Together they rode down I-95. It felt like it was about to rain but there was a little bit of sun. Good sun. A sky that was gray all across but actually sorta pretty. Her car smelled like cigarettes and, speaking of hippies, incense sticks. She lit incense sticks in the car to hide the cigarette smoke smell from her parents who, truth be told, knew she smoked and didn’t really care a whole lot about it. At 5:02 PM her radio sparked with the sound of “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx. Linda felt just a slight tickle in her vagina as she listened to the song. That’s because she was listening to it in her walkman whilst walking over to the laundramat the sixth time. Was it coincidence that this song was now playing? I don’t know. One day we will know, thankfully. Regardless, the song had barely started so they both had plenty of it left to bob their heads to. Great head bobbers, Jon and Linda.
I already told you about Jon. Let me tell you a little about Linda.
Linda Lee was a short redhead with porcelain skin and always wearing some mascara that was a little bit messy. People who didn’t like Linda or her mascara use claimed she was simply trying to look like a badass to overcompensate for how short she was. They said the same thing about her favorite pair of ripped jeans, the black panties you could see a little bit of via the hole in the back pocket, the Black Flag, Clash, and other favorite punk band T-shirts she wore, the tattoo of the Mexican-Candle Virgin Mary, which was etched onto her porcelain skin by the tattoo artist her mother was having an affair with, the blue Chuck Taylor shoes that Henry Rollins had signed, the breasts seen only by various phys-ed classmates over the years (“I can’t believe she hides those things! If I had those I wouldn’t even wear shirts anymore,” said the popular but uncharacteristically kind cheerleader and 4 years in a row prom queen Laura Spinney).
Linda was similar to Jon in that everybody in her school knew her name, knew her face, found her attractive, made up facts about her that weren’t true, and almost everyone was afraid of her. Not in the “don’t beat me up” way but in the “that Linda Lee is sort of a badass.” She was never bullied. Instead people talked the ol’ S-H-I-T about her behind her back. Except for Laura Spinney. She was kind, remember. She died while water skiing, but not until she was, like, 62 or so.
As far as the rest goes, if I were you I’d just sorta get to know her. Listen to how she converses with Jon, how she reacts to him, maybe even try to see this story through her eyes until you have a good idea of what Linda Lee is like. Sure, it would be good to look at it through Jon’s eyes, or the eyes of his father (this will come later), or the eyes of the occult book shop owner and real estate agent (this too will come later). The vampire with a facial tick who runs a hot dog stand. The Witch in the Poughkeepsie woods who can float about 10 feet off the ground. There are a lot of options. You’ll meet them all in due time. But go ahead and start with Linda’s POV.
We are back in the car now. The Dodge Dart. It has started to rain in that smell good way. Linda rolls down her window to smell it and feels the wetness on her arm, on her hands, on her fingers. She sticks her body from the belly-button and up out the car and yells. She cannot hear her yell Instead, she feels a vibration through her body. The radio is playing “Who Can it Be Now.” She doesn’t realize this until she is full-body back in the car. The outdoors is sometimes quiet, and sometimes loud. If you are riding in a car down Interstate 95 at about 80 MPH then the out of doors is always loud, even if it is technically quiet.
Linda is back in the car now.. She looks at Jon, who know she is looking at him, but he doesn’t want her to know this. He read in a dating column of a Cosmopolitan that he would often masterbate to that if a woman is looking at you then pretend you don’t see her. If you do, then you will ruin the moment. Instead, use this as proof that she is indeed interested in you. And then when the right moment does come you will be able to woo her with confidence. After all, SHE was looking at YOU.
She was looking at Jon when she asked, “Why do you come to camp. This is your, what, 10th year there?”
“Well, 5 years working and 5 years as a camper.”
Linda understood then nodded. “That’s a decade. That’s a long time. That’s older than you are. And I don’t take you to be a terribly, well, Christian or even religious person, you know?”
Jon understood then nodded. “No, not too much. I mean, are you?”
