Games of Chance and Get Even
Lippie T. Poorbreed, who at the time just prior to his baptism, broke down upon one knee and with a sly smile apologized to the congregation for his having been such a difficult sheep to turn, was at one time previous an excellent thief, the focus initially being on candy, small pocket-knives, gold pens, plastic figurines, marbles, jacks, dominoes, cards, games of chance and get even, and at thirteen years of age he became the wise and rarified leader of sixteen of the twenty-four trailerpark kids for displaying an exemplary nature of silence under pressure of questioning from cops about who broke into the market behind the hardware store and stole all the cake and pie and candy, and in so heightening and subsequently expanding his influence, and in order to keep his new friends in the good loot, he began to narrow his eye on the pursuit of cash.
Three miles out of town to the south, down by the River of Tunes, down where a few of the older boys had fashioned themselves a cave four summers back with the scapulas of fallen and rotting cattle who had stumbled dizzily and collapsed from everything so dry after arriving at the river in hopes of finding water, but who instead found only flecks of hard mud, there had come again an air heavy with shade where naked children played with soiled panties left by the River’s edge, Lippies older brother Kippie D. no doubt, down again with some hot chick from the town, an air where the young were allowed their ways without a slap on the ass, an air on the edge of turmoil and release, alive and green and flourishing to capacity in which was drink great cupfulls of the River while dallying around the fire in the heart of the cave, and it was into such an air Lippie T. spoke to the other children, “Little buddies! You and I should all be grateful to our brothers and sisters who came before us. They have worked and prayed hard to make this a better place, and now it is up to us to do the same thing. Remember how our brothers and sisters were forced upon their bellies in the past, some fatherless and some motherless, forced to fend for themselves, to stomach the rotting flesh of the cattle who fell over before their eyes, and forced to make the long walk to the diseased waters of the swamps seventeen miles to the east where it was impossible to move without interrupting the bones of the dead. Now maybe we are lucky that there is life on this River again, and we have been able to flourish in this place, but I am afraid that the gathering of simply cake and pie and candy has left us wanting in many areas……You other children! We have all heard tell of the way in which The Man chooses to conduct his payments for services or items rendered, and we are all aware of the many places in which his money is kept hidden. If you wish to begin making use of such money, I suggest we begin as quickly as possible in the gathering of this rather than our candy and pie. It is up to us now, little friends, to do what we must. I have already chosen my way.”
The next day being Sunday, Lippie T. arose early, had morning thoughts of a solemn and divine nature regarding his father whom he thought of daily at this time, his father dead now for four years having succumbed to the disease of the swamp, the man who told him with the last of his breath to be wary of letting go of the old ways for the promise of the bearer of the cross, the bearer being held responsible for the way the people had been forced to live under conditions suitable for all but death, and the promise being held responsible for allowing such conditions to exist under its bearers’ name while they themselves paid heed to the cross only with their faces turned upward to the sky but forgetting about the place they stand on, and Lippie T., taking these thoughts with him as he made his way into the kitchen where his mother was preparing a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, proclaimed to her, “Mother! I have been considering coming to know the Lord lately! Would it please you if I were to accompany you to church this day?” Mother staggered back with one hand on her chest and the other clutching for support from the table, for she had been there at the time of her husband’s last breath, and could only utter in initial surprise a great “OH!” and then falling into a chair at tableside, “Church! Yes, dear Lippie, of course you may come to church with me. Perhaps you will be able to light the candles! We’ll have to see. I’ll talk to the pastor for you,” and after a brief moment, “Lippie? Dear? Come sit here on my knee. Your father has been dead now for four years. Do you remember what he said? And what do you think now? Would you like to be baptized into the church today? “
“Baptized?” Lippie questioned. “I haven’t given it much thought, mother,” and rising from his mother’s knee, “but I will think about it as we walk.”
Lippie held the hand of his mother as they did the long walk to her place of worship.
“Mother,” he asked with his head bent low in consideration, “does everybody bring money to church when they go?”
“Yes,” his mother replied, “it is for the offering to the Lord.”
“I see,” said Lippie. “That is what I thought. Tell the pastor that I will be ready.”
Upon arriving at the church, and after conferring with the pastor, mother led Lippie T. by soft hand to the room where those who sang in the choir kept their coats and purses and the robes they were to wear while singing praises to the Lord, and Lippie T. did not once crack a smile upon counting the purses of the shelves above, which numbered seventeen, and he made mental note of the door behind which his loot lay, and while donning the robe of the candle lighter, he said to his mother, “Mother, I need to know where the bathroom is in case I need to pee while the service is in progress. Will you show me where it is?”
“You should go potty now, Lippie, if you need to.”
“I don’t have to now, but I may later. I should know where to go.” Lippie T. zipped up his robe and reached for his mother’s hand.
“The bathroom is two doors down on the left. Now come young man, you have a job to do.”
Having lit the candles behind the altar and taken his seat in back next to his mother, Lippie T. folded his hands neatly in his lap and began considering the nature of what he was about to do, it being nearly behind his capabilities to keep from grinning at the thought of many in the hands of children, and after half-an-hour’s time went by he leaned in near the open ear of his mother and told her how he must pee immediately, rose from the pew without consent, ducked quickly into the hallway, looked right, looked left, looked to the right again and to the left, trying to gain his bearings, and once accomplishing this by the recognition of the door behind which his loot lay and entering there safely, he reached for the first of the seventeen purses, and out of this one drew twenty-three dollars, reached for the second and out of this drew fourteen, and finding in the third eighteen, and so on down the shelves, eventually coming to the decent sum of two-hundred and fifty-one dollars which was quickly and evenly distributed among the four pockets of his pants and without much more reflection Lippie T. closed the door softly behind him and returned to the pew where his mother sat, head bowed deep in prayer.
Once the service had ended and the plate had been passed, his mother having tossed two dollars, one for her and one for him, Lippie T. leaned in close to the vacant ear of his mother. “Mother, is it time for my baptism now?”
Mother turned her head towards her son and rested her hands upon his. “Yes, Lippie. It is time. Come. I have already talked to the pastor.”
Lippie T. Poorbreed, fatherless son of a poor and troubled mother, who at one time previous had been an excellent thief, broke down upon one knee and with a sly smile turned to the congregation, “I am truly sorry to not have come here sooner. I had no idea that this place could provide so much for my people,” and turning then to the pastor, “I’m ready.”
Copyright © Horse of the Sun and Keith Haines 1999-2002. All Rights Reserved.