Hey, do, this here’s Liam Goodwell, once a’gin and over ‘n over.
So there exists this sayin’, how when some feller r’other gets his comeuppin’s, bein’ a titch too high and mighty and too big fer his britches, well, when he gets hisself brought down to earth, it’s said that feller has him “feet o’clay.” They’s actually a story I learnt in Sunday School down to the church ’bout King Nebbudneezer buildin’ a statue of hisself, makin’ it strong and sure from gold and silver and bronze and ‘arn, but then durned if he didn’t make them feet from mixin’ in ‘arm shavin’s with some clay.
Now, it don’t take much daylight in the attic to re-con-ize them feet ain’t built to hold up nothin’ fer very long, seein’ a good hard rain or a bad pitched rock’d bring it down, no time.
So when it come to the most hallowed, in his own mind, Reverend Lyle P.T. Wendzel, I seen it clear. Here’d be a man what built hisself up to be revered and beloved and pitched up on a pedestal by the good saints of ever’ God-lovin’ community he seen fit to deposit hisself into. And I’m even reckonin’ ain’t much left regardin’ the connivin’, as he’d plumb convinced hisself as well as the saints. Figurin’ he deserved all them accolades and offerin’s tossed his way.
Well, this here boy, that’d be me Liam Goodwell, thought diff-ernt. An idear smeared with sparks and rainbows landed right smack in my head on the long sleepy drive back home to Denton County and the Goodwell land outside Halesburg.
Knowin’ what I knowed, I determined it was my God-given duty as a God-lovin’ believer my ownself to show this underhanded feller fer what he really is. A wrong-doin’ mis-creant with a heart black as tar and words as slick as the muck slimed over the pond on the back forty.
Plumb lookin’ forward to it, too.
Well, feignin’ sleep the two r’ three hours we was crammed jammed in the pickup headin’ home, I managed to avoid that Brother Weasel (forgive me, Lord, it’s jest too durned easy) near the whole way. ‘Cept fer once. I slipped me a clandes-stine look from under my lashes and sure ‘nough, his inky eyes was aimed right at me.
Shiverin’, I went back to a’playin’ ‘possum. Served me well fer the trip’s duration. May have slept some, too, but I cain’t say fer sure, seein’ as I cain’t remember.
Once we turned up the dirt lane to the top of the little rise where the Goodwells lay they heads, the sun was clean up and blazin’ hot, even fer a summertime mornin’. The winder’s in the International was down, and like a hound, Lawrence was leanin’ his head out, gulpin’ in the homebred air and swirlin’ dust, besides.
Now, you’d think he was comin’ home a conquerin’ hee-ro! Mama and Lincoln and Luce and Livvie and Loreen and the twins, Lawton and Lincoln, and a passel o’cousins from over to the river bottoms, they was lined up on the front porch wavin’ and shoutin’ fer joy!
Wudn’t these here unpleasant doin’s more of a excapade than a ad-venture? And wudn’t big brother Lawrence the cause of pain and torture and hours of black night drivin’ and hours set in a jail cell, both him and Grandpap? And didn’t we suffer the vile and blackhearted bile of that scoundrel ol’ Judge Jacobs’mar all due to the illegalities and trangressions of said big brother?
Didn’t make him no nevermind. This is how it went with Lawrence. He was a golden boy, inside and out. All the love passed his way, why, he soaked it up, sure, then sent it right back. That cain’t be all bad.
And there’s days I wooshed it worked fer me. But it don’t. So I move on.
Well, we fair tumbled back out the truck, Lawrence beset with kisses and hugs and Mama’s tears. I secretly hoped he’d be gettin’ hisself SOME sort o’talkin’ to, seein’ as he did break the law, tryin’ to enlist and not even a growed man. But the joy of the moment spread all the way to me, as I got a fair share of my own hugs and “attaboys.” We was home our kin was circlin’ the wagons, like we Goodwells do. I reckon that ought t’be enough.
Brother Wendzel did one decent thing, at least at the outset. Stayin’ out of the lovin’ fray, he leaned back against the International, long legs crossed at the ankles, found hisself a toothpick and picked away, bearin’ witness to the whoopin’ and hollerin’ and back slappin’. The dark part of my soul figured he was dicin’ and splicin’ some sermon ’bout the Prodigal Son, with Lawrence bein’ front and center of that story. So be it. We Goodwells was back intac’ and wudn’t much could take nothin’ ‘way from that fac’.
“I saved you boys some breakfast!” Mama beamed. Preparin’ a meal was the biggest and best gift she could give, and a whiff of what lay inside on the table testified to that. Was that bacon AND sausage crossin’ my nose? I reckoned she didn’t save us nothin’ but rather prepared and cooked and baked fer jest this moment! We all, Daddy, Grandpap, Lawrence, and me, we all headed up the crickedy wood stairs to the porch, aimin’ our bows to-ward the kitchen.
“You, too, Brother Wendzel,” Durn it all to Hades (don’t tell Mama). Whiffs and wafts of breakfast done clouded my brain. “You come on in, too! You been such a comfort and help to all us through this time of tribulation.” Mama touched her apron to her eyes. “After this day and night jest passed, you’re near t’family.”
Oh, no he ain’t!
“You’ll be welcome in this house till the Lord comes!”
Oh, no he won’t!
“There’ll always be a seat at the Goodwell table for you, Brother Wendzel!”
Oh, no there will NOT!
He detached his slimy self from the truck, smiled real grateful at Mama, who wiped away yet another tear, and ambled to-ward the porch. Meanness in his eyes changed that smile to an ugly leer when he come to me.
“Why, after you, Liam, after you. I aim to set right beside ‘ye. We’ll have us lots to talk about, you and me, I reckon.”
My quest weren’t goin’ t’be smooth. Clear he knowed I knowed the evil residin’ within him. Clear, too, the devil in him was devisin’ they own plan to checkmate me.
I deflated like a balloon. My get up and go done got up and left.
This here feller’d feet o’clay and his heart was filled with cesspool sludge.
Biscuits and sausage gravy, though, they might help some.