She looked out the window and thought about it for a sec. “No, not really. I make no claims to be a Christian and, I mean, I guess I believe in something sort of but it’s incredibly vague at this point.”
“Then why do you come to camp?” He asked with a grin that was formed by 3/4ths curiosity and ¼ smartassery.”
“Because the guy counselors at the Baptist camps are way easier than those at the Unitarian Camp.”
Linda Lee smiled.
So did Jon.
“Honestly,” asked Jon, “Why?”
She shook her head. “I asked first, so you answer first.”
Jon adjusted the rearview mirror to get the sun glare out of his eyes.
“Ok. Yeah, why not let’s do this. So, yeah, I mean, I already said that I’m not religious. But I grew up incredibly religious. My mom still is incredibly religious. My dad…well…he was a Pastor. For years. He was even on the board for Camp Morgan Lake. He’d guest preach there a lot, too, throughout the 70s. Each summer I would be a camper during the week each he did the preaching. You know how each week they rotate in the pastors that speak to the kids during chapel, right?”
“Yeah,” Linda Lee said, while applying some sticky stuff to the one black Lee press on thumb nail she wore on her right hand. “I mean, we are required to go twice a day.”
“It used to be three times a day. You assholes have it lucky,” Jon said with a chuckle. “Anyways, come on, stay focused. As I said, my dad was a preacher. He loved Camp Morgan. And, I don’t know, he and Roger were real close and such. But yeah, dad preached for years. It was at a little church in Millinocket. ‘Millinocket Open Bible Church’ it was called. It’s still there. He was something of a town celebrity, which isn’t terribly impressive but he did cram a shit-ton of people into that little church. So his name was pretty well known in Baptist circles here in Maine.”
“Lemme guess,” interrupted Linda, as she successfully affixed the nail onto her thumb. “He hired a drummer to play in the worship band, allowed the women to wear pants instead of skirts that cover the knee, went to a Stryper concert, then was burnt at the stake shortly after?”
“Close,” Jon answered. “He gave a sermon about how he had concluded that there’s no God, had an affair with his secretary, was chased out of the church, lived in exile some where that nobody knows about, and then threw himself off the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge right here in Bangor.”
Linda Lee accidentally squeezed and broke her Lee Press On right in half and her disgustingly bland gum fell out of her mouth, tumbling onto the floor, landing on a cigarette butt.
“You’re kidding me…”
“I’m not. Actually, look.”
Jon pulled out a almost-orange colored newspaper clipping out of his wallet, followed by a few others much like it, and handed them to Linda.
Area Pastor Removed Suddenly From His Church Position. Congregation and Community Stunned.
Bangor – To the surprise of congregants from Millinocket Open Bible Church and the surrounding area in general, respected town pastor Cleo Davenport was forcefully removed from his parsonage yesterday afternoon. No information has been released. Assistant Pastor Thomas Brandt was reached for comment but has of yet refused to give any information regarding this unexpected termination.
As he stated to this reporter, “I can confirm that Pastor Cleo Davenport is no longer pastor of or connected to our church, effective immediately. Neither myself, nor the deacons, nor the trustees involved in this matter are, however, able to disclose any of the details regarding his termination and swift removal. We ask that people respect our privacy on the matter as me and other church leaders sort through the details of this unfortunate but necessary event. Cleo’s family is in our prayers.”
When asked if the church congregants were made aware of the reasons behind the removal, Pastor Brandt stated, “We at Millinocket Open Bible Church promise to fully disclose all information regarding this when we deem fit. Due to the complicated nature of the decision, we have not yet informed our church body of the respective reasons. We appreciate that, concerned as they are, our church members have respected our current need to keep information private until further notice. We in turn would appreciate if those outside of the church in our community do the same.”
