Boone: The Ordinary – Chapter 1
Boone Tackett considered himself ordinary like everything that surrounded his ordinary life. Everyday was exactly uneventful, and he liked it that way. He woke to the sounds of the occasional scraping of spatula and sizzling of hot grease. “Just a little longer,” he thought wiggling deeper into the warmth of his bed. “I can sleep a little longer, just five more minutes.” Those five minutes turned into thirty and, once again, he knew that he would be late for church. He pulled on his blue jeans and a wrinkled button down shirt, and ran his fingers through the curly black hair that was characteristic of the men on his father’s side. Boone ran out the door, down the gravel driveway, and across the street to the church he had attended every Sunday since he was born.
Like most churches built in its day, it had a white steeple, was completely constructed of red brick and was adorned both top and bottom with stained glass windows. It quietly sat on the outskirts of town on a hill proudly overlooking acres of tobacco fields.
Boone slung open the basement door and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of two lonely doughnuts that had been left in an open cardboard box in the church kitchen. On closer inspection, he frowned at the custard-filled confections wishing they were chocolate glazed, filled his glass with what was left of the juice, and snuck into an empty seat in the already occupied room designated “youth”.
Boone lifted his brown eyes to look at the others sitting around the table and then down to the powdered sugar doughnut and half a cup of orange juice that comprised his breakfast. His stomach wished he had been up in time to eat his mom’s traditional Sunday morning meal of scrambled eggs and bacon.
He raised his hand to his mouth to cover the escaping yawn, rubbed his eyes, and then allowed them to wonder the perimeter of the concrete room. An autographed poster of the band Wet Feet, from last year’s youth retreat, was the wall’s sole decoration. He looked up at the cracked paint peeled ceiling and then tilted his head to get a better look at what he considered to be grape jelly oozing from a back corner. He shuddered at the thought of what it really might be.
The tat a tat, tat a tat, tat a tat of his cousin Case’s fingers rhythmically drumming brought Boone’s focus back to the group. Boone had never figured out how two people so closely related could look and exist so differently. Case was the complete opposite of Boone. His frame was tall and thin; a contrast to Boone’s much shorter stature, and as perceived of most redheads, Case’s skin was light and dotted with freckles – lots of freckles. Even though Case denied it, unlike Boone he was popular at school and was a great musician.
Boone sighed harder. Sunday after Sunday, he went. He sat, ate his doughnuts, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not get himself to focus on the lesson. “Boone? Are you with us?” the voice of Reed Hoffman, a volunteer youth leader in training, questioned. Suddenly, all eyes were on him, putting him somewhere he hated the most, the center of attention.
“Um, sorry, what was the question?” Boone asked unsurely.
Reed rambled on as he unraveled the account of Eden life and Eve, aka the wife of Adam. All the while, he gave Boone the ‘I can count on you’ look that Boone had become accustomed to over the years of Sunday school lessons. Boone had literally grown up in church. Every major event in his life had found its way into this very building. His first step, taken during a Sunday night service during the singing of Just As I Am; first tooth, lost in the Christmas pageant dressed as a donkey; first girl friend (not to be confused with girlfriend), Noel, the music leader’s daughter. So for the past thirteen years of his life, every teacher he ever had depended on him to know the answers. Truth told, he thought that he did know all the answers.
Even though his juice was now warm, he tipped it up and chugged it anyway, spilling a few drops on his shirt. The juice gave him a quick burst of energy. He shook off his boredom, opened his eyes wide, and focused on Reed. Then it was gone. His attention lost again. Above him, Boone heard the rattle and raking of the heating system struggling in determination to knock the morning chill off those below. A flash of hot air poured down, wrapping him in a blanket of warmth and lulling him into sleepiness. His eyelids grew heavy and finally fell closed with relief. The damp smell of slightly moist carpet filled his nostrils as very vivid images of a man and woman working in an exotic garden scurried around in his brain.
Boone jerked himself awake. Then he went back to allowing his eyes to wonder. Occasionally, he nodded his head as if he were actually listening to the college student explain the fall of man. A quick kick to his right shin sent pain up his leg. With her hazel green eyes glaring, Noel Peterson gave him a jolting reminder that she was sitting directly across from him and that he should be paying attention. She eased her glower, replaced it with a quick smile, and motioned to her left. Feet propped on the folding table, legs outstretched, arms crossed across his chest, and eyes closed were a clear indication that Wayne Adams had fallen asleep, again. Boone covered his mouth to hold in his laughter, but it wasn’t enough to contain the rumbling. Deep from within his belly, the grandfather of all laughs emerged, stopping Reed on the word ‘forbidden’ and sending Wayne and all his lankiness flying backwards in his seat. The metal folding chair clanged shut as the class of eight erupted in hysterics. Boone knew an apology would be in order, but before he had time the distorted BZZZZSCHRING of a cracked bell announced the end of Sunday school.
