The Cheesy Religion
(A short story by Steven R. Harrel)
Pa pushed Tom back into the barber’s chair. “Now sits still so I can finish shavin ya, boy. Ya can’t goes no-wheres till I’s done and finished”.
It was all Tom could do to sit still while Mr. White finished his shave. When Pa finally lifted the barber’s cloth and brushed him off, Tom felt he had to look to Pa’s scrinchie face for approval before getting up. Pa just nodded; then and only then did Tom spring from the chair and dash to the window.
Pulling his arms back to avoid Tom’s quick extrication, Pa raised his voice, “Boy, you’s wound tighter dan an ole Timex. You’d better settles yourselfs down fors you gives yourself a correlary.”
In his excitement to make out the cart and driver, Tom didn’t really hear Mr. White’s comments.
As the sound of the bells drew nearer, Tom realized it wasn’t bells he was actually hearing but something different – though he at first couldn’t put his finger on it; then, ole Joe and Molly began to crest the hill. Joe’s cart was simply framed using a small handmade wooden wagon painted a sort of shiny black, the kind of black often associated with wrought-iron fences and gates. Joe slowly moved up the hill behind his cart expertly guiding Molly in her traces. Framed above the cart’s bed was an iron rack suspending a variety of sharpening and polishing tools, knives and scissors, pots and pans clanging like bells and acting like wind chimes. Though the cart was obviously birthed in antiquity, Tom noticed the paint and hardware appeared to be meticulously maintained. The tools and pans clanged along a-melodiously filling the air with its unique brand of rhythm. Without turning around, Tom asks Pa how he thought he should approach ole Joe.
Pa beamed a toothy grin, “Good griefs Tommy boy, just walk ups to ’em and asks to walk besides ’em. Dhat ole coot loves to tell his stories. He’ll be delighted ta talk witch-ja all dad-gum day, he wills”.
Tom walked over and briefly hugged his new friend before dashing out the door. As Tom drew closer to Joe, he realized he’d never seen a man looking quite so old. It seemed to Tom that ole Joe might be hundreds of years old, even though he knew that wasn’t possible. Tom walked up and matched Joe’s and Molly’s stride. As Tom pulled beside Joe and his cart, Joe turned to him and asked his business, “Howdy young feller, ya need some’en sharpened?”
Gingerly Tom addresses the older man, “Sir, I was talking with Mr. White over there at Sadie’s, and he said you might be able to help me?”
“All right Mister, I’s do da bests I can, mister Tom”.
Tom began sharing his wife’s story with Joe including her sickness and what little he knew about the town of Shire; Tom explained the little cigar box with all its trinkets supposedly from the town of Shire.
When Tom finally focused on the watch, he absentmindedly reached into his coat pocket and began fingering the ancient timepiece…
Tom’s mind began to swim as day turned to night; the town of Troy Alabama vanishing, being instantaneously replaced by an old dirt road and what seemed the remains of a heated battle.
Tom realized Joe was still standing there, but Joe wasn’t driving his Sharping-Cart and his mule, Molly, was nowhere to be found. A younger version of Joe was instead pushing an empty powder-cart and wearing the rags of a transient or possibly a slave.
Tom was appropriately and significantly taken aback by the dramatic transformation, even if Joe didn’t seem notice a thing.
Stranger still, Tom was now clad in a Confederate officer’s uniform and holding in his right hand a shiny new watch and in his left a British Sea Service flintlock pistol.
As Tom looked around he saw hundreds of people walking the road: soldiers dressed in Confederate uniforms, women and children carrying bundles, wounded and infirm being helped along by their confederates and nearly everyone was walking slowly south. The more affluent traveled by wagons or horseback; albeit, most horses were either pulling wagons or travois filled with all manner of household belongings or younger family members. A steady rumble echoed in the distance with flashes from canon fire and smoke drifting across the horizon. Distant explosions began reporting an ongoing battle just over the next rise, a hill just north of their position. It was noticeably time to move one way or the other before things started to get out of hand.
Though Tom had a pretty good idea of when and where they were, he couldn’t seem to stop himself from grabbing Joe’s shoulders and crying out, “What’s happening Joe? What’s going on?” Tom knew he had somehow been transported through time but that didn’t mean he wasn’t shaken and perplexed.
“Whats you means Master Tom, what’s happenen?” Joe replied wide-eyed.
Tom just shouted back at Joe, “You didn’t notice we were sent back in time? I mean, you’re okay with all these explosions and the war and this Confederate uniform!” Tom indicates his uniform with his hands and then throws his arms up in confusion and frustration.
“You knows Captain sir. Does darn Yankees done pushed us back to Troy, but we’s winning now, Captain sir!” A big toothy white smile lite up Joe’s face!
Tom began to fully grasp what’s going on and where he was – even if his mind wouldn’t let him accept the time-shift, he knew. Joe just stood waiting for Captain Tom. All Tom could do at that moment was closes his eyes and murmurs at Joe, “Joe, I have to get to Shire Alabama. It’s urgent! Do you understand? Do you know how to get there, to get to Shire?”
“Yes sir Master Tom, I means Captain Tom. I knows hows ta get to Shire sir, but what’s dhis Alabama place yous talken about? I can’ts say I’s knows any Alabamas, sir.
After hearing Joe say he’d heard of Shire, Tom decided to role with the situation and simply said, “Joe, take me to Shire, then! Right now. Right away if you will?”
“But da Sargent sir? Dhat Sargent over dhere done tolt me ta get some mo powder back dhere and ta brings it back ups here rights away… I needs ta do it rights now, sir or Joe’s gonna gets in a fine bit of troubles!”
“Forget the powder, Joe, the Sargent will just have to find somebody else to get his black powder. Right now you’re going to take me to Shire. Got it? Alright, that’s done, let’s go!”
“All-rights by me sir, longs I don’t gets in no troubles. No sir-ree, don’t needs no troubles.”
Tom pulled Joe up eye to eye and said to his face, “Joe, I’m ordering you to take me to Shire; it’s of the utmost importance!”
“Yes sirs, mister Tom.”
(End Part 5)
Even though Part 6 is coming soon,
Don’t forget to get a copy of
“This Side of the Whirlwind, the Coming Apocalypse!”