Chapter two – The Right Reverend Bill and Polecat Tom

(Have you read Chapt one of Reverend Bill?)

Bill stared down the road, to keep his composure, concentrating on a road that seemingly had no end or beginning.

roaddesert

 

His laugh was quiet and controlled at first.  But then became louder, till it finally erupted as a ‘belly laugh’.

The vision in his head imagined what other people thought of Tom and his own overlapping image of a Pole Cat.

This had become an uproarious image in Bill’s mind.

“You wouldn’t happen to like Polecats, would you?” Rev Bill asked.  Bill felt like he might wet his pants.

Tom looked at him in a quizzical way, and asked, “What in the world are you laughing at?  My name?  What is funny about a man’s name?  And, what in tarnation is a PoleCat?”

Bill couldn’t reply while he was gasping for air.  As he calmed down, he tried to explain,

Tom angrily said, “Alright, Mr. Smarty Pants, what’s your handle?”  His smile had disappeared replaced by a rapidly spreading red face.

Bill took several deep breaths, slowly gaining control.

Immediately, he began to apologize,

“Please accept my apology.  I haven’t had much food lately, and I might be just a little off in the head!  Many in this country would say a polecat is kin to a skunk.”

That seemed to calm Tom down some.  Bill, took a breath and said,
“William!  But everyone calls me Bill, and I’m very glad to meet you!”

“Of course you are,” Tom said with a smile that showed only as a slight uplift to the hair around where his lips should be.

He was watching Bill from the corner of his eyes.  “You see I’m God, and I plan to turn your life around!”

Bill, of course, looked startled.  But, he had stopped laughing at Tom.

Tom smiled just a little more and then burst out laughing.  His belly shook, his beard heaved, the top of his forehead became beet red, his cheeks took on a pink color.

“Man!  You ought to see yourself.  You look as if you had seen a ghost,” Tom had clearly paid him back.

“So where do you hail from?  How is the United States doing?  How is that new prez fellow doing these days?  He reminds me of a used car salesman,” he said while shaking his head.

“Not the one that sold me this truck.  No, that was an honest salesman.  But, I can’t trust that Chicago fellow.  You know, way back I was a gunner, in the Marines.   I shot at a few of the enemy, not sure if I hit anything.  But, I hope I at least made ’em dirty their diapers. Listening to those Washington DC boys sometimes make me think I was shooting at the wrong enemy.”

Bill was getting the idea, that silence was indeed rare around this man.  But, he found the man entertaining, if not horribly dated.

As the ride progressed, and Tom rambled on, Bill daydreamed what he might do in Arizona on a street corner, espousing his faith to a handful of folks.

He then imagined being in front of thousands of people once again, with their spiritual power pouring through him, and their love and adulation making him feel complete.

He was smiling as PoleCat droned on.

Bill pictured himself getting up on something like a park bench, or a wooden box.  He would then sermonize on the Ten Commandments, Acts 2:38, Revelations, and try to scare the Bejesus out of as many as he could.

“Are you saved?  Hellfire awaits you if you are not!” he said to himself.

He knew many would ignore him, others would scorn him, worse yet, were those that would shake their heads because they pitied him.  In all of his travels, since losing his confidence, he did not believe that he had saved one soul.

He caught himself.  As Lucifer had been cast out of Paradise, for vanity, he had too.  Pride goes before the fall, and he had fallen.

“I would like to save one more soul before I die!”  He thought mournfully to himself.

The old man, Tom, had never stopped talking about his past.  The places he had been. The children he had helped.  The smile of his life was spread across his words.

Bill came to realize that in spite of what Tom had said earlier about the ‘immigrants and enemies’ Tom hated no one.

He loved them all.  He spoke lovingly of sparrows and rattlesnakes.  He rambled on about flowers and the tall pines in the mountains.  Of lost tourists, politicians, the guy that took his gas money from him in Tucson, where he had many American Indian friends.

These people probably called him ‘Nuts’, but in a friendly way.

Tom spoke of his love for the deserts, the hills, even dirt.  He jokingly made fun of his cleanliness, and simply explained the earth took a bath, whenever it rained.  Here was a man out of touch with television, radio, newspapers, and telephones, but he enjoyed just being and living.  He even loved his old truck.

“You like Sara?” Tom asked.

“Huh?” Bill intelligently asked.

