“Don’t That Beat All!” (true life musin’s of a country boy)

Heaven’s to Betsy!

Hey.  My name’d be Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.

And I been here before.  Lots.

I been tasked and nigh’ on encouraged by somethin’ a’stirrin’ in my insides, and Miss Meadow down to the school, to put down to paper my comin’s and goin’s and my thinkin’ on the same.  That Miss Meadow give me a stack o’ Big Chief’s with which I am assumin’ she ‘spects me to fill, I feel the tug pullin’ even harder.

Gettin’ me a schoolyear callous on the inside o’ my middle finger from all this pennin’, I am.  Not that I’d complain much.  Miss Meadow, she stopped by the house jest yester’dee  doin’ her early summer checkin’ on all us kids.  Right nice of her.  And she lit up right now when Mama tol’ her I was heads down and a’writin’ to who laid a chunk.

So I shall continue.

Last we chatted, you and me, I was shoulderin’ a quandry bigger’n, well, my thirteen-year-old shoulders could bear.    Ol’ Brother Beane, our feisty ol’ preacher down to the Pentecostal Church us and near ever’body else within a country mile attended reg’lar, well, I figured he’d done made a deal with the Devil hisself.

Now, I reckon I’d wudn’t without fault,  I’d done my fair share o’sinnin’, too, if you was to consider listenin’ to a conversation I wudn’t a party to a sin.

I console myself it ain’t one of them “Seven Deadlies” I ain’t never memorized.  I should likely get on that, I s’pose.

(There I go, digressin’ again.)

Well, sir, what I heard near wrent me in two.  Ol’ Brother Beane, he was a talkin’ to a weasely-lookin’ feller, whose name I later discovered only happened to be Lyle P. T. Wendzel.  I reckon my second sin is lack of respect in not takin’ good enough care to get the feller’s name right.  I been heard to refer to the gentleman as “Brother Weasel” on more than one occasion.

Grandpap only thought it was funny once.  Mama didn’t never and give me that look.  I been tryin’ my durnest to walk the straight an’ narrow ever’ since, I tell you what!

Well, this here Brother Lyle P.T. WENDZEL, he’s been holdin’ a revival down to the church for nigh on three weeks now.  We, bein’ of the faithful, we been attendin’, all us Goodwells, fillin’ a pew and a half ever evenin’ and twice on Sundays.  Brother Wea–WENDZEL (Lord help me please!), he’s a full blown travellin’ evangelist.  He come to save souls, lead us all in the path of righteousness, and lead us through the eye of the needle towards them pearly gates to live forevermore in the bosom of Abraham!  Amen and Amen!

Oh, we get all het up, fer sure!  The man can sing up a storm, all the parts from lowest bass to them high tenor notes!  He plays the guitar fer hisself and can tickle the keys of the pi-anner till I figure they’re like to fall right off!  He stomps his feet and shouts and cries and laughs and bounces up on his toes!  He near knows the whole Bible by heart and urges us saints to read through the Good Book front to back, Begats to Rev’lations in one year!  He can call down the angels from heaven!  He can send demons fleein’ for their smokin’ and dancin’  and drinkin’ little lives!  Folk’s even fallin’ right down in a dead faint when he pushes his palm to they foreheads!  I seen it happen!  Ever’ night it seems!

Now, the Good Lord and I always had us a agreement.  I believe firm I am saved and worshed in the blood of Jesus.  I raised my hand durin’ an invitation reco’nizin’ I was a sinner, but now I’m saved by grace and I truly, truly know that in my heart.

What’s also causin’ a ruckus in my heart, how-some-ever,  is that conversation I’ll admit to listenin’ to on the sly.  Ol’ Brother Beane, why, he and Brother Weas-WENDZEL, they colluded together to share the takin’s from the offerin’ basket come the end of ever’ service.

Seems to me that offerin’ is fer God and his works and Sunday School papers and sech.  Now ain’t splitin’ that offerin’ ‘twixt themselves a sin?  Ain’t that a big one?  And ain’t both them fellers “men of God?”

I’ll admit I’m a strugglin’.  And seein’ as I ain’t got me one shredded piece of proof, they ain’t no way in HECK (Don’t tell Mama!) I’ll be a’sharin’ this bit of in-formation with no livin’ soul, sanctified or not.

God ain’t chastised me none, neither.  Fact is, I feel right righteous ’bout the whole thing.  ‘Cept maybe that eavesdroppin’ part.  But the Good Lord, He ‘llows me to roll all this ’round my head, a’sortin’ and a’ponderin’.  He’s ‘llowin’ me to even sit skeptical-like durin’ the takin’ of the offerin’ without no guilt what-so-ever.

Luce knows somethin’s up, though, as I sit by her on that hard wooden pew, seein’ as I’ll jest watch the plate go by right ‘cross my lap, ‘thout touchin’ it nor passin’ it along.  Luce, ever’ night and twice on Sundays, has to reach clean ‘cross me and grab that offerin’ plate filled with coins and even paper money from my littler sister Loreen.

We sit in order of birth.  ‘Round the dinner table, too.  It’s what we Goodwells do.

Loreen, she don’t notice nothin’.  She’s but ten and is busy wide-eyed a’watchin’ all the happenin’s.  But Luce, me and her is close.  And she can sniff out trouble at the first whiff, even more when it’s a’comin’ from yours truly.

But she ain’t said not a thing.  Not to me nor to anybody else.  I may pay fer her silence one day but fer the right now, I am eternally thankful.

Here’s the rub.  She don’t ‘ppear to be the only one a’sensin’ I’m havin’ me some thoughts other’n them what should be on the Lord.

Seen Ol’ Brother Lyle P.T. WENDZEL steadyin’ his weasely eyes my di-rection more’n once.  I get me the shivvers but try to keep them shivvers tucked inside.

Now, he don’t know what I know. ‘Couldn’t possibly.   I cain’t even be sure what I know.  But he’s a’sniffin’ somethin’, too, and purty soon, I’m going to be a’needin’ me some guidance. This here is touchy stuff and too much fer a man-boy to handle.

(You’all should know I’m pausin’ here, a’gulpin’ hard.)

This here’s gonna take some doin’.  And I’m a’turnin’ to the Lord for leadin’. , don’t you concern yerself none on that account.

But I reckon I may need an earthly hand, to boot. Them weasely eyes’re what’re givin’  me the willies.

Heaven’s to Betsy!


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