by Ronald L. Grimes

Shirley snapped the pearl buttons on the cuffs of her ragged western shirt as she stepped out of her Airstream into the dark at Spirit Hill Trailer Park. The gravel crunched under her boots.  A flutter of wings. She stops. Listens. Peers over a clump of scrub oak bushes. Whispers, “Angels and crows are passing each other in the sky, Granny. You told me this would mark the beginning of the end. I’m ready.”

Shirley climbed into her green Ford pickup, stashed her .357 Magnum Nighthawk pistol in the glove compartment, stopped at the Sonic Drive-In, bought a chocolate pecan milkshake, hoping the sugar would keep her awake as she drove from Lubbock to Sundown, Texas. She arrived as the sun was rising over Resurrection Valley Cemetery to offer a few corn seeds, gifts to her grandmother.

Shirley was two, when her parents, Rex and Maggie, were killed when an old F-86 fighter jet from Canon Air Force Base lost power and crashed into their car outside Clovis, New Mexico. Her grandmother, Luella Wilmington, adopted Shirley and raised her as an unapologetic fundamentalist. Granny Luella told Shirley, “Whatever is fundamental for Jesus, is fundamental for me. And fundamental for you.”

Members of Calvary Methodist Church teased Luella, called her a Bible thumper. “So what?” she said. “Methodists were once called Bible moths.” Calvary was known as the singing church. When Luella sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” the congregation wept what Edie Whatley called “the salty tears of Jesus.” Luella knew by heart her favorite hymns in the Cokesbury Hymnal and had no use for the revised hymnal. She had doubts about renaming the denomination the United Methodist Church. She resisted being united with liberals who practiced abortion or homosexuality. Abortion was murder and homosexuality, a perversion.

Luella knew God had written the Bible. In the summers she sent young Shirley to Bible school. The teachers helped her memorize verses from the King James version. Granny knew God had inspired its translators.

By the time Shirley was thirty-four Bible verses pierced her heart like arrows. A pain would rise, then escape her lips as a low moan. Granny said, “Moaning is a sign the Holy Spirit is passing through you, rising up to Heaven.”

Granny Luella died of a sudden heart attack the day after Shirley’s fortieth birthday. She called an ambulance. By the time it arrived, Shirley was lying on the floor shaking. Later she told a nurse at Lubbock Methodist Hospital that she saw Luella entering heaven. After Shirley was released from the hospital, she buried her grandmother.

But grief became a ghost; it rode shotgun in her pickup and haunted her dreams. Shirley would wake up screaming, “Granny’s in heaven, you damned unholy ghost, be gone. You’re a devil. Go back to hell.”

A month after Granny’s death, Shirley met Ozias Abraham at Love’s Truckstop on Interstate 27, where she ate breakfast on Wednesdays with a group of women. She and Ozias became friends. He was a truck driver and often away for weeks at a time. While Ozias was on the road, Shirley promised to drive out to his ten acres outside Levelland to feed corn to his five Herford pigs and to put out hay for his two Clydesdale horses.

Shirley kept her pistol on the bedside table. She watched evangelists on late-night television and became addicted to sugar. Granny Luella loved bacon fat and corn dripping with butter. Shirley loved sweets. After a few years, she was shaped like Granny Luella—short, stocky, with a powerful, commanding voice.

Women began to follow Shirley, as they once followed Luella.

Once she had followers, Shirley decided to attend Caprock Christian College. She majored in Bible and graduated with honors. She also earned a certificate in court reporting and began to travel through Texas and New Mexico. Since her transcripts were fast and accurate, she became a favorite of circuit judges. Soon she had a thriving business.

On the road Shirley carried her Nighthawk pistol to protect herself from men who had rape on their minds. Granny had taught her that rapists wore a peculiar look on their faces, that you could smell their lust in the air.

Ozias gave her an Old Timer hunting knife. “Castrate the bastards,” he said. He gave her a John Deere hat, told her to put it on the dash of her pickup, so men would think there was another man around who could protect her.

She said, “I don’t need protection. I hit what I aim at.”

Shirley told her best friend Chris Hilton, “Granny Luella said if you’re round and heavy, like me, you’d better develop a compelling personality.”

She did.