“Don’t forget, 6:00, Wednesday!” Reed called to the escaping teens while stifling his own laughter. “Sit on the front row…that means you too Wayne!” Boone led the exodus of exiting teens. He glimpsed back briefly to see if Noel had finished collecting her Bible and journal into the trendy quilted backpack that she carried everywhere. He actually thought the pink and green floral contraption was completely ugly, but knew telling her would mean that he would have to see her girlie emotional side. That was something he had never seen in the three years they had been friends, and never wanted to see. He waited outside the room for her. Wayne and Case stood close by punching each other in the arm to see who could hit the hardest. The act had become a post class ritual for them, however neither was ever declared the winner. Upon her appearance, the group made their way up the back staircase that led into the sanctuary of the Great Crossing Baptist Church.
Boone stopped at the top step and took a deep breath. He knew that he had one more hour ahead of him before he could return to the comfort of his bed. He turned the corner and took in what he accepted to be the extreme ordinariness of his childhood place of worship. The church was old, not old like his grandmother or even his great grandmother, but really old, like established in 1785 old. It was the oldest church in their small town and very unlike the newer churches in nearby towns with fancy lighting, stadium seating, and a band complete with backup singers and a drum cage. The people at Great Crossing still sat in long wooden pews that lined perfectly into two rows, with an aisle cascading down the center towards the front of the sanctuary. An enormous brass chandelier that hung high above lighted the two-story room, and most of the music was still accompanied by an organ. The crew picked up their pace when a second bell rang announcing a five-minute warning that worship would begin soon.
Members were already seated in the pews reading the church bulletin, and casually chatting with one another about the potential success of the high school basketball team or how crops were going to do this year. Boone had heard these conversations many times and moved forward with hands in his pockets thinking that maybe someone would say something different for once. His eyes studied the movement of his brown leather flip-flops as they moved across the velvety floor beneath him.
“Hey Pinky!” Wayne jeered up to Noel, who was already turning the corner into the red-carpeted room, “Why’d you have to go and ruin my nap?” Case snickered at the comment wanting to be in on torturing Noel. They liked her, but didn’t like how close she had become to Boone, nor could they understand why he was friends with a girl. So, they took every available opportunity to point out the prissy things she did that detracted from her occasional tomboyish manner.
“Last summer guys! Really, let it go,” she smartly called back to them without turning her head. Noel didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing the flush of her cheeks. Boone knew they wouldn’t let it go. Her scientifically, and partially curiosity driven hair experiment with a bottle of lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide would never be forgotten. “Oh, and it wasn’t really pink, more like orange. You know, like yours Case,” she laughed trying not to let them get the better of her. Noel’s father had been leading the music for three years now. To the boys, she was still the new girl. To Boone, she was his very best friend. She wasn’t like any other girl he had ever met. She didn’t like to wear dresses. She never wore make-up, and her mousy brown hair was always pulled into a ponytail. She was smart and Boone could count on her to take on whatever adventure he could conjure up, no matter how muddy.
“Okay Pinky,” Wayne coughed under his breath. Case snickered. Noel rolled her eyes. Boone knew the comment was meant more for him and Case than Noel. If Wayne could make anyone laugh at anything, then he had accomplished his goal for the day. Right now, Wayne was silently declaring victory.
“Why do we always have to sit in the front?” Case moaned walking three steps behind the others.
“It sends a message,” Noel replied. “One, it says to the older people that we are an important part of the church. And two, it says we have to be good. If not, someone in the choir will tell our parents.” Boone hoped she would stop there, but he knew her well and he knew she wouldn’t. “Besides, this is a little church compared to most of the ones I have been to. It’s easier for our actions to be more closely observed. If we were a bigger group like…”
Case cut her off. “We know! Everything was awesome there; the youth group was so big.” He put his pointer finger to his mouth and pretended to gag himself. She ignored him. Her parents couldn’t have plopped Noel down in a place more opposite from where she had grown up. Before her move, she had attended a prestigious private school where most of her friends were also a part of her church youth group. Her youth group had had a funny name like Explosion or Experience. Boone could never remember which it was. At Great Crossing they were simply called the youth group.
They filed into the unoccupied second row of the crimson padded white pews. As always, they were in the same order. Wayne sat on the end, Case to his left, followed by Boone, and then Noel – until Kaylee made her way in. Boone hated having his six-year-old sister Kaylee sit with them. He had fought that battle with his parents only once.
“She’s not even kind of close to being a youth yet!” he had argued.
“Boone,” his mother had come back in her teachable moment voice, “this is a good time for you to be an example. She doesn’t want to sit with you anyway. She wants to sit by Noel.” That was the end of the argument. He knew better than to ask a second time. So Kaylee took her place as the bookend at the very end of the row.
