The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 36 - Holy Trial
Jasmine hated church. In the past, before he had to be his sister every weekend, he hadn’t really minded it that much. They rarely went so it was something that was somewhat tolerable. But now, now that he had to be his sister all the time, he hated it. It was as if the full weight of Reverend Cosinger’s wrath was aimed right at him – every single week – through each entire service. And worse, now that he had to be his sister most of the time, they were going to church every single week – when by his estimation, church should be a place to avoid. But no. According to the powers that ruled his life, which was just about everyone, the whole family was stuck going week after week. Well, most of the family. More often than not, his lucky sister got out of it because she was out hunting on a lot of Sundays like she was today. Was it worth going against everything he hated and didn’t want to do, go out hunting and kill a bunch of helpless animals for no reason at all, just so he could get out of going to church? He was starting to feel like it. But in the end, him going hunting wasn’t going to do him the least bit of good. His dumb sister had to finally agree to stop hunting – and he knew perfectly well now that that was never going to happen. So he had no choice but to sit through church, week after week, and let Reverend Cosinger yell at him. Sometimes, he still felt like standing up and giving the Reverend a piece of his mind. It would serve him right!
Depressed, he sat down at his sister’s desk to wait until it was time to leave. He was all dressed for church, once again a bit too colorfully for his taste, but then all the outfits his sister put together for him were too colorful for what he liked – which would be invisible if he could somehow manage it. With an elbow propped on the desk, he rested his head dejectedly in his hand. His eyes glanced from the desk contents to the large mirror mounted behind the desk. He looked like a girl. He hated looking at himself. Even in the past, before all the problems he was facing now were dropped on him, he had never bothered to look at himself much in a mirror. What would be the point? Who cared how he looked? He certainly never did. Not really anyway. But life was different for him now. A lot different. Now he was forced to look at his reflection day in and day out. Often many times a day.
His eyes stayed locked on his reflected image for a few moments before he forced himself to look away. His eyes fell down to the desk again. His sister’s laptop was closed. He could surf the internet for a few minutes, but he didn’t really feel like it. His eyes wandered over all the makeup and lingered on the many small bottles of colorful nail polish. His nails were glittery purple again. Most of them. His sister’s instructions had been for him to paint the ring finger of each hand in yellow instead. He wondered why. He seriously considered not doing it, but somehow the yellow nail polish had wound up on those fingers anyway. It was done now, even though he didn’t really care for the look.
From the nail polish, his eyes wandered over to his sister’s jewelry box. He was wearing a large ring with a purple crystal on his right hand and a tiny ring with a small yellow crystal on his left. Two different gold bracelets dangled from his left wrist and he was wearing a gold pendant necklace around his neck. His ears held the blue studs he wore fairly often. Not thinking about what he was doing, his hand reached out and lifted the lid on the jewelry box. Inside, it looked like a pile of junk. Nothing was organized. Everything was just all thrown in together. A bunch of shiny bright objects all rolled up into one big lump. That’s what it looked like to him.
Strangely, there were a number of things in that pile of junk that caught his eye. Shiny things with colors, patterns, and shapes that were…oddly interesting…oddly pleasing. His hand reached into the pile and plucked out a long shiny shape that seemed more interesting than some of the others. Once free of the rest of the things, he quickly saw that it was an earring. He removed his head from his hand and searched through the junk until he found the matching one. He held them up to look at them. They were…interesting. Something about the way they looked pleased him. He didn’t know why he liked the way they looked, but…they interested him.
He set one of them down on the desk and took the other one and held it up against his ear as he looked at his face in the mirror again. He had never worn a pair of earrings yet that dangled. All the earrings he ever seemed to wear were studs. He knew though that with newly pierced ears the stud style was better for him for the first few months. In truth though, he wasn’t interested in wearing any other styles. In real truth, he wasn’t interested in wearing earrings period. How long would it take for the holes in his ears to close up after his sister quit hunting? The answer was obvious. Never – because she wasn’t ever going to quit hunting.
With his hand holding the earring up to his hear, it was hard to see what the earring would look like there. His hand was in the way. Curious though, he took the wire from the earring and hooked it over the top of the blue crystal in his ear, trying to get it to balance and stay there so he could see better.
He turned abruptly and saw his mother walking in. The earring that had been precariously hooked over top of his blue stud went flying to the floor. “Um…nothing,” he replied, embarrassed that she had probably seen him.
Susan walked in, reached down, and picked up the earring. “That’s a nice one,” she commented. “Very pretty.”
Before Jasmine could get out of his chair, she came over to him and started removing the earring from his left ear. A moment later, she hooked the dangly gold earring through the hole in that ear. Then she went around to his other ear and repeated the process with the matching earring. “Very nice,” she declared. “Ready for church?”