“My truck!  This is Sara.  She’s a little contrary, but she is faithful to me.  Had her these fifty years.  She’s got a few miles on her, and you got ‘a treat her easy, but she gets me all of this desert!  Ain’t far ahead, I’ll be turning off the main drag.  Pity you’re coming through here so late.  This hill we are on is part of the Aquarius Mountains.  ‘Absolutely beautiful when the sun is going down.  You want ta rack at my place, I’ve got room for you?  It would be a lot better than sleeping in the open?  So?”

Tom waited for an answer.

Bill asked himself, “Does he ever breathe?  He has to, sometime.”

Bill said, “I would be honored.”

Tom exclaimed, “Great!  There’d be no white men up there for years.  Had a few bears, other critters, but no white men.  Tomorrow morning, we’ll drive into Brenda Town.  I have got to get some supplies.”

Within an hour, they had turned off the main road, south onto Gold Nugget Rd.  Sara the truck went quickly from good asphalt to a road badly needing repair.

Another South turn and they were on loose gravel, and still climbing in altitude.  Now a hard, hairpin right and they were on dirt, with the road pitching and bumping.  The old truck sang, screamed, and squealed, but Sara clawed forward.

Tom talked through every turn and pothole.

Finally, Tom turned a curve, besides a huge rock.  He pulled to a stop and put Sara’s emergency brake on.  He then turned the engine off and jumped outside.  The truck began to roll backward.  Tom pulled a brick from behind his seat and scotched the wheel in the rear with no tread with it.

Bill, looked up from the truck and saw Tom’s ‘house.’  It was closer to a shack.  One wall was definitely off square.  The tin roof looked as if the rust was the only thing holding it together, with a few old tires thrown on to hold panels in place.

The front ‘yard’ was a potpourri of old axles, plows, wheels, etc.  It looked as if snakes used for the seasonal snake conventions.

Tom said, “Here’s home.  I built it myself!”  As if that needed to be said.

A dog appeared, running and barking towards them.  It appeared to weigh twenty or so pounds, had the long thin muzzle of a collie, and had the squarish head of another breed, with floppy ears.  Some of its fur was short and shaggy.  All of its fur was dirty.

“Perfect match for Tom,” Bill said to himself.

It bounded up to Tom, and ran around him like a demon, barking the whole time.  He bent to pet it, but it wouldn’t stay still long enough.  He called it by name.

“Tilley!  Sweetie Tilley!  Good Girl!”

“Did you call it Tilley?” Bill asked.

“Yeah!  That’s short for Attila the Hun.  Isn’t she a terror?” Tom chuckled at his own joke.  “She’s a great dog though.  Problem is, I can’t keep any chickens ’round her.”

Suddenly, Tilley leaped into Tom’s arms and put her head on his shoulder, next to his neck.  They nuzzled like this for a few short moments, then he put her down.

Tilley started circling them again while barking the entire route.  Then she ran into something that looked like a chicken coop.

Bill chuckled, as she peeped out the door and barked, once more, as if to say, “There! I made my statement!  My home, my friend!”

Tom led him inside the “house” and showed him a small bunk that he promptly collapsed on.  It may have been hard for some, but to Bill, it was as soft as clouds.  He went quickly to sleep, without dreams, and obviously without moving, as the next morning, he woke in the same spot.

Birds chirping slowly woke him.  It took several seconds to remember where he was.

He sat up on the edge of the bunk, swinging his legs to the side.  He knelt at the bedside performing his morning prayers.

Tom walked in and snorted.

Bill became a little irritated at the thought of Tom making fun of him.  “I am praying to my Maker.  A little respect would be appreciated!”

Tom laughed, “You’re right, of course.  I apologize, but your knees are in dog poop.  Didn’t you smell it?”

Bill looked down, and for the first time noticed it.  “Yeah, well I guess I was not awake, or my nose wasn’t.”

Tom said, “You have a morning gift from Tilley.  She is telling you, you don’t belong.”

“But, there is something appropriate about kneeling down in dog poop and going through a ritual of talking to someone who will never talk back.  But, don’t you mind me!”  Pole-Cat exclaimed, holding both hands out, palm up, turning away to the “kitchen”.

“You might want to clean off those pants before breakfast, though.  There’s a creek out back.  It’s a mite cold, but the dog poop will come off in the water with a bit of scrubbing and hitting the rocks with those pants,” Tom said while walking away.

He suddenly turned back to face Bill and said, “You know?  Water is kinda special!  It doesn’t care what you do with it.  You can drink it, boil it to cook food, wash your butt with it, and even get the dog poop off your jeans.  It don’t care!”  Both arms went up for emphasis.

