Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Channel 16

Good evening ladies and gentleman. I hope you’ve all had such a wonderful week, praising God to your upmost ability as the good sons and daughters of the Lord that I know you all are. I’d like to open up with a story, a true story, of something that happened to me a few years back. It won’t take but a minute.
            I first saw good ol’ Henry standing on the side of the road with only the clothes on his back to call his own, carrying a sign that said “God bless” and begging for spare change.  My heart became so full of pity and love for him, and so I did what any good Christian would do and prayed up to the Lord, and I said, “Lord God what should I do for this man? This man has a heavy heart, that I can see, and I feel the need to show him your heavenly light once and for all.” I wait a moment in my car, and then I see the Lord’s words scatter throughout my brain so clear and concise that I nearly fall into tears. He says through the images of my own mind, “Steven, you need to talk to this man. Through my powers that I grant you, you will heal this man. This I promise.” I said, “Ok, Lord. As your faithful servant I shall follow your orders and heal this man of his heavy heart.”
            So, I pull up to the poor man and I say to him, “I came to say that the Lord God blesses you more than you know. Have you thought about that sign any today that you hold to the world?” He looks up, beard full of grime and spit and all kinds of nasty things, and says, “I have not.” And so I look to him and say, “Get in the car, young man. This is the first day of your life.”
            Well, he obeys and gets in the car. I get to asking him how he came to such a terrible place in life and he tells me that he was once a family man who took to drink and lost everything. I told him not to worry, that the Lord forgives all our transgressions if we only ask for it, and he starts crying. Surely nobody can save a man in such filth, right? Well I tell you that the Lord works in many mysterious ways, and that no soul is unfit for saving in his eyes. I am lost for words, though. I feel that all my powers granted from the Lord are not strong enough for this man, that I’ll need something a little stronger to save such a wretched soul. I would give poor Henry some money, but money only helps when in the hands of the Lord. I would give him food, but that would only feed him for the day. The only thing I could possibly give him was the ability to see and feel the Lord’s love. But, how can I do that to a man so lost and so devoid of hope? And then I remember! In my glovebox, under my Bible, I kept a bottle of, “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers” for occasions just like this!
         We stop in the parking lot of a nearby Church, and I have us both get out of the car. I say, “Get on your knees and pray, Henry! Pray to Lord God in heaven right now! Repent your sins!” and I open the bottle of “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers” that I created to put the power of God in each and every one of your hands. I open up that bottle and I screw on the handy sprinkling top that comes with every bottle, following the very clear instructions on the back of the bottle, and I read the Lord’s Prayer that is also written on the back of the bottle, while sprinkling the water on his head.
            “Show me the light!” He screams! “I see the light!” He’s on his hands and knees, his arms out reaching for the skies, and I’m sprinkling the “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers”, and little by little he comes from off the ground, screaming, “I see the light!” until finally he is equal with me in strength and faith.
            Well, let me tell you, I’ve kept up with good ol’ Henry Hulligan. We’re the best of friends now. And just to show you that all these words that come out my mouth are as true as the Lord God Himself, I’ve brought him out tonight! Come on out, Henry! Come on out! There you are! Look how clean and fresh he is. That’s a nice suit, Henry, no, no, thank you for making it out here tonight, Henry. Henry’s informed us that he just bought his first house in downtown Houston only five miles away from his new job making over $100,000 a year. Isn’t that right, Henry? He’s got a brand new Lexus, Rolex, and he also happened to find a hundred dollar bill lying on the ground just last week. Henry can thank all of his fortunes to “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers”, which you can get for the small price of $15.99. We sell it here in the back lobby after service. And for you viewers at home, we sell it online with free shipping and handling. You can call the number at the bottom of the screen to talk with a professional and get you a bottle as soon as possible. Thank you, Henry. Everybody give him a round of applause! God bless you, Henry! God Bless!
            Now stay tuned, we’re going to take a quick commercial break. You wouldn’t want to miss more of the Lord’s love, would you?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Family Dinner

