As God Bid Lewis Gesner

As God Bid   

She was sitting two pews in front of me in church on Sunday, and I could

hardly hear the preacher, I was so distracted.  At first I thought, how could someone

have God in them and be so attractive like to make you want them, but then I saw

how she was paying attention to the sermon and I knew she was with God, and how 

the sin was in me, not her.

    After the service I left slowly, letting a couple of people in front of me so she

was just behind me.  Our eyes met and I knew I wanted to talk to her.  After we

filed by the pastor and shook his hand, saying, “Good sermon,” and “Inspirin’,”

we were both outside on the little patio in front of the steps, side by side, but

like we was just watching folks go by.

    “That was quite a good sermon, don’t you think?”  I blurted out to break 

the ice.

    “Yeah, it was good.  What part did you like the best?”

    “It was all just as good as the best parts,” trying to wiggle out of not paying

attention.

    “I liked the part,” starting fast like she’d already been thinking about it,

“where the pastor talks about sharing, then gives the example of when he was little,

sharing gum with a girl.  It was funny when he said, ‘after I chewed it, a course!’ “

    “Yeah, everybody laughed.”  So that’s what was so funny.  “By the way, my 

name’s Jake Brown.”  I reached out and she reached out her hand too.  I took

it, but I squeezed it instead of shaking it.

    “Mine’s Jean Campbell.”

    “I haven’t seen you in church before today.”

    “I just moved here.  Otherwise you would have seen me,” she let out a 

nervous laugh, “every Sunday.”

    “Yeah. I never miss church myself.  It can be hard to keep in touch with the 

Lord, on your own.”

    “Some people thinks prayer is enough, but I’d miss the sermons and the

responsive readings,”  nodding her head to emphasize.

    “Yes. It helps you to see the things in your life for what they mean…”

    “In God’s plan.”

“In God’s plan,”  like me meeting her was, I thought, and God let me skip 

the pastor’s sermon so I’d notice her, That’s exactly the way God works, I thought

to myself.  “Would you like to walk with me around the cemetery out back?”

I asked, pointing to the graveyard visible beyond the church carriage house.

    “Sure.  I don’t see why not.”

    We started walking, me leading.  “They got some old grave stones in here.

Not the oldest in town.  There’s two other cemeteries, but there’s some in here

over a hundred years old.”

    “Wow.”

    “They’re near the back.”  We walked behind along a recently mowed lane

and straight to a line of trees that marked the end and oldest part.  The stones

there were covered with lichen, some were broken and some had been repaired

with metal braces.  “Over under this here tree’s my favorite grave,”  I said, almost

wanting to take her by the hand.  Instead I just warned her, “watch your footing,

there’s some roots can trip you up.”  I stumbled a little walking over them, they were

so hidden in the grass.  “I bet that tree has grown roots right through the casket.”

Beneath a thick oak was a small chipped and worn marker the size of a book.  The 

inscription on it said, “Annie, 1879, died at four years.”

    “It seems so sad.  This one, so small you hardly notice, youngest person, 

oldest grave.”

    “She’s my own girl’s age,”  sounding like the beginning of a thought, left

incomplete.

    That threw me off.  “You got a little girl?  I didn’t know you was married.”

    “I’m not.  And I wasn’t.” She looked embarrassed.  “I had her out of wedlock.

But that was before I came to the Lord.  She’s my cross now.  My curse, and 

sometimes my blessing, Jamie.”

    “Well, I suppose whatever the circumstances, a child is born without sin.

You have someone to see to her while you’re at church?”  I knew I sounded terse

right now, but I didn’t want her to think I approved of that kind of thing.

    “Yes, my neighbor is a widow, she’s disabled, but she watches Jamie well 

enough.  She looks after her too while I’m at work.  I don’t know what I’d do without

her.”

    “Where you work?”  I played a guessing game in my mind.  She didn’t work 

with me, so she couldn’t work at too many other places.  I bet on Diamond.

    “Diamond Match plant.”

    “That pay good?”  I knew it didn’t.  It was a factory, and she was a woman.

    “Not much good.  But’s what I could get.  Before I moved here I was cutting

fish.  That was worse.”

    “Yeah.”  I thought over some of the dirty jobs I’d had.  “I did that once.

A lot a work for what it gets ya.  And you sure take it home.”   I laughed at my

joke.  Fish stink is always funny if you’re not stuck cutting fish no more.

    “My boyfriend got put in prison for a holdup.  I had to work.  Then I

moved here to be a step up when he got out.  I want to leave that life behind

me.”  She sighed.  “Of course, I’m reminded every day when I look at my little

girl.  Where do you work?”

