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Excerpt from

The Making of Tibias Ivory: Freedom's Quest

by

D. Allen Jenkins

 

© D. Allen Jenkins

All Rights Reserved

 

No part of this excerpt may be copied, reproduced, or disseminated without the written consent of the copyright owner, or the owner of any specific rights related to this publication. Offenders will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


CHAPTER ONE

 

Bethany

 

The large, dark hands of Bishop Jericho raised the tiny form of Tibias Ivory and cradled him in the crook of his left arm. His mother, Bethany, his paternal grandmother, Matilda Worthington, and an entourage of aunts stood before the congregation of Shiloh Temple as the deep and impassioned voice of the bishop resounded off the arched ceiling of the newly built sanctuary. Jericho loved

baby dedications, but this one was special; the infant in his arms was as close  to a grandson as he would ever have.

 

Bethany,” he said, looking her squarely in the eye, “you have brought your son to the house of the Lord just as Hannah did with the young Samuel to dedicate him to God.”

 

Bethany nodded in agreement, as the bishop spoke.

 

“Yet unlike Hannah, you will not leave him here in this holy place, but will take him home to be the guardian of his life and soul.”

The bishop paused and gazed into Tibias’ large brown eyes. “Unless, of course, you’d like to leave him with Mrs. Jericho and me, which we wouldn’t mind at all.”

 

The congregation, knowing the love their pastor had for this child, broke into laughter. Bethany smiled as well, but had a not-on-your-life look in her eye that the bishop acknowledged with a wink.

 

 “Well then,” he continued, “since you seem to want to have him all for yourself, I will remind you that this is not so much a dedication of this child, as it is a dedication of yourself to the task of raising Tibias in the ways of God.”

 

A few amens sounded from those observing the proceedings, and Bethany again nodded her head in agreement and acceptance of these words. Bishop Jericho then looked into the wide eyes of the baby in his arms.

 

“Tibias, “ he said, his voice softening with even greater compassion, “ you are the most precious result of your parents’ quest for freedom. The ingredients of your making were courage, determination, and hope, yet the genesis of your character has been tempered by tragedy and pain. But as you lie here in my arms, you are as a jewel in the hands of God— uncut, unpolished, but precious and worthy of his attentions. He desires to craft you into a pearl of great price, a gem

of immeasurable worth.” 

The bishop placed his right hand into a silver bowl of water, placing his wet fingertips on Tibias’ forehead.

 

“Therefore, Tibias Mahognus Ivory, I dedicate you to God in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ guide you and prosper you all the days of your life. Amen.”

 

“Amen,” the congregants echoed. They stood in synchronized response to the prayer’s conclusion, and vacated their pews to engulf the bewildered mother and child. Bethany was enveloped by an overwhelming sense of oddness. These kindhearted worshipers loved and accepted her and her baby, of this she was certain, but despite the hugs, she felt very alone.

 

The congregants filed from the service and gathered on the front steps of the church. Someone said, “Let’s get a picture of this moment.” A consensus opinion was rapidly reached, and the small but exuberant gathering pulled themselves together as one, a familiar experience these last few months, and smiled a unified smile of thankfulness and praise for this moment they were

experiencing. The shutter snapped.

 

A week later, the bishop sat in the Worthingtons’ living room. Mrs. Jericho, Matilda, and Bethany holding Tibias, sat on the sofa next to the bishop examining the photograph. The bishop stood in the center of the front row of the gathered parishioners, his wife of thirty years stood next to him, their dark-hued skin standing in stark contrast with the fresh white paint of the structure behind them. Likewise, the congregation stood distinctively against the alabaster backdrop. The brilliance of the clean white was surreal, and singular—with one exception: Bethany Ivory.

 

**************

 

 

“That’s my girl.”

 

James watched his energetic nine-year-old deftly snatch the football out of the air. “I guess what they say is true: The apple never falls far from the tree.” The pride of a father was evident in his expression, and his deep voice resonated expressively as he laughed with his only child.

His wife raised her gaze from the green beans she was snapping, and looked at her husband with a satisfied grin. This could be good and bad, she thought as she watched them play. In the background of this lighthearted game of catch, rose the gleaming gold steeple of the Grace Haven Church. For nearly fifteen years, Reverend James Ivory and his wife, Martha, had pastored this parish, which stood in the center of Principle, a medium-sized community well south of the Mason-Dixon line.

 

“Throw it higher, Daddy,” came the gleeful request of the energetic young girl. 

“Go deep, Bethany.”

 

Short and slender, with golden hair reaching the middle of her back, Bethany ran as fast as her spindly legs could carry her; her father cocked his arm back and let a high spiraling pass fly. Bethany turned her eyes upward into the afternoon’s brilliant blue sky; her hands reached into the air and captured the ball. \“Touchdown!” she cried.

