The Baptist Junkie
Brenda is the youngest of Deacon John Wilson’s four children. He tries to keep them all on the straight and narrow, but his strict, religious practices only ignite a pattern of rebellion for Brenda. The day she loses her virginity, she conceives a child. The problem is she is sixteen and pregnant out of wedlock, an issue a 1968 society uses to reject young girls. Her dreams of someday becoming a wife and mother, living happily-ever-after are diminished when the father of her unborn child rejects her, the church shuns her, and her father’s words, “You are ruined!” send her on an emotional tailspin.
Her quest for love, acceptance, and validation leads her on a journey of poor choices in men, friends, and indulgence in drugs from marijuana to heroin. Her tumultuous trek takes her from the church house, to the dope house, to the whorehouse, and eventually the jailhouse.
Will this good girl lost find her way? Will she redeem herself and her faith in God? Will she realize her worth is not based on the judgment of others? Will she recognize true love when it crosses her path or will she keep running from her pain?
…beauty for ashes… It’s what I think about having read Telishia Berry’s “The Baptist Junkie.” Not only is this tale a strong redemption story, but it also shows readers that no matter the ugly, the hurt, the pain they have gone through, through grace and faith, those scars can be healed and beauty can be restored. It’s one thing to read for entertainment; it’s another to read to be entertained AND to glean messages for your own life. “The Baptist Junkie” does both. ~ Shonell Bacon, author, editor, educator
Words–They Will Hurt You
Brenda Wilson, like most children, needs the love and support of her parents, especially her father. But, how can she love and obey the Father she can’t see when the father she lives with browbeats her and her siblings with the letter of the Biblical law?
Sixteen-year-old Brenda is unexpectedly pregnant. The words spoken over her by her father, serve as her roadmap to hell. In need of something to quiet the din of harsh words, fast living, assorted men, drugs and alcohol become Brenda’s way of self-medicating.
The Baptist Junkie by Telishia Berry puts on display the power of the spoken word. It also shows the danger of kept secrets. Most of all we’re presented with the truth of God’s everlasting love and forgiveness in spite of our human failings.
Dr. Linda F. Beed / Reviewer
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Maureen nearly dropped the dish she was washing when she heard her father’s loud voice yell from his bedroom. Kadie tried to calm him, but it was obvious that he was extremely angry.
Maureen dashed up the stairs and stormed in the bedroom.
“What in the world did you do?” she asked. Her face was flushed. Brenda ignored her. “Answer me! I heard Daddy yelling your name. What did you do to make him so mad?”
“Brenda, get down here!” Deacon Wilson shouted.
“Oh, God,” Brenda whined. Tensed, she clenched her fists and walked slowly toward the staircase. Maureen followed behind her, anxious to know what was going on.
“Speed it up, girl, before my shoes scrape the skin right off your ankles,” Maureen said. Brenda continued to ignore her and kept walking slowly, hesitantly anticipating the showdown she knew she would encounter once she was face-to-face with Deacon.
“Have a seat, Brenda,” Deacon Wilson said in a stern tone. He sat at the head of the dining room table. Kadie stood catty-corner in the doorway while Maureen stood guard with her back against the wall, her hands resting on her hips, eager to find out what Brenda had done.
Shaking, with her head down, Brenda pulled the chair back and sat down. Her eyes focused on the green linen placemat that sat neatly on the table in front of her. She placed her sweaty palms flat down on the placemat, hoping the linen would help absorb the sweat that seemed to pour from all over her body. Deacon Wilson shook his head a moment before he spoke. The silence drew a lump in his throat.
“Em, em, em,” he said, his disappointment obvious. The anger and hurt were visible in his eyes and in his wordless expression. He stuttered, trying to find the right words to say. “W-why, how could you let this happen?” he asked. “How could you do this to us? You know what the Bible says about fornication and you done got yourself pregnant!”
Brenda cringed. Maureen gasped, and her mouth drew wide open as she covered her lips with both hands.
“Well, she didn’t get that way by herself,” Kadie interjected.
“Em, em, em,” Deacon repeated, shaking his head again.
