One more rewrite before I move on. Click here for the original post.
Daniel sat in his car staring at the front door of the movie theater. He didn’t want to go in.
Without thinking, he reached into the backseat and grabbed a tub of bleach wipes. He methodically began to clean his Civic’s dashboard and steering wheel, putting the used wipes into the trash bag hanging from the cigarette lighter.
He was so lost in his cleaning that the knock on his window made him jump.
Mindy was standing next to his car, holding her pink motorcycle helmet. She raised one eyebrow at him.
He rolled down the window and she leaned in.
“What are you doing, Daniel?”
Daniel pushed the wipe he was holding into the trash bag. “Just cleaning the dashboard. It was dusty.”
Mindy scowled. “I’ve been in your car dozens of times and I’ve never seen a single speck of dust anywhere.”
Daniel shrugged. “It was a long trip to Vegas and back. And it’s desert.”
Mindy straightened up and thumped her helmet on the roof of his car. “Are you sure that you’d not just procrastinating?”
There was no answer.
Mindy opened the door. “Come on. You have to go in eventually.” She pointed towards the theater. “Besides, they’re all watching you.”
Daniel looked over and sure enough, the entire congregation of the Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry was standing in the big glass windows, watching him clean.
Mindy pulled him out of his car and they walked into the theater.
The six other members of the congregation rushed to the couple, all talking at once.
Finally Roger gave a two finger whistle that was probably louder than necessary and they all shut up. “Let’s give them a chance to say something, people.”
His wife gave him a dirty look. “You could have just clapped your hands, you know.”
To Daniel, the silence was worse than the chatter. At least when they’d all been talking he didn’t have to say anything. Now everyone was looking to him for answers.
“Mindy and I found Pastor Sebastian,” he began and everyone began talking again.
“Is he ok?”
“Did you save our money?”
“Where is he?”
Roger clapped his hands and gestured for Daniel to continue.
Daniel pulled a check out of his pocket. “We got there before Pastor Sebastian played poker. I’ve got our money right here. All of it.”
“So where’s Pastor Sebastian?” Gretchen clutched her Bible to her chest, her voice shrill. Sally put her arm around Gretchen’s shoulders.
Daniel looked down at his shoes. One of his laces was untied, but he didn’t think it was the right time to tie it.
After a long silence, Mindy elbowed him in the side. “Pastor Sebastian didn’t come back with us. He stayed in Las Vegas.” Daniel, continued to stare at his untied shoe as he spoke but he could feel the disappointment around him.
“This is why you should avoid making friends,” he thought. “Eventually you screw something up and they figure out what a loser you really are.”
He glanced up at the congregation. Gretchen was crying silently, while Sally patted her on the back. The Ministry’s band, The Flaming Disciples, stood huddled together looking lost. Roger was staring into space and fiddling with his suspenders.
Finally Mindy spoke. “For crying out loud, people. We tried to get him to come back and he didn’t want to. It’s not our fault he’s a jerk. The least you could do is thank us for driving all the way to Vegas and getting your money back.”
Roger sighed, “You’re right, Mindy. We owe you and Daniel our thanks.”
The rest of the group murmured in subdued agreement.
“But what about our church? Is the Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love going to close now?” Gretchen sniffled loudly and blew her nose on the tissue Sally passed her.
Daniel finally looked up. “Oh, I don’t think it’ll come to that. Maybe Sebastian…”
“He’s not coming back.” Mindy interrupted Daniel mid-sentence. “So unless God talks to one of you in the bathroom, the ministry will close. But it’s not like it was a real church with a real minister anyway. I mean you meet in a movie theater, for Christ’s sake.”
Daniel gaped at her. He hadn’t given up hope that Sebastian would come to his senses and he certainly didn’t want the church to close. He wasn’t sure he believed in God, especially after seeing his spiritual leader drunk with his face buried between the boobs of a stripper named Wichita, but he liked these people and would miss seeing them every week.
“I can’t live without the Fiery Embrace!” Gretchen wailed.
“You don’t have to, Gretchen.” The deep voice came from the theater door, where Pastor Sebastian stood. Charlene and a man who looked like Elvis lurked behind him.
He was immediately surrounded by his congregation.
Daniel, who had never been so relieved to see anyone in his entire life, hung back. Mindy stayed beside him, glowering.
“I’m back, my friends!” Sebastian announced, his hands held in the air as if in supplication. “I have looked my demons in the face for the second time and lived to tell about it.”
The Pastor continued to preach as he moved toward Theater Three, his small herd of disciples trailing after him.
Charlene and Reverend Fake Elvis walked over to Daniel and Mindy. Together they watched the group walk away.
“How’d you convince him to come back?” Daniel asked them.
Reverend Fake Elvis shook his head. “It wasn’t us. He said God spoke to him. Again.”
Charlene laughed. “This time he was in the restroom of the Spearmint Rhino. I don’t know why God always decides to talk to him in the can.”
“Unbelievable,” Mindy muttered.
Daniel ignored her and gave Charlene a hug. Then he held out his hand to Elvis. “Thank you, Reverend Fake Elvis.”
Elvis grinned and shook Daniel’s hand, “The name’s Ken, actually.”