Sunday Service: Mercy/Shiloh
There was only so much that a mechanic who didn’t like wearing gloves could do to get his hands clean. Most of them involved harsh chemicals, liberal amounts of Dawn dish soap, and a stiff scouring brush to scrub under his nails and against the creases in his palms — and they were never completely effective. A certain amount of grease would always remain caked into the deepest lines of Mercy’s hands, around his cuticles and in the folds of his knuckles. He wasn’t usually self-conscious about them, because he rarely spent much time outside of the garage. Mercy wasn’t usually self-conscious, period.
But it’d been a while since he’d attended a Sunday service. He’d dressed up, for him, slipping on his nicest jeans (by definition, since they were the only pair he owned without holes or oil stains) and one of his few shirts that had buttons. His hair was clean and combed back from his face, although it had curled damp with sweat against the nape of his neck because the church, like most, was old and without AC, and the windows propped open with blocks of wood did little to stir the humid fug that hovered over the pews. (It’d been warm enough that Mercy’s brain had wandered, and he’d spent a decent portion of the service wondering how the pastor could stand to wear a suit that looked like it was made of wool.)
For the fact alone that he lacked recent attendance in a town as small as Repose, Mercy would have attracted looks. Combined with the inconsistencies in his appearance — axle grease on his hands, the audacity to wear jeans, the fact that his skin was several shades darker than most — he was like a sore thumb. Or the large and ugly blood blister under the nail on his own thumb, that had bloomed after Mercy had accidentally gotten his fingers pinched under an alternator that had slipped out of his grasp. Near the end of the service, he’d spotted the lady sitting to his left staring at the blister with an expression of horror, and it was with great effort that Mercy had suppressed a snort.
The looks had continued at the service’s end, as he made his way from the pew that had remained mostly empty (despite the impressive turnout) and out the door, listing off to the side so that he could light up a smoke. From there he watched the expected dance lining up to file past the pastor in ones and twos, and he gleaned from snippets overheard that Father Browning was a new blessing upon their town. It was this fact that had Mercy lingering, rather than slipping away right after the sermon to head back to the garage as he’d planned. He waited as the more respectable Christians fawned over Pastor Browning in his inexplicably spotless shirtsleeves, nary a sweat stain in sight, until the numbers dwindled down to a few stragglers in the parking lot chit-chatting away. Only then did Mercy make his approach.
“Good of you, to give them something new to gossip about.”