If less is better, then little is more.
Being a rescuer can be such a bore.
The next day, Guiseppe woke with a start. "What is that noise?" Struggling to wake up, he heard a hideous racket: Snnnnert, Schornktlzz, Zneeeerpkl. "Who is snoring?" he wondered. Then, with a rush, he remembered. Maude Ann was sleeping in their bedroom, at the foot of their bed, on a small bed they had borrowed from Florence. He lay back down and covered his head with the extra pillow, trying in vain, to drown out the noise. "What am I going to do," he moaned, asking himself the answerable. Finally, he got quietly out of bed, put on his robe and slippers, and tiptoed out of the room, closing the door softly behind him. From the guest room, he heard more snoring, coughing, and wheezing.
He passed through the front room on his way to the kitchen to put the kettle on for a "spot" of tea. He heard still more snoring from the couch. Tyrannious lay there on his back, his arms akimbo, half on and half off the couch, a blanket draped over him and the dog. Suds lay with his head on Ty's chest. Even he was snoring. The acrid smell of morning after ale breath, cigar smoke, and unwashed socks assailed Guiseppe's nose as he passed through the room. "Where did I go wrong that he turned out like this?" He sank like a stone into a black hole of depression.
After a time, he rallied himself by considering, "Maybe I did nothing wrong. Maybe he just never got over his Mother running off that way with a traveling spice salesman. I was never home much when he was little, but God knows, I did the best I could. It is not easy to be father and mother and try to run a business at the same time. Poor Tyrannious. I feel so sorry for him. I must try to help him get established. Now that I have the money, I can perhaps set him up in a business of his own. That is probably all he needs to grow up and be responsible. I can show him how to succeed. I can be a good Father to him, at last!"
Having shoved down the depression and pushed his "guilts" away with his plans for Ty's future, Guiseppe brightened up a bit and looked out at the world and the promise of sunrise through his kitchen window. What a change his life had taken since the money arrived. Was it for the better? Or the worse? He was not sure. He hoped that Michael would not be too disappointed in him for letting the secret out. And, he further hoped that Maude Ann was not planning to stay very long.
"I did not actually tell anyone about the gold," he reflected in self defense. "How could I have predicted that Bor's accountants would add up the coins that I loaned the Hog's Jowl Inn and figure out that I must have plenty of money? But they do not know how much I have," he comforted himself. Then another horrible thought popped into his head, "I sure hope that the King's guard does not tell the Royal Tax Collectors that I made him such a good deal on that used chariot," he worried.
As he chased these fears around and around in his mind, he poured the by now boiling water onto the tea leaves he had put into his cup, and waited for his morning "cuppa" to steep. He helped himself to a fresh blackberry walnut muffin that Maude Ann had baked the night before, and sat down to try to clear his head. Things were not really so bad, he thought. He still had a good time helping others. It was just that sometimes, people got the best of him. He did not exactly know how to tell his sister that she should leave, and he did not know quite how to explain his position to Maude Ann's twin nieces, or to Maude Ann herself, for that matter.
He decided to go out into the pasture back of the house and talk to God about his troubles. After all, that was where he had received his great revelation to ask for a million dollars. God had given it to him, and so now, perhaps God would help him to know how to spend it wisely, where it would do the most good.
He climbed over the fence, and mindful of pasture muffins, he began to pace around, praying out loud: "Oh God, you gave me the money to help people. It sort of got out of hand. What should I do now? And by the way, can you please help me get all these people out of my house? ....without hurting their feelings, of course." He didn't get any answers, but he was not discouraged.
He just kept pacing around, asking, "What should I do now?"
Soon, the sun came up in all its blazing glory to light another day, and he heard his name being called. "Guiseppe. Guiseppe." He realized rather quickly, that it was not God calling him, but only his mother-in-law. He slowly made his way back to the kitchen, where Maude Ann was calling his name out the kitchen door.
"Yes? What is it?" He asked her pleasantly.
