After ten years at Kentucky Fried Souls Daddy Love had become a ghetto celebrity. He was known for his curious congregation, his unique vision of the Bible, and his way of riding slowly through the neighborhood in his 1969 convertible white Bentley, chauffeured by one of his Angels, passing out fives to the little boys and tens to the little girls. But first and foremost, Daddy was known for his preaching. He preached with a dynamism that hypnotized and bewitched, employing rhythm and volume, intensity and repetition, moans, grunts, hollers, hums, and a raw spiritual force beamed down from up on high to give his sermons wings that you could grab ahold of and go with him as he took flight, transcending English, while you nestled inside his truth--strings of words dipped in a magic that let him say crazy things no other preacher could say and pull you into a new awareness that would make you do crazy things, that, if you really knew how to listen, might make your life a little better. There was no place you could go in Black New York where they ain't know about Daddy. But he had grown tired of being a local legend. He wanted to float in the rare air. He'd stepped up to the plate and seen the fence separating those who were legends for a certain generation and those who had crossed over into history, and he wanted to smack a grand slam. He wanted to ascend the Black imagination and fly at the altitude of C. L. Franklin and Adam Powell and Martin King, those spiritual pilots who rest atop the Black imagination like nighttime stars: brilliant patches of light with a sort of everlasting life that we can look up to for direction anytime we lose our way. He would get there with one magnificent, never-to-be-forgotten performance, an extraordinarily epic manifesto-sermon punctuated with an impossibly dramatic flourish that would come together to form a story passed down from generation to generation and lift him into that rare air. On the last Sunday of his life Daddy Love arrived at Kentucky Fried Souls two hours early.
As the congregation filed in, the warm clack and click of fine Sunday shoes could be heard over the light sounds of the choir quietly singing "Love Me in a Special Way" and the organist and drummer and electric guitarist and three-man horn section backing them. Once they were seated a hush came over them. There was a long, silent moment that neither a nervous cough nor a baby's cries dared break, then Daddy Love emerged from his office on the third floor, escorted by two busty and freshly absolved Angels. He raised his large chin slightly, pursed his giant lips delicately, and, with a voice smooth and bassy like jazzy tuba riffs, said simply, "Love is here."
He was wearing what amounted to, despite their obvious lavishness, a lounging robe and house slippers. The slippers were thick, plush, and fire-engine red, with a busy logo across the front. The robe, made of rare silk, was a matching fire-engine red with thick black trim and long ends that draped on the floor below him. A black belt knotted tightly about Daddy Love's giant stomach pulled it all together. The combined worth of every single item worn by any family in attendance was not as great as that one robe. No one knew whether Daddy wore it out of vanity, or because he knew we needed to see him look like a prince, or both.
To thunderous applause, Daddy made his way down the stairs, an Angel on each arm, with a walk that combined a bull's brute, a rooster's righteousness, and a pimp's peacock. When he finally came to the lip of the pulpit, Daddy reached down and snatched a bit of his billowing robe off the floor, sucked in his great stomach, and squoze himself through the doorway of the pulpit. He then faced the podium and placed his hands on its far edges, giving him the appearance of total authority over that spiritual cockpit. He looked out at his flock and said with bottomless earnest, "Praise the Love."
They cheered and Daddy eased into his sermon. "Back in the day Love knew a man who'd died and gone to heaven. This man had been married for decades and loved his wife dearly. But in matters of love he was something of . . . a microwaver. He liked that quickfast heat, that fast food, that slambang dunk. He took more time in choosing his words when he spoke than in pleasing his wife when the conversation ended!"
"Oooooh chile!" the women called back.
"When he arrived at the pearly gates and got through the line to see Saint Peter, the good saint told him, `You've led a good, clean life and been an upstanding member of human society. But you are not yet ready. God has made it clear: there will be no microwavers in His heaven.'"
"No microwavers up there!" the women said.
"The man knew there was no appealing God's will, so he came back to earth and came to see Love. He said, `Daddy Love, I have been turned away from the gates of heaven! What did I do?' Love sat down beside him and said, `It's not what you did do--it's what you did not do. We'll sit and talk about loving in a Gawdly way and you'll go out and practice loving in a Gawdly way and one day Heaven will again summon you and this time you'll stroll right in.'" Daddy gingerly opened his heart-red Bible. "We started in the Song of Songs, chapter three, verse five. It is written, `Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.'"
Daddy Love gazed out over his flock and those light eyes began narrowing slightly and everyone knew that the Word was about to take him over. "Do not . . . arouse . . . or awaken . . . love . . . until it . . . so desires. Brothers and dearly beloved sisters, what's that mean?"
"Tell us what it mean, Daddy!" someone called out.
"It means you can't . . . hurry . . . love," he said tenderly. "It means we must let love grow naturally. To surrender--yes, surrender, my brothers--to love's pace. For that is the only way to truly love our sisters in . . . a Gawdly way."
The women let out a tremendous mmm-hmmm.
"So Love told his friend that the only way God would want us to love is in a slow, tender--that's right--tender way that surrenders to love . . . that doth not arouse love until it so desires . . ."
