In Sunday School we’d sing “March, march, march to church/ March to Sunday School/ Whenever you’re marching along with God/ Joy will be the rule.” I hated one kid in my old church, Roger, red-haired, freckled, polite, involved in sports, even sang in our small choir. Of course he sang well too.
“Jerry’s a little girl… he likes to play with dolls,” Roger told the other kids.
Well, what of it? Why were dolls any less interesting than tossing a ball through a hoop or smashing into each other and calling it football? It was more fun playing paper dolls with Marcy or Peggy in my neighborhood.
Each Sunday, while we sat on green wooden chairs, Mrs. Kessler, our Sunday School teacher, talked about fabulous journeys the Apostle Paul took, dashing from jail to jail, a thorn in his side, but he had to get to Rome . We were in Villa Park , Illinois , a suburb, a place with Ovaltine mugs and Melmac plates. Rome seemed far away. Chicago seemed far away—a whole half-hour train ride.
I hoped someday to have an exciting life like Paul’s. Killing people. Seeing a light. Then getting on the road and saving people. And hoping to get out of jail. But I didn’t want to go to Rome . Well, maybe. If they had good rock n roll like my favorite groups—Tommy James and the Shondells, The New Colony 6, and The Dave Clark 5. If they didn’t, I’d just as soon stay in Villa Park .
I bet Paul was never called “little girl.” Or was that the thorn in his side, that he was thought to be weak and stupid, so the centurions mocked him—he wasn’t a “real” Roman.
I wished that God would miraculously “smite” Roger down, his laughter becoming a horrified screech.
He did. When I was in college and long freed from Sunday School, I saw his obituary in the Villa Park Argus. A motorcycle crash. I hadn’t seen him in four years or so. He was 19.
Had God bided his time? At fifty, I no longer believe in God.
As I dig a hole for a new Snowfire rose, my shovel hits stone and clay. Roger would be my age.
Rose planted, I go inside. There’s work to be done for my new client, a plumber whose books are in terrible shape. He’s scared that the IRS will “haul my ass into prison and drop the key in the Atlantic Ocean .” Roger fades away, again, replaced by numbers on a screen, nothing adding up, just hidden files I don’t open.
About Kenneth Pobo:
Kenneth Pobo has a chapbook forthcoming from Eastern Point Press called Placemats. In addition to The Montucky Review, his work has appeared in: Nimrod, Mudfish, Colorado Review, and elsewhere.