    “I’m over at Crowe Rope.  Run one of them big machines, twists nylon

twine into thick rope.”

“Is that a hard job?”

“Bad on your back, hands get nylon melted on them from making splices with

a heat bar.  And I get nightmares, ‘bout bobbins of twine running out and I gotta

replace them, but a whole lot of them at once.  Like the guy at the circus who keeps

pie plates spinning on the ends of sticks!”  I caught myself.  I was sounding sour.

Women thinks that’s the same as whining.  “It’s okay though.  A lot of folks is

out of work.  The hardest part is being around Godless men.”

      Jean nodded, knowing how that was.  “That’s true.  I think the Lord puts

us among the Godless sos we learn how to testify, though.  I been talking about

Jesus to people at work.  Mostly they look at me like I’m crazy, but I think, you

never know who’ll be touched by the word of God.  And all the practice makes

me learn how to witness better.”

    While she was talking, I was thinking about the filthy mouthed vermin I had

to be around every day, how they joked about how big they was and how much 

they did it. I hadn’t testified to no one there in the whole ten years I’d been there.

I guessed me and Jean didn’t see the same about that.

    I watched Jean walk over to some overgrowth and pull some daisies, come

back and lay them on the grave of Annie.  She turned to me and smiled.  “Every

child’s born innocent,”  she says, ‘cause that’s what I’d said before.  She knew a man

likes being right first.

    Some time went by quick.  When we got back to the churchyard everyone 

had gone home, except the bell ringer, who stayed ‘till last to pick up left behind

bulletins, sweep up in the vestibule and vacuum that burgundy rug that run 

between the two sides of the congregation and looks like spilled grape juice.

I hate that rug, and that seat cushion covering, someone said it was called crushed 

velvet, and its crushed all right, worn bare and looks like the seat of my work pants.

This isn’t a wealthy town I know.  But I pitch in my dollar at the collection plate though,

and sometimes I’d like to know where it goes.

    I had a nice time talking to Jean and I don’t let on I ended our walk thinking 

bad things about the church, and even how I think the pastor maybe gets too 

much money and the church goes to seed for it.  But I know that started when I 

got walking with her then thinking about the bad fellas at my job, some who make 

more money than me and is the most profane ungodly fatherless things that ever 

walked the earth.  We had a good walk and a good talk, and I asked her, “can 

I see you sometime outside of church?”  There was a Grange chowder feast 

coming up and the money you spend went to a good cause, like a burn unit at 

the VA hospital or something.  I suggested that and that was a good idea.

    I kicked myself after.  The chowder feast was a week and a half away.  I’m

not good thinking about dates and how close and far away and so forth.  I wanted

to see Jean before that, was the thing.  I liked her.  Not without reservations, with

the kid and all.  I hadn’t seen it yet, so I don’t know how good it was trained, and

how it was conceived was bothersome to me.  But Jean was so pretty, and had 

such a nice way about her, I maybe was tricked.  They say women with kids and no

husband is always looking for a situation.  I like to think the best of people.  And 

how good a man would I be if I thought that people couldn’t mend their ways and 

turn to Christ for real,  even when they were women, and the sin was fornicating?

When I was young and papa was alive things would be more clear.  Papa said 

once when I was a teenager that if I ever brought a pregnant girl home, he’d give 

me a hundred dollar and bounce me out.  First thing is, I don’t know where he’d 

have gotten a hundred dollar, and second thing is he wasn’t one to talk.  Mom

was ripe with me when they got married, my birthday was a month after  of the

same year.  Sometimes papa put his trust in God when he didn’t have no other

choice, but for the most part as best as I can recall they was both members of

the bad and undeserving, and thank the Lord they never got, because that 

wouldn’t have helped me on my path.  But in my mind I play what if, and I think, 

what if I brought this Jean home with her kid already made, and it ain’t even 

mine and I say, papa, I love her.  What would he tell me to do?  I imagine I’m him

and giving me advice.  I say to me,  be careful, and keep ‘em both on a short leash.

    I went to work all week thinking I should have thought up something sooner

to do with Jean.  I have to say I don’t really know what other folks is like, so 

it might not make sense to say she was all I thought about , nagging on me 

like a woman, not her, but me, in my own head, at work, home, Tuesday Bible 

meeting, everywhere.  It was so strong, I knew I better be a little cautious of

her, even suspicious.  Not just anybody make a man feel bound like that.  Strings

is pulled, but, who is pulling them?