‘Pole Cat Tom’ looked at the ceiling, thoughtfully, and said, “You know, a person’s soul ought to be somewhat the same way.  Always there, in spite of what people might say or do to you.  What do they say in the “Good Book”, if someone hits your cheek?  Turn your mug and give him a shot at the other side!”

Tom was obviously proud of this diatribe.

“Curious, I never thought of that before.”  Reverend Bill remarked.  But Tom did make sense, in a strange kind of way.

So, Bill wandered down to the creek, took his denim trousers off, and proceeded to wash the dog poop off his knees.  He decided to wash his shirt as well, then his body.  The cold water quickly caused goose bumps and he hurried the washing process.  He had his creek-washed jeans and shirt lying on the grass, where the sun could dry them out.  The creek was cold, but it felt great.

He saw Tilley on the creek bank, smelling around his clothes.  She squatted, and made water on his clothes, all the while looking Bill straight in his eyes.

Bill yelled at her.  “Git, git on out of here!”

She ambled casually off into the brush.  Tom came out of the shack, where he was preparing breakfast, and asked, “What in blue blazes is going on?”

“Attila the Hun just pissed on my washed clothes!”  Bill screamed.

“Oh,” Tom chuckled.

With his right hand pointing at Bill, he said, “I am enjoying having you around. “

Tom gestured over his shoulder, “You know, I would have put my wet clothes in one of the branches of the tree over yonder way.  She can’t climb trees,” He chuckled at his own joke.  “You turn the other cheek now,” Tom walked away laughing.

Bill washed his clothes again, and then hung all of them in the branches to dry, as Tom had advised him.  Though, he was not a hundred percent sure that dog, wouldn’t find some way to climb the tree.

While waiting on his clothes, he decided to take a walk.  Who would see a half-naked skinny man out here, anyway?

He walked down the slope, toward the morning sun.  He stopped on a large granite outcropping and stretched out on it.  The piece of stone hung out over the hillside by twenty feet.  It looked as if it were five hundred feet down if one were to fall or jump.

“What beauty!”  Bill said to himself.  As he was gazed out, he admired red hawks flying up and down and all around on the airstream.  His mind went into autopilot.  He forgot about his childhood, his rise to power and his fall from grace.  He forgot that he had no family, nor job.

He rested his mind on the arm of the mountain, and it soothed him.

He dreamed someone was calling his name from far off.

“Bill, where are you?  Did you jump off the mountain without your clothes?  What an idiot!  Suicide is bad enough, but you going to do it half naked?  I’ve been fixing breakfast for two,  that’s me and you.   Where in Blue Blazes are you?” Tom was hollering at the top of his lungs.

Slowly, Bill came around.  “Tom, I’m over here.  Give me five minutes, and I’ll eat your breakfast.”    His mind was blank and he had obviously lost track of time.

He chuckled to himself.

He stopped on his way to pick up his clothes to decide what was bothering him.  He couldn’t figure it out.  Moving up the slope, he caught himself whistling.

“Wait!”  His heart felt light.

“I’ll be damned, I’m happy.”

For the first time in years, he felt good.

He grabbed his clothes and ran up the slope to the shack.  Tom, indeed, had breakfast, but there was enough food on the table to feed a platoon of Marines.

Eggs, thick slabs of bacon, flap-jacks, toast, honey, etc.  Black, coffee, too.

Bill’s stomach screamed.  How long had it been since he had eaten?  He jumped onto the stack of books that Tom had put in place for him to sit upon, as there was only one wooden chair in the ‘kitchen’.  He grabbed food, shoveling it onto his plate.  He quickly bowed his head, and said a short prayer, and proceeded to eat.

Tom said, “If you were giving thanks, I am the one that cooked it.”

Bill replied, “Yes!  Thank you for cooking breakfast!  Of course, God created all of this.”

“Yeah, well I put in the butter and fatback.  That’s why it tastes good!” Tom retorted.  “The honey came from out back.  I got a few beehives back there.”

“It’s wonderful,” Bill said with his mouth completely full.  Small pieces of food fell from his mouth while he tried to talk, chew, and swallow all in one move.

“How long has it been since you ate?” Tom asked Bill, obviously worried.

“I am not sure, seems like forever.  A few days?” Bill replied, between fork-fulls.

“Well, you ain’t going to starve around me.  I’ll make sure you eat ok.  Man has got to eat right, otherwise his animal instincts take over.”

