At the Revren Daddy Love's funeral--a long, loud service where they alternated tween dancin and weepin--a swarm of rumors buzzed through the pews. Women leaned across husbands and whispered to each other about Daddy and Sister Gayl and Lil Henny and Big Angela and Tish and Babs and on and on til what everyone was really saying was Girrrl, every pair of female lips in this con-gre-gayshun done tasted Daddy's sweet juice.
The Deacon preached, "The Revren took from our wallets! . . . Took from our wives! . . . Even took from some a our daugh-ers!"
"Wellll . . ." they called back.
"Was he the way he was because he wanted to be or because we wanted him to be? We'll never know."
"Tell it . . ." they said.
"But that's no nevermore cuz now that he gone we all gone be a lil poorer. Yes, I say, we's all a bit poorer t'day! Cuz Black currency ain't money. No! It's joy! The twenty-dollar bill of our currency . . . is theater. The dramatic theater of daily life. The ten-spot is rhythm. The fiver is hope, the deuce is freedom, and the dollar is good, hearty laughter."
"Preach!!!" they yelled.
"And, of course, the C-note is love. So by our math, the Revren Daddy Love was . . . a multimillionaire. And, the Revren Daddy Love was . . . a big spendah!"
At the wake, the rumors flew, and a gaggle of questions chased after them. The married women arranged fresh potato salad and hot corn bread, the unmarried women gulped the good champagne out plastic cups, and everyone wondered aloud, "You think Daddy took all he could get or gave everythin he had?"
The Revren Daddy Love caused much discord, but none on two subjects: first, Daddy was colossal. Freckles on his hi-yalla skin as large as dimes, a belly as great as a jumbo TV, a mouth that made mailboxes jealous, and a frame so titanic he would just swallow a girl up with one of his patented post-service hugs. No matter how rotund she was, Daddy could still hug her in surround-sound stereo because Daddy was super-sized, as though God had intended him to be quite literally larger than life.
Second thing everyone knew about Daddy: in every crevice and crack of his giant body Daddy Love did love women. All women. Daddy's love was as blind as faith and as democratic as the sun. Any woman, regardless of shape or style, could come to Daddy and find herself ecstatically baptized by those eyes, eyes the color of pure honey, eyes that shot an electric current through a girl's body and loved her better than most men could with their hands. It was the affirmation, and all the affirmation, a female needed to know she was magnificently woman. Women saw how seriously Daddy Love appreciated them, and, wildly appreciating his appreciation, they rewarded him and rewarded him with no regard for vows or jealousies or the horde of rewards he was getting from a horde of rewarders. But was it really Daddy getting the reward? For a week or two afterwards her husband would feel happier having her around, her family would eat better, and her entire house, no matter how small and drab, would seem a touch brighter, as though someone had installed a window that moved throughout the day to capture as much sunlight as possible.
Was his flock particularly lost or uniquely found? The center of those conversations was the church choir, Love's Angels. Those twenty-one women joined not for the singing, which was third rate on a good day, but for the special confession ritual.
Daddy always said his choir had to be held to a higher standard and when they sinned they had to receive special attention. On Sundays just before service, an Angel who had sinned would go to Daddy's office and confess. They would talk about what she'd done and why she'd done it. Then, the Angel would raise her skirt until her bottom was bare and free. Daddy would remove his belt and apply a slow battery of stiff thwacks to those bare, free cheeks with a sharp, stinging force that was said to make her brown skin wiggle hotly and then, for a fraction of a moment, sing out, in torrid pain, a sound like high, tortured notes from a muted trumpet. Angels confessed almost as often as their singing cheeks allowed. And on those rare occasions there was space for a new member, women waged war to get in.
That's how things were at St. Valentine's Blessed Temple of Godly Love, Sanctified Ascension, and the Holy Glissando, located in Brooklyn, at the comer of Grace Street and Divine Avenue, in an abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Now it may be easier to believe we could have a Black president, a nigger boycott on Cadillacs, and an all-white NBA all at once, than to believe in a single abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken in Brooklyn, USA, but it's true. What happened is someone at headquarters gave some franchisee the green light to build a three-floor KFC palace even though there were, within reasonable walking distance of the corner of Grace and Divine, three KFCs, two Church's Chickens, one Roy Rogers, one Kennedy Fried Chicken, one General Tso's Fried Chicken, and two Miss Mannie Mack's Fried Chickens (one of which shared space with Al's Fried Chicken Shack). Guess someone upstairs just couldn't stand that franchisee's ass.
Only three days after the KFC palace opened, corporate paid a visit to their new pride and joy and quickly realized their geographical error. In a panic, they commanded the ill-fated franchisee to make up the competitive difference by frying his chicken in a heavier, thicker oil and three and a half times as much of it. Years later, the star-crossed franchisee would crumble during cross-examination in his trial on federal civil rights violations and admit that corporate had indeed hollered, "Deep-fry those niggers!" He was all but thrown underneath the penitentiary when, through pathetic tears, he conceded that yes, he had noticed the vile smell of his toilets, and yes, he'd heard about the jolt in sales of Pepto-Bismol, and--yes, yes, oh God, yes!--eyewitnessed three men, on the very same day, crashing to the floor from heart failure right inside the store, and yet he still continued to deep-fry even though he said to himself, "Ah thinks the chicken is comin out a lil too greazy."
It ain't take long for Daddy Love and his followers to turn that mountainous grease pit into a church. There was already a tall red steeple, lots of seats, tons of parking, and plenty of private office space. In the beginning most felt it wasn't too bad using bits of leftover chicken in communion to signify the body of Christ. And after a while people came to like using the drive-thru window for confession. But Daddy never did have that greazy kitchen cleaned out properly. He just slapped some thick wooden boards on top of it and built his pulpit over that. Bet he'd like that decision to do over.
You might have never known the building had been a KFC if not for the sixty-foot sign that displayed the KFC logo and a portrait of Colonel Sanders. The pole that held up that sign withstood every sort of abuse they subjected it to until they were convinced that the pole and the portrait had been constructed to outlast that KFC palace, America, and maybe even Earth. So every Sunday they filed into service under the unchanging halfsmile of that good ol neo-massa Colonel Sanders. That's just one of the reasons why only Daddy Love and his most loyal devotees ever called the church by its real name. To everyone else it was the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls.
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