Strange things were happening in Pottawatomie County and it wasn’t even close to Halloween. Just yesterday afternoon Elvena Campbell was coming home from Curves Gym. She was driving down I-40 East and honked as she approached the hill by the Belgian Waffle Factory where the Jehovah Witness’ rigged up the billboard, ‘Honk If You Love Jesus!’
“I had meant to give a one second toot, but that darned horn sounded louder than the Pottawatomie County tornado siren and even though the red Honda Fit is brand spanking new, that crazy horn blared for more than four minutes,” Elvena said.
Elvena, forty-seven, had just become a Christian, Elvena taking the Lord into her heart during a Joyce Meyer TV program three days ago. She was sitting on her blue sofa braiding her long black hair, thinking about whether to buy Corn Flakes or Raisin Bran for Earl later in the afternoon when she ran out to Wal-Mart. Then, without warning, God entered her soul. From the TV screen, Joyce said, “Love God and he will love you back.”
“It was like a team of God’s soldier’s charged through my body when I heard Joyce speak. ‘Take the Lord into your life,’ the voice of the Holy Ghost insisted. The Holy Ghost was not loud or abrasive, but persistent, like a confident, polished salesman.
“Lord, is that you talking to me? Or you, Devil, interrupting my peaceful spirit with the toot of my horn? I’m going to bet it is you, Dear Lord.”
Elvena then prayed, “Dear Lord in Heaven, what are you saying to me? Since I am new to your House, Lord, may I please have a sign?”
Elvena watched the world around her intently; no sign ever came along. She wondered if Mavis Butler had any sign at all that she’d cascade into a sinkhole while sitting in the barber chair at Fred’s Barber Shop, getting a snip here, there, Mavis wearing a pixie, Mavis knitting a baby booty in the chair, neck bowed toward her knees.
Lord, I hope Mavis didn’t have a sign. Easier to just get eaten up by that sinkhole, chair and all, be done with it all in one fell swoop, Elvena thought momentarily.
At least I’m not driving into a sinkhole, Elvena thought.
Same morning the horn malfunctioned, Miss Meaghan Pruitt, Shawnee, Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year, 1998, and current Pottawatomie County Toastmaster Historian, received a cow patty in the snail mail.
That patty, big as a Castle Hut bear claw. The note on the card was written backwards and Miss Meaghan had to hold it up to her bathroom mirror: ‘Here’s your self-portrait, bitch! You are about as good as you smell, witch is like this turd. Yer Friend, S.’
“Detective Hank had a police car park in front of my house all night long; you just never know anymore what folks are capable of doing,” Miss Meaghan told her neighbor, Miss Fran.
What did the “S” stand for? Everyone wondered. Sam? Simon? Sarah? Or was it from Satan? That was a thought no one liked to ponder, but of course, you couldn’t help but wonder if the Devil was at play.
Just two days after the turd incident, Miss Meaghan, sixty-three and the prime fundraiser for autism with the Jaycee’s then eyeballed teens “doing it” without clothes in a satellite dish over by K-Country radio station out on Dill Road. “Though on the edge of town and surrounded by pecan trees” she reported to the Shawnee Police Officer, “The act did take place during broad daylight.”
“ The very same hour I spotted public fornicators, one of whom was Scooter Pemberton’s daughter Lori, who had just taken her Christian teen chastity pledge last night at Marantha Baptist, I get an e-mail. lleana’s wiener dog that got fixed two years back gave birth to a litter of six,” Miss Meaghan informed her bridge group, The Tango Gals.
Ileana Jackson, a Peruvian-American from Fort Smith, Arkansas who had married Sas Jackson, a chiropractor, thought she was losing her mind. “I tell you what, I thought I was having a breakdown of sorts, a what do you say? A nervous condition come down on me. Taylor Swift was only supposed to birth four pups, not six. Wieners never birth more than four pups, ever. In fact, Miss Taylor should not have had any pups,” Ileana said.
“I tell you what, Dr. Trent Mann, DVM, swore he performed the fix-the-baby surgery two years ago,” Ileana told her Sunday School class at Wesley Methodist.
Of course everyone knew Trent Mann had a tippling problem and a second DUI to boot the same month the spaying took place. Had Dr. Mann tippled on vodka the day he snipped on Taylor Swift? Ileana, the Fellowship Followers wondered, but no one raised the question amongst one another as all were seated in The Lord’s House.