Tom got a thought, and of course, talked it out.
“Why, you take food away from a gentleman.  Give him about three weeks with nothing but water.  Put him in a situation where someone else and he are starving together.  Then give them just enough food to last one of them a couple of days.  You think that food will last a week?  Likely as not, one of them ‘ill kill the other. What do you think about that?  Doya think you can pray to God with your belly crawling and wiggling against your backbone?”

Rev Bill did not know what to say.  His mouth fell open.

“Do you not believe in God, Tom?”

“Of course! I am God!  I already told you that,” Tom smiled behind his beard.  “Hhmm, now you believe I am nuts, right? “

“Try this on for size.”  Tom leaned forward placing his hands on his knees.

“Scientists tell you that the universe was created from the ‘Big Bang.’  They say that all of this goop was spinning around, with nothing else around it.  This stuff pulled in on itself, into a tiny but massive singularity.  At some point, it generated enough heat to cause a huge explosion.  All of this goop went spinning off from the middle of the explosion into the universe. After a pot full of years, some of this exploded goop started to cool, and get hard.  Some of this hard goop started spinning around and sucking in other goop.  Enough heat got generated from all of this for a fusion reaction to start.  Presto, the stars?  Then some smaller pieces of goop started to circle these suns and finally cooled.  Planets?”

Tom slapped his hands together, “Pow! Life!”

Tom, as was his custom, didn’t wait for any kind of response, but Bill was amazed nonetheless.

Tom waited for a microsecond or so, and said, “Sounds to me like everything came from the same goop.  A little different packaging, but the same stuff.  What if this stuff were God?  Let’s say he sat there for a few trillion years.  He got bored, you know, with nothing to do.

Maybe he went a little crazy and just exploded, or maybe a little dust got up his nose and he sneezed.  The scientists would still have the “Big Bang” theory, and I would still be God.  I mean, if you get a drop of water from the ocean, wouldn’t it still be water?  So, I am a small piece of God, therefore, I’m God.  You’re God, and Sara’s God, and the “Good Book” is God, and so on.  I mean, why would God only create one planet with life?  Let’s say that our Galaxy has 100 billion stars.  What are the statistical chances that out of the 100 billion stars, that none of them have a planet like the Earth?  Let’s say that each star has an average of five planets.  For what the astronomers tell us, there’s more, but I like round numbers.  That means there are five hundred billion planets in our galaxy alone.  I don’t know what the count is anymore, but the last I heard, the scientists had cataloged several hundred galaxies, and are now counting planets, out there.”

Tom looked very seriously at his hands, and said, “If you think that there might be one chance in a million, that still leaves hundreds upon hundreds of planets like Earth.  That’s an awful lot of chances for life.  What do you think?”

Rev Bill’s mouth sputtered to life and made some sounds that akin to a seal.

Tom took off again, “What about religion?  Well, the way I see it, some people use their common sense and others don’t.  Like a street sign warning you to stop.  Some people will have the horse sense to slow down and look for oncoming traffic.  Most won’t.  They’ll be wrapped in making money, poking the old lady, finding nirvana, whatever.  So, now we have a potentially bad situation.  How do I prevent these idiots from killing each other?  So, religion is a set of rules to scare the stupid people, into treating the other people OK.  For instance, don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife, don’t kill, and so on.  These are all good rules for us to live by, but a lot of people don’t have the sense to follow them.  Now we include heaven as a positive reward and Hell Fire to get their attention!”

Rev Bill wanted to eat, but Tom had him under his control.

Tom stopped gesturing and began to stroke his beard, “You know, I had a mule that you had to hit every day, on the skull, with something hard to get his attention.  All day he would pull the load, but the next morning you had to scare him a little.  I ain’t sure if he enjoyed the hitting or if he forgot overnight that I was going to do it.”

Tom’s eyes and head turned to the floor while his hands crept up to his ears cupping his face.

“Lost him last year.  Felt like I lost family!”  Tom paused for a moment.

Suddenly his hands went up and now Tom’s face had surprise written upon it.  “Hmmph!  Can’t believe I said that!  Damned ole mule.”

With a wave of his hand, the mule was put behind.  “Anyway, even if God didn’t exist, isn’t it nice to believe that he or she does?  Sort of comforting, ain’t it, to think that someone is actually in control of this mess.”

Bill was ready for this.  “The Bible was guided by the hand of God.  Everything in it is the truth.  Trust me, I know the Bible and I know God.”

“Of course you do.  No doubt about it.”  He reached down, picked up the old cast iron skillet, and thrust it near Bill, “You want some more eggs?”

Tom was obviously through with his religious lecture and was not going to argue.

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