This is sort of a “Man Bites Dog” story, or, perhaps, “Girl Bites God.”
Macy McMahon awakened before the alarm went off, as per the usual. She turned it off, got up, rubbed her eyes, gathered her wits, and strode down the hall, where she knocked on the door and yelled, “Rise and shine!”
Then she returned to her bedroom and got herself scrubbed and fragrant in the adjoining bathroom, carefully selected a tasteful match of apparel for the day, and headed downstairs, where she expected breakfast to be on the table. She prepared herself a cup of coffee.
Jerry walked in from the garage, whistling softly to himself. When Macy got up and gave her father a hug, he shied away.
“Dad, you know better than to be smoking,” she said. “We’ve discussed this.”
“Macy, I’m a grown man.”
“Apparently not,” she said. “Hand me your keys. You’re on restriction.” She sighed.
“I’m also your goddamned father …”
“You’re doing yourself no favors using that kind of language, Daddy. I said, give me the keys.”
Macy winked at him with her left eye, the one away from Mom. Jerry McMahon reluctantly handed them over.
“Now, do you want to tell me where you’ve got the cigarettes hid? Or do I need to go out there and find them myself?” Macy headed out the door, with Jerry trailing behind.
As soon as they left the kitchen, Tammi McMahon pulled a flask from her purse and dumped a good shot of Irish whisky in her coffee. It was going to be another long day in the service of their only child, who had been told she was perfect so long that she had come to believe it and develop an evangelical zeal to make those around live up to her perfection. She was tempted to dump a bit of that whisky in Miss Macy’s coffee, but she knew that would only result in her daughter calling Social Services on them again.
Macy was delighted to have the wheels. Her father’s black Lexus was much nicer than her five-year-old Tercel. She hoped her mother would take the Tercel for a spin, maybe even wreck it since she was undoubtedly getting drunk by now. Macy wasn’t worried. Mom wouldn’t go far or fast enough to hurt herself. She was just tired of that Tercel, and it embarrassed her that it was yellow.
They didn’t converse on the way to Pop’s agency, though Macy was in a buoyant mood. It was another in a long series of triumphs. She’d learned that the way to rule the world was to know everything about everybody. She’d let him have his car back tomorrow. Maybe.
“Bye, Dad,” she said as she let him out, and when he got a few yards away, she added, “Tell Roberta I said hello.”
How old’s my half-sister now? She had old Jerry dead to rights. He wasn’t a bad guy. He just had moral weakness. If any man didn’t have moral weakness, Macy hadn’t met him.
She was receiving the Good Citizen Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution at the Senior Awards Ceremony, that plus the Darwin Wallis Scholarship from the Chamber of Commerce and the Johnson LeJeune Leadership Medallion, which looked like an Olympic medal, only the ribbon was black and gold like the colors of good old Halleran High.
It was going to be a big day all around. At a red light, Macy looked in the console of the Lexus and found a pack of Marlboro Lights. Ah. So that’s where they were. She lit one and smoked it while driving around the Ring Road. Turning right into the school, she dropped it out the window at the apex of the turn so those in the car behind didn’t see it fall. When she parked, she retrieved a bottle of Chloraseptic from her purse and gave her throat a couple squirts, and then she enjoyed a stick of gum and headed to the ladies’ room, where she could wash her hands.
Macy went back outside to join in the morning gossip. Her inner circle had no secrets, partly because it was cool the way she played the angles and partly because, if any of them crossed her, she’d crush them like roaches, and they knew it. She used the various social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube – for intelligence gathering. She didn’t post much, but she was wholesome on Facebook because all the grownups were there, and good-natured and slightly mischievous on Twitter, where, when her friends were frank, it was in code and emoji, and she just checked out the others, especially Snapchat, where they briefly shared all their dirt. Macy knew it was best not to be frank because privacy was a mirage. She just trolled her acquaintances so that she knew their weaknesses.
The twin cheerleaders, Jennifer and Jessica Lashley, were stupid as mud, and that was before they started smoking weed every day before school. They got the ganja from Dae’Quan Lund, who had been a wide receiver on the football team, and Macy had a pretty good idea they didn’t pay for it. Dae’Quan stayed eligible because Macy made sure he got copies of all the tests in advance. He barely passed even when he knew what was coming. He was going to be playing ball at a junior college in Oklahoma of which little was known. Glen Moultrie played folk music and edited the literary magazine. His brother Harmon played drums and loved metal. Lisa Bellhorn liked country rap, and Carlo Gomes called himself Pablo Escobar online. Until Christmas, he had been Bob Marley, and, before that, Che Guevara. Pablo/Bob/Che was screwing a young new teacher at the middle school while he plotted overthrowing the government and forming a “weedocracy.”
