Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday -- TDYDK

Last week, I used a selection from my work in progress, Empty Spaces, for Teaser Tuesday. Today, I'd like to reach into the vault and use a vignette from the first third of The Devil You Don't Know.

There's a lot going on in this scene, much of which the reader won't yet understand. But the young soldier and whether he is what he claims to be plays a large role in the developing plot.

Perry Dorian is a famous televangelist with more than a passing resemblance to the late Jerry Falwell. Dorian's assistant, Jim Shapiro, lurks in the background of this and all of the scenes in which he appears. Hey, you think maybe there's a reason for that? ;)


* * * *

On Friday mornings, as it did each week, Freedom University’s sleepy campus awoke with a start. Three large network trucks, each its own little control facility, lined the shady street outside the Stephen A. Dorian Auditorium as the studio audience began arriving for the Hour of Freedom’s weekly filming.

Backstage, Perry Dorian scanned his script while a pretty young attendant blow dried his hair and another applied pancake makeup. Jim Shapiro, his personal assistant and the show’s director, knocked briskly on the dressing room door and entered.

“The young man we discussed earlier will be sitting in the front row,” Shapiro said, consulting his clipboard. “The storyline is that he was wounded recently in Iran and he’s in a wheelchair. The doctors at Walter Reed have told him he will probably never walk again.”

“That’s too bad,” Perry said, shutting his eyes as the attendant sprayed his hair.

“Yeah, well, his parents slipped me a note. They want you to bless him on the show.”

This wasn’t an unusual request. Each week, members of the audience came forward and allowed Perry to place his hands on them as he prayed. It was a moving and integral part of the broadcast.

“Be sure he’s in the front and out of the way of the cameras and cables,” Perry said, winking at the attendant as he admired himself in the mirror. “The last thing we need is some war hero toppling over in his wheelchair in front of the cameras. Okay?”

Shapiro nodded and hurried off. Perry again went over his script, mouthing the words and practicing the gestures he would use at the appropriate times during his monologue—eyes rolling upward, head tilting toward Heaven, arms raised. It was pure theater, and Perry was among its finest practitioners.

Today’s show focused on the miracles Christ performed along the road to Jerusalem on what would become known as Palm Sunday. Perry wanted to illustrate how Jesus, aware he was heading to his own death, unselfishly stopped to heal the sick and maimed lining the road into the Holy City.

The show went as scripted. As it wound down, Perry found himself standing at the lip of the stage, exultant in prayer as organ music swelled in the background. A dozen or so people rose from the audience and came forward, some limping or handicapped in one way or another. Among them was a very young man in uniform, being pushed in a wheelchair by his parents.

Perry had done this every Friday for years and while he always felt a degree of sympathy for those who sought his blessings during prayer time, he never looked them in the eye. Human hearts can only hold so much sorrow, he reasoned. Therefore, he thought it best to just do his job and avoid eye contact.

As Perry moved to his left down the stage, he came to the boy in the wheelchair. For reasons he would never fully understand, he looked down and straight into the eyes of the young man. Perry’s heart immediately ached for the boy, who in his infinite sadness reminded Perry of Stephen, his own son. Stephen had died tragically some years before, died before Perry could help him. Died before anyone could help him. Died alone, young and confused.

Only one other time in his life had Perry felt the power deep within his very soul. Now, he could feel the power pour from his aching heart and shoot to his fingertips. Leaning down, Perry gripped the blond head of the young soldier with his powerful hands and prayed mightily, eyes squeezed shut.

“Gawd-uh, heal this boy! Heal him at this moment!” he bellowed. Offstage, Jim Shapiro dropped his clipboard and made a violent slashing motion across his throat.

“Cut!” he yelled into his mouthpiece to the main control truck. “Right now, goddamn it!”

“Give me a second!” a voice in his headphones screamed back as technicians scrambled to cut off the taping process. The guys in the truck knew what Shapiro was doing. The last thing they needed was an unfulfilled miracle onstage. That would, of course, be bad for ratings and book sales. Very bad.

Onstage, Perry remained frozen above the wheelchair-bound soldier, his eyes closed and his face purple, contorted. The crowd was silent except for a few whispered prayers floating toward the rafters.

And then, slowly at first, the boy began to rise from his wheelchair.

“Gawd-uh, I beseech you! Heal this boy!” Perry shouted.

“Hold on a second,” Shapiro whispered into his mouthpiece. “Keep rolling.”

A murmur began in the crowd and grew to a roar. The boy stood up, swaying slightly, a look of shock and pure joy on his young face. His mother screamed and began to cry as she stroked her son’s hair. His father clutched his Bible and prayed aloud.

“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” Perry whispered, dramatically removing his hands from the boy’s head and stepping back with the grace of a bullfighter. The crowd, now standing and praying, broke into riotous applause. Perry blinked in the bright studio lights, smiled wanly and abruptly bolted offstage.

Shapiro caught up with him in the bathroom adjacent to the main dressing room. Perry was seated fully clothed on the toilet seat, his handsome face pale and sweating.

“You all right?” Shapiro asked, peering in at his boss. “Mind telling me what that was all about?”

“I’m not really sure, Jim,” Perry said, shaking his head. “I guess the spirit just moved me.”

“Well, whatever in the hell it was,” Shapiro said, grinning. “Be sure you do it again next week.”


  1. Wow, that was compelling.

    I wasn't lost in the people or events at all. A totally complete scene.

    Excellent teaser Terry.


  2. Thanks to you, I'm going to walk around all day today saying "Gawd-uh".

    That was a wonderful vignette selection. If the whole story is written with that sort of flow, you most definitely can't give up on getting it published! I won't let you. :)

  3. Cool teaser, I enjoyed it. I'm from Alabama, so I've always been fascinated by faith healers, primitive Baptists, snake handlers, and all that jazz. It's interesting for a Buddhist to observe the theatrics...