During moments such as this, copper moon rays usually disappeared before anything happened, except tonight. Indecision had finally lost patience. Just before dawn, welling hot wax drowned a sallow flame. In sympathy, shadows folded their arms and bore witness.
Minutes till daybreak, the air had become dank. Propped up by pillows against a mahogany headboard, Kory lay naked in bed. He had just vomited on his withered legs after tasting gun cleaning oil on the barrel of his nine-millimeter Glock. This was not the first time he had sat alone with a pistol in one hand and the picture of his only child in the other. Up to now, the breached hollow point bullet had been ejected from a gun usually kept under his pillow for the past thirty years.
But early Sunday morning, tolerance waned. Agony ignored repeated handfuls of variegated pills he had taken to numb nerve pain from multiple sclerosis. Now the simplest movement was too painful—like brushing what was left of his hair.
Following a cricket's last chirp, Kory's bloodshot eyes closed for dreamless sleep. Peace had supplanted his pretense for being alive.
Kory Vanon was only four years old the year he lost his faith. It became obvious one Epiphany Sunday morning, when the sun failed to reach the capstone above the stained glass window, which read “I am the light of the world.”
Above the nave, whirling fans made hive-like murmurs of parishioners' unfinished breakfast conversations. Overly Sunday-dressed families, shrouded in various shades of mourning, waited for the first ecclesiastical chord from a recently purchased organ.
To the right of the invocational lectern, Mr. Wingfoot, their rumored effete organist, donning a crisp white surplice with matching white-rimmed glasses, tiptoed to the bench and softly sat down. After a twist of his wrist and an exaggerated nod to God, his hands shuffled between two suspended keyboards, while his right leg danced over a pedal board—punctuating rhythms that rose from a reedy forest of pipes inside a hidden room to the left of the apse.
Long, slippery pews, still smelling of linseed oil that had been lovingly rubbed on during the week by hair-netted-raspy-voiced women, filled with the elite. John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, two blocks from Logan Circle and in the heart of an island within Washington, D.C., was a house of worship for people who had been out of slavery four generations—although not long enough to have forgotten the rattle of chains.