Thomas sits cross-legged on the faux wood tile floor of the kitchen. Mother’s sunflower dress drapes to her ankles and he caresses its soft edges against his cheeks. Her legs are smooth and golden and shine even in the dark. Mother’s looking older, Father always says, but Thomas finds her beautiful. The strands of gray in her brown hair only make her Mommy. Under the table it smells like the pages of an old book, the tablecloth brown with age and its edges frayed. Father is speaking, but Thomas cannot hear him. His voice is muffled and gruff. Mother never speaks when Father is talking, she only nods and agrees, hoping that today he’s calm. Father’s voice rises slowly throughout his speech. Thomas pretends not to hear. He buys his time with silence, but eventually it’ll run out. He stuffs his ears with his fingers and hums softly to drown out Father’s rant.
Martha feels soft tickling from her son’s fingers. She wants to scream she’s so afraid. Everyday she’s afraid. She awakes in the mornings with tears in her eyes. She wants to scream so bad, but she’s too afraid. John is starting to talk about fags being the fall of the nation. The world is ending and somehow it has to do with fags and niggers. While he talks he pounds his fist upon the dinner table and shakes the silverware and nearly breaks the wood in two, but he doesn’t even notice. Bits of mashed potatoes fling violently from his mouth. He’s getting fatter every year, but his head stays the same size. His voice is practically screaming, on edge and even cracks between his damning and convictions. She never speaks, though. She only nods her head and agrees between bites of chicken enchilada casserole and canned green beans. Sometimes she’ll give an Amen just to cheer him up. Nobody speaks their mind besides John. Thomas is sitting below her, playing with her dress, and Martha prays to a God she doesn’t believe in for him to just keep quiet.
Thomas wonders why he can’t go to school like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. Monday through Friday at 4 P.M. the kids will march one by one from out the bus, while Thomas tearfully watches from his bedroom window and thinks of a differently phrased question to ask Father that will change his mind about everything. The kids gather by the Pine tree in the Bryant’s yard to vote on which games they’ll play today. They spend the evening laughing, chasing each other, and even sometimes they fight and scream, but Thomas doesn’t care. He’d love to have a kid scream at him if it meant he could have just one friend. He’d take all the abuse the world had to offer if he could just have that one friend. At sundown the kids disperse, and Thomas is left alone in his room. Thomas used to plead with Father to let him leave, just once and he’ll never ask again. Mother hushes him now before he has a chance to ask. She says there isn’t any use in stirring things up when it can be avoided. Thomas doesn’t understand. He only wants a friend. And so every day he sits beside his bedroom window and watches with a heart so empty it’s almost dry.
Father is screaming now. Not even two stuffed ears and a soft hum can drown out the noise. Thomas hears it all: the fags, the sinners, the niggers, hell. Every bit of it seeps into his vernal brain and soaks. Thomas begins to believe him, even respects him. At night when he closes his eyes he sees his father’s face alive and real in front of him. His Christian eyes and Baptist tongue piercing his only son’s heart. He’s a punisher, a reckoner, and a sculptor. And Thomas doesn’t know anything else but to love him.
“And I tell you what, Martha, Jesus ain’t gonna take this for long. No, sir. He’s got plans for this nation, I can promise that. Sinners keep gettin’ the best of this world and God wants it back. To Hell with this world, I say. I say all these fags and nigger lovers can take their seat in Hell as quick as they please. Now where’s Tommy? Tommy where in the hell are you boy? You under the table again? Get your ass out from that table boy before I kick your teeth straight into sand. What’d you say boy? Did you say something? Get your ass back here. Get your ass back here right now, you little hellion. Martha, go get my belt. Daddy gonna teach you, boy. Quit your cryin’ and get my belt, you know damn well where it is. No, not there damnit, not there either. There you go, right there. There it is. Yes sir, Daddy gonna teach you. Now hand it over. Jesus eyes are all seeing, you cannot escape His wrath. Where you at, boy? My eyes are one with God’s, you know better than to run. Get back here, boy. Imma teach you what happens when you get smart with me, a man of God, a man of strength and power, I am your father, boy. That’s right, boy. Now pull down your pants. You heard me. Pull em down. No, to your ankles. Yeah, just like that. Now touch your ankles. Imma teach you to mess with Daddy. Oh, did you want some too, bitch? Get your ass outta here before I beat you. That’s right, boy. Daddy gonna teach you.”
If only Thomas weren’t alive she could die in peace. Thomas needs to go, Thomas needs to leave. It’d be better for him anyways. That’s right, it’s for the better. Thomas needs to go, and then she can die in peace. She can die in peace when Thomas goes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