    Some days of work that interim week was not special.  I was much the same

as far as how I performed my job while pretty much distracted.  Jonathan, who we call 

Monkey, tells me come down to earth, I say what, he says stop spacing out or your

gonna loose your fingers in the engine.  I don’t counter him ‘cause I know him all 

my life, we went to grade school together.  I defended him when other kids was 

putting snots on his hamburger at lunch.  If he says I’m spacing out, I’m spacing 

out.  It got me in trouble one day.  It could have been worse, but, every bit of

trouble is a wake up call.  Losing a job can twist your life in all directions.  No one

I know can really afford to be  proud.

    I guess my mind was elsewhere on Wednesday.  I made two bad splices on

the heat bar.  Two spools ran out.  If I was at the top of my game, I wouldda seen 

that I was going to have to take one bobbin off a little before it ran out, because 

another was getting low at the same time.  What ended up happening was that 

both bobbins ran out at the same time and I had to scramble.  So I made two quick 

and sloppy heat splices, which came loose when they got inside the big rope winding

engine.  I heard this “babump, babump, babump,” and the sound of heavy things 

slapping together.  “Shit,” I thought, “this hasn’t happened since I started working

here.”   The supervisor was out that day.  I was lucky.  I ruined a whole spool of nylon

rope destined for the coast guard.  That is, a bobbin with about two miles on it,

may as well just throw away, it was a frayed tangled mess.  Jimmie, who didn’t

like me because I didn’t joke much, took it on himself to supervise me.  He came up

and tried to fix the tangle on the machine, but it was wound around the engine belt, 

and he just went crazy.  He took his wrench and held it behind his head

like he was going to belt me with it.  I grabbed a metal rod I use to pry snags loose 

from the engine and held it the same way.  I know Jimmie.  He’s all bluster.  But

he made me so angry, threatening like that over an honest mistake.  I knew he

was just going to throw the wrench aside, which he did.  My feelings was

held back, but just.  If he’d made a hint of that muscle on his forearm contracting

like I knew it had to, to swing that wrench down on me, I was going to cleave

his brain in two pieces.  Someone like that doesn’t ever learn until its too late.

I put my rod down when He whipped the wrench across the room.  “Sorry,

Jimmy,”  I said.

    Me and Jean met in the parking lot at night outside of the Grange hall.

What a weird place, I thought, before I realized how judgmental I was being.

After all, there are all sorts of clubs; Masons, Shriners, Gold Start Mothers,

Legionaires, Grange, and they all do good, social work, and raise money for good

causes.  Why, I heard the pastor had approached Shriners for a lump of money

to help a woman and her children out of an abusive situation.  So these groups 

do well intended work.  Though I’m always a little cautious when I hear about 

some group coming in and interfering in a family, because of some so called 

abuse.  I believe there is such a thing as discipline, though I gather its not real 

popular right now. I remember my mother saying that secret societies harbor sin.

I think that maybe we all got the grange.  We’re Christians.  In the same way,

I think maybe all groups are secret evil societies.  I didn’t always think that way, 

but I was enlightened, like I think a lot of people will be before too long.  My 

experience of truth came when I was up fishing with a barber from Bangor 

Maine who my father grew up around, him a poor man but just taking an interest 

in other people’s lives, not like people today, who just want to get away from 

each other.  He showed me the soda drink Moxie, which he said they gave 

to the Christians in the service at the canteen, those few who wouldn’t drink 

beer or spirits.  And when we was driving in his woody station wagon to a 

northern lake to fish perch, he showed me a whole string of houses that was 

all overgrown with big fields going to seed like no one was there.  Big stretches,

 with farm houses on them, but boarded up.  He said to me, “see all them houses 

and land?  That’s bought up by the communists, and when they want, they’re

all gonna move in, legal and they’re gonna own the whole country ‘cause they

all ready bought it up a farm at a time.” I think now maybe he was nuts and I was 

just a kid.  I got no time for fun and fishin now, just work and getting what I 

need.  What I find most true is that God hates wasting time.  The truth is, I’m

looking to get mated up, legally and right, in the eyes of God.  Because, in this 

world, if we can pull anything out of the toilet that ain’t shit, you’re golden.

    Inside the Grange, there was all sorts of people I know from living my

whole life here.  Some I went to school with, others I knew from church.  I didn’t

see anyone from work, but that didn’t surprise me.  If it didn’t have drinking

or loud music or fighting, they wouldn’t be interested.  Church people kept

amongst themselves mostly, though that group didn’t really include me.  I’d been

a member of the church for years but still when we’d meet, even after church

service, they’d be holding back their friendship.  They’d be polite, but I got the

feeling they wanted to get away from me.  My feeling was, they could see how

deeply I was committed to the Lord, and their commitment was just for show.

    “Hi, Frank,”  I said when I saw the friendly face I’d known longer than just

about anyone, “where’s your chowder?”

    “Oh, I didn’t make one this year.  I figure give some other folks a chance

at the prize.”

