Monday, February 1, 2010

Stack of Bibles

From the Chronicles of Shane Brown

For some reason George Harrison's Beware of Darkness was going through his head as he drove to deliver the bag of bottled sauces and condiments to his sister. He didn't know why. He hadn't listened to All Things Must Pass in years.

The bottles were from his mom, another unsolicited gift. His sister really didn't cook, so why she'd have a need for exotic marinades and strange sauces with foreign names was beyond him. He arrived and parked in front of the mobile home where his sister had lived for over ten years. The bag of bottles was heavy, and as usual he wondered what his mom had been thinking. The entire contents must have cost a small fortune, something he would remind his mom of the next time she asked him for gas money.

Inside, his sister was also surprised by the unnecessary largess, though she certainly didn't turn it down. Free stuff was free stuff, after all.

His nephew was also there, staying for a few weeks after a job he'd recently completed in Washington. Damn the kid was big now! Taller than himself by several inches and outweighing him by more than a few pounds. He been raised by his mom and his grandmother, and his father (never a dad) was rarely spoken of, a forgotten lowlife from a long past era of young and stupid "love", a blindness that at one point involved cave-like living and dangerous pit bulls sleeping in the same bed. But in spite of being fatherless, the kid had turned out well, it seemed.

"How ya doing, Big Guy?"

His nephew had a notebook computer open on his lap as he sat on the couch. He glanced up from whatever he was doing and acknowledged his uncle with a nod. After a little smalltalk the subject turned to the numerous liquor bottles on top of the refrigerator.

"Those are Jamie's," his mom declared. He took a closer look at the variety of liquid intoxicants. There was vodka in a crystal-clear skull-shaped bottle, whiskey in twin six-shooter gun bottles in a special old west themed box, and absinthe in a bottle apparently designed by a deranged and at the same time incompetent madman.

"He'll need a new liver soon," she half-joked, before clarifying that he only had a couple drinks at a time. As he turned away from the refrigerator and back to the rest of the combined kitchen/living room, he noticed a whole case of Sam Adam's on the kitchen counter.

"Beer too?" he said.

Jamie spoke up. "That's not mine. I don't drink beer anymore, it gives you a gut. Just mixed drinks now."

He remembered the first time he saw the inside of his nephew's little dorm fridge in the small side room that used to be his when he was still living at home and being surprised that it was packed tightly with nothing but cans of Miller Lite. But that was several years ago now.

As he walked toward the couch he noticed to his right a stack of books sitting piled on a chair. Closer inspection revealed that they were all in fact the same book, a stack of Bibles of various sizes and translations. He causally picked one up and thumbed through its extra thin leaves.

"Where'd ya get all the Bibles?" he asked.

"They're mine," his sister replied. He found her response odd. He remembered her strong aversion to anything religious, particularly having to do with Christianity and the Bible. When their dad had still been "Born Again" she had complained to Mom several times about Dad's subtle proselytizing (playing tapes of church services was one method, though of course he presented them to her as simply entertaining lectures by humorous guest speakers).

Among the group of Bibles was a large study Bible of the New King James Version, a Living Bible and a children's edition of the NIV.

"Why do you have so many?" he said. Even his nephew was puzzled, apparently not seeing the Bibles before, either.

"In case someone asks me to church," she said. "That way I can study up so I don't sound stupid."

He showed such an interest in the Bibles that she asked if he wanted one.

"Yeah, I guess," he answered.

"Probably wants to sell it on craigslist," his nephew said between sips of his drink.

"Is that what you want to do, sell it?" his sister asked.

"No, I just have to go to the dentist tomorrow for my broken tooth, and I don't have a Bible." He made it sound as if he was joking.

She came over and picked up each of the Bibles in turn, browsing through each of them while she made comments. One was easy to read and understand, and she liked that. One was an expensive study Bible that she couldn't bear to part with, and besides, it was packed with Bible facts and info that was very helpful. Finally she had in her hands the children's copy. She held it out to him.

"You can have this one." He gratefully took it. The whole thing was strange. He was an atheist, after all, wasn't he? He listened to a final rant from his nephew, something about what he would say to someone if they tried to push religion on him. "I'd tell them what they could do with it!" he said. After a few jokes about Jehovah's Witnesses he was ready to leave.

As he got into his car, setting the Bible he'd been given on the seat next to him, he wondered if it wasn't a good thing that his sister was now showing an interest in religion. Was it just because she was getting older? The thought came to him that there was something innocent and pure about that stack of Bibles and his sister's attachment to them. It was an odd thought for an unbeliever to have.

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