By the time Shirley was forty-five, she had organized a dozen faithful followers into the Holy Hallelujah Prayer Group. The women prayed together on Wednesday nights. The group started after Shirley told the women who gathered for breakfast at Love’s Truckstop about a vision. She saw Granny Luella weeping in heaven eagerly waiting for her granddaughter and the righteous. Granny said, “Look. The crows are gathering. Circling in the sky. The unrighteous are crow bait. Time is running out. Tell people to get right with the Almighty Judge or he will send them straight off—no twists or turns—into the fiery flames of Hell.”

Shirley was eager for the Lord to come. She had visions of the last days, heard voices radiating from lumbering ice-cream trucks, swift racing bikes, howling coyotes, and would act out her visions for the group.

“You’re God’s puppet,” said the women.

“I like that,” Shirley said, “I’m God Almighty’s squawking puppet.” The women laughed.

Shirley watched her neighbors like a crow, hollering at their kids for throwing yucca spears at each other. She shouted caw-caw-caw to make them stop. “You noisy kids ought to obey your parents and Christian neighbors.”

They ignored her. Called her a witch.

Shirley wasn’t a witch. Far from it. At age forty-eight, she married Ozias Abraham, who converted to marry Shirley. Together, they joined the Lone Coyote Cowboy Church in Lubbock. Both dressed western and carried pistols to protect the Church from drug lords and illegals. Ozias—tall, lean, full of play and humor—drove trucks from Mexico through the United States to Canada.

Chris asked Shirley, “Isn’t the Cowboy Church full of racists?”

“No. We can’t possibly be racists. We’re Americans.”

“But you’re both Trumpites.”

“Yeah. And proud of it. But we’re not racists. Neither is Trump.

Shirley had picked out her plot at Resurrection Valley Cemetery next to Granny Luella’s grave. She covered it with yucca plants, called them arrows of God.

Shirley’s gravestone was ready for the Great Arrival. The stone was carved with her birth date followed by a dash. She was not eager to die but knew Jesus would soon arrive and resurrect the righteous. She had faith and knew she would be among those saved. She turned east, the direction from which the Great Judge would come, and strolled among the graves, talking with the dead and the living. She breathed, “Come to Jesus,” hoping the unrepentant dead would hear and repent.

Despite their arguments about Chris’s participation in the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, the two women clung tooth and nail to the old friendship. When Shirley began to talk about the unrepentant dead, Chris asked Shirley questions, “Can the dead repent? You can be saved after death?” Chris was skilled at keeping the focus off herself and on others. At lunch one afternoon Chris poured a tumbler of tea with four packets of sugar for Shirley, then a glass of Pinot Noir for herself. Chris saw Shirley was embarrassed by the questions. She smiled, “You know, Shirley, Jesus turned water into wine, not wine into water.”

Shirley laughed, “Shut your trap, sister. You know I’m a teetotaler.”

Shirley had not always been alcohol-free. When she was a student at Caprock College, she became a barrel-racing champion. Late one night, against the rules of the college, she guzzled cheap tequila with other members of the Annie Oakley Rodeo Club. They stumbled toward a corral, smelled the foul air from the oil pumps, vomited and rode their horses bareback across a flat field. Shirley’s horse Matilda stepped into a prairie dog hole and broke its leg.

That was the day Shirley stopped drinking.

There was no room in the Airstream for Shirley’s rodeo trophies and buckles, so Chris stored them in her two-car garage, beside her pink Corvette. Together, the two friends decided to name the Corvette, Waltzing Matilda.

Chris, whom local teenage boys considered a stunner, was blond and gorgeous—a poster child for Miss Texas but with the wrong sentiments. She was a Bernie-Sanders Democrat and a Presbyterian who donated much of her inherited oil wealth to peace and justice causes.

Chris had frequent, short headaches. In October of 2018 a migraine started and would not go away. The pain was so intense she could hardly walk. Shirley said, “Chris, just ask the Lord to come into your heart and you’ll be healed.”

Chris was desperate, so she went with Shirley to the next meeting of her prayer group. Chris allowed the women to lay on hands and anoint her with holy water that Shirley had brought home from her last trip to the Holy Land.

The next Wednesday the women cried out for the Holy Spirit to descend. They saw visions of red and yellow flames in the heavens, spoke in tongues, fell into trance. Terrified, Chris ran out of the meeting. When Shirley accused Chris of retreating, she heard the word as a sign that they should go on a real retreat.

