THRONE OF GOD
James, African American, believes he is called to build a magnificent throne ensemble made from junk, but must overcome his resentment against his father and God. He brightens the life of a fatherless little girl with an alcoholic mother, and helps restore sanity to a mentally disturbed homeless woman, as he obsessively races to complete it before he dies.
Years later, James is working in a diner when he meets Sally, a nightclub singer. James enlists in the army when America enters World War II, and at the end of the war he re-meets Sally who is now a waitress in his old diner. They become a couple, and James a stepfather to Sissy, but Sally cheats on him with a man from the nightclub, and ends up leaving James when he decides to resume work on his visionary project.
Over the next 15 years, living by himself, James works on the Throne project, using gold and silver foil from discarded cigarette packs, scraps of cardboard, and other cast-off items found in various trash bins. Regular visions of his father offer both encouragement and counsel. James develops cancer.
He meets Ethiopia, a mentally ill homeless woman, who shows up at his workshop to sell him some second-hand plates so she can get a room, which James buys just to be rid of her. She returns a few weeks later, ranting that she’s being pursued by demons but that they’re afraid of James’ place. James returns one of the plates, which he’s ornamented with gold and silver foil, telling her it’s sanctified, and this calms her hallucinations.
James and Ethiopia develop a friendship, which, together with the inspiration provided by the Throne project, has a healing effect on her. At James’ urging, she begins to reconnect with her husband and little girl whom she hasn’t seen since the onset of her mental illness five years before. James is happy for her, but angry at God because of his cancer, and because he’s never reconnected with Sissy.
James goes to see Nate from the diner, who has an old letter from Sissy. It says that Sally went to jail for stabbing a man in an argument over money, and that Sissy misses him and wants him to find her. Now it’s too late.
He returns to his shop, raging at God and arguing with his father. His father says that Ethiopia will kill herself if James stops helping her, and James says he doesn’t care. But after a vision, he returns to his work and to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia becomes saner even as James becomes more sick from his cancer until one summer day, she suddenly recovers repressed memories of the arson fire that killed her parents when she was a child. Though these memories are painful, they consolidate her healing.
The Throne project is complete. Ethiopia becomes well enough to sing a solo in church for the first time since her illness began. Then she’ll return to her family to stay. James tells her he’ll be there to hear her. He has a final, serene conversation in his workshop with his father’s apparition, then dies peacefully in his arms.