It was Sunday morning and 44 Cherry Street was quiet. Ellie seemed to be out of town, and Elrod must have spent the night with one of his five girlfriends. Lorraine and Frederick had gone, as usual, to St. James Episcopal Church for services. Both were loyal church-goers and volunteered in several capacities at the church. Lorraine liked to say that they were Christians with a lower case C. They followed the teachings of Jesus and tried to answer the old question, “WWJD?” with their behavior as well as their religious beliefs.
Both were in the living room with the Asheville Citizen Times spread across the coffee table sipping Dynamite coffee and nibbling on pastries from Four Sisters Bakery. Suddenly, Lorraine sat straight up, almost tipping over her coffee cup, and snorted. “What the???” she spurted, tossing the paper onto the floor.
It seemed that Franklin Graham was doing some sort of performance at the Civic Center that afternoon. She didn’t want to call it a religious event, such as the ones his father, Billy Graham, had held. Franklin was the bad boy of Evangelical Christianity in Lorraine’s opinion. He called himself a Christian, but came out on the wrong side of every issue. He stated his disapproval of the LBTQ community, and his approval of the hate mongering of certain political figures set him in opposition to the kind of loving behavior advocated by Jesus.
“It says right here in the paper that they are preparing for five thousand or more people to show up at the Civic Center this afternoon! Is that even possible, Frederick?” Lorraine asked. “He’s calling it ‘The Decision America Tour.’ What ever happened to the separation of religion and politics? And guess which candidate he is supporting?”
“Calm down, Lorraine,” begged Frederick as Lorraine spiraled out of control. She was balling up the first section of the paper and throwing it to the floor, hopping around the living room like Rumpelstilskin.
Lorraine disappeared into the bedroom closet and came out with a big piece of stiff paper and thick markers. She set it down on the dining room table and began scrawling angrily on the paper.
“What are you doing?” Frederick asked placatingly.
“I’m going downtown. I just have to protest!”
Frederick thought this a bad idea. He agreed with Lorraine, but he was not one to express a divergent viewpoint. Not only that, but downtown Asheville was going to be even more congested if 5000 people showed up for this trumped up political rally disguised as a religious event. “Please Lorraine! You are never going to find a parking spot!”
“Oh yes I will!” Lorraine declared confidently. She marched into the bedroom, changed out of her church clothes, and dressed with extra care in a crisp white shirt and her best Eileen Fisher black slacks and black shoes. She freshened her make-up, poured up her black hair, and grabbed her sign.
As she headed out the door she called over her shoulder, “I’ll call you if I get locked up!”
Once she was downtown she discovered that Frederick had been right about parking. All the lots were full and naturally there was no more on street parking. She pulled up right in front of the Civic Center and parked her 1996 Mercedes in a No Parking area. As she stepped out of the car holding her sign, she was approached by three tall, attractive squeaky clean young men with ear pieces in their ears, dressed in identical white shirts and blue blazers. “Can we help you, ma’am?” one of them asked.
“Thanks, but I don’t need any help,” she declared. “I’m just going to park right here and hold up my sign. As they stood there, the young men quietly conferring, crowds of poorly dressed families poured into the Civic Center.
Lorraine planted her feet on the sidewalk, and something about her determination convinced them that she would not be moved. The tallest man said, “Have a good day, ma’am.” And they walked back towards the entrance of the building. Lorraine held up her sign which read, “Christians Don’t Hate!”
At first the crowds ignored her. Then an overweight couple approached her. The woman held her plastic pocketbook against her prodigious chest, glaring at Lorraine. “I’m a Christian, and I don’t hate anybody. Not even you!!” she spat angrily.
Nonplussed, Lorraine smiled and demanded that they “Have a blessed day.”
After some time and no further interactions with people, she spotted someone familiar working her way towards the doors of the Civic Center. It was her neighbor, Ellie. Lorraine guessed she wasn’t out of town after all. “Hi, Lorraine!” Ellie called. “I didn’t expect you to be here. You’re a vegan aren’t you? Are vegans even Christians?”
Lorraine said nothing, but then she noticed the pink sweatshirt Ellie wore. It had previously said “I Love Jesus” on it, but Ellie had covered most of the name Jesus with electrical tape. Taped over Jesus’s name was printed, “The Wall.”
That did it for Lorraine. Without a word, Lorraine walked over to her car, tossed in her sign, and drove back to Black Mountain.