"So, SO tender!"
". . . and Love told his brother, `While you're in the kitchen, stirring up love, adding spices, you got to let that love cook at its own pace. Cuz that's the only way to get some tender food, you got to let the slow heat have at it for a good, long while! Can Love get just one witness?"
"Bring us through, Daddy!" they cried out.
"So you're laying there in your . . . kitchen," he said, and slowly closed his eyes and smiled, winning laughs. "And you're there, stripped of society's shields--Love's talkin bout clothes. And you're admiring some of God's sublime handiwork . . ."
"Oh YES!" a man cried out from the back.
". . . and you're letting things simmer and bubble and it's getting hot but love's still not done cooking and you're trying to keep from arousing love until it so desires . . . So what you gon do?"
"Teach em how to cook, Daddy!"
"Follow me now . . ."
"We right behind ya!
". . . Love knows the way!"
"Oh Lord, Love does!"
". . . Patience . . . my brothers and beloved sisters, patience . . . is Gawdly!" Daddy Love cried out. "So, watch Love now: linger," he said softly, "before you love." The women murmured their assent. "The good book tell us, `For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.' Now that's true, but love won't burn like blazing fire if you don't handle it properly. Linger before you love!" And then, his mammoth form shaking like a riot, Daddy thundered, "BE NOT MICROWAVERS, MY SONS, BE OPEN-FLAME GRILLERS! Linger before you love! My God wants His heaven filled with love barbequers who let the coals roast and the flames lick and wait until the sweetest and highest and most uncon trollable of feminine moans has been extracted and then say unto themselves, Ah, I have just . . . gotten . . . started!" Love shot his arms above his head as though he had scored a miraculous touchdown and the women broke into ecstatic screams and hysterical dances because they knew the coming week would be a good one and they began celebrating right away, halting the sermon for ten long, loud minutes.
"I can feel the dungeon shaking!" Daddy said with a broad smile as they finally quieted. A man in the third row smiled sweetly at his wife and relocked his fingers within hers. "I can feel them chains a-falling clean off!" Laughter sprinkled through. "But Love's got more. Stay with me!"
"WE AIN'T GOIN NO PLACE, DADDY!" a sister cried out, and even Love had to laugh.
"Love once knew a woman who'd died and gone to heaven! In her years on earth she'd been chained by the manacles of repression and the shackles of inhibition. She'd been something of a ram, banging her head against those who loved her, and something of a jellyfish, stinging those who got too close, and something of a praying mantis, loving a man and then devouring him."
The church moaned.
"When she got to heaven Saint Peter said, `You ain't ready.' So she went to Daddy Love and Daddy Love went to the Good Book.
"Good book say . . . `The spirit of God dwelleth within you,' and that is true. Oh yes, that spirit dwelleth within you," he said, and his eyes landed in the front row on a well-preserved woman under a faded scarlet hat, "and . . . you," gazing at a woman seated next to her with long braided hair flowing from a sun-yellow beret, "and mos definitely . . . you," freezing on a girl, her tight ponytail held in place by an unblemished white ribbon. It was Lily Backjack, a favored Angel, who had seemed as pure as a new day, who had then abruptly left the church and, soon after, high school . . . For a moment Daddy's eyes locked onto the slight bulge in her stomach and he let out the first part of a very deep breath and a single drop of sweat quivered at the edge of his eyebrow, then broke away and soared down toward his Bible.
"The spirit of God dwelleth within all! So if you want to feel the spirit of God, to experience the full grip of God's love, you must grip another of God's creatures firmly! You must lock onto another body in which God dwelleth and experience that love . . . wildly!"
"Lock onto me, LAWD!!!"
"So one day many years later this sister was called back to heaven. Things had not gone so well her first time there, but she was unafraid this time. On earth she been as free as an eagle and she knew she would get into heaven. When she got to Saint Peter he took her to see God because He Himself wanted to ask her about her time on earth. And when she got to the Father and found herself at the trial of the millennium, she was asked one question: `Did you, in your time on Earth, did ya love your fellow human beings . . . in a Gawdly way?' Oh Lord, my brothers and beloved sisters, when that question comes to you, you've got to be able to say to your Lord a resounding `Yes Lawd! Yes Lawd! A thousand times I did! Yes Lawd!' Can Love get an Ayy-men?"
"But this time she was ready for the Almighty's question and she told the King of Kings: `My Lord, I have let freedom ring! I have let freedom ring from the bedroom to the backseat, in the ocean and in dark caves and in midair, inches below your home, in first class--I have let freedom ring! And the Lord smiled on her then and gave her wings and I tell you now, her time in heaven was as long and fruitful as the very member of our Maker must be! HAAALL-LAY-LOOO-YAAAAAHHHH!!!"
And with that they unleashed a roar that tested the walls, and the organ and the drums and the guitar and the horns leapt into the thunder with righteous riffs and hardly a body was seated for everyone was dancing, wild and free, clogging the aisles and shaking the tables, rocking their asses and flapping their hands madly in the air. They had not a care in the world, certainly not that it was Sunday morning and it seemed no different from Saturday night.
Go To Page: 1 2 3