Holy Ghost Cornerby Michele Andrea Bowen
Theresa's been looking all of her life, and it
Theresa Elaine Hopson, 46, owner of Miss Thang's Holy Ghost Corner and Church Women's Boutique is puzzled. She can't, for the life of her, figure out why even Baby Doll Henderson, despite her false teeth and her navy-blue-socks-with-yellow-jelly-sandals-wearing self, can find a man and she, Theresa, can't.
Theresa's been looking all of her life, and it seems like the only thing she finds are things that need to say lost. Like, for example, her on and off "friend" and sometime escort, the sneaky businessman, Reverend Parvell Sikes.
So, when church mother Queen-Esther Green reacquaints Theresa with the older woman's backslidden player nephew, Lamont Green, it seems like the same old story.
But this time, Theresa decides to listen to God and what she hears soon brings a smile to her face with the realization that the Holy Ghost has been in her love corner all along.
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Holy Ghost CornerA Novel
By Michele Andrea Bowen
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2006 Michele Andrea Bowen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHERESA ELAINE HOPSON WAS FEELING LOW, though it was one of those perfect mid-November Durham afternoons-a sunny, fifty-degree, Carolina-blue-sky day. It was a pine-tree-smelling day, a shopping day-the kind of afternoon when no sister could resist dropping by Theresa's store, Miss Thang's Holy Ghost Corner and Church Woman's Boutique. To Theresa's ever-growing numbers of satisfied customers, Miss Thang's, as it was affectionately called, was the most perfect today's-black-woman-friendly store in the Triangle cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Sisters would wander by to spend a few minutes window-shopping, only to find themselves in the store hours later, captivated by all of that good-ole-black-girl stuff they hoped their designer and seriously ghetto-fabulous-faux-designer pocketbooks could handle.
The store's cash register rested on an antique glass display case, which held an assortment of crosses with exquisite jeweled settings, complemented by an array of matching cross earrings and bracelets. A corner table was dedicated to Bibles: classy leather-bound ones in black, pewter, and ruby along with chic Bible covers in rich suede, metallic leathers, velvet, and raw silk. Anotherlace-covered table held blessed and sanctified bottles of anointing oil-large, medium, small, and purse size. Right next to it, nestled in a nook, was a glass-doored corner hutch full of fine paper goods-sermons by the area's best preachers, Prayer and Praise Report Journals, pastel note cards, and legal pads with Bible verses printed on them, which were such a big hit with the local university students that Theresa couldn't keep them in stock.
The purses and hats were also a big draw. Miss Thang's purses were black-church-lady pocketbooks, pure and simple. Once, when asked by a friend, "Girl, what they look like?" a loyal customer held up her new black satin bag, with her church's name embroidered in sequins, and replied, "Now, do you want one of these, or should Miss Thang order you and your sorority sisters some royal blue silk clutch bags with 'Zeta Phi Beta' printed on the front with pearly white bugle beads?"
Cutting their lunch date short, that friend went straight to Miss Thang's to order twenty-five Zeta clutches for the Sorors and also treated herself to a ruby silk church bag with Jesus embroidered on it with silver silk thread.
And the hats-they were a visual feast, in every color and fabric. But everybody's favorite section of the store was devoted to what Theresa jokingly called her "Saved Hoochie Mama" merchandise. Tucked away in an antique mahogany armoire were pajamas and lingerie in silk, satin, and sheer chiffon, embroidered with expressions like "Saved," "Church Gurl," "Miss First Lady," and even "Bishop's Boo."
More than once, Theresa had been scolded and prayed over, with laying on of hands and anointing oil, when a conservative, super-saved customer went into the armoire looking for roomy, waist-high cotton drawers, support hose, and big longline bras, only to find filmy slips and camisoles, lace teddies, thongs, push-up demi-brassieres, and satin tap pants to match. In an effort to keep the "saved patrol" off her, Theresa tried to appease them by ordering their kind of underwear with "churchly" inscriptions. Now the big seller among the "saved patrol," which had first been special-ordered by a Holiness Church evangelist, Mother Clydetta Overton, was big panties with embroidery across the front reading "Nobody But Jesus Can See."
