“Divine Beings” by Michelle Lawrence, page 5

        “Do they care that you’re not Christian?”
        But he’d gone back out to the yard to tend his plants, whistling some twangy tune that sounded suspiciously like Amazing Grace. Somebody knocked on the door, and when I opened it, I found one man and three women in dress clothes waiting.
         “Is this the home of Max Bennett?” the man asked, his hat in his hands.
        “Yes,” I answered. “And who are you?”
        “Missus Bennett,“ he said, blue eyes overtly kind, “We’re from the Church of Good Grace. We’ve been told of a miraculous achievement by your husband. Can we speak with him, please?” One of the women held out a Styrofoam plate wrapped in clear Saran Wrap.
        “These are for you,” she said to me. Squares of white fudge, homemade.
        “Um, thanks,” I said. “He’s in the back. You can go through the gate just there,” I nodded in the direction.
        “Thank you kindly, Ma’am,” he responded, placing his hat back on his head.
        I shut the door and peeled back the wrapping on the plate, sniffed at the treats. They smelled like sugar and were dotted with walnuts. I slid the plate onto the counter and watched through the window as the quartet found my husband on his knees in the garden. One of the women was pushing buttons on her phone as the man talked to Max, and within a minute, more people had joined them in our yard. They were all bent over at the waist to look at the plants, floral-print Sunday dresses and grey slacks covering the expansive behinds, the women’s low-heeled white dress shoes sinking into the grass. They made phone calls, and as the sun dipped low in the sky, my yard was filled with parishioners. They held hands and sang hymns. A man with a walker pushed through the small crowd, then left the tennis-balled contraption aside to shuffle toward the plants, emotion or age or maybe just zealotry shaking his arms and hands as he grasped Max by the shoulders and hugged him. I could see, even from the window, that Max had tears in his eyes as the man embraced him. Zucchini. The Jesus Zucchini. We weren’t even Christian.
        “We’re atheists!” I called to them as I slid open the back door and trotted outside. My voice sounded pitifully small against the women in twangy song, something about graves and Jeezuz. “My husband just wanted to earn some money so he’d feel important again,” I added, and they all turned to look at him, two stepping forward to lay hands on his head, to add a new prayer for his financial well-being to their lists.
         “All success comes from Christ,” an old woman said, sucking at her teeth and looking at me like I was dirty, sinful. “And salvation can only come through a mediator.”
         “You think my husband’s zucchini Jesus booth is successful because of God’s intervention? Are you people crazy?”
        “Not just his zucchini,” she stated, “but his soul. Yours would be too, if you’d let Him into your heart.”
         I stared at her, and then at Max, who had two middle-aged women with big, curly hair on either side of him, their heads bowed, their hands clasped around his. They were muttering low, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
         “Max, since when do you wear sandals?”
         He didn’t answer me. He’d bowed his head, too, toes peeking out from the leather footwear, his beard wiggling as he mouthed the prayers with them.
         “Max!”
Nothing. A young girl wearing a long denim skirt, her hair grown past her waist, tugged at my sleeve.
        “What?” I asked, pulling my arm away from her.
        “It’s August eighth! We’re having a singing tonight and a bonfire. You should come.”
         “A singing?”
        “The Gospel Brothers are coming. They’ll even sign their CD’s for you and everything.”
        I looked at her. I looked at my husband, and at the yard full of praying strangers. I looked at the zucchini in their molds, destined to become small, green divine beings. Someone had dragged the snake of garden hose over, and I heard someone else turn the squeaky knob of the faucet. Grown men and women held the hose to their lips to drink the cold water that was flowing out and falling to the ground, causing a divot of mud to form in the grass. The evening heat had caused sweat to bead on foreheads and along the backs of cotton dress shirts.


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