“Maureen, you can excuse yourself while we deal with Brenda,” Deacon Wilson said. In silence Maureen stepped out of the room, to where she was out of sight, but nearby so she could still hear the conversation. She stood with her ear near the door.
“You’re just sixteen. You know what they call babies of unmarried women? Bastards, that’s what they call ‘em!”
Brenda cried, breaking her silence. “Daddy, I’m…I’m sorry. I could go to one of those places to have an a … abor…”
“Abortion?” he yelled, cutting into her words. Kadie hung her head.
“Lord knows I am very disappointed in you. You are ruined. You will never have what your mother and I wanted for you. You’re not about to get any lower by having an abortion. Abortion is murder, and one sin can’t cover another,” Deacon responded. Deacon’s words penetrated deep in Brenda’s stomach, she felt the need to rush to the toilet to vomit, but she held it in. “The Bible says thou shall not kill, and that we won’t do. You also won’t have a bastard child.” He pounded his fist on the table, startling Kadie and Maureen who stood outside the door.
“We gone have to let God deal with you, and I’m gone deal with … what’s the boy’s name, Brenda?”
Brenda was crying so hard she couldn’t speak.
“Karl, Daddy,” Maureen answered from the other room. She rushed back into the room. “His name is Karl, right?” she added, turning to ask Brenda. Brenda nodded her head and rolled her eyes at Maureen. Maureen heard Brenda and Cheryl on the telephone talk often about Karl, and she saw them walking together at school. “Karl Hamilton,” Maureen added, handing Brenda a few tissues from the box that sat at the other end of the table. Brenda let the tissues drop on the table. Her hatred for her sister’s meddlesome ways was apparent.
“Maureen?” Kadie said, eyeing her daughter.
“You have five seconds to leave this room and not return. Stop being so nosy. This does not concern you.”
The room remained quiet as Maureen shuffled her feet and left the room.
“I’m going to see this Karl and his daddy,” Deacon said. “I want to know what they gonna do about this.” Brenda’s eyes widened as she lifted her head with concern. “Where about does this Karl live?” he asked, curling his lips and gritting his teeth.
Brenda was too stunned to speak. Finally, she muttered, “Down on Jackson Street near Bonbright.”
“Don’t you go down there starting no ruckus, John,” Kadie said.
“What do you mean? That little …” Deacon caught his words. “Done got my baby girl pregnant. It’s only gone be ruckus if he don’t do something about it.”
“Well, what you suppose he’s gone do now?” Kadie asked.
“Marry her! That’s the only way,” Deacon spoke firmly.
Brenda collapsed her upper body right down on the table and let loose a whirl of tears and moans.
“Oh Lawd,” Kadie exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. She slipped on her shoes and grabbed her purse. “I’m going with you. You’re gone get yourself in a world of trouble going to folks’ house like this.”
Deacon snatched opened the second drawer of the China cabinet and pulled out his shotgun shells then disappeared to the basement. Kadie rushed behind him.
“John, we’re not down south. There’s a better way to handle this. Don’t you go getting that shotgun.”
“You just hope I don’t have to use it,” he said, making his way back to the dining room carrying his double barrel shotgun. Shooting an angry glare at Brenda, he said, “Come on. You’re showing me where this boy lives.”
Brenda twisted her face and sniffled as more tears flowed heavily from her eyes.
“Please Daddy, please don’t make me go,” Brenda sobbed.
“I said get your shoes, girl. You ashamed now, huh? Well, you wasn’t ashamed when you was laying up with him.”
Tears blurred her vision as she walked around dazed, looking for her shoes.
“I don’t want no trouble, John,” Kadie expressed.
He ignored her, took the shotgun out the back door, and secured it in the trunk of his car.
“Jesus,” Kadie shouted, tucking her purse under her arm then trailing out behind him.
Brenda walked out last, slowly, and still trying to put the shoes on her feet.
Sensing the coast was clear, Maureen ran to the window to watch them drive away.
Deacon slowed down as he pulled onto Jackson Street. “Where is the house?” Deacon yelled to Brenda who sat in the backseat.