But the truth was that after a sister got lost in the sheer pleasure of looking at and touching the lingerie, she often came to her senses feeling embarrassed, especially when her eyes fell on the "Holy Ghost Corner" sign beside the armoire. Plenty of women got saved after rummaging through all that fancy, sexy, delicate bedroom wear and found themselves shamefaced, purchasing a new Bible, study guide, sermon, or Prayer and Praise Journal to strengthen their walk with the Lord.
The alarm system beep-beep-beeped, followed by a three-second blast of shouting music as the door swung open. Theresa's younger brother, Calvin, or "Bug," as he was called, insisted that the Holy Ghost had led him to wire that sound into the security system. Bug believed that if somebody came into the store who wasn't right, the shouting music would drive him or her out.
Theresa's assistant, Miss Queen Esther Green, was pushing through the door with her elbows, arms full of uniforms for area churches' Sunday morning service nurses in new colors-pale blue, pale purple, and off-white. She had a box of gloves gripped under one arm and in her free hand, a carton of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that smelled so good it would have made Peter forget his fear when he hopped out of that boat to walk on the water with Jesus.
"Uhhh, baby? You gone keep standing in the middle of the floor, or you think you'll come and help an old lady out before Jesus cracks across the sky?"
Theresa rushed over to take the doughnuts out of Miss Queen Esther's hand.
"Baby, the doughnuts ain't heavy but these uniforms are."
Sniffing at the doughnut box, Theresa gathered the uniforms from Queen Esther's arms.
"These hats just came in-met the UPS man just as I was pulling up." Miss Queen Esther started dragging in two boxes from outside the door. "You know something, baby, that UPS man kind of cute. What church he attend?"
"He doesn't like organized religion. Said that on Sunday mornings, he grabs a cup of coffee and sits quietly, and then thinks about nature and science and agriculture and stuff like that."
Queen Esther frowned. "Well, then, we can forget about trying to get the two of you fixed up."
"Miss Queen Esther, the UPS guy isn't my type."
"You right about that. A man who get up on Sunday morning dranking coffee and thinking about tomatoes, instead of studying his mind on the Lord, show ain't your type. Baby, I should have known that something was up with him as soon as I saw them long dreadses hanging way back off of that big, half-bald head.
"Baby, the Lord has often led me to discover that when people hiding stuff about themselves, they give off telltale signs with their clothes, their hair, the way they keep their house and such. So, that hair is a blessing in disguise. 'Cause it's like the Lord saying, 'He may be cute and available, but look at his head-just look at the brother's head.'"
Theresa helped herself to a doughnut and bit into it with a laugh. "Miss Queen Esther, you know yourself is crazy."
"I ain't all that crazy, baby. I just depend on Jesus to help me see it and say it like it is."
Theresa shook her head, relieved that she'd escaped a lecture on being too persnickety about men. Single, forty-seven, and with no serious boyfriend, she felt awkward when Queen Esther kept pushing her toward the available men she came across. Though Theresa wanted badly to get married, she still hoped to find the right man: God-fearing, loving, as intelligent and hardworking as she was, and ideally, at least fairly attractive. But so far he hadn't come along.
Suddenly it struck her why she'd been so blue all day. The holiday season was rolling up on Theresa and she wasn't ready to face it this year.
She had a hard time with the holidays, and dreaded the thought of coming to dinner or a party alone and watching couples grinning and skinning all over each other and having fun. Sometimes her family, as loving as they were, didn't seem to understand how that made her feel left out. Worse yet, they even acted like it was normal for Theresa to be on her own, with no man, when that was the absolute last thing she wanted in her life.
Her eyes teared up as Queen Esther started to reconsider her opinion of Yoda the UPS man.
"Of course, baby, you just might be the Lord's way of reaching out to that Yoda. Technically, he really is a decent-looking man. All he need to do to look good is shave his head bald ..."
Luckily, Queen Esther didn't notice her tears, distracted by the box she was cutting open. Pulling aside the gold tissue paper, she gently lifted out the hat inside and set it on the counter, next to the register. It was a fluffy confection made of the palest creamy yellow netting, twinkling with rhinestones. "Baby, you ought to keep this one for yourself. It is simply breathtaking."