An affirmative was the going theory. Then again, maybe Taylor had been fixed proper-like. Who knew? Was the birthing of hamster-sized wiener dogs a God-deal?
“Why the ultrasound from a totally different vet reveal four pups, not six?” Ileana had asked her husband, daughter, and pharmacist at CVS. When Taylor Swift’s tummy began to bulge, Illeana thought, “Oh my baby-doll infant! Senorita Swift is getting a tumor growing on her!”
Scooter Pemberton suggested the All Fellowship Now group join hands and say a prayer on behalf of Illeana, and Ms. Swift.
If this all was not strange enough, within just one hour of the births, Arvest Bank on Kickapoo Street got robbed by the Ronald McDonald Bandit. The Unitarian bank manager, (one of six Unitarians in the County), Kenny Ross, told Shawnee police, “I was eating my cucumber tomato-soy cheese on rye when a person of unknown gender comes into the Arvest lobby sporting a yellow Ronald McDonald robe and big red shoes the color of Snooky’s lipstick, then the Ronald mask. A robbery! I could not believe it. Scared the bejabbers out of us!” Kenny said.
Bog Womack was at the bank branch when the Ronald McDonald Bandit hit the teller booths. “My gosh darned debit card wouldn’t swipe at the drive-thru ATM, that magnetic strip out of whack so I had to go inside. Right when I got in line, this ungodly costumed creature waves a Glock gun and says, ‘Down folks.’ I thought my heart would jump like a bull frog out of my chest. I was lying face down on the bank floor with about twenty others. My cheeks and nose mashed into bank carpet, burgundy, I prayed to God I’d go back and be a good husband to Joy Helen if I lived through it, and didn’t defecate on the floor. I prayed to God the Father Almighty saying over and over in my head, ‘I’m sorry for my lust-driven affair, I’ll do your work Lord, I’ll go home, I’ll do your work, just let me live.’
The four children in the bank were so scared they didn’t eat their Moon Pies, lemon kind, the police officer gave them afterwards,” Bog said.
Bog had never had even one affair in his twenty-two year marriage to Joy Helen, nope, not until last Tuesday, the day Miss Meaghan had received the turd. Sure, Bog looked, he thought about it, but he never acted on those thoughts. “Devil be gone!” he’d repeat in the shower or while driving to work at Seminole State College, which is really a junior college, Bog teaching Introduction to Wellness and Developmental Oklahoma History . The thought of eternal hell always did the trick for monogamy.
Last week, Bog met a gal online and moved into her manufactured home over in Van Buren, Arkansas after a three day e-mail fling. Bog and Joy Helen had raised two boys, the whole family bass fishing together, Joy Helen and Bog even doing a little competitive bassing at Lake Eufaula. But Joy Helen had quit fishing during the beginning of menopause. From that point on, they had just drifted apart, especially over the past three years.
After the robbery, Bog thought, “Lord, I must drive straight to Pastor.” Bog and Pastor, a man with biceps the diameter of telephone poles clasped Bog in a tight bear hug then patted Bog’s left butt cheek. “Pray with me. Let’s praise God for giving you grace and a return of moral heart.”
In unison, the two kneeled in Pastor’s office. John Wayne and Jesus sharing the same wall space, Pastor grabbed Bog’s hand and prayed aloud, “Lord, Praise your love for Bog by bringing him the truth about his Holy Duty to his marriage and the fruits of his marriage to lovely Joy Helen. The Devil reached this sinning man’s lustful mind, but Lord, you cleaned this man’s soul with your wise broom of knowledge.”
Bog bawled like a baby throughout the prayer and for good reason. Bog knew what he had to do no matter what his flesh desired.
Bog had short grey sideburns and brown, wavy hair; his brown eyes hid behind emerald green tinted contacts. He was six foot three, and wore Levis, starched creases down the middle, and a green polo shirt Joy Helen had bought him on sale for his birthday. Sitting in his baby blue Ford Escort, Bog looked in the rear view mirror and thought, ”I really hate this shirt, makes me look green as a leprechaun, damn that Joy Helen buying me this sorry-ass shirt on sale at Sear’s.”