    He shook my hand in a hold like a wrestler.  His hands were more scuffed 

up than mine.  A life of taking apart cars at his garage made them like claws.

Still, his friendship was honest.  He’d been the school bus driver all through my

grade school years, and that’s where I really knew him from.  It was funny seeing 

him out like this, because he was cleaned up, his hair was combed and he wore a

suit.  Everyone else was just dressed normal, but he always dressed up, like he

had to make up extra for being so dirty on the job.  “Do you pick a winner than?”

Every year there’d be a popular vote on the best chowder.  The winner got a 

cruise around the harbor for an afternoon.  “I think Mrs. Ifamy is the best bet.

Its not the healthiest with a skim of butter on top, but you can’t beat the flavor

and the thickness.  Almost as good as I made.”  Then he laughed, because he 

knew how funny it sounded, a man like him having airs about cooking.  “Are

you gonna introduce me to your friend?”  He’d been giving side glances to 

Jeannie.  I would have introduced her eventually, but Frank made me look silly.

Because I knew him so well, I knew he didn’t do it on purpose.  I dropped it in 

my mind.

    “Oh, sorry, Frank, this is Jean, a lady from church, this is Frank, used to 

drive our school bus.”

    “Pleased to meet you,” she shook his hand.  “We just came in.  We

haven’t tried anything yet.  You say Mrs. Ifamy makes the best?”

    We sampled some chowders and Mrs. Ifamy walked away with the prize.

I took Jean home in the car and we said a prayer together before she went in.

It was a good first date.  She met someone, Frank, who knew me and she

got to see he respected me to talk to.

    We had two more dates.  One on a Saturday afternoon.  I rented a boat

for a few dollars from the town landing, and we went out to House Island to

have a picnic of sandwiches on the beach there.  The other time, we went

for a Sunday drive to Pemaquid, where there’s a lighthouse, and excavation

of an Indian settlement.  I saw it on TV on things to do in the summer.  By then

I could tell she thought I was really nice.  I figured it was time I met her child,

Jamie.  I’m a little clumsy around kids.  I don’t usually have much to say to

them, but I prepared to talk simple and thought up simple things to say.

    When I arrived at her apartment, which was really the first floor of a house,

she invited me in and gave me a cold lemonade in her kitchen.  I sat at the table

there as she called Jamie, who came paddling into the room on her own from 

the dining room.  She made a squealing sound, because she was happy to see

company.  

    “Aren’t you a little ball of…”  I started to say to her like I’d planned, but

before I could get my sentence out, Jamie was taking her clothes off and

throwing them at me, laughing.  If she had been mine, I would have slapped 

her and put her in the closet.  I looked away from her, then at Jean, who saw

how red in the face and angry I was.

    “Jamie, no!”  You put your clothes back on!”  Jean turned to me, 

embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.  Jamie!”  She jumped from her post at the counter

and grabbed the child dragging her into the other room amid a high pitched

scream, coming back to gather up the clothes and throw them back at her.

“Dress!  Now!”  More whining and screams.

    “See how it is?”  trying to smile as she came back into the room, Jamie,

dressed again and curled up with a favorite blanket on the living room couch.

“God saw fit to put this on me,”  Jean said, “for the sins I commit, God give me

a sinful child.”

    I couldn’t say anything, because that’s how I felt too.  It wasn’t my sin

that caused it, it was Jean’s.  So I decided right then, if I was going to be with

Jean, Jamie would remain her cross, not mine, or mine to share.

      We were married in the church where we worshipped, where we met.

There was scripture read and hymns sung, and the piano player for Sunday

service came and played the Wedding March and that was good because

Jean liked music, she said.  It was all like taken from a book on weddings.

I gave the pastor a piece of scripture and something I wrote about duty and

punishment for him to read at the service, but he looked it over and said he

wouldn’t read it, without even saying why, just shook his head and said, “I’m

sorry, but I won’t read this.”  I even gave him fifty dollars for his marrying us,

and he hardly thanked me.  And Baptist preachers are suppose to marry

their flock, I never heard of one asking a charge, like the rabbis I hear do,

or justice of the peace, that’s shameful.  But I paid him my hard earned money, 

even though he was supposed to do it anyway.  He married us, but he hardly

looked me in the eyes, and I could see he made some opinion on me.  I know 

once someone decides on you its never going to change.  I decided right then

that this man was not doing God’s work, and that we’d, Jean me and Jamie,

be better off learning the word and will of God at home.

    We celebrated by spending three days at the motel in Brunswick.

We neither of us could afford it, but since you only get married once, I bit down

on my lip and said it would be all right.  We ate out and drove around to some

scenic sights but I didn’t really pay attention because I was worried about money.