She handed the hat over to Theresa so she could try it on.
Theresa settled the hat on her head and walked over to the full-length mirror near the Mary Kay cosmetics. The hat was so dreamy and romantic that she fell in love with it on sight.
"Baby, that hat is you," Queen Esther said. "Who made it?"
"Miss Bettie Lee Walker, the new designer with Essie Lee Industries in St. Louis."
"She young or old?" Queen Esther asked.
"Miss Walker is seventy-two."
"Young woman, huh?" Queen Esther said. She was seventy-six herself.
Theresa gave her a crooked grin in the mirror.
But Queen Esther missed it. She was shuffling through the rack of dresses and suits. "Here," she said. "This will knock that hat right out."
She was lifting the plastic off a pale, creamy yellow silk chiffon chemise and matching sheer tulle coat with ruffled sleeves designed to drape gracefully over the wrists. It was the kind of ensemble that delicately hugged the body and swayed with the wearer's every move-an outfit that would make a church man say, "Lawd, ha' mercy and thank you, Jesus."
"Oh yes, you gone need this." Queen Esther lifted the hat off Theresa's head and then proceeded to take it, along with the ensemble, to Theresa's office in the back.
"Miss Queen Esther ..." Theresa began when she returned.
"Maybe it can be your Thanksgiving outfit."
"I think it's more for the springtime."
"Well then, Easter. That woman in the Bible days poured out some high-priced perfume and washed Jesus' feet with her hair and tears. So, I really don't think it's asking too much for you to look your best on Easter Sunday. And besides, you need a good man-catching suit, one to show off those long legs."
"We've got a customer," Theresa said to change the subject.
A Pepto-Bismol-pink Cadillac Escalade had whipped into the parking space in front of the store. The driver, who stepped down carefully, was dressed in pink from head to toe, wearing a pale pink silk pantsuit with a mint green silk tulip on the right lapel, a mint green and pink silk scarf draped over her shoulders, and pink alligator pumps with a matching shoulder bag. That outfit made Glodean Benson-Washington's exquisite chocolate skin look like the finest velvet. Though she was sixty-nine years old, not one wrinkle marred her beautiful complexion, enhanced only with a soft stroke of rose blush and shimmering rose lip gloss.
Glodean was notorious both in her own right and because she was married to Sonny Washington, one of the Gospel United Church of America's most controversial bishops. Back in the 1970s, after creating yet another major scandal at a church convention, Bishop Washington was exiled to a modest congregation in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. During his first year as pastor, Glodean urged her husband to persuade the members, who needed money for major repairs on the church building, to sell him and the first lady the twenty acres of land it stood on. After graciously deeding a few acres back to the church, Glodean proceeded to develop the rest into a strip mall with stores catering to the black community.
The thriving mall had made Mother Washington a millionaire several times over. And according to Gospel United Church gossip, that was how Glodean managed to get her husband, Sonny-an old-school, mean-as-a-snake street fighter if there ever was one-to stop beating her tail. Mother had pimp-slapped the bishop with so much money that if it even crossed his mind to look at her wrong, he had to stop and remember which side of the bread the butter was spread on-Glodean's side.
Emerging from the passenger door of the SUV was Charmayne Robinson, a real estate attorney, who did consulting work for high-roller developers and black business owners throughout the state. Theresa had known Charmayne since childhood, when they both lived in the Cashmere Estates, a now abandoned and blighted low-rise housing project in Durham. But while Charmayne could hardly bear to acknowledge the connection, her ruthlessness in business led many to observe that, beneath all that platinum-and-diamond jewelry and fancy clothes, she was still a "'hood rat," who had yet to shake the "ghetto dust" off her $400 stiletto-heel pumps.
The two women paused before the store's black-edged-with-pewter welcome mat, and Theresa could see Glodean taking in the facade. She was proud of the sign, with calligraphy script spelling out "Miss Thang's Holy Ghost Corner and Church Woman's Boutique" in velvety orchid neon light. She was glad that she'd decorated the windows for the holidays with silver and lavender silk ivy, glinting with tiny Christmas bulbs in starry white. And she felt a guilty satisfaction when Glodean demanded of Charmayne, in a shrill voice that carried from outside, "Why haven't you recommended some of these 'boutique touches' for my stores?"