“You mean, I should leave them on?” he asked, immediately noticing that he could feel the earrings move with each tiny movement of his head.
“Of course. Why not? They’re really a lot prettier than the ones you were wearing. Now get your coat and let’s go,” she said as she started to walk out. “And later, after we get home, you can plan on spending the day with your knees tied together again.”
Jasmine nearly died as he heard that…and watched his mother walk out of the room. It was only then that he realized he hadn’t bothered worrying about the way he was sitting. But damn it. He had just sat that way because he had been alone – and bored!
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Week in and week out, Reverend Cosinger stood watching the people come into his church. He was always interested to see who came in, always interested to get a friendly comment or two from the ones who bothered to come talk to him before the service started. But lately, week in and week out, he was there instead watching and waiting for the McCombers to arrive. Two McCombers in particular. The first of course was Jacob. The other was Jacob’s grandson Jimmy, who now came to church every single week dressed as his sister – and looking all too much lately like a real girl. Such Blasphemy! Right here in God’s church. Week in and week out!
It angered the Reverend to no end. There was no doubt in his mind at all that Jacob was making the boy do it, just for the purpose of making him angry…just for the purpose of inventing a way to get rid of him. The manipulation only fueled his anger, but he wasn’t going to give in over it. Never! God would back him up if he just stayed true to his calling. God would back him up and God himself would eventually deal with Jacob McComber – and all the rest of the McComber clan. God had sent the McCombers to be his one big trial in life…his one big test to show his true faith. God had sent them…or the devil had.
And there he was, the devil himself. Jacob McComber. Walking into the church with his wife like he owned it. Well Jacob McComber didn’t own the church. God did! Jacob just acted like he owned the church…and everything else. Damn the man – soon!
The familiar white furry coat coming through the door was the usual herald to the other part of the problem. The abomination itself had arrived. If the Reverend didn’t already know better, he would have simply thought it was another young girl coming in. But he did know better! He noted that once again, the other twin was missing. What were they doing with the girl, denying her the right to hear God’s word spoke truthfully? What kind of trash was the family filling her head with at home?
And then his eyes locked with the eyes of the abomination. Determined eyes. Eyes determined to punish him and get rid of him. The Reverend stared back with equal determination and saw those eyes become angrier. But the Reverend refused to back down, refused to give in. The McCombers were his holy trial. A trial he would face determinedly and never give into. He continued to stare back at the blasphemous boy while the rest of his family talked with some of the others in the church.
And then, suddenly, the boy started removing his coat, as if he was determined to make him see how girlishly his family had dressed him. And it was quickly obvious that the family had gone out of their way to do just that. Overly bright clothing in a place where tasteful modesty should reign supreme! And…was the skirt the boy was wearing a bit too short? He wasn’t sure if he could truthfully say that since many of the girls often wore fairly short skirts, but he had no doubt that the family was probably pushing that issue too.
He saw the mother, Susan, turn to the boy and speak to him. The boy seemed to back down some, but their eyes remained locked on each other. He saw the mother speak to him again, and finally the blasphemous boy turned away, but as he continued to watch, he saw the boy’s head swing again and again in his direction. Those eyes still holding all too much hatred.
And then everything changed with the arrival of another girl. Olivia. Another of the McCombers. Her last name might not be McComber but she was a McComber through and through. At least with her arrival, the staring match seemed to have ended. He watched as the two of them talked…much like any other two girls. He even saw Olivia reach up and touch one of the abomination’s earrings. What were these people up to? What were they playing at?
In disgust, he turned away to start getting ready for the service, but his mind was filled with thoughts of the evil that was already all too prominent inside his church.
The service started like all the others. But it was only at the start, as he stood in front of everyone there, that the Reverend noticed that there were more people in his church than usual. He had been so intent on the blasphemy that now “decorated” the middle of his church that he hadn’t noticed how many others had come in. The increase in people pleased him…unlike the blight in his church that he couldn’t seem to get rid of. The blight that was usually a bright white furry spot, but was instead today a multicolored blaring of femininity, placed there just to make the abomination in his church even worse than usual.
As he made the morning announcements and welcomed the newcomers, his eyes fell to Jacob McComber – right there in the first pew as usual. And the blasted man was simply staring up at him with a smile on his face. A smile that the Reverend was sure was there only to mock him. Over and over again, as he went through the various parts of the service, he looked to Jacob McComber first, and then automatically back to the blight of the boy that was dressed as a girl. It was only by a force of will that he ever looked anywhere else at the congregation that was obviously larger than usual. And not larger because of an increase in McCombers. But even the new people couldn’t keep his eyes pulled away from the blasphemous boy for very long.