When our three days was up I figured we were finished getting married and it 

was a relief.  Jean’s neighbor Pearl had watched Jamie for Jean while we were

gone, and I was grateful we didn’t have her with us.

    As attracted as I was to Jean at first, things changed when there was a

child out of wedlock, and when I met the creature.  I still felt it strong to look at

Jean, but there was always a wall of sin that came between our bodies and I

would have to turn away.  When I told her why I couldn’t, she understood, and I

knew she found some solace for her sins in prayer.  Still, our marriage was

strong, because I could see Jean truly wanted to walk with God, and I required

some comfort for my loneliness.

    I let my room go where I was living, because Jean’s rooms came with 

her neighbor, who would come and sit with Jamie while Jean worked.  I didn’t 

have much to move in and managed in a few carloads.

    We stopped attending church on Sundays.  We found the day better spent

reading the Bible.  For distraction, there was Christian radio which broadcast

music, sermons, and Christian talk shows, like Bob Larson, who spoke mostly

about the sinfulness of media and corruption of children.  On the two days we

weren’t at work, Jamie weighed heavy on us.  Despite that I let its caretaking up

to Jean, its noise, sinful nature and presence stirred me up so much that sometimes,

I had to go out and walk around the block by myself.

    Then one Sunday afternoon, something happened where I just had to

step in and take control.  Jamie was making her noises while we were trying to study

the Bible at the kitchen table.  She just kept crying and crying.  We tried to ignore

her.  But then I smelled it.  The air filled with the odor.  I looked through the doorway

to the living room from my seat and there was Jamie, holding a handful of her own

poop and looking up at the framed picture of Jesus we have on the wall behind

the sofa.  Before I could do anything, she launched her missile and it splattered

blasphemously across the beautiful face and robe of our Lord Jesus.

    “God damn fuckin, God damned fuckin,”  I yelled, “stop the God damn 

fuckin mess!”  like a cork come out of a bottle.  I turned the radio on.  Like a 

message from our vengeful Lord, there’s Bill Larson on the Christian station,

and he’s on a roll about how the devil gets in the young.  But for what I got to 

do I don’t need no Bill Larson talking over my shoulder.  I flipped the dial and 

landed on some of Satan’s music and I turned it up loud.  I don’t know what to 

do next for a second, and its so cramped and small in here.  Then I see the 

oven’s still on because we heated it up on broil to make some mini-pizzas

for dinner.  I grab that devil’s bitch by the arm in the other room and pull her

in the kitchen.  She yelped but I held on tight.  She pushed and kicked, but I’m

bigger and stronger and I get her jammed in the oven and a chair back wedged

against the oven door like its all one move.  Now its not so loud but for the music,

Jamie’s screaming is real far away.  I can see her through the oven window.

She presses a hand against the glass, its like I can hear a hiss, though I know I

can’t really hear it.  She jerks it away fast, mouth in that muffled scream still,

she leaves the skin of her palm and fingers stuck on the glass, it curls up and

a piece falls off like fried potato skins.  “I’m sending you home sweetheart!”

I’m yelling and I’m spitting and spraying, in my mind I see the dumbest kid in grade

school who used to drool and spray when he talked, while I’m yelling and noticing

Jean there for the first time.  Its hard to believe how all different things come

together in a single mind at once, but that’s the way excitement works.

    Jean looks real white, but she don’t look like she wants to fight me, in

fact, its something else.  She starts moving her hips to the music and liking it.

I see the power it has.  I changed the station because the devil is in the music.

I see the devil’s strength is of the world and that’s what I needed.  Jamie is

throwing herself against the insides of the oven, but I don’t care now because

Jean has unzipped my pants and is rubbing me, and I’m hard.  She takes her pants

and panties off and we do it hard and fast on the floor, the music loud, can’t hear

Jamie, us, grunting and moaning.

    When we finished she sat on the floor against the cabinets with a look that

might have meant she was thinking nothing or everything.  I figure she was wondering

if she got rid of one child just to make another.  Anyway, I turned the oven off,

then I walked out the front and go to the pay phone beneath the streetlight.  At

first I almost curse again, but then I remember you don’t need a quarter to call

I call them, and I tell them what I done and where I am.

What I did was unlawful.  I’m not going to run from that, though I could 

if I had the mind to.  The important thing is, have you done God’s will?  Its him 

put the Devil in the world, by letting him choose.  I done what I done in the heat

of the moment, yet I was clear as a bell.  Like faith, I won’t know ‘till I see my 

maker if I threw sin back in the Devil’s face, or God’s.

It’s hard to find publishers willing to publish works on child abuse and trauma ..