 

James raised his hands in a concert of celebration with his princess; she was

daddy’s little girl.

 

Indeed, from the moment of birth, Bethany belonged to Daddy. As the nurse placed her in her mother’s arms, the cries of the newborn were constant and piercing, but the instant Martha allowed James to take the tiny form into his arms, the screams stopped, bringing a welcomed calm to the room.

 

The closeness of the father/daughter relationship did not translate into the elder serving the younger; indeed, no one would anipulate Rev. James Ivory,especially his own daughter. He was the definitive magistrate of his home and church, and his daughter and congregation were equally guided under the strictest of regulations.

 

In childhood, Bethany was dutifully obedient; she had little choice. Standing over six-feet, six-inches in height and weighing 300 pounds, James Ivory was an intimidating figure. “The preacher man,” as townsfolk called him, dwarfed most in stature and attitude. So it was with young Bethany. Her little voice was often heard saying, “yes, sir” or “no, Daddy.” Puberty, however, brought a not so

subtle change to her sense of duty.

 

Ivory developed his “never-say-die” attitude while playing high school football, and he was not one to give into a situation easily. This characteristic was cloned perfectly in his maturing daughter, and soon it became obvious that Daddy’s little girl was becoming Daddy’s big headache.

 

Entering seventh grade, the once spindly tomboy suddenly looked quite womanly. A game of catch still interested her, but it was boys she wanted, not a football. Her male classmates gawked at her new shapeliness, and soon several young men were smothering her with attention—a development that caught the Reverend off guard. Bethany wasn’t a little girl anymore, and he now thought it

necessary to frequently, not to mention loudly, make his feelings known about the kind of boys he would allow her to see.

 

“Bethany Ivory,” he said one morning as she was leaving for school, a stern, preacherly stare engulfing his brow, “I better not find you with any of those older boys. They do not have your best interest in mind.”

 

 This did not sit well with Bethany, who was still a little naive and didn’t understand the import of her father’s admonition. She rather enjoyed the attention she was receiving, especially from a young man named Jason Wiley.

 

Jason was a member of three school sports teams. He was a good student and quite charming, not arrogant like so many other athletes in the school. He liked reading poetry and classic literature. He would often visit Bethany’s house after school, when he didn’t have some type of practice, and sit with her on the porch swing, talking about everything from music and movies to politics and

religion.

 

Discussions about popular culture were of great interests to Bethany, because she wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music on the radio or go to the movies. “Those things are of the devil and have no place in a Christian’s lifestyle,” her father would often say, “and those who listen to such noise will burn with him in the pits of hell.” Thus, chats about such things didn’t go very far, and were rather one-sided.  

However, their discussions about religion had more depth, not because she was interested in it above other things, but because this was all she ever heard her parents talk about. To Bethany’s great relief, Jason didn’t seem to mind the limited scope of conversation, though, to him, it did seem a bit odd.

 

Despite his rhetoric, Rev. Ivory was often too busy with his own world to pay much attention to the company Bethany was keeping. If his passing glances didn’t reveal long hair, odd clothing, or poor manners, he never seemed to mind his daughter’s visitors.  

Jason was did not fit any of these molds, and as Rev. Ivory came up the front walk one evening, Jason promptly stood and met the Reverend’s eyes as he ascended the porch steps.

 

“Hello, Reverend Ivory. How are you today, sir?”

 

Ivory paused and studied the boy. “And you are?” he queried.

 

“Jason Wiley, sir,” came the reply. “I’m a friend of Bethany’s from school.” James’s eyes shifted from Jason to Bethany. Her smile was timid yet pleading, hoping her father didn’t make a fuss about things. His eye came back to the young man before him.

 

“Yes, well, nice to meet you, Jason. It is good to know that there are still young men with manners among us.”

Ivory’s eyes turned downward to the picture on the newspaper in his hand.It showed an unruly mob protesting the war in Viet Nam. “These hooligans aren’t fit to live.”

 

He slapped the photograph with the back of his right hand. Jason didn’t respond, and Bethany’s face turned flush. Ivory didn’t notice either one of their expressions, and continued into the house still muttering about hooligans. After Ivory was safely inside, Jason returned to his place on the swing. “Guess I passed the test, since I’m still here.”

 

Bethany’s face grew brighter, but still bore some redness in the cheeks. “I’m so embarrassed,” she said.

 “Don’t worry about it.” Jason chuckled. “You should see my dad sometimes.”

 

The two laughed and soon were engrossed again in conversation, but— Bethany, dinnertime”— brought their visit to an abrupt end.