"Where have you been? It takes all my energy to watch over you," she observed crossly. "Two men are here to see you who say they are tax collectors. Have you been squandering your money again? I have told you before that 'a penny saved is a penny earned,' and, 'he who watches his pennies gets dollars for a reward,' but I doubt if you ever listen. They are on the front porch waiting. Go on out there and see what they want."
Apprehensively, Guiseppe walked through the cottage and out the front door, where he saw the two men standing on the porch, learning against the rail. "Hello," he greeted them. "You are looking for me?"
"If your name is Guiseppe, we are," the shorter one replied. "We are Joshua and Jonas, the King's Tax Collectors, and we are here to see about collecting the taxes you owe the King."
"What taxes might that be," asked Guiseppe innocently.
"You have been spending money like water, loaning money here, giving it away there, making payments for people, shopping, buying, and spending it like a lord. We suspect that you have come into money on which you owe the King tax," replied Jonas, the avarice gleaming in his blue eyes.
"I always pay my taxes," affirmed Guiseppe righteously. "But, er.., uh, just how much do you think I owe?" he inquired nervously.
"We cannot be sure as yet," asserted Joshua, the King's other lackey, "but if you will pay us $1,000 dollars each, we will forget everything we think we know, and stop our investigations, for now." They peered at Guiseppe greedily.
"I am sure you are quite mistaken, but perhaps I have not paid as much as I should have done. I will bring you the money you demand tomorrow, and I will deliver it to your offices in the Village," Guiseppe promised them bleakly.
"See that you do not forget. Be on time. Bring us the money... in gold! But, bring it down to the Hog's Jowl Inn, mate. You can buy us a drink, too," and they were gone, but not before Florence, who was leaning out her kitchen window, spotted the wicked grins on their faces.
"What is going on, now?" she wondered.
Guiseppe went back into the house very depressed. His mood did not improve when a flea jumped off the couch and on to the leg of his pants. It ran quickly down his leg and bit his ankle, and then jumped off and disappeared into the new Persian rug he and Guilda were so proud of. He leaned down, and wearily began to scratch his bites.
"Who were those men?" asked Guilda, coming into the room from the kitchen. "The tall one looked just like Paul Newmat, the star of that new play at the Royal Playhouse. Such blue eyes," she said dreamily.
"That was no actor. That was a Tax Collector," snapped Guiseppe.
"What did they want?" Anxiety gripped Guilda's heart.
"They want $1,000 dollars each not to tell the King we have money," groaned Guiseppe.
"I told you that the money would put us in a higher tax bracket," she wailed.
"Guilda. Get a grip on yourself. We are not in a higher tax bracket yet," he said, with an edge in his voice as he stormed out of the room. "We are in the clutches of two extortioners," he fumed to no one in particular.
If I.Q. Tests had been invented then, Guiseppe would perhaps have scored higher than average, so It did not take him long to conclude that this was probably not going to be the best day he'd ever had.
As if to confirm that, Hilga and Lars came bustling out to the fruit cellar where he had taken refuge. "Oh, there you are, Guiseppe," his sister gushed. "Such a lovely day. We are taking a picnic lunch into the Great Woods. Perhaps we will stroll by the lake and pick berries which Maude Ann can bake into a pie. But, er.., we want to do some shopping in the Village, and we were just wondering if perhaps you could loan us a few hundred dollars for a couple of weeks. We seem to find ourselves a bit short. You are so fortunate to have money. What I would not give to be in your shoes," she observed enviously.
"We work so hard, and have so little ourselves, but, never fear, we will pay you back when we can. Besides, you are my older brother, and, well, it is sort of your duty to help me out. You know, of course, that I would share with you if I were rich," she added hastily, seeing Guiseppe weakening.
They stared at Guiseppe eagerly. "Well, yes, I suppose so," he mumbled, thinking that he stood no chance against his sister's manipulations.
"Oh good job!" exclaimed Hilga. "And by the way, would you keep an eye on Stefan and Juliana? They are really quite good children, just a bit high spirited. Gifted, yes, that is just what they are. I feel sure you will have no trouble with them," and off they went holding hands and giggling like two children themselves. Guiseppe cast a dark look in their direction, but did not move from the overturned bushel basket he was using as a seat.