LEWIS GESNER 

CLOSE ENCOUNTER

         The story in the newspaper was a big one. It was a close encounter. Jamie Larson from Old Town, employed as an insurance salesman at Carl Lobson and Sons was driving home after working late when he was overcome with fatigue. He pulled off onto a narrow dirt drive that led to a field, expecting to close his eyes for a few minutes. And there he saw it. Three bright lights descended straight down from the sky. As they drew closer, he could see they outlined a disk shaped object, which continued to descend, until it landed in the field directly in front of him. Jamie, who the photograph in the newspaper showed looked like Robert Vaughn, took his 22 pistol replica of a Luger from the glove compartment and got out of his car. He approached the silent but now glowing disk and, he said, yelled out, “Who are you?” and when there was no response, “what do you want?” at which time he raised his gun and emptied the clip at it. After the shots had echoed through the surrounding trees, the disk soundlessly rose straight up and disappeared into the sky in a matter of seconds. He reported the incident to both the police and the newspaper. When he went out to the sight with a reporter and photographer, they found a burned ring in the grass where the object had touched down. They took a picture of Jamie, looking like Robert Vaughn, in front of the burned ring with his arm extended downward, holding his gun. It was a dramatic story. It was the talk of the community.

         Elsie and William Kruger sat with their children Scott and Deb at the kitchen table, eating dinner on a Saturday. Spanish rice was one of Scott’s favorite meals, though he could do without the peas his mom always served it with. The hamburger in it tasted a little different than the last time, but this was the meat from the moose that Ruel found shot out behind his house last week, so, moose meat will always taste different. Scott thought, better.

         “Gotta butcher some rabbits for Ruel this afternoon. He gave us a lot of what we’re eating. Funny how the Lord gives when you don’t expect.” William raised his chin in a proud gesture, with him so close to the giver, being the minister.

         “I think Ruel give that moose a bullet!” Scott laughed his child’s laugh, but was immediately sorry for it.

         “You hush!” William reached over and open handed Scott on the side of the head, who swallowed before the hand hit him. He knew better than to spray. That’d mean another swat. “You show respect for elders. Ruel said he found it out back, breathing its last breath. He called the sheriff and sheriff said, “Go ‘head, cut it up, no sense to waste. That’s good enough for me. Straight with God, straight with the law. You feel blessed, boy. God provides.” He shoveled a forkful of the Spanish rice.

         “See about that fella Jamie ‘n yesterday’s paper?” Elsie changed the subject.

         “Lotta hooey I think.” Another shovel full.

         “I think it could be a sign,” Elsie said defensively.

         “A sign he’s drunk. Or on drugs.”

         Elsie was calm but unconvinced. “He looks like a nice young man. Why’d he lie?”

         “Get his picture in the paper, sell more ‘surance!” William choked once and coughed out a piece of burger.

         “What I meant by a sign is,” Elsie continued unaffected, “that in the end time, the Bible says that there will be signs. I think that such things might be end time warnings, and maybe, angels.”

         ”I wanta see one too!” Scott said excitedly. Deb put a forkful of peas in her mouth and shot an exasperated look at Scott.

         “If there are signs, they wont come to a ‘surance salesman. It’ll be a sign to the God fearing. ‘Hold on,’ the sign will say. ‘The end is near.’ “

         “Well honey,” Elsie said, “who knows what’s in the heart of a man. Maybe Jamie will be one of the saved.” Suddenly she felt exposed. The photo did make him look like an attractive man. Why couldn’t a handsome man be saved? Why just men with hard hands, and bent over backs? Elsie felt something disagreeable in her thoughts, and silently asked God for forgiveness right there at the table.

         “There’s nothing up there to see,” William stated. “Just the Heaven and the Hell when we die. And if God gives a sign, there won’t be any speculating for the saved. It will be clear.” He finished eating, dropped his napkin on his plate and ran a hand straight back through his thinning hair. “I’m done. Thank you for cooking, Mrs. I gotta go out and butcher.” And he left the table.

         After he’d left the room, Elsie leaned over to Scott, speaking softly just in case. “Be respectful to your father. I don’t like you to get hit, but you deserve it!” She leaned back and pushed some peas into her Spanish rice.

         From outside came sounds of squealing and cracking skulls on the woodblock. Inside, Elsie leaned into the table again, in case anyone else could hear. “In Bible times, Ezekiel saw a wheel, and that was a sign of prophecy. I think the same thing seen today would be the beginning of the end. That’s what UFOs mean. They’re signs that Christ will be coming again. They say, ‘get your house in order. Repent sinner, before its too late.’” She leaned back, having spoken her piece.