“Right there,” she replied, pointing to the green house with the bright yellow trim.
Deacon pulled his blue ‘67 Cadillac into the Hamilton’s driveway.
“John, now you supposed to be a man of God. Don’t you get over here showing out like the devil.”
Again, he ignored Kadie and bolted out of the car, slamming his door behind him. He started toward the trunk but the ride over had helped him to at least think rationally. He decided to leave the shotgun in the trunk and hoped the conversation turned out to be a good one so he didn’t have to rush back to the car to get it.
Kadie walked behind him up the driveway. Brenda waited in the car.
“John, please … stay calm,” Kadie said just as he drew his hand up to knock at the Hamilton’s door.
Karl’s mother, Lillian opened the door half way.
“Mrs. Hamilton?” Deacon asked.
“How ya do, ma’am? My name is John Wilson. This is my wife, Kadie. I’d like to talk to Mr. Hamilton, please,” Deacon spoke hard and as calm as he could be.
“Your son Karl’s been seeing my daughter,” Kadie added.
“C’mon in.” Lillian was a little hesitant, but opened the door for them.
Deacon Wilson took off his hat as he walked into the Hamilton’s home respectfully, just as he did when he entered anyone else’s home or church.
Lillian didn’t know what this was about, but she knew she needed to get her husband in the room quickly.
Mr. Hamilton, a tall, slender man, entered the kitchen where Deacon and Kadie waited. His low cut hair was gray and receding with a shiny ball spot on the top of his head. His dingy, white T-shirt hung loosely over his brown gabardine slacks. His feet were noticeably large as he walked on the back ends of his black leather bedroom shoes.
Lillian shot him a look as to say he could have fixed himself up better before coming to the door.
His voice loud and rough, he asked“What can I do for you?”
“I’m here to talk to you about your son, Karl,” Deacon replied.
Lillian stood near the door, anxious to know what Deacon and his wife had to say about their son.
“What is this about?” Mr. Hamilton asked, frowning.
“My daughter Brenda is … is pregnant, and she said your son Karl had something to do with it. Now I want to know what he plans to do about it.”
Lillian’s mouth dropped open. She rushed through the house, calling for Karl.
“Yes, ma’am,” Karl replied from the top of the staircase.
“Get down here now,” Mr. Hamilton yelled. Karl quickly dashed down the stairs to the kitchen. He had never met Brenda’s parents, so he didn’t know who they were.
“Boy, you’ve been messing around with their daughter?” Mr. Hamilton asked.
Karl was speechless.
“Brenda,” Deacon Wilson confirmed.
“She’s pregnant!” Mr. Hamilton said, tightening his lips.
“And I expect you to marry her,” Deacon Wilson blurted.
Karl was stunned, standing there, stone-faced.
“Now, wait a minute. Why should we believe that our son got your daughter pregnant?” Lillian spoke firmly.
“So what are you trying to say?” Kadie asked, raising her voice, staring Lillian in her eyes.
“Hold on here. He hasn’t opened his mouth,” Deacon Wilson said, staring right at Karl.
“Well, speak up boy,” Mr. Hamilton demanded.
“It only happened one time,” Karl blurted.
“Obviously, that’s all it took,” Kadie interjected, rolling her eyes.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Karl said, “and I … I don’t want to get married.” Karl’s nonchalant response made Deacon Wilson angrier. He wiped the sweat that shined above his brow and blew spurts of hot air from his mouth. Kadie had never seen him this angry before.
“So that’s it, huh,” Deacon Wilson expressed, twitching his lips and staring into Karl’s eyes. Deacon’s skin was a caramel color, but at that moment, the anger that swelled up inside him caused his skin tone to turn a plum burgundy. He tried to contain himself, but the thought of the shame brought to his daughter and to himself enraged him. The thought of the respect he had from his family and from his church worried him.
“I’m graduating this year and going to college,” Karl spoke firmly. Deacon Wilson was furious as he puffed up and lashed out at Karl. In that angry moment, Deacon’s good Christian integrity was silenced and his flesh ruled. He was a hurt man, a father.
