Wednesday, May 18, 2011

short story: Ouija for Jesus

I look at Charlie Rae and shake my head in a way that anyone else could read.

Anyone but Charlie.

"I'm so close, Gina," she says. "So close I can taste it. And it tastes like..."

She looks up into her frizzy, dyed-orange bangs, licking her lips like a dog eating a peanut-butter covered pill. "It tastes like Sweet Tarts. Ooh! Or 'Nilla Wafers!"

I roll my eyes, but again, the gesture's wasted. She's my best friend and neighbor, but Lordy, she's an idjit.

"Bless your heart," I say, because it's the only thing I can say. It's Southern Old Lady Code for, "Sugar, you're an idjit," but she just smiles, showing her dentures.

"Thank you for that, Gina," she says.

The old fool has been holed up in her craft room for two weeks. She's signed up for the Jefferson Ladies' Auxiliary Mission Help the Children Annual Christian Craft Fair for Jesus, and she's determined to raise a million dollars for them poor kids, the poor soul.

There's just two problems.

One, she wants to make Christian Ouija Boards, and
two, as said before, she's an idjit.

"Charlie Rae," I say as kindly as possible, "Can't you just make that coconut cake everyone loves so much? Your baked goods could turn the devil himself sweet as honey."

But she won't listen.

"I had a message from Jesus, sugar," she says, like I'm the fool. "He wants the world to know the truth of him, and so he done told me to invent the first Christian Ouija Board, so as all them heathens can find his light. And it's going real well, too. I'm close."

She holds up an old Monopoly board from the Goodwill, and she's painted over it with seventeen bottles of White Out. It's as thick as toothpaste and smells like little baby tumors waiting to be born, and she used some neon green puffy paint to draw on it. There's all them letters spread out from A to Z, and then YES and NO like I remember from when I was a girl and we'd use the bedeviled thing to see which boy we was supposed to marry. But then it's got a lopsided smiley face with a crown of thorns on top, and across the bottom, there's various Bible verses that don't help nobody.

"That's really something, Charlie Rae," I say, chewing my gum like a nanny goat watching her kid about to get sold down the river.

I've lived next to Charlie Rae Stills for over 30 years, and I feel protective of her. Her son told me ages ago he done washed his hands of her tomfoolery, and bit by bit, she's showed me why.

She spends her rent buying caramel popcorn from the Boy Scouts, which she can't eat with her false teeth. And she sometimes forgets of a Sunday that Jesus is only supposed to get 10% and leave the rest to live on. She figures he needs a good tip, if she wants decent service.

"I got the board all right, Gina," she says proudly. "But what do I do for that triangular do-a-ma-hicky that the chirren use to find God's word?"

There's so much wrong with that sentence that I don't even get started. I sigh. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make the dumb creature understand that Jesus ain't gonna stop his business in heaven to answer questions on a gaming board.

"You knit mighty fine, Charlie Rae," I say.

She chortles and rocks back on her Naugahyde couch.

"I knew you was good for something, Gina girl!" she screeches. "You got any yarn?"

I sigh and chew, sigh and chew.

"I got some nice mauve acrylic," I finally answer. "From the Hobby Lobby."

"You go get it while I find my stitch gauge," she says, and I let the screen door slam behind me on the way out.

My intervention didn't turn out at all like they do on that TV show my girl records for me. Far be it from me to take the Lord's simplest soul and help her see the light he himself ain't seen fit to shed. I leave that yarn on her front porch with half a bag of those biscuits she loves so much and settle in at home for some Judge Judy. I admire a woman with sharp mind and a neat lace collar, although I bet even Judge Judy couldn't talk Charlie Rae out of her crusade.

When I show up at the church gymnasium the next weekend, I ain't seen Charlie Rae for days. Her lights have been on, but every time I call, she says, "Idle hands, Gina. Idle hands," and hangs up.

It doesn't take long to find her, and she's got my best checker tablecloth over her little card table. Four of them Jesus Ouija Boards are sitting there, each one with its own little knitted pink triangle pointer.

"I made an extra one for you, Gina," she says proudly. "Cuz I know they's about to sell out."

I tuck the thing into my net bag and mumble my thanks before anyone notices. Poor old crazy woman. I hope somebody shows up and buys one, because I won't be able to stand watching her cry into her sweet tea tonight.

I put that piece of junk on my dining room table, and every time I pass by it, I thank the Lord for my abundant good sense.

The only thing that bothers me is the fact that no matter what I do with that pink knitted triangle pointer, no matter where I hide the darned thing, it always ends up right back on the board, pointing to that Bible passage about how folks in glass houses shouldn't be throwing no stones.

*

25 minute exercise. Choose a sitcom premise and write about it. I chose "Character is trying to make a product for an arts and crafts fair," and "Character is staging an intervention for a friend."

2 comments:

stephanie constantin said...

love it!

Mollie said...

This had me crackin' up.