Child’s Play, Chapter 2

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    Child’s Play

    Chapter 2: Inspiration, Please!

    "So, Zoe," said the man with silvering curly hair who stood three inches shorter than me. "Who’d ya bring in?"

    "A fellow hanging around at Treytebbelup Airfield," she said, beaming as if I was a big fish she’d caught.

    The fellow looked me over. Then he very honestly smiled. "Well, I’m Pastor Rich," he said, sticking out his hand. "Welcome to Wynchabringafrendalong Community Church."

    I took it and shook it. "I go by Ward. Ward Teller. Nice to meet you."

    "So, whatcha doin’ this far past the black stump?"

    I took a breath. Snow jobs weren’t my field of expertise. "I was staying at the airfield waiting for a flight out," I said.

    "To where?"

    I took another breath. "Up north to China."

    He squinted at me. Hoo boy. Was my nervousness that obvious?

    Then the small man peered hard at the three bike girls. His eyebrows lowered over his bridge, and his smile slowly faded.

    "Zoe… Yolanda… Xenia…" he said quietly but sternly. "Did you lean on this guy to come?"

    Any one of them could have easily benchpressed the 90-lbs.-sopping-wet-if-even-that-much man for an hour. Yet one by one, each of their heads drooped, and they stared at the ground below.

    "Well?" he pressed.

    "Uh… well…" Zoe dragged her toe in the dirt. Then she finally squeaked out, "Maybe."

    The minister took a breath, let it out through his teeth, and shook his head. "Girls," he said, "I thought we’d been through this before. This ain’t the Crusades. You can’t strong-arm a person into church like that."

    "But …" Zoe peeped.

    "I know, I know, ya don’t want Billy or anybody else to go to hell. No one here does. God don’t. But it’s gotta come from their heart. If you push hard, you’ll just push them away from the Gospel, got it?"

    All three nodded silently. I stared dumbfoundedly. How’d that little old man command respect like that?

    "Mr. Teller," the pastor continued, "I’m terribly sorry if she gave any undue pressure to come here. She’s got so much zeal to bring folks to the Lord, sometimes she plays EVERY card she’s got."

    "Please," I said, "call me Ward. And please don’t hold it against them. They were nice about it, just… kinda insistent."

    "We’re sorry, Mr. Teller," went Zoe.

    "Sorry, sir," Yolanda and Xenia added.

    "’Sir?’ My dad’s not here," I smiled. "As I said, call me Ward." I walked up to Zoe reassuringly. "And don’t worry. I became a born-again Christian back when I was ten." And that, folks, was the Gospel truth. "I’ll keep Billy in my prayers, ‘kay?"

    Zoe finally got her smile back. "Thanks."

    Pastor Rich put an arm around my shoulder, stretched the other up around Zoe’s, and led us to a pavilion tent behind the sanctuary. "Right, then, that’s sorted. So how about a little food ‘n fellowship, eh?"

    I smiled. "Got any coffee?"


    "What’s wrong?" Yolanda asked. "Don’t you like fresh pineapple?"

    "It’s great," I murmured.

    "Aw, come on, put this in ya," coaxed Xenia, happily swinging around with a big tray in each of her Sunday-paper-thick forearms. She plopped two more slices and a couple of sausages on my plate. "Gotta keep up your strength, keeping us crazy girls at bay."

    I managed a chuckle as the links’ aroma hit my nose like a ton of bricks. Marvelous. And so were the scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh milk. No coffee, but the English Breakfast tea was good, too.

    It was a struggle of willpower, though. I could easily pack away two or three more plates worth. Every muscle of mine was jonesing for more incredible, edible eggs. But if my wispy looking frame started vacuuming up everything on my plate and more, someone would wonder where it all went. Idly watching the other burly church women carry platters around the tables, I tried to chew slowly and savor every bite until I could get to my protein shake mix back at the airfield.

    What really was troubling me, though, was that kid from yesterday afternoon. I hadn’t seen him here for breakfast. I didn’t know if he was a regular, or whether he just was in there to get out of the sun.

    "So," I asked casually, "how many families around here?"

    "Got about 25 different farms in this congregation," said Pastor Rich.

    I looked around. "Seems a little sparse today."

    "Guard duty. The Harpies hit our farms a couple of fortnights ago while we were at morning worship."

    I cringed knowingly. "The bike gang? That’s terrible!"

    Yolanda shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "Well, nobody got killed, thank the Lord."

    Pastor Rich continued. "We’ve got half at home watching their farms and ranches, and everybody here’ll relieve them when they go to the evening service."

    "Must be tough on the kids."

    "You have any wife or kids yourself?"

    "Nope. You?"

    "Me, it’s just my wife and the XYZ girls," he said, nodding to the trio beside him.

    "Oh, they’re your daughters, eh?"

    "No, they just washed up here a couple o’ fortnights ago. We took ’em in."

    I arched an eyebrow at that. Zoe quickly looked away shyly.