Contrary to Pastor Brandt’s diplomatic tone, several church members have in fact spoken to the press about the situation and are demanding answers. Melinda Fullteron, who has sung in the choir since 1947, says that she is unimpressed with how the church leadership has handled the situation thus far. “I cannot conceive of how Pastor Cleo could possibly have done something bad enough to warrant his removal. I’ve known him since he started leading our flock five years ago. He is a dynamic, compassionate man with a heart to serve the Lord. Not once have I witnessed him doing anything inappropriate, or saying anything inappropriate. He is a fine man. And how ridiculous that we, who place our money in the offering plates every Sunday, haven’t been given a lick of information yet.” When asked if she has spoken to Pastor Brandt or others, she simply responded, “Nope. Won’t return my phone calls, won’t answer the doorbell, and if he did I have a sneakin’ suspicion that he’d say nothin’.”
Choir conductor Dr. Stanley Wright shares Melinda’s disappointment. “I’m with him most of the day every day,” he said over a phone interview. “He’s a good man. We were lucky to have him. Truth be told, if I’m not given more information then, well, I’ll simply find a different church choir to direct.” When asked if he had spoken to Pastor Brandt recently, Dr. Wright responded, “Nope. I’ve seen him, I’ve asked him, and each time he has either brushed me off or said something vague. You know, ‘Unfortunately that information cannot be disclosed at this time.’ Well at what time can this information be disclosed. I’m not happy. I’m really not happy about this.”
Millinocket Daily will continue to cover this odd occurrence in hopes of learning more about this undisclosed information.
Neighbors of Millinocket Open Bible Church Witness to Removal of Area Pastor
Bangor – Amidst much secrecy and confusion, several neighbors of Bangor Community Baptist Church have come forward with some information regarding the recent removal of Pastor Cleo Davenport.
“I ain’t been to church since I was a little fellow,” says neighbor Bruce Broderick. “The folks at Millinocket OBC, I don’t know a ton of them either. But I liked Cleo. Good man. Ain’t no religious freak at all. No, something ain’t right about this situation.” Asked what he saw on the day of the removal, Bruce said it was obvious something serious was going on at the church.
“I tell ya, there were two big U-Hauls in the parking lot, and lots of Baptist men in the parking lot just a-heaving what I’m gonna assume are the Davenport family’s belongings.” Asked if Assistant Pastor Thomas Brandt was one of them, Bruce quickly nodded. “Yup, Tom was out there. [chuckles] I saw him throw a fairly heavy, big recliner into one of them there U-Hauls as if it only weighed a pound. Face was just as red as a tomato. Don Steely, who I know from the bowling leagues, he was helping move the stuff to the U Haul as well. He wasn’t as confident in his strength as Tom but he was moving things into those vans pretty quickly himself. Deacon, I think. A few other men who, truth be told, I don’t know their names but do know they work at the church in some capacity.. Honestly, I didn’t seen a whole lot but, from what I did see those Baptists wanted Cleo, his family , and their recliner the hell out of that church!”
Neighbor Molly Gilley, who lives directly next to the church, confirms that there were U-Hauls in the parking lot and people packing them with the family’ belongings. She also happens to be close friends with Madeleine Davenport, wife to Pastor Cleo. “I tell you what…I got to that church twice a year. Christmas morning and Easter morning,” Molly said while working in her garden which, she jokes, is technically on the church’s property. “You heard me, Christmas and Easter. Those are the only days I see Jesus. But Madeleine, I see her every day. We have coffee, take walks, we’re good friends. She used to be a little pushy about inviting me to church but I think she gave up [laughter]. Weirdly enough, Pastor Cleo is a lot less preachy then his wife! But they are dear people. Just salt of the earth, good folks. I was heading over there for coffee on Monday and that Pastor Brandt fellow and his cronies were there, just heaving all kinds of crap in those U Hauls. I went right up to him and asked, “What is going on?” He looked at me, all red in the face, and he said, “M’am, this doesn’t concern you at the moment.” I looked at him with daggers in my eyes and I said, ‘It’s my [expletive deleted] friend and my [expletive deleted] neighborhood. This is my business.’ Then, you know what he did? Threatened to call the cops! I never liked him. Not one bit.”
Linda Lee folded the clippings up much more neatly than their prior condition and handed them back to Jon.
She was silent.
So was Jon.
This carried on for about three or four minutes.
“Was there an article about his…about the bridge?” Linda asked.
