The air in the street was stifling and syrupy thick. Smoke rose from the tarmac and fumes from stationary exhausts choked the sweat-greased crowd that was beginning to gather. The music had stopped and the singing was over, but Pastor MacDonalds voice was still audible from outside, even through the heavy Sunday-afternoon traffic, now being diverted away from the cordoned-off Plaza.
The microphone settings had been specifically adjusted to project his voice out into the world, towards the seething mass of unbelievers that passed along the road every week on their way to the cinema, the bookmakers, and even the Methodist church, because broad is the way that leadeth to destruction. The building wasnt designed to keep noise in.
Pastor MacDonald first knew the place as a butchers back in the 1960s. He enjoyed recounting to anyone who would listen how it became a temple for God and, even though he was not one to embellish a story, every time he told it the churchs history became increasingly laden with signs and miracles.
His wife, Constance respectfully called Mother MacDonald by church members had several memories of the butchers. Pastor, leaning against the pulpit, was standing where the counter used to be, where he would send her to beg for scraps of meat at the end of the day, back when they had no other family on what she called this wretched island¸. She was in her mid-thirties then and her belly had begun to stretch with Joshua, her firstborn. (And now, every day, she prayed for him, repeating the same words: Elp im, Lawd, cos yu did say hif yu train up a chil in de way him should go . . .¸)
The heathen butcher needed God more than most. She had hated going in there, stooping her neck, sensing his crocodile smile but refusing to look into his eyes. She was older now and vowed never to be humiliated like that again, unless it was for Jesus sake, because bless?d are ye, when men (an women too, hmmph!) shall revile yu, an persecute yu, an shall say hall manner o heevil against yu . . . She still felt guilty about the pleasure she derived, years later, from hearing the butcher had died suddenly. He had choked on a steak, if rumours were to be believed. And that was how Wimpys bought the building.
After only a few years, the Wimpys closed too and it was left derelict. Squatters came in and the council did nothing until the church applied to take it over, holding several twenty-four-hour vigils outside the imposing brick structure of Brent Town Hall, marching up and down the steps as if expecting it to collapse at any moment, like the walls of Jericho. A sympathetic councillor agreed the building should be put to good use and, eventually, it became the True Word Centre.