to the A-levels the following year, and the Chemistry teacher told him to start thinking about university. But Jimmy’s mum had already fixed him up with a job after the A-levels, at the pharmaceutical company here she worked as a typist in the office. They would take him on as long as he got A-level Chemistry, which he was certain to get. Then he would get paid, be able to learn to drive, and hopefully save up enough money to rent his own place, and get away from his mum.
During the summer holidays, with mum no longer in a leg cast and back at work, he had more free time. But with no friends to speak of, and no telly to watch, he was soon up to the book of Proverbs. One line in that caught his attention. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”. There it was again. Fear. You had to fear God, and if you didn’t you could be sure you were in trouble. Once Proverbs was finished, Jimmy realised he was still only halfway through. They certainly knew how to write a book in the old days.
Of course, with mum mobile again, she resumed her preaching. She didn’t bother to buy another three-step stool though. Just in case. Some days, three or four of George’s group would work together. They went knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, and generally bothering all the neighbours. It wasn’t long before almost nobody talked to Jimmy, and when they saw his mum approaching, they would cross the street to avoid her. No telly, no friends, and now nobody talking either. Jimmy was starting to feel like an outcast.
By the time he had taken his exams the following year, he felt lonelier than ever. Mum had taken to preaching after work every evening, and all over the weekend. She told him she was guaranteeing them both a place in Heaven. But he had to cook his own dinner every night, and sit in the silent house on his own.
More time for reading meant he had almost finished The Old Testament. He was nearly at the end of the Book of Daniel, and there were only the Minor Prophets to go. Keen to get onto the New Testament to see if it was more interesting, he thought he might skip those.
They were only Minor, after all.