“There was. Oddly enough, I never cared to carry that one around in my pocket.”
Linda nodded. “Right, I can’t imagine you would. But…you mentioned the affair. Was that…I mean, I know how small town newspapers are, anything’s up for grabs…”
Jon shook his head, “Neh, there was never an article about that but that’s become the agreed upon reason. People I’ve talked to do remember his “I’m an atheist” speech. Roger does also, though he says it wasn’t nearly as crazy as that. He said dad said a few things that weren’t terribly welcomed by Baptists. But he said there was no mention whatsoever of being an atheist or anything. And, hell, you read those newspaper articles. The choir director and a long-time choir member spoke in dad’s defense so I’m assuming they must have heard that sermon but weren’t terribly offended by it.”
Linda saw Jon’s point. “Yeah, I see what you mean. So did your mom leave him?”
Jon paused for a bit to look out the window and turn the radio down. “She probably would have. Mom’s like me. She doesn’t like attention but she got plenty of it after this. And, you know, it’s entirely possible dad had an affair with the secretary or someone, though I honestly don’t know. But, sure, maybe. I remember fights they had where dad swore he didn’t, mom didn’t believe him, and the fights just got worse. But…”
“Did your dad leave her?”
Jon looked out the window again, then back to the road. “Yes. About one month after that U Haul story, he was just completely gone. No note. No nothing. Just gone. And I never saw him again. I don’t remember all of the details. I was seven when he left and, shit, I can barely remember yesterday. But yeah, my dad, who had never been anything but great to me, was just gone one day. We woke up for breakfast and to get ready for school, and i heard mom yell, then cry, then call the cops, and then that cycle basically continued just like that for I don’t know how long. There had been some possible sightings of him around Bangor but nothing that ever led to anything. This all went on for about half a year, then another half year. Then his body was found in the Penobscot River. And that’s that.”
Linda wasn’t much of a cryer but she couldn’t help but shed a soppy, melodramatic-in-film-but-sincere-in-real-life single tear, which she wipe away, thus continuing her maligned but oddly coveted slightly messy mascara look.
“Seriously, Jon,” she said, “If this happened to me I don’t think I’d ever go to a religious place again. Not a camp, and certainly not a chuch.”
Jon nodded slightly in agreement. “Yeah, I hear ya. But I really like Roger. He’s been good to me. And it’s fun, it’s an easy gig, working at camp. I get to be outdoors and I like the kids alright. Roger never brings dad up hardly ever, which I prefer. But when he does, he always just says, ‘I swear there’s a lot more to the the story” and that’s about it. Plus…boy, you’re gonna hate me.”
Linda, still almost crying, smiled a bit. “I’m not gonna hate you…”
“Well…let’s just say…alright, I’ll just say it. I know you get paid very little. And you probably assumed I did too. And on paper, yeah, I get paid not a whole lot. But Roger puts two grand in my savings account at the end of every summer. Has since I worked there. He says I can’t use it until college. I don’t, either.”
Linda punched Jon on the arm. “You rich son of a bitch. Are you blowing Roger, too? Or just taking all that poor youth pastor’s money?”
Jon punch Linda back right on the arm. “No I’m not blowing Roger. And no I’m not taking all his money. Also, that poor youth pastor’s fuckin’ loaded from some inheritence or lucky stock or something. I don’t know,. But he’s got plenty. It’s very kind of him to give me some, but it’s not sending him to the poor house.”
Linda Lee was about to ask more questions. Where is that secretary now? What does Jon’s mother think of all this now? Do they talk about it? Do you want to try to find out what happened to his dad, really? But Jon suddenly stopped giving that “I want to talk about this” vibe. So she didn’t press it. She just grabbed his hand, they both stared at the road in front of them, and that, once again, was that.
So they rode on. The conversation stopped but they felt ok about this. Jon stared at the world through the windshield and Linda through the window. They kept holding hands. Sometimes the grip was tighter, other times it was not so tight, other times Linda thought it was tight but Jon thought it was loose and vice versa and there you have it.