The gnashing of teeth

January 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

The intense warmth from the burning church was not, despite the midday heat, unpleasant. The waving flags of flame rippled in spangled triumph over the efforts of a black man with a water hose. A lighter-skinned black girl near R. stood recording the scene on her phone. A white woman a block away visored her eyes with one hand and squinted herself agog as the steeple, which had for minutes stood defiant, an aggrieved but avenging angel, teetered like a toddler. For a moment, the crackling of the blaze receded to an obeisant hush.

“Lord, have mercy!” the black smoke shrieked.


With an audible snap the steeple quivered, and did not so much as fall down as melt away.

“I would’ve thought that’d make a lot more noise,” R. unknowingly told the girl’s camera.

“Why, Lord! Pastor Troy, how could this happen?” the smoke wailed.

As two fire engines rounded the corner en route, sirens silently flashing, the black man dropped his hose and replied: “I don’t give a fuck how this happened! What I wanna know is … who did this shit right here?”

The gnashing of teeth, teeth wet by tears, pulpit-promised to the damned, though it is, God-damned as he does, also describes the mastication — the toothsome sucking of sorrow into sweetness — of a righteous anger.

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