Book Excerpt – Sister Betty Says I Do
Sister Betty Says I Do
by Pat G’Orge Walker
Publication Date: Aug 27, 2013
List Price: $18.00
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Parent Company: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Copyright © 2013 Kensington Publishing Corp./Pat G’Orge Walker No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
One year later…
Moments earlier the sun had slowly rose on this sure-to-be blazing hot Saturday morning. For much of her adult life, Sister Betty had been up by eight o’clock and praising her God by nine. The sun rays poured through every window in the five-bedroom Tudor home in the ritzy section of Pelzer. Moreover, added to her discomfort was the fact that she’d not slept well at all.
During the night she’d had visions. That was nothing new. She always had visions. She also had a keen sense of discernment. When she was on her knees, praying and speaking in tongues were her lines of communication to heaven. Last night her visions weren’t clear, and by the way she’d tossed and turned, waking with her knees feeling as though she’d used them to run instead of her feet, she knew God was trying to warn her about something. On the other hand, at the very least, He had something for her to do, as usual. Either way, at that moment she was way past too tired to figure it out.
For the better part of her sixty-something years, she’d been committed to a fervent prayer life. Sister Betty, a five-foot-two brown ball of fire, was a no-nonsense prayer warrior who some believed prayerfully aggravated God to the point of Him needing aspirin. She was free to praise her God in song with her tinny voice until the angel Gabriel would tell her to shut up, or to shout the victory until she wore a hole in the plush carpeting, which covered every floor but the one in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Yet despite her tiredness, she lifted her arms toward heaven. “Thank ya, God, for yo grace and mercy.” Of course, a woman of her seasoned years had many uncertainties that caused her to give extra praise. She never knew what to expect after crawling into bed, taking off her wig and revealing her natural hair, braided to resemble micro rows of natty gray threads, and tossing her partials into the water jar on the nightstand. She didn’t know whether she’d see another sunrise. The last thing I want is for anybody to find me bald-headed and bald-mouthed.
One thing was for certain—everyone in her small hometown of Pelzer, South Carolina, knew about her unusual encounter with the “Almighty.”
It’d been almost thirty years since God had surprised her with a phone call drafting her into His holy army. One phone call that interrupted her favorite pastime of watching soap operas had also disrupted her quiet life. God had turned her world upside down and had taken her out of her comfort zone. Once the word got around about the very unusual telephone call, everyone in her hometown finally had their proof, calling her eccentric and laughing behind her back, saying, “Sister Betty Sarah Becton has lost her ever-loving mind.”
Drinnggg! It sounded as though an elephant had placed all its weight on her doorbell. Sister Betty grabbed her wig and, still dressed in her nightgown, trudged down her hallway. She warily opened her front door a few inches. “Sweet Jesus,” she murmured as the uninvited guests, church mothers Sasha Pray Onn and Bea Blister, barged inside. The two bothersome church mothers had sat on the same pew for more than thirty years, and for reasons long forgotten by both, neither one could stand the other. Yet they always hung together. When asked why that was, they’d simply say, separately, “I’m keeping my friends close and that heifer closer.”
Without saying “Good morning,” and almost stepping on her feet, they headed down the hallway and on into her living room.
“What now!” Betty felt her praying hands morphing into fists. She’d known the two women for most of her adult life, and they’d been a boil on her nervous system and a threat to her salvation for most of it.
Sasha Pray Onn was the main culprit and leader of the unwelcome committee. She was petite yet deadly, and her hair, a mound of gray pulled into a tight bun on top of her head, resembled a puff of smoke. Sasha was a pecan-complexioned aggravation, and her entire family was a rowdy bunch. “Satan keeps them on earth because they’d cause too much confusion in hell,” most said with a straight face.
Bea Blister, the other aggravation, was physically a remarkable sight. She was dark like an overripe raisin. She had a back shaped like the letter C, caused by years of bad posture, although many believed she had pulled a back muscle from years of peeking through keyholes and had never recovered. Bea also favored multicolored wigs. She was at least three times the weight of Sasha and almost twice as tall on those occasions when she could straighten up.