The senior class was out of control except Macy, who kept a lid on it for all of them. Two or three times a week, one of them would need her help.
“C’awn over here, girl,” Dae’Quan said when he saw Macy approach. “I gots to gi’you a hug.”
He whispered in her ear, or, more to the point, did so while his tongue lapped at her lobe. “Whatchu want from me, Macy? Wha’can I do make yo’ day?”
“What you got in mind, big man? Want to show me how big you is?” She whispered, too, but she didn’t have any interest in gnawing on his nasty ear.
“I’m not about that life, Dae’Quan. Ain’t that what you always say?”
“Shheeit, ah’m just playin,’ sweetness.”
“No, you playin’ wid the twins. I don’t play.”
They both got a good laugh. Everyone else wanted to know what they were saying.
“Y’all just go on,” Macy said. “When me and Dae’Quan be talking, it’s copyrighted, nowumsayin’?
“We be each other’s niggas,” he said, and everybody got a good laugh, not just Macy and Dae’Quan.
Macy wondered how it would be next year at State. She might have to pick up the pace. When she had to make new friends, no way were they going to be as stupid as the ones she had now.
“Carlo, you ever heard of the Peter Principle?” Macy asked.
“Hell, yeah,” he replied. This revolutionary was the son of a Cuban dentist who was supporting Marco Rubio for president.
“No, you don’t. It ain’t got nothin’ to do with your peter.”
“Everything got something to do with that.”
“In a way, you prob’ly right,” Macy said.
Dick jokes. What a perfect way to prepare for another day of academics at good old Halleran High. Half the kids of Halleran High went to Halleran high.
The cool kids were breaking up when, slightly to Macy’s chagrin, her one true nemesis walked up, and when Anthony Quintlen walked up to the group, it was usually her he wanted to see. It wasn’t about her dislike for him. It was about her salvation. She was satisfied he was attracted to her.
The others scurried away. The only way they could have considered Anthony more toxic would have been if he had been with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Macy, I hope you’re having a blessed morning,” he said. “I was just thinking about you. All those honors … you’re such an accomplished person. If I could just get you to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior …”
“Anthony, we’ve been over this before. How do you know that He’s not my Personal Savior? What right do you have to judge me? I’m a Christian. I’m just not your kind of Christian.”
“The Gates of Heaven cannot be opened with an earthly key.”
“Come with me,” Macy said. “We gotta talk in private. We gotta have a little heart-to-talk.”
“No, now. We got almost ten minutes to the bell. I want to get this over with once and for all.”
“You’ll never do that, Macy. I’ll never give up trying to save your soul.”
“You better,” she said as she grabbed him under the arms and very nearly dragged him around the corner behind the shop building. The back side was shaded by trees across a narrow road from the softball field. Half the windows had been busted by foul balls until they’d finally filled in the ones closest to the field with green-painted plywood. No one was ever there until third period.
“It’s a beautiful morning,” Anthony said.
“It is.” Macy retrieved her father’s pack of smokes. “I’d offer you one, you know, but …”
“You can’t smoke on school grounds.”
“Oh, yeah. Watch me. I can blow smoke rings, Anthony.”
Shock value. The boy looked like he was about to have a seizure.
“Look, what you believe is your business, and I hope you, you know, I hope you live a wholesome, God-fearing life, and, at the end of it, I hope you get your heavenly rewards. I mean, seriously,” she said to him, “but you gotta cut this nosy shit out. I don’t begrudge your right to your religion. I’m glad you and Jesus got a good thing going, but, Anthony, this ain’t heaven. This is earth. When I decide to get straight with the Lord, you’re the first person I’ll tell.”
“You can’t take that kind of risk, Macy.”
“Let me talk, Anthony. Let me say what I got to say, and then, I promise, you can respond, and if the bell rings, I’ll meet you right here after school, and I’ll let you say your piece then.”
“All right, here’s what I believe. You know what the greatest recruiting tool of Christianity is? It’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is what sets Christians apart from other religions. You can do the most horrible thing imaginable, and if you ask for forgiveness, Jesus will forgive you. The New Testament changed everything. Christ’s message superseded the Old Testament. Every night, you may not believe me, but I pray, and I ask Jesus to forgive me my sins, of which there are many, and I ask him to help me do my best, but, you gotta know, I just don’t see much progress out there.
“You know what Gandhi said?”
“He said I love your Jesus. What I don’t like are your Christians. That’s the way I’m feeling right now, Anthony.”
“But you don’t know … it’s not that simple. What you’re saying is superficial.”