The next week, after the migraine had lifted, Chris bought two expensive camping tents, one red, the other blue. Shirley insisted on using her Ford pickup, “No gravel chips on your pink Corvette.”  They drove to Amarillo, ate jalapeño-laced enchiladas at the Saguaro Restaurant, then headed south toward Palo Duro Canyon. Chris skipped dessert. Shirley ate four sopapillas filled with butter and Busy Bee honey.

A ranger handed out a pamphlet at the entrance gate. Chris read a few lines to Shirley, “When the Spanish first discovered Palo Duro Canyon, they said it was like an upside-down mountain.” Chris said, “That’s me. I’m an upside down mountain. My head is below my feet. Something is wrong with me. I’m dizzy. Not sure where I’m headed.”

As they drove deep into the canyon, the sun was setting. Chris said, “Sorry, old friend, I need to be alone. I need to figure out what I’m doing, where I’m going.” They agreed that Shirley would set up the red tent and Chris, the blue one. During the day they talked and explored the Canyon valley, but at night they were alone in their tents.

Each night Shirley prayed, “Dear Lord…” with each prayer ending, “Please Jesus. Come soon.”

Chris pulled off the rain fly and stared at the sky through the mesh. She talked to the stars, imagining the twinkling was star-talk. The stars asked, “What are you doing with your life? What do you really want? Where are you going?”  

Chris wanted to talk with Shirley about these questions but didn’t. She knew the answers would be predictable, “Give your life to Jesus. Turn it over to the Lord.”

At midnight on Tuesday Shirley had a dream that woke her up. An angel came down. They wrestled. When the heavenly being touched her nipple, she felt a burst of pleasure. When she woke up, she was horrified.

In the morning she crawled out of her tent and confessed to Chris, “Last night an angel touched me. Here…”

Chris, “Ah, you know angels—their messages are mixed. You never know what they mean.”

“I’m a Christian, so I should know how to interpret dreams. The Bible is full of them.”

On Wednesday, when Shirley told the dream to her prayer group, arguments erupted. Some said the dream was from Satan. Others said it was from God. One woman said, the Savior was gentle, there was something feminine about him. He had long hair and was kind to children. Another said women were the first to see him after his resurrection. Another said that breasts weren’t for pleasure but for feeding babies.

Shirley went home confused. She examined her nipples, wished she and Ozias could have children. She began to pace back and forth. Like many members of the Cowboy Church, Shirley had a reproduction of Warner Sallman’s painting, Jesus Knocking at the Door. She had heard sermons from Brother Goodnight assuring the congregation that the door in the painting is a symbol of the human heart. As she passed by the painting, she would pause and put her hand over her breast, sometimes feeling a hard nipple.

Late one Sunday night, hand over heart, she realized her nipple was hard. Desire surged through her body. Her overalls grew damp. Ozias had just returned from trucking medical supplies from Mexico to Texas. He was surprised when she unzipped his Wranglers. He had driven for sixteen hours without sleeping.

Their delight was quick lived.

Chris and Shirley met the next morning at Roadrunner Coffee Shop. Shirley talked about the prayer-group controversy and her feelings about the painting. Chris reached out and gingerly touched Shirley’s breast, “Here?” she asked.

“Yeah.”  Shirley straightened her blouse and began drumming her fingers on the table.

Chris changed the subject, “Remember when we were in high school and took an archery class?”

“Yeah, we both got A’s.”

“Well, I was in an archery shop at Sweetwater last week and bought a lefthanded bow and two dozen arrows. Maybe we should take up archery again? What do you think? There’s a pit outside of town near the Rainbow Center.”

“Not sure how good I’d be now,” said Shirley.

“But we could try, couldn’t we?”

A week later Shirley found her old Bear recurve bow stashed away in Chris’s garage. She showed it to Chris, ran her finger up and down the bow’s curves, “They’re gorgeous, like you. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get more pleasure from Ol’ Bear than I do from Ozias.”

A week later the two women visited the pit and were surprised at how much of their skill remained after twenty-seven years. An elderly custodian at the Rainbow Center said, “The pit, back in the early 1960s, housed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that rose up out of the ground like huge, deadly dicks—like rattlesnakes.”