Within seconds of entering the living room, Sasha stood with her nose in the air, defiant, as though Sister Betty had defiled her personal space. Sister Betty, frowning, looked her up and down. Sasha also had skinny chicken legs shaped like a pair of parentheses, seeming ill-suited to keep her taupe-colored knee-highs from falling down. Yet somehow the twisted knot she’d tied above the knee stayed put. She also wore white orthopedic Hush Puppies, and her serrated-edged Bible and a cane dangling from her wrist completed her holier-than-thou outfit. Her slanted brown eyes, hidden behind square-shaped spectacles, scanned the room before she began complaining.
“This here a big old mansion,” Sasha whined, fanning with her free hand, “and you ain’t got no central air-conditioning? That’s a sin before God.” After a moment she added angrily, “When He made you rich, He didn’t mean for you to take all that money to your grave or make people feel uncomfortable when they come to make a Christian call.”
As she looked Sasha up and down, the smile on Sister Betty’s usually smiling face morphed into a sneer, which she didn’t try to hide. “Sasha,” Sister Betty hissed, “get to your point, and then hurry and leave.” Without waiting for Sasha to respond, she quickly turned to Bea, who hadn’t said much at all. Looking Bea squarely in her eyes, Sister Betty added, “I’m in no mood for neither of y’all’s silliness today. I’m fasting, and you two are making me lose my prayer points.”
Bea groaned slightly, trying to force an aura of innocence. “Sister Betty, never let anyone or anything mess up your salvation.” She pivoted and pointed at Sasha. “Do you think I’d ever let this Smurf monkey holding a Bible put my soul in jeopardy of hellfire?” Bea suddenly reached out and grabbed Sister Betty’s hands, turning her ring finger back and forth. “This engagement ring is just gorgeous,” Bea said, smiling. “It’d be a shame to have to slap Sasha hard enough with it to leave a pear-shaped mark on her mug.”
Sister Betty jerked away her hand. “Bea, you do understand that I meant you, too, don’t you?”
Bea said nothing, choosing instead to stare at Sasha’s contorted face before returning her eyes to Sister Betty and sighing. “I guess it’s the company I’ve been keeping that makes you hafta throw me in the mix with Sasha.” Bea winked. “I know if it was just me and you standing here, you’d have thought otherwise, especially since you’ll need my help in finishing up plans for your wedding reception.”
No, I wouldn’t! Sister Betty wanted to speak her thoughts aloud, but Sasha spoke up too fast.
“Watch it, she-rilla!” Sasha snapped at Bea. “I’m not invisible. You’d better be glad my blessed Jesus holds me and Sister Betty in the middle of His hands. There ain’t no way in the world anyone with an ounce of style and grace would let you anywhere near a part of their wedding planning.”
Bea spun around from Sister Betty. Waggling her finger in Sasha’s face as her dark eyes narrowed, she retorted, “I know He holds Sister Betty, but you act like you must’ve slipped out of the good Lord’s hands and fallen on your head a few times.”
“Will you two please stop?” It was her turn to spin around. Sister Betty looked around her living room for her blessed oil spray. “Where did I put it?”
“Ahem,” Bea said softly as she stepped in front of Sasha. “I know you’re looking for that can of blessed Pam oil spray. Please just open a window or something. Sasha and me sweating like Friday night strippers sitting on Sunday morning church’s second pew. I also have things to do, so we need to hurry this chat along.”
Betty took a few steps forward and pounded her fireplace mantle.
Sasha stepped from behind Bea. “You’re standing there with a look that’s unbecoming a saint and a soon-to-be bride.”
“I hafta agree,” Bea added. “Sister Betty, you do look a might bit pissed off.”
Sasha turned and glared at Bea. “That’s what I meant!” She then turned back to Sister Betty and continued speaking softly. “We’ve known you for more than forty years, and we ain’t even upset that our wedding invites haven’t arrived yet. If anyone should be mad,” Sasha snapped while poking the carpet with her cane like she was trying to stab a fish with it, “it oughta be us.”
“Pay Sasha no mind,” Bea added, with one of her heavy paw-shaped hands now sitting upon one hefty hip. “We know how slow the mail moves.”