Noel’s dad entered the room of patient patrons, followed by a choir clothed in scarlet robes. The gold-toned cross that hung above the built-in baptistery was quickly concealed by their presence. His cool voice welcomed everyone to the service. With authority, he raised both arms in the air signaling the congregation to stand. Boone stood as everyone around him joined together in singing the first and third verses of Amazing Grace, but was distracted as usual. He squinted to interpret the church attendance board that hung over the piano. “Fifty-three in Sunday school,” he added. “We’re down two from last week.” That was one of the first major church differences Noel had pointed out, the attendance board.
“Seriously, why does everyone need to know how many are in Sunday school?” Noel had questioned. “Is there a prize or something?” He hadn’t wanted to share with her that yep, there actually was a Sunday where they gave out prizes for high attendance. He had guessed by her tone that was something they had not done at her previous church, and then later learned that she didn’t even have Sunday school before moving.
His boredom took him to the clock on the right of the sanctuary. “Urgh,” he silently grumbled, “forty-five more minutes to go.” The congregation was starting their second song. It was a new song with a more contemporary beat that Noel’s dad had brought to the service. At first it wasn’t accepted very well seeing as how it wasn’t in the cloth bound hymnal. But recently, he could tell by participation that it had become a congregational favorite. Mr. Peterson raised his arms again and then slowly lowered them, signaling that everyone could be seated. Papers crumbled, hymns were shut, and a contagion of rear ends taking their seat on squeaky benches followed. Boone sat, and then jumped up realizing that he had almost squashed the contents of Noel’s backpack. “Sorry,” he apologized.
She smiled, pulled it out of his way, and set it precisely at her feet. As she sat, Jeff Morgan handed her a neatly folded piece of paper. Boone waited for the blond-headed preacher’s kid to turn back around on the front row. “What’s that?” he asked curiously.
“I don’t know,” she said keeping her voice low.
“Open it!” Boone quietly begged.
“Why not?” he questioned, now even more curious.
“Because it’s private,” she teased.
“Private,” Boone thought. “Private?” They didn’t have secrets between them. He didn’t like it. Actually, he really didn’t even like Jeff. Jeff had been around the church as long as Boone. His mom was a local first grade teacher, his grandmother was the church organist, and his dad had been the preacher for the last seven years. Boone could never really pinpoint what it was that he didn’t like about Jeff. Jeff was smart, athletic, and all the kids at school really liked him. He was nice to everyone, especially Noel. But for some reason, he and Boone had never gotten along. Even as toddlers in the nursery, they didn’t play together. So, the pocket-sized piece of paper that Noel hid deep within her backpack was doing its job of irritating Boone.
“Read it,” Boone whispered to her, catching the eye of Pastor Morgan who was now is position to preach his sermon.
“No Boone!” she insisted showing that she was becoming frustrated.
“Noel…” The sharp tug on the back of his ear silenced him. He shot around to see his Aunt Carter holding her finger to her puckered lips. Boone turned, slouched down in the pew, and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He tried to focus on the enthusiastic words of Pastor Morgan, but his mind wondered. He planned to continue this conversation with Noel immediately after the service.
The early October sunlight streamed through the rectangular stained glass windows that lined both the up and downstairs of the sanctuary. There were sixteen total, four on each side of the lower portion of the room and four on each side of the church’s balcony. Boone knew that there were sixteen. He had counted them during many services, as he had also counted the number of light bulbs in the chandelier, the number of people in the choir, and sometimes the number of times Pastor Morgan called out, “Can I get an amen?” in a single service. Today, he was up to five. The sunlight became more intense, tossing a rainbow of colors across the white plaster walls. Boone glanced downward as a speck of red light found its way to the back of his hand.
His curiosity followed the light up to its home on the far side of the church. Behind the iron balcony railing, Boone watched as the beam of light rested beside a beehive of glass. Then, it jumped to the illustration of an open Bible, inlaid in blue glass and encircled by deep red. The light grew brighter and more intense. He tried to blink, but his eyes would not shut. At the bottom of the window inset in its own pane of glass were the words “To him that worketh not.” In thirteen years, he had never seen those words.
He read them under his breath, “To him that worketh not.” The light from the chandelier began to flash off and on. Silence filled the room. Pastor Morgan’s mouth still moved and his hands still gestured, but Boone couldn’t hear what he was saying. The flickering of the grand light fixture increased. “Is this a joke?” he questioned nervously noticing that no one moved from their seat to fix the malfunction above them. Then, the carpet pulled up from the floor sending tacks flying through the air. The paint chipped off the walls raining flecks of white over the unmoving churchgoers. With a horrible untamed howl the organ played uncontrollably. Boone hurriedly scanned the room, looking side to side for anyone in any way acknowledging this event. With a loud pop, the flashing ended and everything returned as it was. Once again, Boone could hear the words of Jeff’s father.
“Noel,” Boone whispered, “did you see that?”
“Hush, Boone,” she warned.
Boone laid his head back against the pew and peered over at the stained glass window. Thinking now that he should have just stayed in bed, he mumbled, “This is definitely not ordinary.”