Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1256
Motes is determined to get back into Hawks’ house and see what is behind the dark glasses. Hawks is equally determined not to let Motes into his home or his life. When Motes knocks on the door, which he does several times a day, Hawks unbolts the door long enough to shove his daughter out and rebolts it behind her. Hawks is infuriated by the man’s insistence and does not want Motes to catch him drunk, which he often is. Motes cannot believe a preacher is not welcoming to such a lost soul as himself.
Every time he knocks on Hawks’ door, the girl is shoved out at him and she is a nuisance, following him into his car or his apartment and spoiling his life. He has abandoned the idea of seducing her and now just tries to protect himself from her. One night Motes wakes in the darkness to find the girl nearly in his bed, wearing a woman’s nightgown and carrying a candle. He is shocked and upset, propping a chair under the doorknob after threatening her out of his room. Back downstairs, she tells her father that Motes is not cooperating and nearly hit her with a chair; Hawks tells her he is leaving in a few days and she must “make it work” if she wants to eat once he is gone. Even though her father is drunk, the girl knows he means it.
Nothing works according to Motes' plan. Though he preaches every night, he is still the only member of the Church Without Christ. One young boy had been a follower, but it turned out it was a mistake. The boy asked Motes to take him to a brothel because he had never gone to one before; afterwards, Motes asked the boy to be an apostle or even disciple of his church, but the boy told him he is a lapsed Catholic who must now repent of his mortal sin if he does not want to suffer eternal damnation. When Motes shouts at him that neither sin nor judgment exists, the boy merely shakes his head and asks if Motes wants to go again the next night.
Two nights later a disciple does appear. He is a bit rotund, with curly blond hair and “showy” sideburns; he is dressed like a cowboy, a preacher, and a mortician, in some odd way. He follows Motes as he preaches in front of four different movie theaters, and each time Motes meets his gaze the man winks at him. At the final theater, as the few gathered listeners prepare to leave, the man gets their attention and decides to tell them exactly what Motes’ religious teachings have done for him.
He introduces himself as Onnie Jay Holy and claims he is a preacher who did not have a friend in the world two months ago. In his despair, he was ready to end his life. He believes everybody has sweetness inside but it does not always find a way to make itself seen by others. But then he started listening to Motes preach about the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ and his life changed dramatically.
Motes is adamant that he has never seen the man before tonight and he is lying; Motes was not even preaching here two months ago and the man does not even know the correct name for the church. Onnie Jay Holy and his listeners ignore Motes, and he goes on to tell them there are good reasons to believe in this church, like he did. First, if there is anything people do not understand, it cannot be true; second, it is based on each person’s own interpretation of the Bible. Motes tries several times, unsuccessfully, to interrupt, but Onnie Jay Holy just keeps preaching. A final reason to believe in the church, he says, is that it is “up-to-date.” No one there is ever ahead of anyone else. Suddenly the man’s preaching turns into a request for money: only one dollar each to join the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ.
Motes is full of fierceness now, and he tells them the truth is free and it costs nothing to join his church. The man continues courting the crowd, but Motes gets into his car and tries to leave. As if in pain, Onnie Jay Holy tells the crowd that he has to follow the Prophet but he will be back again tomorrow night. Since the car does not work well, Holy is able to catch Motes without much effort, sliding into the seat and telling Motes they just lost ten dollars. The car begins moving smoothly and Holy continues to explain that the two of them need to work together. Motes looks stonily out the window while Holy continues fawning over him until Motes is suddenly “swamped with outrage” and barely whispers that the man is not true.
Onnie Jay Holy tells Motes he is, indeed, a true preacher; he even had his own radio program once. Motes shoves him out the door and tries to drive away but the car will not start. Now Onnie Jay Holy speaks reasonably to him and tells him he thinks they can work together; Motes has a good idea but he needs someone to work with him to promote it. The idea of a "new jesus" is a good one, and he asks for more details as, together, they push the car off to the side of the road. Motes does not say a word. When Onnie Jay Holy finally offers to pay Motes to see the new jesus he has, Motes tells him there is no new jesus.
Next, Holy tells Motes his real name is Hoover Shoats and he knew when he first saw him that Motes was “nothing but a crackpot.” Motes slams the door shut; Shoats moves his head but his thumb is caught. As Shoats howls, Motes opens the door to release the thumb and then slams it shut again. Motes has settled in to his car for the night, removing the board, pulling down the shades in the back window, and huddling under his army blanket. Outside, Shoats still howls and suddenly appears at the window to threaten Motes; he says he will find his own new jesus and his own Prophet and put Motes out of business.
That night, Motes has a dream that he is buried but not dead; he is not waiting for judgment, for there is no such thing, but he is left waiting for nothing. He dreams that many of the people in the city are now at his windows in grotesque fashion. At midnight, Motes wakes up and drives back to his home. He stops at the Hawks’ door and hears snoring inside, but the door is locked. For the first time, Motes considers picking the lock.
After five or six tries, Motes hears a slight click in the lock and he enters. His breathing is labored and his heart is pounding wildly, as if he ran here from a long distance. Hawks is lying on the bed, his head lolling off the edge. Motes squats down and strikes a match close to his face and Hawks open his eyes. The two men stare at one another as long as the match glows. Motes’ eyes seem to open “onto a deeper blackness” before closing again. Hawks tells Motes that now he can leave him alone and feigns a punch at the intruder.
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