All Eyes

by Pamela Love

“Mom, what did you do? How could you?”

I’ve edited out the all caps, boldface, and 20pt font from my first draft, but those italics stay in because Josh was bellowing at my daughter, Shelly. In fact, my grandson sounded like he had a bullhorn. Our church’s social hall is on the opposite side of the building from the sanctuary, but everybody went silent as I went beet red. Even Gil Peterson asked, “Hey Lorraine, what’s wrong?” and he never wears his hearing aid.

I’d wondered why Shelly wasn’t in the social hall. That day of all days, she should’ve been talking nonstop with all the visitors, acting like she was the famous artist, not her son. Instead, she was somehow causing a scene in the sanctuary… where Josh’s new painting was.

“Excuse me,” I said to Eleanor and Ellen (we’d been discussing our latest surgeries), then set down my cup and made a beeline for the sanctuary—or as much of a beeline as a “bee” with arthritic knees can. Maybe it was just something Shelly said. (My daughter does love the sound of her own voice.) I hoped so, but Josh doesn’t have an artistic temperament. Shelly must’ve done something seriously wrong. I had a horrible suspicion I knew what.

Josh was baptized and raised in Parkville Presbyterian—Shelly’s made some good choices over the years. Our pastor, Ruth Madison, talked him into donating a painting to be auctioned off for some much-needed funds. “He didn’t take much convincing,” Ruth told me. Of course not—he’s always been a sweet boy.

The Seraph would bring in enough, we hoped, to replace the threadbare sanctuary carpet and our decades-old coffee pot, among other things. Josh even called several art gallery owners plus some private collectors to attend the auction, which would be held after coffee hour. “Everybody showed up for the service, too,” he told Shelly and me as he joined us in our pew.

Looking around, I could believe it. I hadn’t seen so many people here since a 1990s Christmas Eve, and it wasn’t even Advent.

The Seraph was on an easel beside the pulpit, so Ruth could use it as a visual aid during her sermon, which was about being nice to strangers because they might really be angels. Anybody would be friendly to the one Josh painted. Different geometric shapes in assorted shades of yellow, orange, white, and red came together, sort of like a stained-glass window, to make a beautiful angel. (Not that Parkville Presbyterian has stained-glass windows.)

Anyway, now his watercolor looked like that Dalmatians movie villain made wings out of dog fur. Black spots were scribbled all over it. What took Josh weeks or maybe months to create had been ruined. He was crying and holding a magic marker over his head. Shelly was on tiptoe trying to grab it back, though she was a good foot too short to manage it. “You give me that right now, Josh. I’m not done yet.”

I groaned. “Shelly Ann Vickers, why? What are all those polka dots for?”

She threw up her hands. (I didn’t know people did that outside of books.) “They’re eyes, not spots. Can’t you see the lashes? The angel needed more of them.”

I blinked my own. “More than two?”

Pastor Ruth came running in, a big coffee stain down the front of her vestment. One look and she gasped so loudly I thought she might be having an asthma attack. Shelly turned to her. “Aren’t there angels in the Bible with lots of eyes all over their bodies? I’m sure I read that somewhere.”

By now Ruth was as white as her robe used to be. “Y—yes, in Ezekiel and Revelation. But—but Shelly, you can’t just—”

“Yes, I can. And I have to keep going, because of…” My daughter folded her arms and proclaimed, “The prophecy.” (Those italics stay, too.)

“You had a prophecy? Like, from God?” It was one of our guests asking. Tears were running down his cheeks, even though he hadn’t bought The Seraph yet. What a picture he was getting of Presbyterians. I gritted my teeth.

“Yes, last night. Mine said Josh’s angel needed more eyes on it.”

“Oh, Shelly. God can’t possibly want that.” Ruth’s always been tolerant of other people’s beliefs, but I didn’t blame her for losing her temper with the Prophet Shelly over this.

“He does so.” Shelly stomped her foot. “He said there’s going to be a church-saving miracle because of it. We need one! This congregation’s been dwindling for years, and it’s not getting any younger.” She waved her hand toward the crowd behind me. My daughter had performed a miracle: she’d emptied the social hall during coffee hour. “But the miracle will only happen if there are lots of eyes on this painting. I’ve only drawn a dozen. If God says putting more eyes on that painting will save us, that’s just what I’ll—”

That’s when the truck hit the church. Its engine’s roar and brakes’ screech sounded like one of those giant monster movies Josh loved when he was a boy. Glass shattered, siding split, and drywall crumbled. People were screaming and yelling to call 911. And praying too, of course—we’re Presbyterians.

Sirens followed very shortly. (It turned out someone got on the phone with Emergency Services when Shelly started talking about prophesying, and the operator heard the crash.) Those EMTs were sure busy when they got here. After the truck driver—who lived—was whisked away, they took everybody’s blood pressure, pulse, and whatever it is those clothespin-like things on our fingers check.

But that was all they had to do. They didn’t have to take anybody from Parkville Presbyterian to the hospital, although Keith Hadley insisted on going. He wasn’t even in church when it happened—he’d skipped coffee hour for brunch at the diner across the street. Still, he demanded a “full work up”. That tells you all you need to know about Keith.

My point is that nobody here was injured because the truck crashed into the social hall. That’s where the whole congregation, plus guests, should have been, chatting over coffee, cookies, and cupcakes. Instead, everybody had trooped back to the sanctuary, where all our horrified eyes were on the painting Shelly had… let’s call it “altered”. (She wants to sign her own name beside her son’s, but Josh convinced her to wait and see what the buyer wants.)

Speaking of buyers, once our story went viral, bids for The Seraph, as is, started pouring in. We’ll need every penny for repairs, I bet, even though the trucking company’s insurance is paying plenty.

Also, our attendance has increased. Sundays are as packed now as Christmas Eve in the 1970s, even though it’s still not Advent. Shelly, as you can imagine, revels in her new status as a prophet. She’s writing a book.

Well, I can hardly criticize her. How would I feel in her shoes? Especially since that “angel eyes” vision came to me the night before hers. I thought it was just a dream.

Pamela Love was born in New Jersey. After graduating from Bucknell University and working as a teacher and in marketing, she turned to writing. Her science fiction story “The Fog Test”, which appeared in Cricket, won SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Fiction Award in 2020. Her speculative fiction has also appeared in the anthologies Happy Holiday Historicals, Havok: Vice and Virtue, and Wyrms: An Anthology of Dragon Drabbles, among other publications. She lives in Maryland, and tweets as @PegasusAuthor and blogs at Goodreads Pamela Love’s Blog.

 “All Eyes” by Pamela Love. Copyright © 2024 by Pamela Love.

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