Preacher Boy

“It shore were a long time a’comin’,”  Uncle Teddy, straight back from the war over to France, rubbed his weary, teary eyes.

It shore were!  Long time comin’, that is.  Watching Mama marching out the kitchen door to the red and worn picnic table here under the apple tree, bearing the fruit of said tree baked into a warm and bubbling pie, made my mouth go to waterin’ something fierce.  It shore were, long time comin’, but danged if it weren’t here now!

The screen door slammed with an exclamation point behind her.  Bam!  Head high and proud,  Mama bore that pie like it was some sort of prize to be delivered to some champeen, arms straight out, halo of steam wafting ’round and about her own angelic face,  heavenly,  a sweet little grin teasing the edges of her mouth.

It was monumentous, Uncle Teddy being home like this, alive and we hoped mostly well, wearin’ his civilian clothes like a regular fella.  Mama, she’d made the pie special, just for him.  War was done over, papers was signed.  Ol’ Vernon down to the store got the good news first,  then word spread like wildfire.  Strange, though, we purtin’near all gathered at the store instead of our own homes.  Folks from all over Bray county, some come even further downstream,  found their way walkin’ and ridin’ and hitchin’, just to listen to the radio there, all in one big group.  Some stayed the whole night long, our Daddy did for certain.  ‘Course Mama gathered us up right quick, once someone brought out some big ol’ jars of clear liquid and begun passing them around.  Us kids knew we was all s’posed to pertend we knew not what it could possibly be.

Still.

“Looks like water to me, Mama,” I mouthed off, sly and a little ornery, giving her a sideways skinny look.  “I’ll admit to being a little thirsty.”

“I’ll wipe that grin right offa’ your face,  young man, you don’t get in line with your brothers and sisters and hightail it on home, ”  Fact was, Mama gave me that same sideways skinny look and I knew she was inside amused.  Mama loved us all somethin’ fierce, no doubt about that.  And all us kids, we was certain we was her favorite by a long shot.  Pretty sure that’s what good mamas do.  I seem to remember givin’ her a secret smile right back, then hoisting little Lou on my shoulders for the hike back on down the dusty lane on down to our place.  I also seem to remember Daddy kissin’ Mama on the cheek, then a’wavin’ his hat over his head, seein’ us off, but staying for the discussion determining the ends and outs of the termination of the war.  Mama’d claim it wasn’t for the “water” and true enough, he was down to the breakfast table next morning, his own normal mornin’ light shinin’ in his eyes.

Now, I’ve been considering, and there’s something to the idea of being all together to hear good news of any sort.    Not so true for the hearin’ of the bad.  I’m thinkin’ me personal, I like to bear that heavy burden alone come first hearin’, sortin’ it out by myself, be it the honest truth or no.  But the good?  Appears to me having folks crowdin’ around,  strainin’ and listenin’ to the same happy words full of hope and possibilities makes it real for certain. Smile to smile and eyeball to eyeball made it real, somehow.  And for certain we wanted it to be just that, real.  The honest to Sunday truth.

Which has me to thinkin’ just a little more.   May be Sunday School and Sunday Mornin’ Worship should be switched up.  Sunday School is just a handful of same age hopeful Christians, gathered around tables too short, sittin’ in chairs too small, hearin’ the stories of brave Bible women and men livin’ by faith and overcoming plagues and giants and floods, swingin’ slingshots and ass’s jawbones and such.  Good news!  Happy endings, thank the Lord!  More is the merrier.

Now, Sunday Mornin’ Worship is one “horse of a different color.”  It tells a different story, to boot.

(Like that?  I picked that “horse” line up from a movie what passed through some months ago.  But if Mama knew I’d darkened the doors of a movin’ picture show, much less with blood brothers Marvelle and Corky, she’d tan my hide but good.  And their mamas’d tan theirs, too, certain.  The Devil lives in the darkened aisles of them theaters.  We all down to the Church of the Holy Brethren knew that as honest to goodness fact.  This time, though, I figured it was a sin I was pretty sure was worth tacklin’.    Still.   We’ll be keepin’ that little episode to our ownselves, got that?)