Yet, because a man of God, Bog soldiered straight over to Candi’s manufactured home over in Van Buren, a ninety minute drive from Shawnee. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Bog sat Candi down on her pink futon in the den. Candi had been touching up her brown roots in the bathroom when Bog showed up. Candi sat Indian style on top of that futon with her hair wrapped in a green towel. She was outfitted in her purple sports bra and granny panty undies, also deep purple. Her legs were shaved smooth as a baby’s butt, and tan, the way girls are on TV shows. Bog longed to stroke her left thigh, but crammed both hands into his jeans pockets.
“This hair stuff has a time limit, so make it fast, babe,” Candi informed. “Leave it on too long and my roots turn green as Kermit the frog..”
“Listen,” Bog began, “ I would love you no matter the color of your hair, green, navy blue or blonde. But what I’m here to say is, Oh Baby, this is so hard, so I’ll just quit my throat-clearing and be a man and say what I need to say. God saved me in that robbery today to send me a message about my adulterous nature. I could have been shot; the Ronald McDonald Bandit had a gun pointed at my head, but didn’t fire. Candi, I have sinned and been spared. If only it were a different time, a different life, things between us would be different.” Bog resisted putting his hand on Candi’s left kneecap. “The Lord just doesn’t want us to be a couple, to live together or have relations ever again.”
Candi just stared at Bog, a grown man in his fifties, blubbering like a two year old war orphan right here on her futon.
“Well I’ll be damned, you are just really fucking unstable like my ex, Donny. Bog, are you a drunk like Donny to top it all off? And don’t give me the God bull crap; this is about your lack of emotional health, you crazy bastard. I should’ve known you’d turn out to be a pussy. Jesus, I mean you posted that dumb-ass header in your online ad, ‘Wild Tom Cat Hunting for Sexy Mouse.’ Then signing each e-mail, “Roar and Love, Bog-Man,” Candi exclaimed.
Candi stood up, both hands on her hips.” I gotta go fix my roots so get your ass off my futon and don’t let the door hit you on the way out you sorry old sack of Jesus- talking shit. Here I am thinking I’ve met someone decent! Lord help me. And don’t think you’re getting your shit outta my bedroom closet; that goes to Salvation Army tomorrow!”
Back in Shawnee, Bog stood in the TV room with his brown, soft-side suitcases and yelled, “Joy Helen? Are you in your sewing room? I’m home, honey.”
Joy Helen yelled from down the hall, “Well don’t think you’re unpacking, Mister. Don’t think callin’ on your cell, telling me you broke up with your online tramp after you wrote in that email I was the ‘Vaginal Dryness Queen of Pott. County’ means you’re moving back into the house, Mister! Don’t mistake me as a replacement sex toy!” Joy Helen yelled.
Joy Helen ran back to her sewing room then re-appeared in the TV room holding a loaded shotgun.
In total silence, Joy Helen walked Bog to the front door, the loaded shotgun pointed at her husband’s ass then his feet. She didn’t ask him if he wanted any meatloaf left-overs to take with him for supper. After dead bolting the front door, Joy Helen dusted the gun barrel with some Pledge, then tucked the gun back in it’s case underneath her sewing kit in the sewing room closet. It was important to hide the gun from burglars.
Joy Helen said a prayer, then went back to humming the theme song from “Jeopardy,” her favorite game show. Joy Helen finished her log cabin quilt in record time, then placed it in the stack of items she was donating to the Pott. County foster care children Christmas party.
Three hours later, Joy Helen was began to tremble. Her knees shaking, she prayed aloud in her kitchen stove. She didn’t even bother to put on make-up before hitting her knees, pastor always reminding you should look your best when talking to The Lord. “Lord,” she yelled, “My God to all Mighty Heavens, I said ‘fuck’ and could have killed my dear, dear husband; what in the name of Jesus is wrong with me?”
Except during child birth years ago, Joy Helen had never raised her voice to her husband before. In labor with the Bog Junior, Bog Sr. had said, “Calm down there.” Joy Helen grunted then screamed, “You calm down Mister! Who do you think you are? A son of a gun? Shut up Mister!”
Joy Helen stood in her den, wondering how saying “fuck” and telling off Bog could feel so divine if God was against such misconduct. Joy Helen started to shake even more, and immediately called Pastor.
“Pastor, I am sinning and I don’t know why,” she confessed.
