THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD IS OURS ALONE TO TELL.
"This mess is so wide and so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up. There is no way at all."
We may be able to keep some of our faults hidden,
But the worst ones appear at times in our children.
BAM! BAM! BAM! The sharp rapping at the front door roused Guiseppe from sleep and he sat bolt upright in bed. "Who in thunder is that? What time is it?" He asked Guilda and Maude Ann who were also by now wide awake and sitting up in bed rubbing their eyes. "It is three A.M. Who in thunder could that be?" growled Maude Ann from her bed.
BANG! BANG! BANG! The loud knocks continued. "Hold your horses, I am coming as fast as I can," Guiseppe yelled out the bedroom door. He hastily threw on his robe and slippers and hurried to the front door as fast as he could go. After lighting a lantern, he threw open the door to find a constable of the law standing there, night stick in hand, with which he had been beating on the door.
"What is it officer? Do you know what time it is?" Guiseppe inquired crossly.
"Are you Guiseppe?" asked the policeman.
"Do you have a son named Tyrannious?"
"Yes, I do. What is the matter? Is he O.K.?"
"That, sir, is a matter of opinion. Feeling no pain, he is. We arrested him two hours ago for driving an ox cart under the influence of ale. Careless and reckless too, he was. Ran over the Mayor's son and broke his leg. Totaled his brand new ox cart too, he did. Now, he is thinking over his sins in jail, and that's a fact."
"Wait a minute," protested the startled Guiseppe. "My son does not have a brand new ox cart, but I do. Was it brown with white stripes?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, Guv'nor. It was. Several pieces might even be big enough for you to identify. The horse bolted and ran home to your barn, I think. Come with me if you want to make bail. If you do not, the kid stays in jail for awhile."
"Wait a minute, officer, until I get my pants and shirt on. Guilda, I will be back when I have taken care of Tyrannious," he called to his wife and Mother-in-law who were standing in the bedroom door way.
"Humph! If you ask me, you should let him rot in jail. It would teach him a proper lesson," offered Maude Ann to his disappearing back, but by this time Guiseppe had gone out the door with the constable.
He rode in the constable's official black and white chariot down to the center of the Village where they parked in front of the Village Police Station which also housed the tiny jail. He went inside to the officer in charge and nervously asked how much the bail was.
"That will be $5,000 dollars, mate," the burly bailiff replied. "He can go when you fetch us the money, but he must return for a hearing before the magistrate in one week. In addition, he will no doubt have to replace the Mayor's ox cart, which his son was driving at the time Tyrannious ran them over. The Mayor's ox cart was totaled as well as the one your son was driving. Lucky they both are still alive, if you ask me."
"May I see my son?" inquired Guiseppe?
"Yes, follow me."
He led Guiseppe back through a small, dark corridor to the Village Jail's only cell. Through the bars, he could see Tyrannious sitting on a thin mattress on the dirty floor, with a bandage on his arm, some blood on his torn shirt, and malice on his face. "Get me out of this roach infested hell hole. I want a lawyer. I want out, now!"
"I shall bring the money for your bail in the morning, Ty. Are you all right?"
"Of course I am not all right! I am in jail, and I am injured," he sniffed. "But, if you are not going to get me out now, go away and let me get some sleep. I am tired," he whined, and at that, he lay down on the thin mattress and fell asleep immediately.
"I shall return in the morning," Guiseppe said to his son in a sad little voice, and then went back the way he came to the front of the police station. They showed him a few pieces that still were recognizable of his ox cart, and with a heavy heart, he began to walk slowly home, trying without much success to pray, and wondering again where he had gone wrong as a father to his son.
When he arrived at his house, he was grateful to find that everyone else had gone back to sleep, and he crawled into bed to try to wrest a few moments rest before he had to get up and face the day, his wife, his Mother-in-law and his house guests.
