Gold death medallions, stuck on the floor with chewed gum, defied the dour walls of the old Baptist church. Judith, a lapsed Catholic, was pasting the death medallions during her lunch hour. It was her new hobby, much more fun than scrapbooking, which she’d enjoyed until Alison with the red hair and should-be-plucked moustache had overtaken the Wednesday craft group with her bulk and bluster.
Judith whistled Waiting for the End of the World as she defiled the scratched timber floor. She knew Baptists did not encourage the adoration of false idols, just as she knew they were cheapskates. The exorbitant prices for their baked goods at the Saturday morning markets were proof of that. But this was not a day to dwell on negatives, particularly not this Wednesday when death was something that sniffed at every corner, under every pew, in the ceiling cobwebs the cleaner had been too lazy to dust away and in the plain trimmed windows.
“Death and fire and brimstone,” muttered Judith. Baptists would have you believe if you put one foot wrong, it was straight down to hell with you. At least the Catholics gave second chances in purgatory.
She glared at the walls. They crackled with past sermons, whispering of the end of days, and places in heaven reserved only for those deemed fit by plump pastors with prayers on their lips and sin under their belts.
“Who the hell doesn’t fuck up sometime?” said Judith. She got up off her knees and sat on the front pew. She drummed her fingers on the unpolished wood beside her. Outside a kookaburra cackled. Probably over a magpie swooping some unsuspecting devotee looking for a few minutes respite inside the cool of the old church, Judith thought.
But there was no respite, not for Judith, not for anyone who passed through the plain Baptist doors. The church with its scrubbed walls and scratched floorboards and gold death medallions, each one representing a soul departed from Judith’s shrinking world, held no promises of salvation. The creek behind the church had dried, and with it baptisms, and with that, all hope.
Judith’s knees hurt almost as much as her heart. She was running out of gum and her jaws ached from chewing. The job was too much to finish in one lunch hour. She fondled the remaining death medallions with her paper-dry fingers and wished and wished that the sunlight would stream through a window, strike the gold medallions and fill the church with a glow that would spirit her straight to heaven buoyed on the wings of a score of angels.
She closed her eyes and prayed. Outside, the kookaburra stopped laughing. Judith’s ears filled with a hum and a gush. Heat prickled over her skin. Her heart pounded. Breath became short, sharp gasps.
She hoped for The Rapture. She suffered the hot flush.
published 16 November 2011