The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

Childhood Lost 7


Since there was no "man of the house," the men of the church felt it both their calling and duty to take my brothers and I in hand, to show us the way, as it were. The frequency with which they offered their guidance in the form of slaps, cuffs, kicks and admonishments can only be regarded as a measure of their efficacy. I, for one, had been told by so many, so often, that I was going straight to hell that I believed it, and therein lay their problem; there's so little those already condemned can be threatened with.

Ten year Olds (as a rule) are not eye for an eye aficionados. Yet within an acceptable framework they would, I believe, make fine special operations troops. Especially when the generally accepted rules of engagement governing traditional parent/child conflicts have been arrogantly abrogated by those in positions of power. In such cases, rebellion and sabotage become the only civilized means of exacting retribution.

I had received a few undeserved slaps in the face by Mr. Harold Lamm, an incestuous (yet upstanding) member of the church who shall remain nameless. One of the more bombastic of the called and chosen, he took umbrage at the fact that I refused to admit guilt for something I hadn't done, namely peeing on the toilet seat in the men's can. If I had given the matter any thought and had been assured that he or any other future member of the God family had been about to plant their butt on that particular throne, I would have pissed all over it as a matter of principle; that was a given. But I was innocent and said so every time this moron alternately slapped my face, then asked me why I'd done it.

Mom finally rescued me after about the sixth or seventh slap but I was mad. There were rules to this game, after all, and this latter day nimrod wasn't following them. The rules went like this.

1) If you get caught in the f__king act and can't plead innocence, plead ignorance! Hell, give it a shot. You've got nothing to lose. If it doesn't skate, take your licks and solemnly resolve never to be so stupid as to get caught again.

2) If you are accused of an infraction you really are guilty of, but were not caught committing, deny it. And do so just as vehemently as if you really were innocent. For if they have no witnesses, and are relying merely on conjecture or hear say, the odds are in your favor. If they can't break you by interrogation, that should be the end of it. But if it isn't (and the rules are quite specific on this point), while you are allowed to be justifiably outraged at being assigned punishment by guess and inference, acts of sabotage and vandalism are not permitted.

3) If you truly are innocent, proclaim your integrity till hell freezes and the heavens melt. Never give in to vague promises of amnesty if you'll only confess; it sets a bad precedent in one's future life. And as far as retribution goes, it's yours for the taking.

Since this bastard had refused to abide by those unwritten rules, which for centuries had made semi civilized coexistence between adults and children possible, I felt righteously absolved of all strictures. The big dog may get the meat, as children and other victims of these self professed sons of bitches are so often reminded, but there is no telling where that meat might have been, or what nontraditional additives might have been incorporated into it before the big dog gets it.

Impartial and inscrutable, as always, fate grinned down upon me only a week later. My mother had tentatively accepted an invitation to share the next Sabbath day's dinner with the Lamms. I had a whole week to devise and perfect a fiendish plan with which to exact a just and fitting reparation. It was a demanding job, requiring courage, and no small amount of financial sacrifice on my part, but good Christians do not shrink from such duties I reminded myself, they persevere.

As the great day drew inexorably nearer, all preparations were, at last, completed. I had a single task to perform upon arrival at my adversary's home, but that was the easy part. As I climbed into the back seat of our '53 Chevy for the long and dreary after-services ride to the dear brother's house, I whispered to myself as I had so many times in the week past, "F__k you, Lamm!"

We arrived at his ramshackle dwelling at about six p.m. Sabbath day dinner consisted of a fat drenched, precooked pot roast, a limp assortment of squalid vegetables, and thick slices of cold and clammy homemade whole wheat bread. It would be a memorable feast, the cuisine notwithstanding.

Mr. Lamm was a macho man who went to strange lengths to maintain his facade. In an unguarded refrigerator on his back porch he kept, along with his mail order male enhancement pills and (God and his wife knew why) his lubricated prophylactics, a quart jar of peppers which, to hear him tell it, came straight from the nether regions.

When impressionable children and adults supped at his table, he would produce this hellish container, munch down a few of those fiery beasts without so much as batting an eye, and then offer some to his children who would dutifully roll their eyes and screw up their faces as if they'd taken a sip from the lake of fire itself, while they fawningly intoned, "Oh no, Daddy, not me, Daddy. They're way too hot for kids!" Most adults, unsure of what to do at this juncture, usually murmured polite no-thank-you's, and that was the end of it.

I'd had some first hand experience with that jar however, the last time I was marooned there for dinner. He'd plunked those peppers down on the table, asked the usual, and the kids said no, and the adults said no, and I said sure; so he forked one over on my plate and I picked it up, crunched it down, and waited for Satan, his demons, and the fires of hell to issue forth and there was...nothing, zero.

That should have been the end of it, but I suddenly realized that I had become the center of attention. Every eye at that table was fixed on me as if I were some kind of ticking bomb about to go off, but no one knew when. Finally, old man Lamm had cleared his throat with a "harumph" and asked, "Well, how was it, boy?" I didn't know what else to say, so I had just said, "Not bad." Obviously that had not been the right answer, and he had found several reasons that blessed Sabbath evening to cuff and, on one occasion, kick me.

As we sat down to eat that evening, I could only reflect that, this time, things would be different. About half way through the meal, Lamm told his wife of too many years to fetch his pepper jar, which she did. He went through the same bullshine routine as always by offering his children some which, thank God, they still refused. Then he stared at me with a somewhat danger-ous glint in his eye and barked, "You want some, boy?" But I had learned my lesson. I knew the right answer at last. "No, Mr. Lamm," I said. "They're way too hot for me, too," and I meant it. Immensely gratified, he stuffed two rather large ones in his mouth and began to chew briskly.

There's a definite lag between the time one begins to masticate a bona fide hot pepper and the time one actually begins to feel the heat, and by then it's too late; and Harold had long since passed the point of no return. Being a macho man, he couldn't do the prudent thing, which was to spit it out and either piss down his own throat or run for the nearest fire hydrant so, for the first ninety seconds or so, he just sat there, tears streaming down his beet red face, afraid to spit, terrified to swallow and with the possible exception of a providential coronary, no good way out.

In the end, it must have become unbearable, however, for he rose from the table with surprising abruptness, disappeared into the nearby bathroom, and closed the door. For the next ten minutes all that could be heard was the sound of water, running.

It had cost me the equivalent of two packs of Camels to fry Lamm's tonsils. Seventy cents for a tall, narrow bottle of Green Jalapeno's, so hot they glowed in the dark. Few self respecting Mexicans would even handle those babies without welders gloves on. That's what Gabriel Sanchez, the school mate who appropriated them for me from his father, had said. And after the demonstration I had just witnessed, I had to admit it. Gabe was shoveling gospel.

Two packs of Camels had represented ninety percent of my worldly wealth in those horridly expensive days, and I had a lot of time on my hands on the way home to meditate upon the curious concept of sacrifice. Was it worth it? Was it not? But as I ran the replays of old man Lamm, heading for the can with his mouth on fire and a barbecued tongue, sacrifice won hands down. I'd have quit smoking for another two weeks just to watch that show again.

Chapter 6


Chapter 8

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