When he finally woke up the next morning, the sun was high in the sky already. He crawled wearily out from under the warm bed clothes and noticed that Maude Ann's bed was made up and Guilda was no where to be seen. "They must have something to do that is real important to be up so early," he thought to himself. In fact, there was no one to be seen anywhere. Smiling at his good fortune to be alone in the house for a change, he hurried out to the kitchen to put his morning "cuppa" on to steep and was just getting his porridge ready to eat when he remembered that Ty was in jail waiting for him to make bail. "Oh gosh," he worried. "I had best get over there right away so the poor kid will not think I have abandoned him totally. I can eat when I get home."
He was half way out the door when he remembered that he needed to bring $5,000 dollars along with him for the bail. He quickly went to the fruit cellar and reached up to the shelf where he had the gold stashed in bags. "What in thunder?" he gasped.
When he had last taken coins out, there had been 15 full bags remaining from the original 20 that the old angel, Michael had delivered. Now, this morning, he was horrified to note that there were only 3 bags left. "I have been robbed! Someone has broken into the fruit cellar and taken my gold!" he moaned. "Now, what do I do? I cannot go to the constables because they are not supposed to know I ever had any money in the first place. Oh woe is me!" He sank down on the floor with his head in his hands in despair, and sat there a full 5 minutes before remembering that Ty was still waiting for bail.
"Oh, the poor, poor boy. How can I help him go into his own business now that most of the money is gone? How can I help all the people who depend on me? What will Guilda say? Maude Ann will tear me limb from limb when she hears. Oh my God, what next?" Totally distraught, but ever mindful of his responsibility to Ty, he dipped into one of the three remaining bags and got out $5,000 dollars and hurried off to the jail.
He had to go by foot, of course, since his ox cart was in little pieces. So, he arrived panting and out of breath. Hurrying up to the front desk, he handed over the gold coins in such a hurry that they rolled off the desk and all over the floor. The startled constable helped Guiseppe pick them up and put them in neat piles while he filled out the necessary paperwork to free Tyrannious. "Where did you get so much money?" he inquired suspiciously.
"Oh, well, um, I er, borrowed it. That is it. Yes, I borrowed it from a relative. Well, what else could I do?" Guiseppe asked nervously.
"Humph. Well, it seems to me that you should keep a tighter rein on the boy so he will not get himself into so much trouble," observed the officer.
"I have tried, but I cannot seem to control him, " Guiseppe answered sadly. "Ever since his mother ran away with the traveling spice peddler, the lad has been unmanageable. I feel so sorry for him, you know? And I really tried so hard to be a good father, " he pleaded for understanding. "Can he go home now?"
At that, the constable nodded and went back into the jail to release Tyrannious, who soon walked out scowling and muttering, "Well, you took your sweet time about it! That lot treated me like a criminal! Me! The food was lousy and the bed was worse. I need a drink," and off he strolled without so much as a bye-your-leave to his speechless father.
"Remember," said the constable to the deflated Guiseppe, "he must be back here for his proper hearing one week from today. If he does not show, we will bring him in and lock him up for a good long time."
Dejectedly, Guiseppe walked home, eyes downcast, deep in thought. "What worse thing can happen to me?" he asked of no one in particular. "What will the neighbors think when they find out my son was in jail? They all just love to gossip, and none of them have had sons who ended up behind bars. Where did I go wrong?" For a moment, these horrible thoughts pushed away any remembrance of the missing money. As soon as he came through his front door and spied Maude Ann, however, it all came rushing back.
"What's the matter with you?" she bellowed. "You bailed out that worthless son of yours, I see. But, he is off to the bar again to drown his sorrows in drink. What is the matter with you now?" demanded his Mother-in-law. "You look positively 'green around the gills!'"
"Well, I might as well tell you, because you will soon find it out for yourself. Most of the money is missing from the fruit cellar. We only have a little less than three bags of gold left." He steeled himself for her tongue lashing.
"You dolt! You dunderhead! The money is not missing. I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and have already invested it! It is a good thing indeed that you turned over your money to me, if you are as careless about it as all that. You do remember turning over the management of the money to me?" she scolded the astonished Guiseppe. Seeing him nod his head, she began enumerating her investment ideas, elaborating at length on one grand scheme that she had, in her vast wisdom, uncovered to cause the money to grow. "And so, you will see that this idea is the best ever to hit the kingdom, and the most marvelous thing is that only the wise will recognize what quality cloth these weavers are producing."