Chris laughed.

Shirley was silent.

For the next year, on Saturdays, Chris and Shirley went for an early morning coffee then headed to the pit. They became quite skilled and entered local competitions they often won. Dr. Eunice Beavin, a professor of anthropology and religion at Trinity College, saw them on television and asked the two women to come to her class for a demonstration. She wanted students to understand that the aging body continues to learn, that getting older does not prevent you from being a student. “We are all students,” she said.

Two field targets were set up in a large classroom. For five minutes the women shot arrows, most of them dead center. The students were stunned at the skill of these middle-aged women.

The professor borrowed the women’s bows and passed them around, “Don’t just look at the bows or think about them. Feel the bow. Become one with it.”

Puzzled but interested, the students passed around the bows. They touched, stroked, imagined.

Sarah Gillford, a star pitcher of the women’s baseball team, imagined Chris naked. Sarah, who always sat on the back row, opened her zipper and covered it with her baseball cap.

After class the Dr. Beavin gave Chris and Shirley a two hundred-dollar honorarium and a copy of Eugen Herrigel’s Zen and the Art of Archery. Chris took it home and read it avidly.

Shirley kept saying she intended to read it, but never did.

A year passed. Ozias had been away for three weeks. Shirley was lonely and slept over at Chris’s. Shirley said, “I worry he’s having an affair with somebody in Windsor. He keeps getting text messages. Says they are from a secretary at a Canadian biotech company. Maybe he’s having an affair with her?”

“Want to talk?” asked Chris.

“No,” said Shirley. She went to bed depressed.

Chris stayed up late. She had bought Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and read the first few chapters. She was imagining herself sitting on a big Harley Davidson motorcycle headed to San Francisco.

The next week she started taking motorcycle lessons and within a few months she bought a new Harley.

A few weeks later, she sold her pink Corvette and put her house up for sale.

When Shirley saw the for sale sign, she was furious. She screamed, “You didn’t tell me you were leaving.” She stormed out the front door, slamming it behind her.

Not a word passed between the women for a week.

The day Shirley showed up at Chris’s home, she was taken aback. “I’ve come to forgive you,” said Shirley.

“Forgive me? For what?”

“For being a coward, a runway. You are leaving me and leaving the Lord.”

“You and the Lord are the same? Isn’t that idolatry? I’m not a coward. I’ve lived all my life here. I’m not running away, just exploring the world outside west Texas.”

“Chris, you should settle down, get married, have babies. But I forgive you.”

“I don’t want your forgiveness. I want your understanding.”

“I understand that you’ve sinned and need to repent.”

“For what? No. Absolutely not.”

“Maybe you are a lesbian.”

“And if I were?”

The Wednesday after this argument, Shirley went to her prayer group and told the women what had happened. Most of them cheered her for standing up for Christian principles. Anne Vass said, “If she is a lesbian, that’s against God’s will.” Most of the group agreed that a husband is the head of a household. The purpose of sex is not enjoyment but reproduction.  Males and females were meant to have babies, to create—just as God created the universe.

After the meeting Shirley went to LouAnna, a prayer group member, and asked why she had been quiet. “I don’t think we should be judgmental. Judgment belongs to God.”

“But God wants us to judge between good and evil,” objected Shirley.

“Maybe, but our judgments are fallible. We’re not God. We’re not omniscient.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

The next morning Shirley drove to Resurrection Valley Cemetery in Sundown. She saw seven crows sitting on her grandmother’s gravestone, the grave was covered with rabbit fur, blood, intestines. Shirley knew it was a sign the Tribulation had begun and that she was being tested.

The crows began to caw, “Come, Shirley, come.”

She felt attracted but terrified.

She stood still.

Determined not to yield.

Shirley invited Chris out for coffee. “I’m confused. I heard the crows calling me and was tempted to follow. Jesus is calling me too. I want to follow him. He’s divine and forgives. I know you don’t want to be forgiven for running away, but the End is coming soon. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to say.”

“Maybe the best strategy is to say nothing. Be silent?”

“I guess you’re right,” said Shirley as she stared out the coffee shop window, “Prayer isn’t only about talking. Being quiet is a way of praying too. There is a passage in the Old Testament, “Be silent before the Lord God, for the day of the Lord is near.”

“That day has been near for over two thousand years,” said Chris.