“I’m not going to blame it on the U.S. mail.” Sister Betty stared in defiance of their supposed humility. “They were mailed almost a year ago, and not to you.”
“We forgive yo bad memory and all,” Bea said, ignoring Sister Betty’s comment while at the same time nodding her head in agreement with herself before plopping down upon the sofa. “Besides, we just figured you were all lathered because you was getting married for the first time. I think it’s called having the bridal blues or something like that.”
“It’s called virginity jitters,” Sasha murmured, rolling her eyes at the same time as she sat next to Bea.
Bea waved off Sasha’s interference with a flip of her hand.
Sister Betty watched Bea’s white skirt rise, showing too much of her thick hips and thighs, which resembled sides of old mottled beef. Her legs were tattooed with varicose veins and were dangling off the sofa. Bea opened her mouth to speak; her lips fluttered, making sounds like a car engine gunning.
“When we saw you was trying to hurry past us yesterday in that big car you and Trustee Freddie always riding around in while we was standing outside, sweltering in the heat—”
Sasha didn’t wait for Bea to finish. She jumped right in. “We thought you acted like we was low-life heathens. That was just downright rude. Since when do you see good Christian folks standing about outside of Lucifer’s Barbeque Pit, and you just gonna drive on by without waving or saying a hello? How you know we wasn’t going your way?”
“Oh, Sasha, hush up,” Bea said as she turned and smiled at Betty. “I, for one, was a bit more thoughtful. I figured you had the wedding on yo mind.” She stopped and pointed at Sasha. “Only an ole she-troll like Sasha would think otherwise.”
Lord, please help me before I say or do something to blemish my salvation. Sister Betty took a breath deep enough to make her cheeks appear sunken. Turning away from Bea and Sasha, she looked out of her window and exhaled loudly, startling a robin perched on the windowsill.
Seizing the opportunity of momentary silence, Sister Betty spoke. “Since you two have said all I care to hear, you can leave now. I won’t be jealous if you spread your aggravation elsewhere.”
Sasha had never been known to bite her tongue, whether her teeth were in or out, and her dentures began making annoying sucking and clacking noises, like her gums had turned into tap shoes. “Please sit down, Sister Betty, so we can get this wedding reception planned. How are we gonna get anything done with you standing over there?”
“It’s my wedding, my day, so stay outta my way. Do I need to get a court order—”?
“Harrumph,” Sasha murmured. She’d cut Sister Betty off and begun jabbing at invisible flies with her cane. “All I know is that it’s been almost a year and a half since ya got asked for your wrinkled hand in matrimony, so the sooner we get ya married, the quicker ya will stop playing holier than the rest of us.”
Suddenly, Sasha narrowed her eyes, tightened her lips, and began inching away from Bea. She nodded toward Sister Betty, with her loose dentures held captive by the tightening of her mouth, a signal that Sister Betty knew all too well. Sasha was about to tell a lie.
“I’m sharing this with you, Sister Betty, because folks whispering behind your back. They’ve been saying that since you marrying someone with a lot of money, just like you has, that it has made ya start acting funnier than usual.”
“What do you mean, Sasha, by me acting funny?”
“I mean funny, as in how you acting all unusually high and mighty, like Trustee Noel’s ice is colder than everybody else’s ice.”
Sister Betty found herself searching for a seat in her own living room. It wasn’t that she hadn’t known for years that folks talked about her. Some had always thought she was extraordinarily close to the Lord. She just couldn’t understand why they’d think badly of her because she’d become engaged. She also wanted to sit a bit closer to Sasha to see the depth of her lies or the truth, should she happen to tell it. “Go on, Sasha.”
Bea, determined that she be involved in the conversation, urged Sasha on. “Yeah, tell it, Mighty Mouse.”
“Don’t rush me. This is painful, but I must tell the truth.” Sasha laid open her Bible in her lap as she often did when in full hypocrite mode. However, the page she’d turned to was the appendix. “For instance,” Sasha continued, “you don’t want nobody talking about him or even to him unless it’s about the Lord. Y’all together so much, ya act like there’s some type of spell or something put on the both of ya.” She pointed in Sister Betty’s direction. “In fact, I ain’t seen you this particular sort of crazy since you snapped a few years back, telling folks the good Lord done called you on the telephone.”