 

As the family ate their supper of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn on the cob, Rev. Ivory’s favorite meal, Bethany seemed distant. “Is something troubling you, sweetheart?” Martha asked.

 

“No, I was just thinking about what Jason and I were talking about.”

 

“And what was that?” asked Mrs. Ivory, passing the gravy bowl to her husband who, occupied with wiping his mouth after a particularly juicy bite of chicken leg, seemed unaware of the conversation.

 

“Oh, we were talking about the Bible. Jason said his church believes Jesus’mother, Mary, can be prayed to just like God.”

 

Reverend Ivory jolted upward in his chair, knocking the chicken leg from its place on the edge of his plate; it fell to the floor.

 “What did he say?” he bellowed.

 

“He said he asks Jesus’ mother, Mary, to pray to God for him just like he prays to God for himself,” Bethany stammered, taken aback by her father’s abrupt response. “Jason says he believes Mary can hear our prayers too. I just wanted to know …” The look on her father’s face cut her sentence short. Reverend Ivory stretched his massive frame upward from his chair. His face grew ever redder, and he pointed his finger toward his daughter. 

 

“I don’t care what you want to know,” he shouted, causing Mrs. Ivory to shudder, “you will never see him again, nor will you listen to any more of that devilish hogwash. He has poisoned your mind.”

 

“But, Daddy …”

 

“But nothing,” the reverend retorted, “I will not have my daughter cavorting with a heretic; Hell will be brimming with such infidels as the Catholics. Have I taught you nothing, young lady?”

 

Bethany, showing a surge of her father’s bulldog tenacity, didn’t back down. “Yes, Father,” she retorted, “that is all you’ve taught us: how bad the Catholics and the Pentecostals and the Methodists are, but never once have you explained why.”

 

Rev. Ivory, completely incensed at this insubordinate outburst, removed himself from the table into his study, slamming the door behind him. Concurrently, his twelve-year-old daughter burst into tears and ran screaming up to her bedroom.

 

“I hate you, I hate you,” she screeched, banging her bedroom door closed with a force equal to her father’s.

 

Mrs. Ivory sat alone at the dinner table, stupefied as to how she should respond. However, she knew one thing—from this moment on nothing would ever be the same. The dike had cracked; the question was how soon the dam would break.

 

Following the Jason Wiley incident, Bethany’s wild side emerged in earnest. Her attractiveness did not diminish as she matured, and her perfect complexion and well-proportioned curves, united with a sarcastic wit, enamored many a testosterone-flooded young man.

 Her female classmates did not despise her either. By her junior year, at age  seventeen, she was elected by her peers as captain of the Principle Tigers’Cheerleading Team, the first time the honor went to a non-senior.

 

Cheerleading practice coincided with football workouts after school, which gave the girls a prime opportunity to check out the boys. “Come on, girls,” Bethany called out to her fellow cheerleaders, “Let’s get some window shopping in before practice.”

 

All six girls ran out of the locker room onto the lawn separating the school from the football field. Finding a good vantage point, they eagerly awaited the team’s arrival for practice. As the team appeared in their padded workout jerseys, the girls did a purposefully unconvincing job of appearing uninterested in the obvious stares of the players.

 

“That baby can wrap his arms around me any time he wants,” said Dee-Dee Lozier, as she swiveled her hips and stared at one of the muscular defensive players. “All he has to do is call.”

 

“Yeah, but you’d better bring a spit-up rag for the drool,” quipped another.“I had to get my sweater dry cleaned after I went out with him last year.” Groans of disgust rose from the girls.

 

“So who are you interested in, Bethany, or has your daddy preached that out of you by now?” said Dee-Dee.

 

Bethany stared her down. “If my daddy knew what I thought about, he’d keel over and die. Besides, I’m not gonna tell you who I’ve got my eye on, ‘cause you’ll try to take ’im, Dee-Dee Lozier.”

 

The girls laughed, and Bethany turned from her teammates in an effort to regain her composure. The one thing she didn’t want her friends to know was her real fear—not of Dee-Dee, or anyone else taking her boyfriend, but a dread much more serious.

 

Turning again toward her squad, Bethany’s eye wandered briefly in the direction of the practice field where a lanky young man plucked a pass from the cloud-dotted sky. She spent but a moment in her voyeurism, but it was an exhilarating moment that caused her heart to race. The object of the slender captain’s gaze was Mahognus Worthington, the star wide receiver for the

Principle Tigers’ football team.

 

Mahognus was a senior, one year Bethany’s elder. Tall and slender, yet surprisingly muscular, he never made comments toward the girls, but his eyes always made contact with the young head cheerleader. He wasn’t merely the strong silent type; there was another reason for his apparent disinterest in the group of alabaster-skinned girls— Mahognus Worthington was black.

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