Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 10

     "Did you read about the robbery at the Food House last night?" Jackson Robert asked his wife as they sat in the living room after dinner.

     "No, but it sure was a mess when I did my shopping today," she answered as she moved her favorite chair in front of the television.

     "What happened?" Job asked.

     "Someone broke into the Food House last night and stole all the paper bags," his father told him.


     "So, they had nothing to put the food in," Jackson Robert said, turning the page of the newspaper.

     "It was crazy," Erta said. "Luckily Jem Marconi had already heard about it so she brought a bunch of bags with her. She had a couple extras so she gave them to me. You know there were people out front selling old used bags for fifty cents each? Ratty, disgusting, dirty bags!"

     "Why would someone do that?" Job asked.

     "To make money," Jet said.

     "I know that, you twerp," Job shot back. "Why would they steal the bags?"

     "Why are you asking me?" Jet asked.

     "It's a good thing you took the bus last night," Erta said, trying to break up the impending argument, "or you might have been right there when it happened."

     "Yeah," Jet replied disinterestedly, "life's strange that way."

     Erta slid her chair until it was three feet in front of the TV screen as she did every night after dinner. And this is where it would stay until it was time for bed.

     "The good book says 'forgive us our trespasses', and that my friends is a noble request," the Quite Reverend John Joseph Matthew Paul III said, staring out of the TV screen and directly into Erta’s eyes. "And the good book also says 'as we forgive those who trespass against us', and that too my friends is an honorable goal. But the good book, in all its infinite wisdom, does not tell us how to achieve these goals.  No, my brothers and sisters of the Lord, the good book tells us over and over to forgive, but it doesn't!...say!...HOW!"

     Erta watched the Quite Reverend in the morning, afternoon, and again at night; it was an endurance test to see whether the Quite Reverend could broadcast longer than Erta could watch. So far it was a dead heat.

     "Now I can hear you right this very second saying to yourselves, 'Just one moment Quite Reverend John Joseph Matthew Paul III, aren't we supposed to turn the other cheek?' Well, I think not, brothers and sisters. 'Then do we turn plowshares into swords or vice versa?', you ask. No, we do not. 'Then what do we do?' you may ask. 'Do we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's?' And to this verily I say yes!...we!...DO!"

     Jackson Robert neatly folded his newspaper as he left the room. The broom closet in the back hall was calling to him: "Clean me! Straighten me!". Job left the room to spend some quality time in the bathroom with a copy of Penthouse and an image of Diana Perkins firmly in his brain. Jet stayed and watched his mother.

     "I know you have trespassed and beg forgiveness," the Quite Reverend continued. "I know others have trespassed against you and you wish to forgive them. And I know you've got the discombobulated idea that forgiveness is free. But friends, I'm here to tell you that nothing in this life is free. That's right, absolutely nothing. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. And there's no such thing as free forgiveness. Unless you pay dearly in this life—mark my word as I live and breathe!—nothing will be free in the glorious hereafter. Free may be a part of freedom, but that's just a word, not the price tag."

     Every night for the past three months the Quite Reverend's bleating pleas serenaded the Banker household.  Last year it had been Reverend Andrew Divine. A year before that, Dr. Bobby Ray Carlton. And on and on. It was hard for Jet to tell them apart, even if he watched them—which he usually didn’t—except that by paying close attention he could detect the hissing lateral emission 's' of the Reverend Julius Hershey. Trying to pick a favorite would be like saying you prefer turnips over rutabagas.

     "The price is not cheap, brothers and sisters, for nothing worth having comes cheap. If you want the best in the hereafter—and my friends I know each and every one of you do—you will have to pay, and you all know there's no time like the present. So open your hearts, open your purses, open your wallets, and we'll open the phone lines. My brethren, the Lord Jesus Christ is ready to log your call."

     Jet’s head dropped as he drifted off to sleep, a familiar, almost comforting sound joining the Quite Reverend's voice—Erta was dialing the telephone.

     "While I pray silently, begging the forgiveness of those who won't seek the forgiveness of others, I remind you that I, the Quite Reverend John Joseph Matthew Paul III, will be bringing my ministry to your area very soon."

     Yes, the Quite Reverend John Joseph Matthew Paul III was coming to town.



Chapter 11 ]

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  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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