“John,” Kadie yelled as she pulled Deacon away from Karl.
“You ruined my daughter,” he yelled, spewing speckles of spit from his mouth. Anger and disappointment were heard clearly in Deacon’s voice.
Kadie pulled Deacon back, securing her chest against his back and gripping her arms tightly around his waist.
“I think you all better be leaving,” Lillian said as she stood guard in front of Karl, protecting him from the whipping Deacon was eager to put on him.
“Yes, we can deal with this later,” Mr. Hamilton said.
“Later? My daughter is pregnant,” Deacon started in loud, but quickly lowered his voice, trying hard to regain his good character.
“Let’s go,” Kadie said, pulling Deacon away, feeling their attempt to get any consolation was useless.
Deacon slapped his thin brim hat on his head as he exited the Hamilton’s kitchen.
He stepped hard toward the car, but Kadie thought he was going for the trunk.
“No, John!” she yelled.
Deacon halted his vengeful thoughts and got into the car. Normally, he was a gentleman and opened the car door for Kadie, but not this day. He was just too mad.
“Calm down, John,” Kadie pleaded as she slid onto the passenger seat of the car. She barely pulled her feet in all the way before he started the engine and shifted to reverse. Deacon Wilson fumed. Kadie knew it was best she just kept quiet. Brenda covered her face with her hands and lay down on the back seat. A swirl of emotions fluttered through her insides.
Deacon sped through the few blocks back to his house, barely pausing at the stop signs on the way. He barged into his own driveway, scraping the metal underneath the trunk on the pavement. Kadie and Brenda walked in the house first while Deacon took time to remove the shotgun from the trunk and put it back in the cabinet in the basement.
The rest of the evening was solemn as everyone in the house tended to his or her own business. In silence, Kadie and Deacon retreated to their bedroom. Deacon wondered to himself if he had been a good father and if he had trained up his kid’s right according to the Bible. He imagined what the church folks would say once they found out. The gray hairs on his back rose with the thought of his baby girl walking around the house with a big belly. The thought of sending her to his mother’s house in Tennessee during the pregnancy crossed his mind but quickly diminished. Mostly, he thought about Karl and how he wanted to wrap his hands around his neck and choke him for not wanting to marry his daughter. His mind flooded with negative thoughts of how he believed Brenda’s future would be with a baby and no husband. Because she would have a bastard child, he believed that her life was ruined and that no other man would want her.
Silence loomed the air in their bedroom as Kadie took to folding the laundry she hadn’t finished earlier, trying to ease her own mind. After Deacon undressed and put on his plaid cotton pajamas, he slipped into bed and propped up two pillows behind him. He pulled his Bible from the nightstand and flipped through it, searching for the Holy words that he knew could soothe him.
Kadie began to hum her favorite hymn until she couldn’t resist voicing her thoughts. “John, you know this is not our fault. I know we’ve done well with our four children. We’ve been married twenty-two years, and I know how you think. You digging into that Bible, trying to find where you went wrong. Humph, you know that everything happens for a reason.”
“I didn’t want to see my baby girl having no babies before she was married, especially by a man that don’t want her,” Deacon said.
“But you know that the Bible says that all things work together for the good of them that love God. You just have to believe that. Who knows who this child is going to be and why the Lord allows things to happen the way He does. You just as well accept it.”
Deacon paused and raised his eyes toward her. He smirked and offered no comment then returned his attention back to the scriptures on the page. Kadie smiled, believing that he had taken in what she’d said.
“I know who to trust in,” she added as she walked out of the room, singing softly.
“Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there,” she sang, rocking her head back and forth to the melody.
Brenda lay in her bed, tucked under her blankets, curled into a fetal position. Maureen sat in the corner at the small desk, finishing up letters she had written to Johnny and Al. This was juicy family business that she knew they would want to hear about while stationed in Vietnam. She couldn’t wait to drop them in the mail.
“Girl, you gone be a mama,” Maureen said, grinning, licking the last stamp, and pressing it onto the envelope, “and I’m gone be an auntie!”