Box Of Books
It’s strange sneaking up on your own house on a bright April morning in the south.
Any decent crook would approach any self-respecting target at night, with the occupants gone, or at least drunkenly distracted; maybe after the dinner party where margarita-breathed guests are gaily pissin’ off the porch while grunging at Creed, or during the huge rainstorm last weekend, where they got lost on the lake pointing the party barge in circles, getting stranded at Don’s Feed Shack. Lard-fried catfish, neon signs, Toby Keith, and Bud Light all around.
Today, this morning, as I turn into my overgrown tunnel of a dirt road, the early morning light filters wetly down on the yellow jasmine clotting the capillaries of my front fence.
I jam the truck to a sudden stop.
My door is open. The front door of my house. Is standing open.
I can see it through the trees – a black hole where I once had a lock or two against the Bad Guys.
I pressed the pedal and rolled the truck slowly down the dirt road past the house, scanning the area. My neighbor noticed me as I passed. The one with the white pit bull staked out like a muscular bulls-eye in front of a falling-down camper trailer that leaked sewage down the hillside from green corrugated pipe. A glazy-eyed, plastic stare.
Somebody had been in there. My place.
I’d been raped. That was evident.
I crawled my way up the hill, through slimy weeds, towards… my house on the hill. My past. My history. Where I USED to live, up until just now. Where I had hosted dinners and laughter shook the porches at night and silly dumbasses occasionally slept over after too many cold ones. I had the .40 in my hand and it felt heavy as Medieval History. It felt good.
We are always confronted with our past, even if that past exists only moments before NOW. And there might be Bad Guys still in there, in my Immediate Past, the one with the Open Door. So here I am -- the Crook -- sneaking up on my own past.
Just when DOES history start, anyway?
Probably about…. Now. A second ago, maybe. A month or a year back, even. I woke up one morning when I was almost eight and looked out the hotel window at a gray rain-swept Memphis street and heard the alarm clock radio click on by my folk’s bed. It wasn’t loud enough to wake them, the music. It was George Harrison and he was crooning about his “Sweet Lord”. It was a sickly sweet musical introduction into the Worldwide Church of God, and Memphis. That sticky scene, that odd mix of Beatles and WCG, George and Krishna, and Union Street in Memphis, the scene below me of wet people scurrying about. That sticky scene. Is still in my head. My sweet Lord…
We had always been….just folks. Just folks. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Poor for 150 years I like to say, ever since the War, but the truth is the truth: Poor is poor, and you are the result of your own decision-making, by and large. That said, ole Dad and Mom were not and are not Bad Folks. Just folks.
Just folks who lived every day, and tried to be decent. Breathed, made love and kids, and looked at the future with a bright gleam in their eye. Smoked Marlboro and listened to the Kingston Trio and Johnny Cash and sang Sons of the Pioneers songs with their kid.
They were just folks.
Like most who ever entered the hallowed halls of Herbert W Armstrong’s Hall of Mirrors.
I could see the back of my house now, through the weeds. No apparent broken windows on this side. I hitched up next to the wall of a storage shed and gazed up at the side of the house where the large deck wrapped around to the front door.
The door stood open, and on the porch was a cardboard box.
The problem with history is that it intrudes. It sticks its nose in when you least expect it, and probably when least wanted.
I came up the hill slowly towards the porch stairs, smelling the atmosphere.
I wasn’t looking for the Painful Truth website when I found it. I was really just playing with the internet, and search engines and came across it when I typed in “Garner Ted Armstrong”. When I saw the PT site, I sat back in shock: there were others out there. Like me. Hell… They weren’t “like” me… they WERE me….
It’s amazing, strangely sad, and shocking, to not be alone when you have been convinced you have been. For years I’d been rid of the cult (as I’d already called it) and any religion, but had spent a lot of time reading on the subject. I’d also become a military guy, and a political conservative. But I didn’t know everything, and I knew it.
But I DID know some things. And one of them was that people are divided in society into three distinct camps:
- Good Ones
- Bad Ones
- Absolute Vermin
There might be a fourth, which might include “Saints” of some sort. The Uber Good. The Ultimate Nice People. I’d never known any though, and am still suspicious of adding that fourth category.
I looked up at the porch again: there was a damn cardboard box sitting on the deck right in front of my open door.
A small voice in my head mentioned, “This might be a great time to use your cell phone, ole Buddy….”
“So what fun is THAT?” I asked him…
To be continued…
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