The trees whizzed by while their deciduous reflections washed over the windshield in repeating patterns. The neighborhood was idyllic and plastic, a painted picture of manicured and trimmed. An affluent heaven on earth, of sorts, safe harboring neighbors from the naked environments of the city while populating itself with people who spent their leftover hours powering through evening walks and health runs.
We’d just pulled into the driveway of the new house. I parked the car next to the doorway of the second garage. We unloaded a few items to carry inside. Turning the key, the lock released with the door opening onto a shiny, black tile floor, welcoming us with our own reflections.
In a couple of ways, we had arrived. We’d become the neighborhood association obsessing about deck designs and other trivial affairs. We offered our best smiles of moral upstanding while making our way through “well-to-do” people’s problems – all problems manufactured to present the illusion of struggle and hardship. While others of the community simply could not let go of what they used to be in order to understand what they, now, had become.
* * *
“Let’s go! We are gonna be late for service!” I called out to the youngest children from the garage. “Let’s move it.”
We dressed in our Sundays’ semi-best, weighing down the wooden pews with our semblance of piety. But this isn’t a place for sinners. No salvation is to be found here among the bright red velvet and immaculate rows of the righteous; The books too new; The windows too clean.
Pastor Roberts was in the middle of his sermon. The children were fidgety. “Shhh. Sit still.” I cast an evil eye toward them, mentally motioning to them to sit calmly until they’d faded from my view. “Let us turn to Deuteronomy 8:18 – You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day -”
I turned my attention to the water fountain outside the window. The water pushed up with violence into the hot air as the spray evaporated. The sudden yank of gravity suspended the larger drops in mid-air balance, before free-falling and tumbling back down into the water. Merging back into the sameness of the pond, back into the mass of water, the drops rippling in waves, echoing out from the center, bobbing up and down on the particles. “…As it is within our community to join together, reach out and help one another…” concluded Pastor Roberts.
The stained glass windows lay an intricate design of shadow across the pews and parishioners. No one needing help, people who were visibly wrestling with their demons should ever look to seek assistance in this community, nestled behind these heavy, wooden doors. We are the Blessed Ones and deservedly so because we’ve managed to clothe the outward appearance of our demons in garments of righteousness. Our masks of deserved and earned smoothed over, with no visible wrinkles born of opportunity or any sense of obligation.
The hall doors burst open. A young man tumbled onto the floor. He was, clothed in dirty denim and an equally dirty t-shirt. “Please help me? I’m hungry. I only wanted a bit of food for my daughter.” A jaundiced pallor sheathed the dark hue of his skin. Standing behind the man was Sam, the local law enforcement officer. He caught the guy stealing food from the Harpers’ home. Sam had been investigating a broken window and found him inside. “Sam stop bringing these vagrants through these doors during our Sunday services. You know the law. Explain it to him and pass judgement.” The pastor barked.
“Yes, Pastor Roberts,” replied Sam. “I just thought — ” Sam stopped mid-sentence as he caught the extreme disapproval in Pastor Robert’s glare. “I’ll take care of it right away!” Sam began to pull the man toward the doors, tightly gripping the man’s collar.
The man begged. “Please! Please help-” But his begging stopped abruptly as we all turned in the pews to face him. He scrambled back on his elbows and heels. We stared at him with black, lidless eyes, set above sharp teeth and set inside twisted faces. “Tus caras! Demonios!” Paralyzed with fear, the young man looked back and forth at each face.
We pour into these walls on Sunday morning, with our heads collectively rimming the windows by any outside observation, to compare our blessings. Laying claim to our collection of “things” to proper filial thinking. But should we judge the outsiders, the less fortunate? Should we instead judge ourselves? At least, we older ones who know better? The young we program and coerce with lane markers.
No sword and shield here. The war didn’t come to our shores. Our clothing speaks of leisure and wealth. Sinners of his type were not welcome here, visibly dirty, dusted and caked with deed and life’s struggles.
The sound of a single gun shot was heard in the distance; It cut through the second hymn of the morning. I turned to look out the other window at the eastern border of the wall being built around our community. “Thank God, the wall was nearly complete.” I whispered to my wife.
Pretty soon we wouldn’t have to deal with these less fortunate, lifestyle terrorists – these unfavorable ones that God had foresaken because of their sinful ways. The unclean and undeserved who threaten to destroy our righteous and blessed way of life. I shook the neighbor’s hand who was seated to my right. “And Peace be with you.”
God bless the child that’s got his own.
Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
by malakhai jonezs
(c) Copyright 2016