“He most certainly did,” Betty murmured under her breath.
Sasha then leaned back against the sofa. “So if ya ready to get off that high horse of yourn, we can get started on planning this shindig of a wedding reception.”
“Why do you want to do something that I obviously don’t want you to do?” Sister Betty asked before adding, “For the last time, neither of you is invited.”
Sasha let out a loud sigh, hoping what she was about to say sounded reasonable or, better yet, truthful. “To tell the truth, I’m entering the business world,” Sasha confessed. “Perhaps with she-rilla. We’re pooling our knowledge of what’s trending, and planning upscale events.”
As if on cue, Bea raised her head and slowly tried to sit up straight, failing to silence the annoying cracking sound from her back. “That’s right. We haven’t made up our minds yet, but we’re thinking about calling it A B.S. Event.” Leaning forward, she explained further. “Those are also our initials.” Falling back, she smiled a little and then continued. “We even have a slogan. ‘If somebody else plans it, then it’s not B.S.’” Bea paused and raised her pen in the air. “I need a little mo’ time to work on yo guest list and get yo reception invites hand-printed and into the mail. This time I’m gonna see to it that it’s done right, because I’m doing it myself and all by myself.”
With her pillbox hat leaning to the side, Sasha boasted, “I’m in charge of finding places to hold the events. That’s called venue hunting.”
Sister Betty’s fingers lifted her wig a little, and she began to scratch her scalp in frustration. She became mute; unable to believe Bea’s crazier than normal audacity.
Bea quickly dropped her head. She licked the lead tip of the pencil before she began to scribble something on a yellow legal pad. Suddenly, without warning, she lifted her head and added, “And if Trustee Noel even thinks about getting sick again, so y’all can’t get married this time, I gonna whup him so bad, even the good Lord won’t recognize him!”
“He was sick!” Sister Betty barked. “And if it didn’t bother me none, I don’t see why it’s anybody’s business when and how I get married… .”
Sister Betty’s eyes moistened as she recalled when her fiancé, Trustee Freddie Noel, collapsed last February. It had happened just a few days shy of their wedding day, after he’d fallen earlier in the week while trying to shovel snow, which was rare in Pelzer. He’d spent a few days in the hospital, which caused them to postpone their wedding day. Freddie had returned home with the cause of the collapse undetermined.
“Your problem is that when you ain’t being too uppity, you too nice,” Sasha chimed in, interrupting Sister Betty’s thoughts. “That’s why me or Bea gonna plan this wedding reception for ya!”
“Tell her, Sasha!”
Sasha raised her cane. “Are you deaf or something, Bea? Didn’t I just tell her?”
Sister Betty found herself fingering the cross around her neck. As she looked around the living room, her eyes finally landed upon the large red velvet–backed picture of Jesus hanging over the fireplace. All she could do was stare at His peaceful countenance and pray. Lord, if you don’t help me with these aggravating women, I’m gonna need some of your forgiveness for premeditated violence and bail money.
“At the moment we’re almost finished with outlining things,” Sasha announced proudly, interrupting Sister Betty’s silent prayer. “I’ve got some great ideas, and Bea thinks she has one or two, as well.”
“Yep, I’ve got it down pat. And this time it’ll go off without a hitch,” Bea sneered, “despite what place this lil Smurf done thought to hold it.”
Throwing up her hands, Sister Betty gritted her teeth. “Are you two back to name-calling and wasting my time?”
“You know these are just our pet names.” Sasha winked at Sister Betty before clicking her false teeth, signaling she was lying, again. Sasha then rushed from the sofa and pressed a sheet of paper into Sister Betty’s hand. “Now, all you hafta do is look over what I’ve written and decide which of these here venues is good enough for you. Just make it quick, because I have other things to attend to.”
“When ya finish balling up that wad of stupidity,” Bea quipped, “ya can take my suggestions and let me run with them.”
