The Confessor of Littlefield #5 contains a trio of vignettes. Adam’s narration is stirred by his own persona/shadow. The thesis/antithesis arrangement of his psyche is starting to dissolve more into the characters he is creating, and they start to take their own breaths. This installment closes part one of the novel.
“You shouldn’t get all worked up like that, it ain’t good,” asserts Edwin Umbrian. “it’s just a baseball game.”
Professor Cliffnut continues urging on the baserunner being described on the little portable radio as rounding third and heading home. “He slEYEddddddddzzzzz!” Pause. Double pause. “OUT!!!”
“Ah fuck!” The professor shouts.
Edwin Umbrian is about to say something again when Mrs. Cliffnut appears from the house with her long, strong and cool strides. She makes eye contact with him and Edwin retreats to his rake and a pile of leaves.
“Francis Bacon Cliffnut!” The tree frogs stopped singing when she came outside; sparrows whispered shh! to each other. Yes, I believe Connie Cliffnut, like everyone else, is physically punished by the presence of her mother. No dopey, sneezy, sniffly, Ferris Bueller baloney around her. Professor Cliffnut probably sits on HER lap. She’s looking this way and I’m holding my breath. Natural reaction. Yes, I fantasize about Mrs. Cliffnut a little too much.
“… all right all right all right.”
“Remember what the doctor said about you getting agitated? What, am I going to have to take your radio from you too?”
Yeah, your act of authority; punishing; sure, that oughta lower his blood pressure, I think to myself. If not university coach, she would be doing something else for money that suits her temperament; corrections officer, commandant, navy seal. Make her sit through one of her husband’s intellectual history lectures and she would die of anxiety.
Then I am stunned to see a look of endearment on her face as she looks at him.
“Don’t stay out here too long.”
She gives me a quick expressionless look, and when she gets to the patio door she turns and bares her fangs to Edwin who pretends not to notice.
Skip Tavage is, “a boy lovin’ savage who lives in Ms. Rounds’ basement because Ms. Rounds is antisocial and wants her neighbors to feel uncomfortable,” according to Connie Cliffnut. “That’s what mom says. Dad says he was 18 when he got caught fucking a boy named Breedlove. Prosecutor’s son.
“Ah, bad news.”
“He didn’t even do anything wrong. He said that other boy paid him to fuck him.”
“What’s he do for a living?”
“What, Bradley Breedlove? How should I know?
“Come on. Was he the subject of conversation?”
“Oh, Skip. People pay him to fuck them.”
“Oh. Makes sense.”
“Funny how word spreads when you gotta a big dick.” Red faced look of lust. “Thanks for the ride. You can drop me off up here just past this driveway.”
Two days later I am walking back home from Subway and encounter Skip, who holds me for several moments of unnerving interest in my well being. He compliments me on my hygiene. I fart. “I better take care of that,” I say and quickly amble away. I confess, I am really only 5’7 and still get carded for beer even though I am 44. I am told I resemble my father. He was an old man when my mother knew him. I never met him. Mom says he was a Puerto Rican named Bennie. In the mirror it doesn’t matter to me. I have my mom’s Puerto Rican cheeks.
“Hey, buddy, it’s fine you’ve got your belief in God but all that good and evil mumbo jumbo doesn’t do a damn thing for me. You want to know who God is to me, or do you have it in your head you are the apostle Paul, soldier of Christ? Used to collect taxes for the man but collects ’em for God now instead?”
“You are either for or against evil, brother.”
“Depends on whose side I’m on.”
“We are brothers and sisters of Christ. He said, “come out of the world and follow me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Hold on…”
“The blood of his redemption washed you of your sins and you’re going to reject him?”
“I forgot my line. What am I supposed to say here? Uh, yer a good spokesman, Jesus, but you don’t make a good soldier, you didn’t get my back very good.”
Edwin Umbrian shook his head at Sgt. Ross and said over his shoulder as he was walking away, “someday yer gonna find out just how great his sacrifice was.
Sgt. Ross’ chuckle pops from the back of his throat. “haH haH haH. Who’s the ghost whisperer?” he asks Jimmy.
“Some psychotic named Edwin. Comes in once in a while for a pack of cigars and bottle of wine.
Always has that bible with him. Keeps it in his breast pocket.
“Quick with it too.”
“Hah. Yeah. He’s been around here for a few years. Just showed up one day. Most people don’t let him bother them. Seen a big old lady take off after him once, though. She’s swinging her big black purse and he keeps ducking away. So she kicks him in the ass and when he turns she clocks him with her purse. He’s running down the street and she’s chasing right after him, yelling, “I’m gonna shove that bible up your ass!”
“haH haH haH!”
“I hafta respect him, though. Stupid as hell, ignorant and psychotic, but he sure believes in God. Takes a lot of abuse for it.”
“As much as he gives?”
“He may be annoying but he ain’t abusive.”
“Gonna have to disagree with you, Jimmy. See, he has the idea, even if God loves you, that you are depraved. So we’re all just tolerating each other; doing good because we are commanded by an outside force. And everyone should be happy but we’re not. So it must be because we are all selfish and wicked people who, but for the grace of God, die in a state of degradation.”
