Brown Church


By Jennifer Houlton


On the broadcast, he’s talking about Souls, asks us if we want to send him ours in a FedEx box or a DHL like it’s something that you can wrap up and drop off. Who knows, maybe it really is? We’re inside the church waiting for the storm to come. The siren (now adjusted for the hard of hearing too) is lighting up hot yellow and red and we’re looking out onto the grey tornado light through stain glass windows. It’s cozy inside. Our small group is softly singing and we feel safe and gooey-childlike as if no harm could ever come to us.

And really…since we all did get to safety and evacuate – it wasn’t like when you were left outside – which I’ve experienced too – when you’re among flying pieces of corrugated metal or nails hanging out of 2 by 4s. In this situation, with the ladies making and buttering toast in the basement, we were safe.

In Italy, there had been a report of priests jumping off of the balcony of the Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri in Vatican City. “They were like diving penguins, magically arrested midair and then re-hoisted by angels and taken flight,” the reporter gasped. “Sounds like total bullshit to me,” Alice pointed up to the flat screen above the pulpit. She smiled and looked at me with the confidence of someone who knows that they are truly beautiful… “I gotta take a piss.”

In the stairway, going down to the bathrooms – a pinhole of light led me towards a puncture in the wall… a crawl space, where there lay supine – through my tight-angled view, a single leg clad in jeans.

A man’s leg. Fidgeting, looking up at – maybe a woman – and waiting. I adjusted my footing and could now see a quarter of his face, anticipant. His mouth open just so that a single shard of saliva could be seen crossing his lips and his front teeth.

He whistled as another figure came down on him, destroying my view – so now all that I could see was a moving and gyrating mash of blue jeans and white cotton. Groans of pleasure followed. Wide moans that teased me and made me pull away from my viewing hole. I ran up the steps again and away into the brown box of a church while we waited for the wind to arrive.


– In addition to her work in flash fiction, many of Jennifer Houlton’s plays have been produced in New York. Her film HUNT was a favorite at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival and she was one of four writers who received an Emmy for her work on the online comedy FLOATERS. Jennifer is in post-production on her feature film, WATER. WATER stars SHEA WHIGHAM (Silver Linings Playbook), Tony award winner for WICKED, IDINA MENZEL, and Academy Award nominee, MICHAEL SHANNON. Jennifer is thrilled to be published in Oblong Magazine for the first time.




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