         Scott leaned forward, speaking cautiously like her. Outside another skull crunched under the back of the ax head. “I think UFOs is from space. I read it in Fate magazine from the bus stop. A lot of people been seeing em. Some people get taken away! There’s lots of stuff like that in Fate magazine. They’re aliens in space. If we’re lucky, they’ll choose us to take up!”

         “Don’t talk foolish!” Elsie scolded quietly. “No aliens ever been here. That’s made up. But there’s been Jesus, and prophecies, signs and angels. What do you think, Deb?”

         “I think Jesus should come back,” without hesitation.

         Elsie nodded approvingly. “We’d all like our Savior to return.”

         William came in, changed his spattered shirt and went into his study, closing the door behind him. In a moment his voice resounded in oratory, practicing the sermon he was preparing for Sunday.

         Upstairs after dinner was eaten and dishes cleaned up, Scott showed Deb his Fate magazine. “Here’s this story on levitating. See the picture? It shows how to lay down and then people stand around and raise you up in the air while you concentrate. You try to think how light you are, and they think that too.”

         Scott laid down on his bed and concentrated on being light. Deb sat on the floor next to the bed and also thought, “light, light, light.” After the fifteen minutes concentration period stipulated, she put her hands under Scott’s side and tried to lift up. Scott was rigid and tried to rise straight up in the air. Instead, he rolled on his side and went over the edge of the bed, on the other side. He jumped up quickly. “Did I feel lighter? I thought I floated.”

         “You felt lighter,” Deb said, convinced. “You raised up a little bit.”

         Sunday morning, Scott took a bath and put his suit on. William was touching up his sermon, pacing back and forth in his study with the door closed. Scott ate some cereal with a paper napkin stuffed in the neck of his shirt and walked to church for Sunday school.

         Scott wished he was in a younger class or a more advanced. He didn’t like Mr. Stanley. He liked his daughter Jill, who was in the class, though. Mr. Stanley always acted like she wasn’t there. Last week Jill came in with her left arm in a cast. She said she’d put it in the washing machine. Scott could picture her opening the machine, reaching in and snapping her arm around the agitator. But then he remembered how Mr. Stanley had once twisted his arm behind his back way too hard, just for making faces. Then he could see Mr. Stanley twisting Jill’s arm in his head and not the washing machine. He rubbed his elbow remembering. He thought about the story in Fate magazine. Some of the people who had been abducted by UFOs had returned with old injuries healed. Scars would be gone. One man came back and found out he’d grown an appendix. He’d had it removed years before, but his appendix came back, and the scar was gone!

         Mr. Stanley came into the room and sat down at the table. Scott sat up straight.

         After church, Scott laid on the floor in his room and pulled the books out from underneath his bed. He made some money from lawn mowing. When William went calling at the VA hospital, Scott would go into the Greyhound bus stop up the street and buy some books and magazines. He looked at his collection. “UFOs, Serious Business,” “Lo!,” “The Abominable Snowman”, and a stack of Fate magazines. He opened one. There was an article about a man who’d been abducted by a flying saucer. He could remember being experimented on with strange instruments. He was kept for three days, then dropped off on a roadside near where he lived, late at night. Within a week, he had grown a complete second set of eyebrows on his forehead. He also had an increased brain power. He took an IQ test after he was released and it had risen close to fifty points, to 165!

         Scott looked through some of the magazines for photographs. There weren’t many good pictures of saucers, but a lot of other evidence, and pictures of people pointing. There were burned rings on the ground, and photos of cuts on arms where some people had been probed and tested. A smell distracted Scott. He went to his door and sniffed the air. Deb again. She was going to get in trouble. She was smoking next to the window in her room. He wished she’d stop. William was going to find out.

         “Dinner!” William yelled up the stairs. Rabbit with shake-and-bake, corn and mashed potatoes. “Thank-you Lord for what we are about to receive, and bless and help the less fortunate than ourselves help themselves, in Jesus name, Amen.” They cut into the thick white meat of the rabbit legs, forked the potatoes and corn. “Hard work bringing this to our table. But God made it all.”

         At night, Elsie stepped outside the house and went down back to the Penobscot River. There was a distant moving light. She watched it patiently. It slowly got larger and closer. Eventually a glowing, cigar-shaped object hovered above the water less than a hundred feet from her. “Are you Gabriel?” she asked the air.

         In the next day’s paper, there were two stories of local UFO spottings, accompanied by photographs of moving lights. Scott sat at the kitchen table and snipped out the articles. “I saw it last night,” Elsie said from the sink, putting on rubber gloves to rinse out their bowls. She looked out the window to see William was still outside weeding. “It was just like they said. It was an oblong, glowing object.” Deb was just coming into the kitchen for breakfast.

         “Mum saw a flying saucer,” Scott told her.