    Xenia quickly broke in. "So, Ward, you sound like you’re from America. Are you?"

    "Uh, yeah, from North Carolina. Know where that is?"

    And we quickly steered to other chat stuff. Other farmers and their wives came by and chatted with the new guy. Nice folks. But Zoe got very quiet after that. I guessed I wasn’t the only one with secrets.


    An hour or so later, I was in the old, old clapboard sanctuary, right third row from the back, singing an old favorite.

    "Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

    Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

    Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!

    "Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,

    Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!"

    I shook my head sadly. While singing the hymn brought back wonderful memories, it wasn’t the same. The choir sounded a lot less diverse than I remembered as a Stateside boy. I couldn’t hear much variety. Where were the basses? The sopranos? The Big Zap had taken them all away. Sure, we all know about the 300 lb. opera diva softly lilting or belting out the very high notes, but that takes training. And while the congregation had their hearts in it, the high and low ranges just weren’t there. And I’d read in Entertainment Weekly that American girls were dominating the pop vocalist charts and any singing that required high notes.

    Anyhow, I felt underdressed for this thing in my sneaks, ratty khaki slacks, and golf shirt. But seeing that many farmers in overalls, clodhopper boots and straw hats, I felt like I was an insurance salesman.

    Then just as we got to the third verse, I saw him shuffle in. Spy Boy. He had mousy brown hair, a purple, blue, and green plaid buttondown short sleeve shirt, blue jeans, and a concave torso, thanks to his shoulders forward. He didn’t look my way. In fact, I don’t think he even saw that I was there. I guess the female Amen corner behind me did a good job of blocking for me. Then again, he definitely looked preoccupied with something, and quite embarrassed that he was late.

    He found a vacant spot three rows up on my left. Squeezing in past an older, burly grandmother, he sat between her and a brown haired mother type in a burgandy dress.

    After announcements, (Tim and Anne Creek gave birth to twins, and Neil Green was recovering well in the hospital after the biker raid, but Dustin Maimer was still in serious condition, and needed our prayers), a cute children’s message (the minister’s wife did something with a puppet called Horace the Hippo Twit, who had a big stick over his face which knocked things over; the message was removing the log out of your own eye before you help someone with the speck in theirs), and singing "Love Lifted Me," it was time for tithes and offerings.

    "Please don’t feel obligated to give, or that whatever you have is too small," Pastor Rich said. "God knows yer heart." As they passed around the collection plates, I fished up my wallet and pulled out a 20-spot. As the collection plate came near Spy-Boy’s pew, he looked around very nervously, and fidgeted as he searched his pockets. That got the brown haired woman’s attention, and she stared at him. He then settled down and tried to do it more discreetly. He then elbowed Grandma on his right, who then looked his way quizzically. I spotted he had some sort of envelope in his hand. All that motion began to pull in stares from the congregation members around him. He then drew in his shoulders, sunk low, tried to take up as little space as possible, and quickly rammed the envelope back in his pocket as the plate reached their row. Grandma put in a hundred. Hanging his head ashamedly, Spy-Boy just passed it over to Ms. Burgandy, who put in a ten, and passed it to the row behind her.


    Once we passed up the plates and sang the Doxology, we settled in for the sermon. It was straight out of Luke 10: the Good Samaritan. I hope I don’t have to spell it out to you… merchant from Jerusalem gets mugged on the way to Jericho and left for dead roadside, two holy men walk by on the other side without helping, then the Samaritan stops, patches the victim up, then takes him to rest at an inn and pays for it.

    Pastor Rich then pointed out there were three attitudes represented in that parable. First one: What’s Yours Is Mine, And I’m Gonna Take It. He pointed out they’d been on the receiving end of that recently. But he urged everyone not to harbor that attitude ourselves, even against the ones that wronged us.

    The second attitude was What’s Mine Is Mine, And I’m Gonna Keep It. Pastor Rich said that was an attitude that seemed to prevail nowadays, what with the famines, strength drains and all. But he reminded us of what Jesus said: That which you did (or didn’t) unto the least of these, you have (or haven’t) done unto Me.

    He said this of the holy men: "Look, mates… I know the priest and Levite didn’t jump him and take his wallet… but do you honestly feel that they REALLY did him right?"

    Then the third attitude. What’s Mine Is Yours, And I Want To Give It. You’d think they’d feel warm and fuzzy about this since that’s just what they were doing. Not so. Rich pointed out that the Jew back then regarded the Samaritan as a half breed, and liked them as much as the Yanks did the Brits, the Frogs, and the Swiss Masses. He seemed to level his eyes at me when he rhetorically asked if we passed up a guy who got mugged fearing we’d get it next, and a Big Sister stopped and helped him out… who would God be happier with?

    I guess he noticed a lot of drty looks around the congregation, since he said, "Yeah, mates, our muscle’s getting ripped off. I know that, I felt it last night. But remember… Jesus gave up ALL His body for us."

    Well, he didn’t exactly tickle our ears. And for that, I gave him my respect.