“I’ve had enough!” Sister Betty yelled, causing Sasha to retreat to the sofa. “How many times I need to tell you two that this may be my first marriage, but I’ve known a carnal nature before, and I’ve been to a few weddings, too? So for the last time, you two can leave now, because I know what I want and how I want it.” Sister Betty watched Sasha, who was not one to tolerate being pushed around, pitifully try to cross her parentheses-shaped arthritic legs.
“That may be,” Sasha said coldly, “but everybody at the church knows your fiancé, Freddie Noel, skinny and as yellow as a number two pencil, ain’t ever had the wrapping taken off his old carnal pleasure… .”
“What’d you say?” Sister Betty could feel her fist take on a life of its own as it began to ball up again.
Ignoring Sister Betty again, Sasha continued. “You gonna need some advice before Trustee Freddie returns from his monthly prison ministry visits.”
“How do you know where my fiancé goes?”
“I know more than you think I do,” Sasha replied. “I know another thing, too.”
“What?” The veins in Sister Betty’s scalp began to pulsate. She could feel the heat rise from her head. She was hot!
Sasha was determined to finish what she thought was a blow to Sister Betty’s foolish confidence in matters of a worldly nature. “I know that you know nothing about how to start a life with a man his age who’s probably still a virgin. He acts like he’s had very little experience in the ways of womanizing.”
Sister Betty jammed her hand inside the pocket of her nightgown and felt around for a safety pin or a nail clipper, anything to jab Sasha. “You’re going too far, Sasha. I believe I got something, though, that’ll bring you back.”
“Sister Betty, stop acting shy and extra saved,” Sasha snapped while pointing toward Bea, who had remained busy writing on her legal pad throughout their exchange. “At least ask Bea about such sexual matters. Low-life folks she ran with back in her day called her Bea Baby Doll. This ole heifer ran a gambling parlor and a bawdy house. Everybody knows she’s done more than just a little prison time, and you know in there they learn new tricks every day. So if anyone can show you how to keep your man happy with more than just baking him a mind-crippling red velvet cake, this ole she-rilla silverback can.”
“Betty, how do you spell Becton?” Bea had suddenly turned to face Sister Betty, with her eyes twitching like a pair of Mexican jumping beans. “Is it b-a-c-k-t-u-n? And are you also taking the name Noel?”
Bea quickly dropped her head again. The front of her curly plum-colored wig moved down onto her forehead, leaving her fez slanted. She continued focusing on the legal pad in her lap, with only her dark, plump cheeks blowing in and out showing any sign of life, not acknowledging Sasha’s tasteless attempt at promoting her sexual expertise and exploits from her pre- and early Christian past.
Obviously still ignoring Sister Betty’s complaint, Bea began pushing her wig back into place and adjusting the fez before she spoke again. “I’ve been calling ya Sister Betty for more than forty years, and I ain’t ever had to spell yo last name. I’m guessing, though, that you’d want it printed on the reception invites. I’m also guessing you’d want to invite them nosy next-door fake detective cousins, Joy and Patience, as well as some of your relatives, like Thurgood and Delilah Pillar from New York.”
“Just put all your angst to rest,” Sasha told Sister Betty softly, as though she’d not said a mean word in the last two minutes. Then, sitting sideways and with her pointing finger flipped at Bea, she continued. “We can get Porky and Grandma Pudding to cater it. You’ll see that idea written on my venue suggestion list. And once the health department gives Porky the go-ahead to reopen the El Diablo Soul Food Shanty, we can hold the reception in the back room.” Sasha pointed at the paper in Sister Betty’s hands. “You’ll see it written down.”
“Have mercy.” Bea raised one hand and nodded at Sister Betty. She then used her hand to circle her head, indicating what she thought of Sasha’s idea. “Look, I got to go and get things started,” Bea announced suddenly, before winking at Sister Betty. “All I can say,” she added, “is that when you and Freddie show up for the reception, y’all better be wearing sunglasses, ’cause you two gonna look like stars!”
“I believe it’s you two nosy, Satan-serving she-witches that’d better be wearing sunglasses to cover the black eyes I’ll give you if you come anywhere near me and Betty’s wedding day!”
Sister Betty turned around fast enough to cause whiplash. “Freddie! When did you get here?”