“But you know what I mean?”

“No, not really.”

“I mean, Jesus never left us. He’s here now, but he’s coming soon. I want him to come.”

“Why? When? Where? I thought he was in heaven,” said Chris.

“He’s in both places.”

“Where is he now?”

“In my heart.”

“Not your brain? Not your belly? Not your vagina?”

Shirley blushed, shuffled her boots on the wooden floor, “Now why would Jesus be down there?”

Chris, “Because the whole body, not just your heart, is sacred. If you were raped, you’d feel that some sacred part of your body had been violated. Right?”

“I guess.”

“Come on, Shirley, you know that’s true.”

“Okay, I do.”

“Let me ask you a question,” said Chris. “You’re always taking about the incarnation. If God became flesh in Jesus, every part of our body is sacred. Why not a toe? An elbow? Why not the clitoris?”

Shirley stared down into her coffee cup, poured in more cream, stashed her napkin into her purse.

Desperate to change the subject Shirley said, “Listen. Hear that? Hundreds of crows are landing in the dead elms outside the coffee shop. That’s a sign the End is near.”

“Maybe Jesus is a crow?”

“Crows are devils.”

Chris laughed, “Crows are very smart. Maybe you and I are crows? What’s so special about humans?”

“We have souls.”

“How do you know animals or rocks don’t?”

“They aren’t living.”                                        

“Sure, they are,” said Chris, “Just think about the rock that closed Jesus’s tomb. It rolled itself away. Even rocks have spirits.”

Shirley knew Chris was teasing her, so she rolled her eyeballs but said nothing.

The two women paid their bill and headed out into the blinding sun toward Hillcrest Park. “You know,” said Shirley, “We rarely take long walks, but when we do, we always get along. Why is that?”

“Don’t know. Maybe walking is prayer? I heard about Pueblo people in the Rio Grande Valley. For them walking—more like dancing—is prayer.”

“Being silent is prayer? And walking is prayer? Maybe I should teach the members of Holy Hallelujah these ways of praying.”

For the next half-hour the two women walked and said nothing until a crow flew overhead.

They smiled.

“Why not?”

“Yeah, why not?”

The two women began to build female scarecrows out of dried corn stalks from Ozias’s garden. They used cornsilk to give them curly, frizzy wigs. Each was dressed in a frilly old dress that Chris was going to donate to the Salvation Army. They called each of scarecrows Major Barbara, since Chris had seen the play Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw when she was in Washington for the Women’s March.

Ozias donated the corn. The women built seven Barbies, but the crows were unafraid. They would light on the scarecrows, peck out the eyes and gobble the corn kernels. At sunrise and sunset hundreds of crows would gather. Ozias laughed, calling the gathering a conference of stand-up comedians.

Shirley didn’t think the joke was funny.

One day at noon Shirley walked calmly to the garden. Aimed.  Shot arrows through the hearts of the scarecrows and burned them. For hours the crows circled the garden. One crow circled, swooped down, slammed its beak into her skull and left her bleeding. When it came back a second time, Shirley grabbed her pistol and shot it out of the air.

It fell.

She ground the crow’s head into the dirt with her boot heel.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Shirley was jubilant. “Chris, he’s been chosen by God, and that means an end to abortion, to murder.”

“He was elected by people with your views, not mine. He likes to grab women by their pussies, and he’s had many affairs. He’s probably paid for several abortions. Anyway, he lost the election.”

“No, he won by a huge majority,” said Shirley.

“He lost the popular vote by over two million votes, although he won the Electoral College.”

The two women argued and made up several times.

On the Tuesday after the election Shirley had a dream. She sat up in bed at two in the morning. Ozias was still sleeping. She drove to Chris’s home, woke up her friend, “I’ve had a vision. I see a huge mansion full of dead souls. Granny Luella’s there. She shouts, the End is here. The Handmaidens are lighting candles. Jews are blowing the ram’s horn in Jerusalem. They are being converted to Christianity and are calling people to prepare their souls to meet God Almighty, the Judge of Souls.

“An angel flies over, then turns into a dove. I fall on the floor and weep with joy. I cry please come. The Holy Spirit arrives. Our spirits intertwine. We make love. We become one. I’m impregnated by the Holy Spirit. I feel my soul starting to lift off my body. I shout, O God, O my God.