    I knew I had to come back to this church and talk to him when the truck thing blew over, and the kid forgot about me.

    After we finished with "Love Lifted Me," I waited it out. Spy Boy then left, looking very demoralized. I wished I knew what was bugging him.

    I got up and shook the pastor’s hand, and he and his girls wanted me to stay for lunch. "Sorry," I said, "I’ve GOT to be at the airfield."

    Zoe said, "Right then. I can bike you back. Just come ’round back and I’ll take you there."

    After shaking with the other girls’ and saying my goodbyes, I exited out the front door and rounded the church’s corner, passing by a big black, shiny, new SUV. But right in front of me, the driver side door opened on its own.

    A voice behind me said, "You have a nice tenor." SMACK! went someone’s hand against the back of my head. I spun around.

    It was Grandma. She then shoved me into the vehicle, and pushed me clear into the passenger side.

    "Hey!" I started. "What’s the big–"

    Leaping in, she clamped his jaws shut with one hand, and lifted her wig a notch. Once I saw the jet black hair, and mentally erased the wrinkles, I instantly recognized her.

    "Mmrtmssm?" I mumbled.

    "SShh!" And she cranked up with her free hand, and kicked up some dust as we zipped off.

    Please don’t ask me exactly what Martissa and I said… well, shouted at each other en route. She bawled me out for not staying out of sight, I yelled that I did pretty good considering, and demanded what was I supposed to ditch the XYZ girls short of a WWE giant swing, and that she was a big fat Hippo Twit for playing secret agent herself. She said she was a professional, I was the Fracking New Guy, I told her to cram her condescending attitude… and it went downhill from there.

    Anyway, after she dumped me at Treytebbelup, and told me to forget about any date next weekend, I stomped into the hangar. Waiting inside was an Asian man by a small cargo container just big enough to sit atop a tiny pickup truck’s bed. He arched an eyebrow at my steaming face. "You are Mr. Bank, I presume?"


    "Dr. Shui Long." He offered his hand and we shook. "A wise saying goes, anger is a weapon only for one’s opponent."

    "Where’s that from?" I muttered. "Sung Tzu’s Art of War?"

    "No. The Frantic’s Tae Kwan Leep/Boot to the Head."

    "Let’s just load the stuff, okay?"

    And we got the HandeeJack, and moved the container into the plane.


    A couple of hours later, after I’d packed my suitcase and boarded, Dr. Long taxied down the runway. I looked at my forged passport, Chinese residency permit, and international and Chinese driver’s licenses. "Seems like a big deal for a simple cargo run."

    "There’s nothing simple about it. Ten rolls of ShrinkWrap, a satchel of joy buzzers, a quantsig scanner/rewriter and a canister of theta-rad isotope isn’t exactly on the same scale as a batch of fake Rolexes."

    "Kinda dangerous putting all our eggs in one basket, isn’t it?"

    "The less people involved, the less people that can, as you say, rat us out."

    "So why involve me?"

    "I’m staying with the cargo. Someone has to drive the lorry back to Hong Kong."

    I nodded. He finished the take-off sequence, and the plane zipped down the runway, and we went into the sky. About ten minutes later, I asked above the droning engines, "So, where we gonna stop to refuel?"


    "Well, this prop thing isn’t going all that way into the next hemisphere on one tank of gas, is it?"

    He smiled softly and thumbed back. "Look out the windows."

    I moseyed out of the cockpit, went back in the fuselage, and took a peek at the wing. The engine then shut off, and then the propeller stopped spinning. I heard the other engine stop, too. Then the rotors turned, then retracted into the engine, and then I saw some air intake vents pop up from the top.

    "You may want to hold onto something," Dr. Long called back.

    VOOM! The jet engines then blasted us through the air. I tumbled and rolled back. I thought I heard stuff roll around in the cargo container.

    "Are you all right?" Dr. Long asked, with a chuckle in his voice.

    Before I could tell him it hurt only when I said "ouch," I thought I heard something bang in the cargo container. "I think something got unsettled when you stepped on the gas," I yelled back over the engine’s din. "I’m gonna go check it out." With my pilot’s nod, I walked over to the back, undid the container’s bolt, tripped the latch, and swung the door open.

    And my jaw dropped.

    Righ on top of the fabric rolls, staring right back at me, was the boy from the church.

    To be continued in Chapter 3: Blackout

    Matthew Lim

    Really interesting. I can’t really say I’m a fan of a lot of non-growth stories. But this really has me wanting more. 😀


    This is shaping up to be quite the dynamic story.

    I love the little spy touches as well.

    The fact that folks were still trying to believe in something despite the shift after the Zap added a little touch of heart to the goings on. And those Harpies had better have a Mad Maxine angel of the roadways in their collective biker raider futures.


    Mad Maxine? Well… nah, that’s another story for another time… 😉 I’m juggling too many stories as is right now.

    Nice spin off, though… right alongside my Transfer Student remix and Martissa’s POV of Power Play… of which neither I’ve touched… 😕

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