Bog was now camping at La Quinta on I-40. In the quiet of his room 214 B, Bog got down on his knees to pray, not at all aware of the black cat nesting on Betsey and Puff Green’s front porch just two miles away. The big-ass black cat, an aberration of the breed, a sixty pounder, plopped himself right on the doormat that read, “Wipe your paws.”
Same hour that cat showed up and Bog’s life fell apart, Betsey’s crown, located in the lower left jaw region, fell out. As if this was not enough, the parrot problem developed. Puff whispered to Miss Meaghan in the produce aisle of Wal-Mart, “Our parrot, Richard Nixon, when out of his aviary for his daily ritual flight around the TV room, said, as he always does, ‘Watergate, Watergate, unfair, unfair; your father is a proud Confederate man.’ Then, without rhyme or reason, Richard Nixon pooped on my brand spanking new Laze-y Boy recliner, Nixon never pooping anywhere in the house in his whole twenty- two years of existence.”
“Well I’ll be,” Miss Meaghan said. She was wearing a brown tweed blazer with pearls and had her brown dyed hair pulled back in a bun. “Puff, I just don’t know what’s happening these days,” she said.
Puff shook his head, “Lord only knows, which reminds me. Did ya hear? Joy Helen took a gun to Bog in their TV room. Really, it is true.”
Most folks in Pottawatomie County thought all this weird stuff was a result of God punishing Shawnee-its who were not living their lives correctly, Biblically. As if God was giving certain souls a wake up call. Betsy and Puff Green didn’t believe this at all. Puff, Mensa Vice-President of the Tri-County region, stated, while wiping Richard Nixon’s poop off his recliner, “Betsy, honey, I am sure there is a logical explanation for all of this.” Yet Puff did not have any theories to offer.
A smaller majority believed God had flat out cursed the town and it would lift only when everyone except for infants repented all sins; a very slight few thought all the talk was just plain crap. But no matter what you thought, no one could ignore the fact that life in Pott. County had been full of surprises lately.
With the exception of the past three weeks, not much really ever happened in Pott. County, population 30,000, if you count the border town bergs, Meeker, Tecumseh and McComb.
Last month’s police blotter reported the following incidents: a willful repeat jaywalker offense on I-40 Service Road by Wal-Mart and Cato, a fashion store for big ladies, “sizes 14-28.” Two tweens had thrown a Sprite can at a cat on Union and Emit Avenue; an unknown person stole the new roll-away stop sign at the intersection of Magnolia and First. The permanent stop sign had been plowed down by a dentist who had been hooched up on laughing gas, so the city, last week, rolled out a make-shift stop sign on two little black wheels that looked like Tonka toy tractor tires.
This had been the big news everyone was talking about three weeks ago, the dentist with the “problem”.
“That dentist had always been crazy, nope nothing new with Ben Wisen getting hooched up on gas. Besides he was from Back East, Ohio or Vermont,” Puff said to his Methodist Men’s Wednesday night prayer supper club. “He’s not really a Shawnee person. But now, ordinary Pott. County born and bred folks are acting plum crazy. Or, like Miss Meaghan, experiencing crazy wild things by no fault of their own,” Puff concluded.
The saddest event that had recently taken place was the death of Miss Meaghan’s ex-husband, Vern. More sad than the sink hole that swallowed Fred’s Barber shop, half of it anyhow, along with Fred’s wife. Miss Meaghan divorced Vern after she became vice-principal at the Shawnee Middle School ten years back.
At his funeral last week Miss Meaghan told her grand -daughter, Shawna, “Grandpa Vernon did not deserve to die in a septic tank accident. You know, drown like that, face down in all that human waste. He was a good man, overall. “
The dirt walls had caved in on Vern fifteen feet under and he suffocated to death at age sixty-two. His funeral was the same day Betsy and Puff’s parrot pooped all over the living room.
Betsey Green wanted to know what was coming down the pike next. Would it be too much sulfites in city water bringing cancer to Shawnee? A new Love Canal? Or a shooting rampage in the bread or health aid aisle at Wal-Mart?
Betsy told Ileana at Sunday School, “ It’s real silly, but I’m afraid to drive out to the Wal-Mart. Of course, Puff and I drive over, but you just wonder what the heck is next! A car-jacking at Cut ‘n Up? Pre-teens throwing eggs and rocks at the retarded who live out at Angel’s Acres? A rape of the elderly?”
