Witnesses were coming in fifteen minutes–at eight o’clock. Witnesses were coming for the neighborhood. Witnesses were coming for the Jackson household. Witnesses came every Sunday–no exceptions.
The Jackson family sat around a card table.
Shirley Jackson was a mother. Shirley Jackson was a woman. She cooked, cleaned and tended to her husband and children. She also worked part-time at The Hospital. Sure, she occasionally smoked reefer, occasionally stole linens from The Hospital and more than occasionally stole money from her husband’s wallet, but she frequently considered herself to be a good, God-fearing woman. Shirley Jackson was a strong woman. But she wasn’t strong on Sundays. No one was strong on Sundays.
Mister Jackson was a father. Mister Jackson was a man. He fixed things, watched sports and financially supported his wife and children. He also worked full-time at The Plant. Sure, he occasionally masturbated, occasionally watched porn and more than occasionally masturbated while watching porn, but he frequently considered himself to be a good provider. Mister Jackson was a silent man. But he wasn’t silent on Sundays. No one was silent on Sundays.
Shirley Jackson and Mister Jackson had three children.
Junior Jackson was fourteen, the oldest son. Junior Jackson was a teenager. He obeyed his parents, played video games and disobeyed his parents. He also learned full-time at The School. Sure, he occasionally smoked his mother’s reefer, occasionally watched his father’s porn and more than occasionally shot jism on the stolen linens, but he frequently considered himself to be a good teenager. Junior Jackson was a typical teenager. But he wasn’t typical on Sundays. No one was typical on Sundays.
James Jackson was ten, the youngest son. James Jackson was a child. He admired his brother, completed his homework and played with friends. He also learned full-time at The School. Sure, he occasionally watched his brother smoke his mother’s reefer, occasionally watched his brother watch his father’s porn and more than occasionally watched his brother shoot jism on the stolen linens, but he frequently considered himself to be an obedient child. James Jackson was a curious child. But he wasn’t curious on Sundays. No one was curious on Sundays.
Baby Jackson was two, the only daughter. Baby Jackson was a toddler. She ate, slept and defecated. She also learned full-time in The Home. Sure, she occasionally… but she frequently considered… Baby Jackson was an uninhibited toddler. And she was uninhibited on Sundays. Everyone was scared of Baby Jackson on Sundays because no one was uninhibited on Sundays.
“No! ” Baby Jackson yelled, breaking the dead silence at the table.
“Jesus Christ! ” Mister Jackson exclaimed. “Git dat goddam baby outta here! ”
Shirley Jackson shot up, snatched Baby Jackson from her fold-up chair and whisked her away into the living room. Seconds later, she reappeared and walked quickly back to her own fold-up chair.
“Now how many times I got ta tell ya, Shirl? ” Mister Jackson’s voice trembled. “Keep dat baby outta here on Sundays! ” He picked up a piece of toilet paper with shaky hands and dabbed at his showering forehead.
Everyone stared at Mister Jackson.
“Hush up now, Mistah Jackson! ” Shirley Jackson whispered loudly, her wide eyes darting around. “We ain’t got no time da be foolin’ roun’ wit’ all ya foolishness! ” She raised her shaky arm. “See now! ” She exclaimed, steadying her arm and looking at her new watch. “We ain’t got but ten minutes lef’! ”
Everyone stared at Shirley Jackson.
Junior Jackson picked up his plastic fork. Shirley Jackson smacked him promptly on the back of his head. “Boy! ” She whispered, her eyes bulging. “We got ta thank da Lawd! Got ta bless dis food! ”
The Jackson family closed their eyes and bowed their heads.
Whispering, Junior Jackson began rambling off the blessing. Shirley Jackson–her eyes still closed and her head still bowed–smacked Junior Jackson promptly on the back of his head again. Junior Jackson slowed the blessing.
“Amen. ” Everyone repeated, whispering.
The Jackson family began shoveling breakfast into their mouths.
“Ahhhh! ” Everyone screamed, jumping.
James Jackson knocked over his paper cup. Mister Jackson smacked him promptly on the back of his head. “Goddamit, Shirl! ” He exclaimed. “Ansa dat goddam phone! ”
Everyone stared at the ringing phone.
Shirley Jackson shot up and snatched the phone off the hook.
“Dey comin’, Shirl! Lawd, Dey comin’! ”
Everyone listened to the dial tone of the wildly swinging phone.
“Dey comin’! ” Shirley Jackson screamed, throwing her hands into the air.
Everybody shot up and began scrambling.
Junior Jackson ran to the door and jiggled the knob but placed his thumb and forefinger on the golden lock.
James Jackson ran to the wall and hit the lights but kept his thumb and forefinger on the white switch.
Shirley Jackson and Mister Jackson ran to the windows and drew the sheets.
Shirley Jackson fainted.
Mister Jackson peeked from behind the sheet. “Lawd, ham mercy! ” He cried. “Hit it! ”
Everybody dropped to the floor.
Outside, Witnesses poured forth from the three functioning doors of the white van parked in the middle of the street. Witness men wore black trench coats, immaculate white shirts with slim black ties, black slacks and black patent leather shoes. Witness women wore pillbox hats, blazers, white gloves, knee skirts and low-heeled pumps. All Witnesses carried black briefcases and a single book: The Good Book.
Patient knocking sounded on the Jackson family’s door.
“Aw, Lawd! Help me, please…Shirl…please…Lawd…git up! ” Mister Jackson whispered.
“I seen da light! ” Exclaimed the Witness, knocking faster.
“Lawd, please forgive…Shirl…boy! ” Shooting up off his stomach, Mister Jackson snatched off his belt and made for the hallway. “You cut dat light back on agin, boy! ”
“Ah! ” James Jackson shot up off his stomach and ran upstairs.
“Praise God! ” Exclaimed the Witness. “Open ya house ta da Lawd! ”
Mister Jackson turned and ran to the door.
“Ay–ay, man! ” Exclaimed the Witness. “You scuffin’ my shoes, man! Lemme in! ”
Junior Jackson slowly slid away from the door.
“You unlocked dis door agin, boy! ”
Junior Jackson shot up from his stomach with a howl, holding the back of his pants as he ran for the stairs.
“Git back, Satan! ” Exclaimed the Witness.
Mister Jackson flew back to the floor, where he hit his head and promptly passed out next to Shirley Jackson.
The Witness stepped through the door. There was really nothing left. Spotting the card table and phone, the Witness started before looking down. “Praise God! ” The Witness exclaimed. The Witness bent over and removed Shirley Jackson’s watch then placed the Bible upon her chest. “In da beginnin’ dare was da witness, hallelujah! ” Standing, the Witness nodded at the two before closing the door.
“No! ” Baby Jackson yelled from the living room.