Charmayne bit her lip to stifle a snippety retort. What kind of "boutique touches" could you add to a 7-Eleven? But Charmayne wasn't about to alienate a major client. Instead, she waved Mother Washington ahead while pushing the door open. Glodean put a foot in the store but jumped back when the shouting music came on.
"What a racket!" she said. "You ought to cut that out!"
Charmayne wrinkled up her nose as soon as she laid eyes on Miss Queen Esther Green. "What you doing here, Queen Esther?" she said. "Cleaning the toilets? Emptying trash cans?"
Queen Esther cut her eyes at Charmayne, but with a "Sorry, Father" opted to let the scripture be her answer. "Do not speak to a fool," she said, "for he will scorn the wisdom of your words. Proverbs 23:9."
With that, Miss Queen Esther picked up a folder of invoices and bills to be paid, and headed back to Theresa's office.
"Mother Washington," Theresa began, fighting to keep laughter out of her voice. "I'm glad you're here. Your new hat has just arrived."
Whatever she thought of Glodean, any customer who ordered three hats worth $1,500 apiece-all designed to her exacting specifications-had to be coddled. "Let me open the box and you can try it on."
Theresa pulled at the second, sealed-up box on the floor, which seemed awfully heavy. Using her pearl-handled box cutter, she slit it open and peeled back the tissue paper. All three women peered down at the hat inside, which was covered in outrageous flamingo-pink feathers. It had a crown that would have swallowed an average woman's head and a hard, upturned brim sure to stand out a good eighteen inches from the wearer's face.
With a mighty heave, Theresa managed to get the big box onto the counter, then slit the sides so she could slide the hat out.
"Oh my, my, my!" Glodean exclaimed, reaching out for her new hat.
"I need to help you put it on," Theresa said evenly, estimating that the hat had to weigh at least twelve pounds.
It took some doing to maneuver the hat, which was like a three-foot sail, onto Mother Washington's head. Two months before, when Glodean had special-ordered the hat, describing it down to the last detail, Theresa was still hard-pressed to visualize it. The hat was so extreme-so bizarre and extravagant, and so pink-that she simply could not fathom how it would look on somebody's head. And now Theresa found it downright unsettling to see how very well Mother Washington wore it.
Excerpted from Holy Ghost Corner by Michele Andrea Bowen Copyright © 2006 by Michele Andrea Bowen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Michele Andrea Bowen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an M.A. in History and a M.P.H. in Public Health. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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It is not written very well. The story jumps too much
THIS IS THE BEST BOOK I'VE READ, NOR THE WORST BUT I RECOMMEND IT AS A READ IF YOUR JUST LOOKING FOR SOMETHING INTERESTING... I LOVED HOW THE JELLY SHOES WEARING WOMAN AND THE BLIND MAN INDIRECTLY HELPED 'MISS THANG' REALIZE THERE WAS SOMEONE OUT THERE FOR HER...
This one really hit home.
Characters colorful and virbrant!!
I thought this book was good overall. Some parts were hilarious. Some parts seemed unrealistic that love would happen that way, but then again it depends on your faith. I would recommend this book. The author dropped so many hints about her previous novels that I have to go and read Church Folk. If the church scenes are anything like what was written in this book, I expect it to be funny.
I found this book hard to get into. There were just too many unbelieveable things that made this book boring. The book was just too predictable and I felt that the book lacked substance.
This book was so awesome. The Bible Quotes and the story line was very good. This would be an excellent Bookclub book.
This book is just ok. I am an avid reader of Christian fiction and this is very mediocre and predictable.
Michelle Bowen is a great author of christian fiction. This is a great story line and does't make the characters holy rollers.
Great inspirational book 4 following Ur plan 2 start Ur own business. Encouraging U 2 B Ur best is part of this wonderful novel. It also inspires U 2 B faithful 2 Ur values, do not allow other peoples' opinion of U 2 stop U from reaching Ur goals and aspirations. If U need encouragement 2 get out and live Ur life and reach Ur goals pick up Holy Ghost Corner and get started on pursuing Ur dreams.