“I wake up dizzy, ecstatic. Hoping to see the dove again, I fall asleep. The dove arrives. It flies outside my bedroom window. I am so happy. Suddenly a crow tears into the side of the dove and rips its head off. The crow stands upright on its legs. It’s taller than a person and has wings. It’s the Devil. Its beak changes into a bullhorn with a crackling sound like an electrical short in a revival tent. The Crow-Devil calls out to dead souls, Follow me. Skeletons sit up in their graves. I scream, No! It’s too early. It’s not time. Jesus, stop the Devil. I’m not ready. I’m waiting for

Three weeks later the women go the sandhills for a picnic. The sun is setting. Chris says, “Sorry Shirley but Jesus isn’t coming. Not now. Not ever.”

Shirley, “Yes. He’s coming. But not yet. He’s waiting on you.”

Chris, “And I’er.”$$

Shirley, “What on God’s green earth are you talking about?”

Chris, “Never mind.”

Shirley, “What?”

Chris, “We’re made in God’s image, right?”

Shirley, “Yes.”

Chris, “In our image—yours and mine? That would be female. Shirley, we’re doves. We’re also crows. We daughters of God are both doves and crows.”

“That makes no sense. The world is divided—good on right side, evil on the left.”

“We peace-loving humans think we can scare off crows with scarecrows. But scarecrows—meant by us humans to repel crows—attract them. Remember what the crows did to our scarecrows. And what you did that one crow? Let me ask you, Shirley, will God forgive the crow?”

“He will forgive all who repent.”

“Can crows repent? Why should they? I don’t repent. Why should I?  God made crows and women smart and curious. Like Eve, we women keep eating apples and crows, corn. That’s why we know what we know. That’s how we know the difference between good, evil, and everything in between. There is no heaven. There is no hell. Just the all-encompassing Mother who loves us.”

Shirley said, “I can’t remember my mother or father, and my grandmother was a saint.”

“I never knew my grandmother. Like you, my parents died early but they left me with a huge amount of Conoco oil stock. You follow Jesus, but I adopted the Great Cosmic Mamma, blind to virtues and vices, blind to religion. We’re all saved. Now and forever, right?”

Shirley takes off her boots, digs her toes into the sand, stares at the disappearing horizon. “Maybe so,” she says, “I’m tired. Tired of waiting.”

“Me too,” says Chris.

As darkness creeps in both women grow silent. Each decides to leave. But neither moves.

They fall asleep in the warm sand. The next morning, when the sun rises, Shirley sits up, sees wave patterns in the sand and knows they are the tracks of a sidewinder rattlesnake. She follows the tracks to an old yucca plant. Sees it is about to drop its seeds. Behind the yucca are hundreds crow tracks, a few black feathers, and a dead sidewinder with its eyes pecked out.

The next morning Ozias parks his truck beside the Airstream, goes in, finds a note from Shirley, “Chris and I are taking a trip. We’re riding her motorcycle to Corpus Christi. Should be back in two weeks. Maybe longer. Don’t worry.”

Ozias does worry, “Chris has a motorcycle?” He drives to her house and discovers it’s been sold. Goes back to the Airstream, searches Shirley’s closet, sees most of her good clothes are gone. He goes to the garden to see the scarecrows but finds ashes, burnt arrows, crow feathers. He examines the scene, tries to imagine what happened, then calls three members of Shirley’s prayer group. They haven’t seen her and are upset.

Ozias drives to Corpus Christi but can’t find Shirley after two weeks of searching, drives back to Lubbock and files a missing person report.

After a year Ozias assumes Shirley’s been abducted. Maybe raped? Maybe dead? He stops taking baths and stops shaving. He quits eating.  Jake Jordan, pastor of Lone Coyote Cowboy Church, knocks on his door, says, “Come with me.”

The two men make two scarecrows to resemble Shirley and Chris. They take them to Resurrection Valley Cemetery and use Shirley’s Nighthawk to shoot the Barbies to shreds. They burn the straw and carry the ashes to Granny Luella’s grave in Sundown.

Ozias says, “Granny Luella, I am returning the lost Shirley to you.” He never learns that Shirley and Chris are living together in a commune sponsored by the LGBTQ+ Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco.


Originally published as a Web feature in El Portal, 2022,