“At the risk of saying something you already know — ” Dan nodded without looking in the direction of the comic book lying on the table — “the story is crude, juvenile, poorly drawn — ”
“And racist.” Cyrus’ face curdled into a sour-milk smile. “Let’s not overlook that.”
Dan nodded in agreement. “No, let’s not.” He remembered Jimmy, his new assistant coach, asking Rune and Butch what they were reading at the last practice, and the two boys growing silent, shoving their comic books into their backpacks.
“I know what you must be thinking.” Dan was suddenly curious to find out if Cyrus’ intuition was correct. “Me, I’m just some dumb small-town Baptist minister, with no sense of humor — ”
“No.” Dan wished his objection sounded less insincere.
” — it’s all right, Daniel.” A sweetness had returned to his smile. “Because the good Lord knows, I’ve too often played that role so well in my life. I’ve given sermons, or speeches at PTA meetings, that were filled with far more pride than wisdom. Blessed be the Lord, He’s shown me the errors of my way, shown me the value of seeking His guidance in prayer before shooting my mouth off.”
“I see.” Dan blinked.
Cyrus tapped the cover of the comic book again. “My mind was filled with rage when I first read that story, Daniel. I wanted to lash out, punish my son for bringing such trash into our home.” His metal chair skrinched over the floor as he sat back. “But the Lord spoke softly to me, so I went to Butch, controlling my rage as I asked him where he had gotten the comic book, and when I found out how my rage flared again, I picked up the phone to call Rune’s parents, make sure he was punished as well, and then I was to call you, and rain curses down on your head.” Dan saw Cyrus body tighten, his fists clenching and his face turning red, his golden hair seeming to stand on edge like flames leaping from a fire pit. But his actions seemed controlled, almost staged; Dan wondered if this is how the Reverend Cyrus Goodman looked as he peered down from his pulpit on Sunday mornings.
“But again, the Lord spoke softly to me.” Cyrus’ voice was soft now, almost a whisper, and the redness on his face was suddenly extinguished. “And, to make a long story short — that’s why we’re here this evening.”