It was the time of the preacher, and the best church in town somehow turned out to be only church in town. Or any place for religious activities whatsoever, for that matter. The rickety, white steeple and bell was ran by a man who claimed the name of Jack Lawrence - a southern preacher that took too many liberties with his sermons and could swear more than the devil himself. But that didn't make his service a bad one by any means. No, the townspeople left chattering about the powerful words the preacher blessed upon their ears, always, every time.
There was talk about the sturdy man, Jack. He was absolutely shrouded with mystery. Why did he become a priest? Oh, of course! God led him on the right path to better himself and give to the community. What is the story behind the jagged, thick scar on his face? Well, you see, there comes a time in every man’s life when he reaches the darkest depths of his sorrow and has to see the opening to an opportunity to better himself. The angel of Christ Almighty, bless he be, guided him through the toughest of times.
A load of bull, avoiding every answer, but the people ate it up. Even Rhys.
Rhys was a country boy with no exposure to sin and a heart as pure as glass. He went to church every Sunday morning with his ma and pa, even went on Wednesday nights, after his bible studies and school classes were over. His eyes were big with adoration for the beloved preacher, always repeating his words and accepting them gratefully into his life. The preacher had been there in that little church Rhys’ whole life. He was only at the fresh age of seventeen and, well, he'd never known any other man he looked up to as much as he did Jack inside this shabby, hick town.
The two of them had formed a sort of relationship over the years. Rhys was just six when they first officially met, by chance, because of his parents striking up a deep conversation one night with the man after a particularly moving sermon the man had made. Rhys had only said his name, age, and how he was rightfully endowed by God. Jack ruffled his hair, said hello back, then continued to talk with his parents. Leading up to Rhys’ thirteenth year, he and Jack shared welcome looks, never speaking more than a few words until one summer afternoon when the boy had a nagging feeling inside of him.
It was anger, towards school boys that would hurt his friend Vaughn, and insult Rhys about his height and “alien eyes”. He came to the minister after school, with a bloody nose and red face. He opened the doors to the church, calling out loud that he was a sinner and he needed to be cleansed. He hated those boys, he wanted to raise his hand to them and send them to hell. Jack simply sat with the boy on one of the benches and calmed him down, rid his nose of blood. The preacher said one last thing before Rhys left him.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,” He quoted, with a calm air about him. “The book of Romans said that. Damn fine preachin' in there.”
With that, Rhys knew the type of man Jack was - one he would confide in.
And the years went on. Fourteen years old and Rhys was experiencing trouble with girls. He wanted to touch their hand; was that a sin? At fifteen he had given up on romance, but that's because school had become such a struggle. He would wait until he was ready for marriage, anyhow. When Rhys turned sixteen, he was meeting with Jack every night before supper, not just for religious matters, but to chat about their days, what they liked and what they didn't. Jack was a great help with his mathematics homework, too. He said he used to be an engineer.
That’s about as much as Rhys had learned about Jack - he was an engineer and ended up in Texas, down on his luck without a penny in his pocket. Through a twist of fate (and some details that he had cleverly left out), the man decided he wanted to become a man of God. He saw the light, or so he said. Another thing that he occasionally brushed upon, and quickly swept under the mat, was word of his little girl who was ironically called Angel. Rhys didn’t know much about her or where she was, but he decided not to pry, seeing as Jack was a man of his privacy and valued his secrecy. He assumed she had something to do with Jack’s righteous endeavors for God.
Jack liked Rhys, liked his parents, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he liked the whole damn town, seeing as there were only a few thousand people surviving in the dustbowl city they lived in. He was a man of wits and charm, had that wholesome southern personality that clung to him like a nice oilskin duster. There were parts of him that were secret, though. Rhys could tell they were stories of sin for another day and maybe he would have the good fortune of hearing them from the man himself. Jack Lawrence would open up in time, like them stone-cold cowboys did in the movies. As for now, Rhys was focused on the stories of the present, listening to his dearest preacher and reveling in his prayers.