"I've really come up in the world," he thought morosely, "when the only place I can find peace is in the fruit cellar."
But peace was not to be found that day, in or out of the cellar. He heard the strident voices of his family wafting out the back door, "Tyrannious, I have told you a million times not to track dirt onto my kitchen floor. Put on your shoes. Your feet stink! Get that dirty mutt out of my clean kitchen," thundered Maude Ann, waving her rolling pin threateningly over her head like a lethal weapon.
"Who pulled your chain, ducky?" Tyrannious asked insolently? "My feet do not stink! I washed them only last week, and as for Suds, you should be as clean as he is!"
"How dare you sass me! Out! Out I say! Get out of this kitchen, immediately. Go on down to the Hog's Jowl Inn with the rest of your bar fly friends where you belong, and take that flea bitten mutt with you. Do you think I have nothing better to do than clean up after you?" roared Maude Ann, furiously.
"Ta, Ta, for now, love," he replied, slamming the door after him.
After he was safely out the front door, Guilda ventured into the kitchen and sat down. She asked, "Do you think you may have been a bit hard on the lad?"
"Surely, you jest," snorted Maude Ann, her blue eyes blazing. "I should have slapped him silly. Next time he crosses me, there will be war in this camp! But, he comes by it honestly. Just like his grandfather, he is."
"What do you mean, Mother?"
"Guiseppe's father was the town drunk. Have you not hear the rumors? He used to hang out in taverns, chase skirts, and lose jobs on a regular basis, just like Ty. His poor mother was truly a saint to stay with that awful man! She had to go off to work as a charwoman, just like any peasant, in order to support the family, leaving Guiseppe to care for his two younger sisters. What a disgrace! I am so glad we have no one like them in our family," she sniffed righteously.
"You seem to have conveniently overlooked a few skeletons that are lurking in our family closet," observed Guilda dryly.
"Are you being impertinent to your old Mother? You know what I mean. What are you going to do about his out of control behavior?" demanded Maude Ann.
"You seem to be the one who has all the answers. I am going into the Village to buy a new dress. Guiseppe would like steak and kidney pie for supper. Will you fix it for him?"
"Certainly not. That is not good for him. I will fix sausage with biscuits and gravy," asserted her mother, "and apple strudel for dessert. You all will love it!"
"Very well, do what ever you think best. You will, anyway. I will be back later," Guilda called over her shoulder.
Guiseppe, of course, had heard every word of their conversation, but pretended that he had not when he finally came back into the kitchen. He steeled himself for his daily lecture on money management.
"Now, Guiseppe," Maude Ann began, "You must let me invest your money for you. I became an expert in finances after Guilda's father toddled off to the other side, God rest his soul. Trust me, I will take good care of your finances. 'Waste not, want not,' you know."
Guiseppe was saved from answering by a knock at the door. He opened it and looked squarely into the eyes of two scrawny youths in worn and tattered clothing.
"Morning, Guv'nor," said the shorter of them. "We are here on behalf of the 'Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Beggars.' 'Tis a worthy cause, and we heard you had recently come into good fortune. Pray, share it with those in need. We will just wait here while you go and fetch us a generous donation."
"Just a moment," Guiseppe sighed. He left them standing on the front step while he darted back into the fruit cellar to get a few coins to give them.
"Thanks, Guv'nor," they said in unison when he handed them the money.. "God bless you and have a nice day," and off they went.
Guiseppe had no sooner gotten back to his business accounts, when he heard another knock at the door. "What now?" he muttered crossly.
He opened the door and gasped. On his front porch, stood about 10 members of The Salvation Brigade, in full dress uniform, band instruments at the ready. "Uh One, Uh Two, Uh Three. Hit it" called the leader, and hit it, they did. After playing a stirring chorus of "Hail To The Contributor," the tall general said, cheerfully, "Guiseppe, you are such a good man. You help so many people. You really need to join our cause. We even brought you a uniform." Sure enough, he held up a red uniform coat trimmed in gold braid for Guiseppe to try on.
