Your heart must be heavy, Brother Clive. Says Culla, one of my parishioners.
Well, I say, coughing and trying not to laugh, I try to keep Christian love for them in my heart. Even though they betrayed me and took the church’s money. If it were mine I wouldn’t care but that money belongs to God. It’s for his glory, not mine.
I hear you, Culla says, taking some Beech Nut from his pocket and putting a plug into his mouth and working it around. Is the church broke now? Can we go on?
The church is just fine, I say. I talked to God and he sent me money. More than we’ve ever had before. I stumbled over a package of money in the bushes this morning.
That was providential, he murmurs.
Sure was. I…(more coughing, trying not to laugh)..I was in danger of losing my faith. Not in God but in his children. Three people closest to me betrayed me and robbed the church blind.
How did they come to steal it? He says, working the plug of terbacky in his jaw like a baseball player.
Tess had a key to where it was. After she left Alexa stole more and Mila took what was left.
Is it safe now? He says, trying too hard to be casual.
Oh, yes, but I don’t bother hiding it anymore. Since the thieves are gone there’s no point.
IG2G, he says, chawing and spitting and farting and stumbling away.
In an hour I get back to my place. Of course Brother Culla took off with yet another Michigan Bankroll and rolled on down the road, the dumb shit. I’ll give you odds that if I did this with every one of these lizards they’d all split with what they thought was money. Funny thing is how gullible people are, for being so venal. That combination means they fall for the same thing over and over whether it’s salvation or Michigan Bankrolls. I guess being a preacher makes you cynical but I’m about ready to take that hundred thou and split.
The cops had to be called. I didn’t like it but it would be very suspicious if I didn’t report the theft of that much. I never said anything about Michigan Bankrolls. Cops hate us here because they know we killed Brother Amos and Baldy but they cant prove it. When they get pushy I just shut up and say I want a lawyer.
All this is to be expected. But one day as I’m taking a constitutional I see two guys with gold badges in J.C. Penny suits asking for me. Before anyone sees me I go to where the cash is, take it, and drive to town the back way. I leave the car in a big parking lot.
I’m getting ready to head to the bus station. I’m in the lobby of a hotel humming to myself when a heavy hand drops across my shoulder. Beneath this intruder I see a pair of wingtip shoes. I quickly raise my foot off the ground and drive it smartly into the top of his foot and hear small metatarsals cracking. The hand disappears. I never see the man.
I run outside and cross the street against the lights in the noon traffic. I actually get knocked down by a car once but I am unhurt. Then I am hit lightly and end up splayed across the hood of a car. Faces inside white and cursing. I flee and nobody pinches me and I make it to the bus station unmolested, a beneficiary of true providence.