Now, Sunday Worship, though, was considerably more widely attended, from teeny weeny babes in the arms of their lovin’ mamas, to bent old hard a’ hearin’ gentlemen dressed up pert in their cleanest overhalls, with skinny bolos tight around their skinny necks.    And that service was more apt to contain shouts of Hellfire, Brimstone, Pitchforks, Devils and Demons with black goatees!  No happy ending for sinners!  The road to hell is paved with good intentions!  The way of sinners is made plain with stones, but at the end thereof is the pit of hell!  The Heavenly Way is narrow! Lawsy, I was like to never find it!

Nearly ever week I left certain of my doom and destruction.  Too many folks crowdin’ me in the pews was a way too close to hide my internal guilt and suffering.  I prefer to deliberate my certain destination in Hellfire with a far smaller group.

And thusly,  I far prefer to celebrate my ultimate crossin’ of the Jordan to everlastin’ deliverance on the streets of gold with gates made of silo-sized pearls with as many kindred spirits as earthly possible.  Sunday School’s the place for me!

True, Mama’d be all over me like white on rye, however,  if she knew my feelin’s in the matter.  So like an honorable son, I sat close to her, tall and straight and quiet, contemplating my sad, darkened soul and my eternal damnation, longing silently for giants and floods and the jawbone of an ass.

But today?  Good news all ’round.  Today we was celebratin’ Saturday, celebratin’ Uncle Teddy, Mama’s littlest baby brother being home with apple pie with Velveeta Cheese and homemade ice cream.

Sunday was a way off, clear tomorrow.  We’d search our souls for evil come worship time.  Today, though, we’d say grace all together round the old picnic table, a’holdin’ hands, praying too Daddy’d make it short, so’s the ice cream wouldn’t melt too much.  Today was for celebrating the good news of all that, I was feelin’ awful glad we was all together to do it.

Apple pie was the icing on the cake.

Mama’s Boy

“Dad gum it all to heck and back!”  Liam spat between gritted teeth, pulling hard to loosen the working end of harness buckle stretched taut and tight across equine Ethel’s chestnut nose.  Now, she was a docile as the day was long, but even her squishy brown eyes showed an occasional white of frustration or discomfort or all fired panic around the perimeter.

“C’mon, you sucker!”  Liam was using every curse word he knew, just shy of cussin’, which would not only send him to everlasting fire in the pits of Hell, but the hellfire he’d see from Pop and Mama scared the livin’ dickens out of him, too.  Like as not, that fear laid him just as low as the fire and brimstone flannelgraphs Miss Martha McDougal flashed during the aged 10-12 Sunday School class, nearly every Sunday morning.  Used to be a time,  paper fire with orange and yellow flames licking the bottom of cartoons of screaming Biblical characters scared the daylights out of the boy.  These days, though, during private artistic forays, he’d discovered he could draw better flames that that, better colors, too, that splash of red here and there helped.   And somehow,  knowing his flames of Hell trumped Miss McDougal’s gave him pause.  It did not, however, dim his fear of the seering, everlasting pain and that eternal and forever separation from more santicified and less cussified friends and family, and the Almighty, hisself.

Done.  He’d mind his language, but “Darn it all to Heck and Back!”   He let loose with another slew of purtin’ near cussin,  a’pullin’ and a’yankin’ for all he was worth.  Liam, he jerked hard, putting his nearly 90 pounds next to horizontal, and durned if that buckle prong didn’t pop right out.  And durned if ol’ Liam didn’t land flat back on his nether regions, feedlot dust and bugs a’billowin’.

“Dang!”  he allowed himself.  That felt right good.  He leapt up, giving his dusty backside a couple  slaps, releasing another dusty brown billow.  Ethel looked pretty pleased her ownself, tossing her proud head back, flipping her mane in a girly manner. and Liam smiled.  “Dang.”

Sheepishly,  he looked back over his  shoulder to be sure no one else, particularly Mama, was within hearing distance, then he patted ol’ Ethel.  She’d not give him up.  He gathered up the rest of the tack and leathers, slapped ol’ Ethel on the rump, and toted the raggedy bundle into the barn, a little whistle on his lips.

Mama, over to the clothes line back behind the gaping barn door, just beyond the line of sight of man and beast, tossed some wooden clothespins into the hanging bag, folding the last pair of child-sized overalls and laying them in the basket.  She was feeling a whistle coming on, her ownself.