"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
"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,
"Why would someone do
that?" Job asked.
"To make money," Jet
"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 Ertas
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
"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 lifemark 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 themwhich he
usually didntexcept 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
hereafterand my friends I know each and every one of you doyou 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."
Jets head dropped as he
drifted off to sleep, a familiar, almost comforting sound joining the Quite Reverend's
voiceErta 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 ]