“Anthony, tell you what? Who do you admire? In this school. In this town. Who do you admire?”
“Coach Lennart. He goes to our church. He’s a great man, a Christian man.”
“His wife is screwing the youth minister.”
Anthony Quintlen’s face turned white as fresh snow. His father was the pastor.
“Oh, yeah. He’s queer. It’s okay with me, but I’m pretty sure it’s not okay with you.”
“Ha. Girls’ basketball coach. I used to play basketball. Coach Beyerley lives with Coach Tyner. They’re roomies. They’re also lesbians. Don’t hurt nobody. When I was in jayvee, though, it ‘bout grossed me out, and you know what else? If those two think you’re straight, you ain’t gonna play a whole lot. That’s just the way it is.”
“You’re just a liar.”
“Think what you want, Anthony. The mayor of this town has been nailing his administrative assistant ever since he fired the last one. The police chief? What they confiscate busting druggies … it goes back out on the streets, or the pot does, anyway. I think he’s morally opposed to redistributing the heroin and meth and shit. How you think he built a mansion on the lake? His salary is fifty grand.
“You remember when his deputy got killed? You ain’t heard about the case being solved, have you? That guy, Melvin DuBois, he was about to blow the whistle on the boss. His patrol car hit a tree. Somebody shot the right-front tire out when he was about to cross the Satchitaw River Bridge. They named the bridge after him. Wasn’t that sweet? Look, we ain’t got much more time. Think about this shit, will you? Live a righteous life, Anthony, but goddamn it, don’t act like the world ain’t full of sinners. If Jesus showed up in this town tomorrow, ain’t no doubt what would happen. Same thing happened to the Son of God the last time around.”
She patted him on the shoulder. Then she kissed him on the cheek.
“I’m sorry to bust your balloon, Anthony. Look at the bright side. You’ll be out of this school by the end of next week, and you’ll be out of this town in the fall. Go some place that’s godly, but, shit, keep your chin up. Meet me in the parking lot after school if you want to talk some more. I got a couple hours to kill before I got to go give my dad a ride home from work. We’ll ride around and talk about it, if you want.”
“That’s all right,” Anthony Quintlen said. “Thanks, I reckon.”
They went to class. Macy sauntered. Anthony staggered. Word around school was he was almost catatonic in third-period trig.
“Truth hurts,” Macy said to the Lashley twins. “I feel sorry for him. He’s a nice guy and all.”
When it was all over, it seemed to Macy that poor Anthony might as well have been Jesus, and she wished to God she hadn’t been right about what would happen if He came again. He was compulsive by nature, and it had been evidenced in his prowess as a cross country runner, and his devotion to the Lord, and, finally, when he went pell-mell and full-throttle the other way. They all graduated, and Dae’Quan went off to some junior college in the middle of Indian Territory, and before he could transfer to LSU, he blew out his knee, thanks to some would-be convict playing for another juco in west Kansas. Last thing Macy heard, he was on Death Row after he knocked off a convenience store and shot the Pakistani clerk.
The Lashley twins became cheerleaders at Memphis State until they both flunked out, got knocked up, and damned if Jessica didn’t wind up with twins of her own. The rumor was they looked a lot like Dae’Quan Lund.
Glen Moultrie moved to San Francisco. Harmon moved to L.A. Both of them were apparently about to starve. Lisa Bellhorn went to community college and got herself certified to be a nurse’s assistant, but then she got nabbed for dipping into the pharmaceuticals, and so did her husband, who just happened to be a pharmacist. Carlo Gomes the novice Marxist converted to Libertarianism, which was where conservatives went when they wanted legal weed.
Macy saw Anthony Quintlen two more times. Once he was handing out little pocket-sized copies of the Book of Psalms and the New Testament, asking for donations, and the other time, he was sitting on the Confederate Monument, unshaven, smelly, and likely strung out on heroin. After he hung himself in the Charleston jail, Macy started going to his father’s church when she was back in town, sitting in the back pew and slipping out the side door early because she couldn’t bear to face the Reverend Claude Quintlen even though neither he nor anyone else in town had heard the conversation that took place between her and Anthony out back of the shop building.
She had something about which she would forever ask forgiveness, and she went to that church from time to time because she knew, in her heart, that Anthony had died that she might live. Sometimes Macy thought the worst thing that had ever happened was that life went on.
While writing this, I was thinking about two songs, “Harper Valley PTA,” written by Tom T. Hall, and “Ode to Billie Joe,” written by Bobbie Gentry. It’s a sad story, but one with a good message, I think. If you’re interested in reading my books, particularly the novels The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, you can purchase them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1