To close out my week's tribute to the great Flannery O'Connor I offer you a short piece of fiction that I've prepared specially for this occasion. This is by no means as good as O'Connor's writing, but the story was inspired by it. I hope you will enjoy it.
A Sure Thing
When the Preacher heard that Old Man Sweeney's demise had been prognosticated by the doctors at the VA hospital, he decided he should go to call on him. It was late in the afternoon when the Preacher found the grizzled Old Man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the run down house.
The Old Man scowled, "If'n yer here to tell me bout Jesus and me gittin' saved then I don't wanna hear none about it and you can jest turn around 'n go right now."
"I heard the news about your cancer and wanted to see how you were doing." The Preacher pulled up a tattered cane chair next to Sweeney and sat down.
"I'm jest fine and I ain't goin' nowhere." The Old Man gazed at the dirt road that led to the highway beyond their sight.
"Mr. Sweeney, I hope you're with us for a long time," the man of God said in his best pastoral voice, "but I thought you might like to reconsider what Jesus can do for you after your time on this Earth."
Sweeney sat forward abruptly and glowered. "Listen here Preacher--there ain't no Jesus. Never is and never was. You ain't seen 'im. I ain't seen 'im. Jest cause you read about some Jesus in a story book you read on Sundays don't make it true. What makes you so certain there's Jesus if you ain't never seen 'im fer yerself?"
Spittle flecked the Old Man's peppered chin whiskers as he looked at the Preacher expectantly waiting for an answer. A unseen peafowl screeched somewhere in the distance. The Preacher wanted to say something about having faith, but decided there was no sense arguing with Old Man Sweeney.
Changing the subject, the Preacher said, "You out here waiting on someone?"
Sweeney spat. "Waitin' on the government man. He's bringin' me a check for ten thousand dollars."
The Preacher tilted his head with a questioning look on his face. "A check for what?"
"Some sort of 'sessment--I'm not sure fer what. I sent in my hunnert dollars processin' fee and they said a government man would bring me a ten thousand dollar check right to my door."
Exhaling a deep sigh the Preacher said, "How do you know they were from the government?"
"They said so. That's what they tol' me and I know they're comin'"
"Mr. Sweeney..." the Preacher's voice drifted off in exasperation.
Sweeney clenched his fists and blurted, "What are you sayin' Preacher? Are you callin' them liars? The man from the government said they was comin' and I believe 'im. If you can't believe in the government then who can you believe in?"
The Preacher settled back into his chair pondering the scene before him. The sun setting behind them cast a shadow of the rickety house across the barren expanse of land that passed for a front yard. The dirt road led away from the house and disappeared into the dusty horizon. The trees stood silently beside the road as though awaiting the arrival of a long awaited guest.
If you missed my earlier posts about Flannery O'Connor this week, I hope you will go back and check them out. And by all means please read at least one or two of her stories to see what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts after you have done so.