Church attendance had really swelled in all of the churches around town since the oddities had begun. People prayed more than usual, too.
The Keep Pott. County Safe Coalition (KPCSC), a volunteer group of Shawnee folks took turns in two hour shifts driving city streets, and alerted police of any new, unusual activity. KPCSC also beefed up their security system by purchasing three used tazer guns, just in case. KPCSC had more volunteers than ever this February—thirteen new folks signed up in the past two days, all ready to pitch in and help out.
Few downplayed the theory of God ringing in a wake up call to Bog and of God perhaps sending a curse to the community so people would shape up and live according to Christian principles even within the privacy of their own homes. The curse, most speculated, would lift when God decided every teen and adult had learned a life lesson. Jan Dodson thought anyone who believed any of the above was a complete dumb ass.
“Look, Pott. County has weirdness going on all of the time. Just sometimes life is a little more weird than at other times,” Jan said at the Pen and Quill Creative Writer’s workshop and potluck this past Tuesday night. The writing group was headquartered in the Oklahoma Room at the Pott. County library. Jan had just read her poem about Lake Shawnee and was setting up the workshop table for the potluck as she blabbed about how stupid it was to blame God for everyone’s outside issues.
“And people, let’s not get all carried away here,” Jan said, placing a crockpot with chili underneath a hot pad . “ Parrot poop on Puff’s new LaZ-y Boy, and a bank robbery where no one is killed or Elvena’s horn getting stuck when honking for Jesus just isn’t an earthquake in Haiti or a war in Uganda, okay? Oh, and Joy Helen aiming a gun at Bog? Just a sign that she’s been storing up anger at him for damn decades, that freaking church—what are they out there? Family of Faith? Them not allowing women to express themselves in any real fucking way, ever! That sinkhole in town wasn’t sent from ‘God’ either.”
Jan still had the button pinned on her Levi jacket that read, “Well-behaved women never make history.”
Illeana, also a member of the creative writing-potluck group shot back. “But Jan, that’s easy for you to say; none of this crazy stuff has happened to you. And what about Vern’s accident? The way he died? Is this not what do you say? A coincidence not but a sign from God? Vern drinking too much and I don’t mean health water, but beer. He drink the beer so much he die. The Bible say don’t be drinking the liquor so much; it bit like an adder. Vern, he get bit by God.
All of these things happening all together in the same month; God is trying to say something to us all, I believe,” Ileana didn’t really know Jan too well and certainly didn’t know what she thought of a woman who wore such a strange button, but Illeana was glad she had spoken her mind.
“Look, Illeana,” Jan began, “People are blowing things out of proportion and only God knows why they are. God sure isn’t communicating with us through horns getting stuck or by crowns falling out of mouths or Bog needing some physical relief or Miss Meaghan receiving a turd. Another thing, the Devil isn’t sending black cats to porches, nor is the Devil sending teens to bed down in satellite dishes. Satan isn’t killing people inside septic tanks and God isn’t punishing certain folks either; that’s just capital “FR” fucking ridiculous,” Jan shot back. “Okay, why don’t we drop this and just eat? We’re here for our creative writing club, not to have a damn debate.”
The workshop table had transformed into a buffet that Golden Corral management would be jealous of.
“But God, He speaks to us in strange ways, Jan, I believe this is true. He could be trying to say something to us all, you hear about my Taylor Swift, right? ” Illeana asked, as she filled her paper plate with brisket and salad with ranch dressing.
“So what’s God saying to you Ileana? Your spayed dog getting knocked up is now a Virgin Mary type of wiener dog? A holy dog divinely impregnated? Should we offer up to Saint Francis about this divine wiener dog and see what he says? C’mon, your vet is an ole drunk,” Jan spouted.
Ileana smiled but both her hands were balled into little tight fists.
After the workshop potluck, Scooter Pemberton, a dry cleaner’s owner and fiction writer, and Tommy Turner, a lawyer and Young Adult novelist, headed out for a beer.
Over at the American Inn bar, Hot Rods, Scooter confided to Tommy Turner, “To tell you the truth, I’m glad Bog had that affair, just too bad he thinks God was punishing him for it. And another thing; it’s not strange at all he wanted some new, fresh gal.”