But, Where Can It Score?

But, where can it score?
On the road by the bridge where the bats live, the pleading creature sways.
It’s evening and a dying sun burns the day in a fit of flames.
Men stop in pity and plead: Have you anywhere to go?
And the creature nods, beard dripping spit and sweat; its eyes staring absent like a shadow.
It wanders through garbage bins and windshields,
Its face leather with teeth like corn.
Abate its security for remorse; the storm only settles when it scores.
But, where can it score?
Through the angelic harp of people’s hearts, where it’ll stand and strum, echoing softly into the dry air.
It breathes in deep but chokes and coughs. Always choking, it continues moving.
And the Man stops to ask: Where are you going?
And it doesn’t answer but He insists: You look cold and scared like a shaking dog. Do you need a home?
I am a man and You are not my home,
The Man won't help it score, and so he moves on.
It moves like rotten meat secreting from a grinder.
It talks in silence and groans like a closed door containing a child and its grabby uncle.
The devil turns to it, waving it closer and closer.
It follows and offers him crinkled dollars
He says: We’ll meet again.
And it answers: This is the last time.
And they laugh at hopes and lies.
The harp sounds sweet like quivering trees,
the moon sits heavy on the horizon,
and it stings to feel good.
It stings like death to feel so good.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shrinking Pines

His name was Thomas. We called him Tommy. At the church where I lived when I was a boy Tommy did volunteer work at nights in our dormitory. At 10:00 P.M., long after lights out, Tommy would walk quietly into our dorm and mop the floors and scrub the toilets, and afterwards he'd stand outside on the porch for a good twenty minutes before getting back to work. He never talked to anyone. Tommy was somewhat of a mystery.

                We were all orphans. Some of us were unfortunate enough to remember our parents, but most of us were raised inside the church. The church was our home, school and playplace. We never understood the fact that there was an outside world except for the view of the city lights from our porch. Father David told us stories about the stars in the country, and I believed him because I had to, but it all seemed very strange to think about.

                Laying in our bunks in the dark we’d gossip about our theories of good ol’ Tommy. The big dare of the nights was always to talk to him. His mystery was conjured by the very limits of our experiences, and to be honest it scared the shit out of us. We wanted to ask him about the the world within the lights. So, every night we’d appoint a new challenger. They’d talk a mean game, but something always got in the way. Eventually the dare came around to me, and I agreed apathetically.

We pretended to sleep when Tommy strolled in dragging a yellow mop bucket. Stifled giggles and farts sprinkled throughout the room as the anticipation grew. Nobody knew exactly how I felt about the dare. Whether or not I would go through with it was a mystery.
“Hey. Psst. Pissface. You gonna do it?” said a face from the dark.
“False alarm, boys. He’s pussin’ out.”
Someone farted and groaned. Another kid convulsively thrust his hips into the air. We all grew silent when Tommy passed and walked outside to the porch.
I crawled out of my bed and walked through the sleeping area. The boys grew silent, half-expecting me to turn at any moment and get back into bed.