“That don’t sound too good but I try to see the good in everyone. Nobody’s a saint.”
“No, but those are all Christian terms; saint, good. It depends on who is doing the figuring as to what good is. We could wish for the return to the Garden of Eden; do a start over and choose not to choose; everybody afraid to choose for fear of the lord. But since we now have taken a look under the Prince’s skirt we can only hope for a return after we die. This favor is granted only by God’s popular opinion, which always loves appearances; making the act of being seen as virtuous by your fellow man not an act of grandeur but a beatitude.”
“Everybody wants credit for the things they do. It is sort of an issue of respect to be acknowledged when you do something for someone.”
“Sure, but I am not going to think it’s possible, or even desirable for all people to share the same idea of God. A person is broken from time to time; recognizes his failures. But this whole business of a Presbyterian society of employer deacons watching over your shoulder at work and regulating your private life sounds like what Luther was supposed to have been fighting against.”
“Everyone in church 24 hours a day.”
“Except for bathroom breaks.”
“Hah. The dirtiest things that happen in bathrooms don’t end up on the walls.”
“No, they end up on camera.”
“haH haH haH!
A half dozen Latino men between the ages of 20-35 wrench the door open, sending its bell into a clanging shout as they spread out around the store. Jimmy nods at the leader and walks to the cash register. Jimmy is Latino, in his mid 30’s, 6’2, 210 lbs.; keeps a baseball bat, shotgun and pistol under the counter. His vision is panoramic, taking in all six of the men. At the end of the counter Sgt. Ross watches everyone with one eye forward, the other to the side, a look he acquired from being hit by flying shrapnel in Afghanistan. Sergeant Ross’s Harley is parked near the front door and the men seem more deferential to him then Jimmy. He is a short man, 5’9, but weighs as much as Jimmy, with thick thighs and torso. He always wears a bandanna, usually has a chewed off cigar in one corner of his mouth; speaks with a terrible rasp, like he’s got emphysema, a voice he’s always had, even as a child.
The leader of the group of men asks Jimmy questions in Spanish, which Sgt. Ross understands. The man asks how much the laundromat costs and Jimmy is telling him he doesn’t know. The leader asks Jimmy if he knows where they could find work. Again, Jimmy doesn’t know. The leader tells Jimmy the men are new to the area and to let them know if they can help him out in any way. Jimmy gives a a slight nod and says, “sure.”
The men leave and Jimmy returns to Sgt. Ross and says, “what were we talking about?”
“Black and white fighting each other with the black always on the upper hand and Edwin Umbrian is always recruiting to help an undermanned Jesus.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Get people to agree they are born evil and then tell them you’ve got an antidote that seems to work occasionally but you gotta take it all the time.”
“Hah hah! Stop it.”
“Remember the other day when you were taking care of that little Puerto Rican and that Umbrian fellow came in and heard you tell the guy to have a nice day? As the guy was leaving this guy Edwin says loud to YOU, “thank you” as he was stepping to the counter?”
“Yeah. I was a little confused there.”
“He’s a narcissist. He was telling that other guy to be cordial by responding “thank you” to you.”
“Pfff. Think so?”
“Edwin smirked and looked over his shoulder at the guy. Remember, you were reaching under the counter, putting something away, or something,”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, doesn’t surprise me.”
“Guy like that pisses off people because of his attitude toward them.”
“Yeah, well, at least he’s tryin’.”
“You still stand near the baseball bat when he comes in.”
“Yeah, well, he thinks he is doing good at least; and he wants everyone to be together in the end. Most people don’t seem to give a dime; rubberneckers looking at road kill as they pass you by; would steal your boots if they could.”
“Not everyone. Just the desperate ones and the psychotics.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean. People need to be confrontational with each other. Man, the reason why we ain’t never gonna have everyone ridin’ around in self driving cars is because driving gives people a chance to be passive aggressive to each other. You take a semi on a highway and me a ¼ mile behind, with the nearest car in my rear view mirror an 1/8th of a mile back following at my speed and by the time I get to that semi to pass that guy in back of me is right on my ass and swoops around before I can get in the passing lane, or at least pressuring me to speed up. Then the guy slows down in the passing lane while passing. E v e r y time. Everyfuckingtime. Everyone does it with a 3% chance of error and with 98% of the people thinking they are closer to that 3% than that 98% percent. People don’t want to kill each other, they just like to punch each other in the shoulder real hard now and then for no fucking reason.”
“Judge not by motive but effect. What kind of effects has that guy ever produced in others? “
“Look how many people hate this or that great entertainer. But they keep going on. Edwin keeps doing what he does and he don’t even get paid.”
“The devil pays him. And well, most likely, because he is doing what he wants. If everyone is depraved then he must think he is too.”
“Probably beating himself up for not wishing someone a nice day.”
“That’s what I like about you, Jimmy, quickest troglodyte mind in the world. Take care, man. Gotta go. Got to see the doctor about this pain in my gut.”
“Sorry to hear that,man. I’ll say a prayer for you.”
“Appreciate it, man.”
Footsteps shake the worn out floorboards, bells ting against the closing door.