It felt very uncomfortable, way too tight, when Guiseppe slipped it on. "Too much gravy, and blackberry pie, I guess," he murmured to himself. "I will not be able to join you after all," he said aloud. "The uniform does not fit, and I do not have time anyway."
"Oh, all right then, no harm in asking was there? Perhaps a little donation to the cause, instead ....mmm? Cash is always good form, Sire!"
So, back to the fruit cellar Guiseppe trudged and with a heavy heart, pulled out a few more coins from the quickly diminishing supply. He handed the bag of coins to Stefan, who was chasing the chickens around a tree, and asked him to deliver the money to the men out front. "I do not want to. You cannot make me do it. I want to go into town to get a treat," he said angrily throwing the bag at Guiseppe.
Wearily, Guiseppe picked up the bag, and with a great sigh, returned to the front porch and handed it over to the general.
"Thanks be for generous souls like yourself, Sire. Never fear, we will find a bigger uniform, one that will be sure to fit, and we will be back next week to enlist you in our cause," the general assured him exuberantly. "You are just what we need!" They struck up the band once more and marched off down the street to the rousing tones of that stirring marching hymn, "Upwardly Mobile Christian."
The Widow Florence saw Guiseppe standing on his porch, looking forlorn, and started walking toward him to ask him what all the noise was about, but so lost in thought was he, that he turned around and went inside without ever seeing her. She went round to the kitchen door, where she turned her questions to Maude Ann instead. "There sure is a lot of commotion around here. What is going on, and how do you cope with it all?"
"Well, Florence, that is why I am here, to bring order out of chaos, though it is taking me longer than I had figured," confided Maude Ann. "They need a lot of help in this house and I am doing my best to make their life easier. Heaven knows, I do all the cooking, and most of the cleaning. I do not know what they would do without me," she stated flatly.
"I am sure you are a saint, and very capable, but even you will not be able to change Tyrannious," asserted Florence authoritatively.
"He is a hard case, to be sure, but I have not had a real crack at him. Guiseppe gets too upset and hurt if I say anything about his precious little darling. Besides, what do you expect? The lad has had no real guidance. His Mother ran off with a peddler; Guiseppe worked day and night and never saw him when he was small, and besides, Ty is just like his grandfather, who was the town drunk. A real disgrace, that one. An apple does not fall far from the tree, you know. But, if it is the last thing I ever do, trust me, Florence, I will get that boy under control or know the reason why. Do not let me keep you, my dear. I am sure you have work to do." With that admonition, Maude Ann walked briskly out of the room leaving Florence standing in the kitchen door, grinning to herself.
As the plump neighbor strolled slowly back to her cottage next door, she mused, "How interesting that Guiseppe's father took care of no one but himself, and now Guiseppe thinks he has to take care of the whole world. Could there be a connection, I wonder. Hmmm."
About that time, there was a knock at the front door. "What now?" Guiseppe thought as he went to greet the latest visitor. "Yes? Oh you again?" The "Kingdom Messenger Service" delivery boy stood on the step with a parchment in one hand and the other hand outstretched for payment. Guiseppe paid him and went inside, opening the scroll as he went. Hearing the voices, Maude Ann hurried over to see what the message said. Guiseppe opened it, and read aloud,
"Give us the money. We must insist.
If you deny us, we will really be pissed."
Signed: Winifred and Penelope.
"What are you going to do?" demanded Maude Ann. "They do need the money, you know. They started a new chariot washing business, and they have to have funds for soap and polish, brushes and rags. It says in 'The Book' that a man has to take care of those in his own family, do you not agree?"
Guiseppe looked at her briefly, nodded absentmindedly, and walked away as Maude Ann glared angrily at his disappearing back.
To be continued....
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter One
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Two
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Three
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Four
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Five
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Six
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eight
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Nine
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Ten
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eleven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Twelve
The Glory Road
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