When the time for his sermon came, he again stood there and surveyed the people. But as usual, his gaze was magnetically pulled briefly to Jacob then far more forcefully back to the blight. A blight he simply couldn’t overlook. As it did each week, the blight fueled his anger. The more he had to look at it, the angrier he got. His eyes often scanned down to his notes to remind him of what point he wanted to talk about next, but when he brought his head up again, his head automatically went to the blight in the midst of all those people. And he didn’t care if he was preaching harder to that boy than to the others. Maybe some of it would sink in that way. Unfortunately, so far, it didn’t seem to be working.
But the McCombers were his holy trial, and he wasn’t about to give in, or give up. Instead, he determinedly gave them his all!
After the service, he was pleased to stand at the door and welcome all the new people…as well as some of his old congregation that hadn’t been out since Christmas. And he was also pleased to receive so many nice comments on his sermon. A sermon he barely remembered giving…other than having to stare at that colorful bit of total sin throughout it.
As he shook yet another friendly hand, his eyes noticed the abomination and his family moving quickly out of the church. This time, not bothering to even try shaking his hand. He was glad. He wouldn’t have shook Clint McComber’s hand for anything in the world.
A few minutes later, the man himself was there. Last as usual. The man and his wife. He had no problem with Rose McComber – other than that she was simply another McComber and damned for eternity. It was Jacob that he hated with such a passion. There was no getting out of shaking his hand, so he didn’t even try.
“Reverend,” Jacob said. “You are simply getting better and better every single week! I can’t wait to hear you speak next week.” With a nod of his head and a smile, Jacob concluded with, “We’ll see you then.”
Reverend Cosinger watched Jacob and his wife walk off as his parting words rang in his ears. ‘We’ll see you then.’ Indeed! He turned and nearly ran into his wife.
“Jordan, did you see all the new people today?” she mentioned delightedly.
Reverend Cosinger did his best to smile at his wife. “Of course I did.”
“And some others that don’t usually come were here too.”
“I noticed,” he replied as he turned to walk her back into the church.
“Your sermon was extra good today,” she told him. “In fact, they’ve been getting better and better. I have no doubt that it’s the reason more people are starting to come.”
He shook his head. “Maybe,” he conceded. In truth, he didn’t know if it was that…or if more people were coming just to see a church…God’s holy place…with a huge black spot of abomination right in the middle of it. That was the more likely reason more people were there. They were waiting for more fireworks between him and Jacob McComber – the devil himself! But this was his holy trial. His test of faith from God…or Satan. And he wasn’t about to waver one bit from his holy path.
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“I…don’t…want...to go to church…anymore!” Jasmine stated angrily as they got into the car.
Clint looked to his wife at the comment. “I don’t blame you,” he replied as he started the car. He was more than a bit perturbed too.
“I have to agree with you too,” Susan said. “The Reverend was getting a bit disturbing at times.”
“I don’t know,” Tommy spoke up. “I thought he was kind of funny.”
“Funny?” Susan asked incredulously.
“Oh yeah. I mean, he gets all worked up when he talks, and his face turns all red, and he pounds his hand on stuff all the time, and he yells a lot.”
“But he’s yelling at me!” Jasmine replied.
“So what? I still think he’s funny.”
Clint shook his head as he drove out of the parking lot. “I don’t know why Dad is still insisting we go every week.”
“I noticed he doesn’t care as much about the rest of the family going,” Susan mentioned. “It’s just us.”
“Yeah, I noticed. The rest of the family members who were there today, were most of the ones who do go every week.”
“If the Reverend is going to continue to act like that towards us, then I’d rather not go at all.”
“Me either,” Clint replied. “I’ll talk to Dad about it. We don’t need this kind of aggravation every week.”
Jasmine was certainly glad to hear that. He didn’t ever want to go to church again! But now that that had been settled, it was time to try for something else. “Mom, can I go out to the hill with my friends when we get home?”
“No dear,” Susan replied. “Uncle Brian wants to see you before lunch to get another blood sample from you. He’ll do your…um…brother… when she gets home later. Then after that, you’ll be spending the rest of the day with your knees tied together again.”
“Jas, I’ve told you a thousand times, I’m at my wit’s end with you over this. You’re going to learn to behave properly if it kills you!”
“I’d rather sit through another of Reverend Cosinger’s sermons,” he muttered.
“That can be arranged too,” Susan replied.
Jasmine sat silently in the back seat, fuming over his lot in life. It wasn’t fair. None of it was fair! It seemed like God had come down on him and decided to make his life a total miserable mess…all because he didn’t want to kill some animals. Didn’t the bible say, “Thou shalt not kill?” So why was God punishing him so badly for it? It wasn’t fair. And then God sent Reverend Cosinger to yell at him for it…week in and week out! What had he done that was so bad to deserve this? Nothing that he could see. All because he didn’t want to kill any more animals. All because he…was too afraid.