         “It was not a flying saucer,” Elsie said. It was a sign from God. It was an oblong glowing object.”

         “Mum saw a UFO from outer space,” Scott said in a lowered voice.

         “Well, do you children think you’re ready?”

         “Just gotta brush my teeth,” Scott said, finishing his dissection of the newspaper.

         “Not for school,” Elsie turned, eyeing them both in a scold, “for the end of time?”

         Scott saw Jill Stanley at recess. She was sitting by herself on a bench, not playing, arm in a cast. He sat down next to her and unfolded the newspaper articles on the UFO sightings he’d stuffed in his pocket. “Have you heard about flying saucers?”

         Jill looked at him shyly, then looked around the school yard too see who was watching, or who might tease her. “Naw. What’s a flying saucer?”

         “Its a UFO, An Unidentified Flying Object,” he pronounced slowly. “All they know,” thinking how to say it, “is they’re from outer space, or maybe another dimension,” not really knowing what that could mean. “I think they’re from outer space. They’re aliens in ‘em. Sometimes they come down and take people away.”

         “Do they bring them back?”

         “Sometimes. Then sometimes,” thinking what he’d read in his magazines, “they take a whole fleet of planes and you never hear about them again.”

         “It’s like going to heaven, huh?”

         “Naw, they go to space. They experiment on ‘em, to learn. If they’re sick or busted up, they fix ‘em. I think they experiment on ‘em so they can fix people better. Like that arm of yours? They could make that like new in five minutes.”

         Jill smiled, her first in a long time. “I want to believe in UFOs too!”

         It was such a warm day, Scott knew the snapping turtles would be on rocks in the water behind the house. After school, he walked home along the river, sneaking up behind turtles and surprising them, and throwing rocks at the sucker fish he could see feeding on the bottom.

         As soon as he got home, he could smell the smoke. Deb was really in trouble this time! He went to the bathroom and got the Glade spray freshener, running around the room, scenting the air with the potpourri.

         Scott felt panic. The car was gone. He went to the kitchen window. There was William, outside weeding in the garden. That meant Elsie had the car for grocery shopping. Deb must have smoked up a storm. “Deb! Deb, you’re in trouble! I can smell it all over!” There was the sound of the door opening and Deb was at the top of the stairs.

         “I don’t care! I’m sick of being scared all the time! You think God wants that? If Dad goes to heaven in the end time, I rather go ta hell! I don’t want no heaven, just hell!”

         The front door swung open hard and banged against the wall. William stood breathing heavy from the weeding but sniffed the air between long puffs of wind. Scott ran past him into the living room. “What’s that smell?” William bellowed. Scott could see him crushing rabbit’s heads with the ax in his mind. He showed this kind of anger when a rabbit struggled. He hoped Deb wouldn’t. She would just make it worse for herself. He tried to disappear on the couch. “You! Come down here, young lady!” She was frozen at the top. “You been smoking in this house? You come down here when I tell you to!” She fearfully descended the stairs. “What other sins you been committing?” William grabbed her by her arm and yanked her down the last three steps, levitating her through the living room into his study and slamming the door closed behind him. “You bring tobacco into this house? A God fearing house?” The smack of his hand hard against skin. A scream like rabbits make. Scott pressed his hands over his ears. Still he could hear her body slamming against a shelf of books. “You fornicate too?” Another slap, this time dull, like maybe he was closing his hand. Rabbit scream. Vomit. “You think you’re scared now? You think you be scared in hell?” Dull hitting sounds, body against wall, more vomiting, rabbit sounds. Long silence followed by a resounding smack. More puking, making him madder. An hour.

         Scott curled up invisible the whole time. Elsie came home and retired to the upstairs bedroom. Eventually the study door opened. William came out and got some paper towels to mop up puke. Deb slunk out, finished with, and crept up the stairs, going into her room and closing the door as quietly as she could.

         William had his supper in his study. Deb stayed in her room. Elsie and Scott ate together in the kitchen, though uncomfortable with each other.

         After dark, Scott went outside and laid on his back in the front yard. Elsie followed him out and laid down next to him.

         “She shouldn’t have sinned. If she just behaved, it would have been all right. But she’ll learn a lesson from it, that’s for sure.” Elsie was quiet. There was a single sniff. “You learn something from this too. Don’t go against your father.” There was another pause. “This’ll be over soon enough anyway,” she said like she was concluding. “Have you seen any moving lights out there?”

         “No,” Scott said, staring at the void above. “There ain’t no UFOs.”Lewis Gesner is a writer and artist who lives in Taiwan. He remains a member of Mobius artist group, out of Boston, Ma USA, and publishes and exhibits internationally.