In the moonlight his figure leaned against the railing and watched nothing. The church was built on the side of a small hill that overlooked the scattered city lights of New Haven. Separating the church and city was a small patch of forest that harbored pine trees whose shadows stretched into the blank black sky.
Tommy didn’t turn around when I came outside. Dressed in a blue unwashed jumpsuit he stood with his hands under his chin. He looked much younger than I thought. With shaggy blonde hair that went unkempt and a frame skinnier than a child’s, he looked to be sick.
“Sir?” I said.
He turned around, calm and serene. “One of you finally did it, eh?”
“Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. I’m just teasing you. You kids ain’t exactly quiet, and I ain’t exactly stupid. Come stand with me.”
It was frightening to say the least. Somewhere between the bed and porch my apathy had fallen into abatement. We leaned against the railing both watching whatever lay beyond, standing in estranged silence.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Tommy," he said.
“And what ya staring at?"
“Just the forest. It was bigger when I was your age, believe it or not.”
“I can remember being a kid in those woods. Always looking for an adventure and such. It’s funny because back then it seemed like the forest touched from one edge of the universe to the other. I can remember cutting a spot in the bush where my friends and I called home. We’d spend all day in those woods. Sometimes it hurts to think about when those woods stopped being woods and started being undeveloped land.”
“What about the city?"
"What about it?”
             "How is it over there?" 
             “It's like any other city out there," he paused for a moment, and then looked over to me, "You've never been there have you?"

             "Father David says there's alot of sinners out there."

"Why are you here?"
“Well, Kid. It’s kind of a long story. I got into some things I wasn’t supposed to. This church offered to help me out, and so I took it. That’s about it.”
“Are you here to find God?”
“Well…I don’t…I’m not sure I know how to answer that.”
“Well, I know lots a people come here sometimes to find God. That’s what Father David says, anyways, about the addicts who live here. Are you one of those people?”
“To be honest Kid, I really just don’t know.”
“You don’t know if you’re one of those people?”
“One of what people?”
“Those people who live over in that building behind the playground. The one where Father David says to stay away from.”
“I already said it, Kid. I don’t know.”
“Well, how do you not know who you are? You gotta know that. If you don’t know who you are, then what in the heck good are you?”
“That’s a mighty fine question. One I seek to answer myself someday. You see, like you, I thought I knew that answer at different points in my life. But it’s like I said, things go froma beautiful forest to undeveloped land. Churches go from school to work. And, well, things just get all turned upside down.”
“I know it seems confusing now, but someday you’re going to realize that in most points of life you just really don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Father David once told me that doubt is normal. We should accept doubt. He says doubt is a part of faith.”
“What are you doubting, Kid?”
“Well, I got a few questions about the bible and all. We read it all the time. One boy from class pointed out all these mean things about women in Corinthians. Another thing is, how did Noah get all those animals in that boat? That’s gotta be one big ol’ boat.”
“Well, I wish I had the answer to that. But, the truth is I don’t know. Truth is beyond me, kid. A lotta people say that doubt is a part of faith, and others say doubt is reason.”
“What do you say?”
“Let me tell you this, when I was a kid, those woods meant everything to me. I had a name for every stinking pine tree. Well, when my friends and I had that little place amongst the bush, it felt like I had a place all to my own. For the first time in my young life, I felt at home. Well, it only lasted a month or two because one day we came through the same path we took everyday to hear construction trucks and chainsaws roaring. We come to find that the forest was being developed for a shopping center that had nothing but a Mexican meat market and a Taco Bell in it. Never went into those woods after that. Stuck to the city."
“What’s that got to do with anything, sir?”
“One day, when this church becomes work, you’ll get what I’m saying.”
Tommy left, but not before ruffling my hair. I tried to follow him, but he left the dorm and went off into whatever else he did in the night. When I got back to the bunk room, the kids were all in a panic about whether or not I was alive. I assured them that he was nothing but a common janitor and that we could all get to bed. 
Tommy never came back after that. He moved back to the city.