“I hear ya on that. Joy Helen, she’s a real case,” Tommy said. He was trying to quit Winston’s again for the umpteenth time and smacked his Nicotine gum non-stop. Scooter didn’t say anything to his friend of twenty-four years. Tommy just endured the annoying gum chomping the way Bog had endured his marriage: one second at a time.
“That Joy Helen, she has that damned entire house crowded with angels and Boyd’s bears, did yak know that? Even in the master bathroom, Joy Helen decorated the top of that toilet with six small bears that sprout angel’s wings, all wearing white angel gowns and golden colored wire halos. Could yak live like that, man? And her ass, whew Almighty. Bigger than Dallas, a real whopper.”
Everyday of his life Bog had to view the angels as he urinated. “My bathroom cherubs,” Joy Helen called them.
“My piss angels,” Bog secretly called them.
In the master bedroom where the computer was, and the Internet Bog had used to find Candi, Joy Helen had extended the bear and angel collections to the king bed five years ago, Joy Helen even buying angel covered sheets and pillowcases.
After downing the third Coors, Tommy had to get home to Regina. Tuesday was sex night and he didn’t dare run late. This Tuesday, Regina had promised doggy style and wearing the edible undies. Cherry flavored. Sure, Regina had her problems but she had always remained mostly slender, thank you Jesus, Tommy thought. And she kept the house clutter free of female knick knacks such as glass unicorns and antique dolls.
Driving home, Tommy thought about his friend Bog. He’d known Bog since sixth grade, Played ball together, even signed up for the Army together. Lord, Bog’s house was any straight man’s nightmare. In the nooks and crannies that angels or bears could not fit into, Joy Helen stuffed a Yankee candle. When the house was lit up with candle light, Bog felt he was a character in a horror film; the bear and angel shadows flickering as he watched “Locked Up Abroad” episodes on the National Geographic channel. Joy Helen composing children’s songs on the piano, humming and pecking chords, more bears nested atop her piano.
Each night of his life, Bog wanted to scream, “Get rid of this fucking crap!” Instead, when Joy Helen felt his hostile stare, and turned to say, “Something wrong?” he’d say, “I love you honey.” Then he’d think about the amazing sex he deserved with the gal on the TV Eldorado used car ad, the gal wearing a black Stetson and pink halter and pink hot pants when she rode into the dealership atop a Tennessee Walker.
Almost home, Tommy did not play his favorite Dwight Yokum CD. He thought about how much he wanted to agree with Scooter and believe all of the God stuff was horseshit. Yet, Tommy just could not be sure of what God was up to, ever. Passing the Sonic Drive-In that had gotten toilet papered last night, Tommy remembered Noah building the arc because he heard God speak to him–and think where Noah would’ve been had he not have been open-minded and followed The Lord’s instructions: dead and drowned of course.
Yet, no one knew what God was saying, exactly, to folks here in Pott. County. Maybe The Lord was just clattering pans in the kitchen to get everybody’s attention then a clear message would arrive, Tommy thought while coming up on the Kickapoo Street curve with the Yort Transmission shop, that six foot tall pink flamenco anchored in the grass and built out of big bolts and transmission parts.
The only people who didn’t have anything at all to say about the odd events and whether God was involved or not, were Dana and Peter Broyles, Ph.D.s in Accounting from Back East. They had moved to the region two years ago to retire from corporate life and start a farm animal sanctuary and winery.
At the climax of the town frenzy, Peter told his neighbor, Dan Brown, “Dana and I just imported a new grape seed; we can’t wait to try this strand out,” He said.
As the Baptists prayed at special prayer meetings in member’s homes for guidance from the Lord, the palm readers tripled service for the New Age, and Unitarians did whatever it was they did, Dana and Peter checked the growth of grapes, fed abused cows and goats and pureed chick peas into hummus and ate vegan meals just as they always had. At night, the Broyles did not pray.
“Peter and I simply apply our breathing strips to our noses, light a green soy candle, meditate for five minutes, snuff out the candle then roll into bed,” Dana reports. The Broyles then snore and slumber peacefully through the crazy dead of night.
*This story appears with no edits or changes and is a direct copy from an email of the story sent to Valerie MacEwan in Nov. 2015 when she requested her story appear on the Mule.