Guiseppe had only been half listening to her, which was, to tell the truth, the only way he had survived having her live with them for this long, but his mind registered the word cloth and his ears perked up. What was she babbling about now? "Did you say cloth? What kind of cloth? You have invested my money in cloth?" he asked incredulously.
"Guiseppe, you do not have the sense God gave a goose. Of course, I said cloth. These two clever fellows I met in town yesterday, are weaving costly fabric of such beauty and fine quality that our King and Queen have ordered an entire new wardrobe made from their looms. The patterns are beautiful and the colors are vibrant. And, naturally, in addition to our King Ferdinand and Queen Sybil, when King Bouregard gets a gander at it, he'll order some for himself and Queen Freda as well. Likewise, the Emperor Yazoo will have to have some for himself and his court. So, you see, there will be a great return on my investment over time. Pity, you will never be able to enjoy it."
"Why not?" Guiseppe said nervously. "Er, why would I not enjoy it?"
"Well, if you had been listening," she said impatiently, "you would know that only the wise can see this cloth. The foolish cannot see it at all. I, of course, can tell you, having seen it with my very own eyes, that it is quite exceptional." At that, she walked briskly back into the kitchen, to check on the goose which she had put into the oven to roast for their supper, earlier in the day.
Guiseppe did not know what to think. For a man who had received a million dollars to help other people, it had not quite turned out the way he had hoped. He decided to go down to the Hog's Jowl Inn and have a quick one with Bors. (Ever since Maude Ann had moved in with them, she had forbidden him to brew his tasty golden Ale, because she said that Ty was a worthless drunk and she would not encourage his bad habits. So, it had been a dry few months, alcoholically speaking). Arriving at the Inn, he went in and sat down at a table by the fireplace. Bors came over immediately, and handing Guiseppe a pint of his best ale, said casually, "What news, mate?"
"Bors, have you ever heard of two weavers who make beautiful cloth so intricately woven that only the wise can see it?" he asked after downing half his pint in one gulp.
"That old scam?" scoffed Bors. "Don't tell me you got taken in by the Wicked Weaver Brothers?" When Guiseppe only stared open mouthed at him, he put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder and said encouragingly, "Well, do not feel too bad. In 'The Kingdom Across The Small Pond,' they swindled so many innocent folks out of their hard earned wages that the King sentenced them to 3 years in jail, and then, after they were released, the towns folk ran them out of the Kingdom in a dinghy with only one oar. How much did they take you for?"
Guiseppe merely gasped as he struggled to breathe in and out. All his money, gone. Well, no, there were a few bags still in the fruit cellar. He'd best get home to protect what little was left.
"Don't hurry out, mate," urged Bors. "I wanted to ask you what happened with Ty? The whole village is talking about how he got picked up for a DOCWI (Driving an ox cart while intoxicated), and charged with felony drunk driving. Have another drink on the house?"
But Guiseppe was already fleeing out the door and heading for home as fast as his stubby legs could carry him. It seemed at the moment that the blue bird of happiness had indeed crash landed on his flu and his thoughts were as black as the fruit cellar at midnight: "My hard earned reputation is ruined. My son is a jail bird with a criminal record. The neighbors will think I am a terrible father. The Mayor will probably sue me for damages, and the money God gave me has sifted through my fingers like sand down a rat hole. What in the world have I ever done to deserve this? What sin have I committed? Is God mad at me? Oh dear, sometimes I wonder if He even..., but no, I dare not say that," and he slammed the door of his mind shut, lest he think the worst thought of all the thoughts he had ever thought before.
When he reached the front door, the Widow Florence was heading across the front lawn with a piece of fruit cake in her hand. "Hello, Guiseppe. I heard about your troubles; they are the talk of the Village! And I thought perhaps you would like a spot of tea and a piece of my old Aunt Nellie's fruit cake. I have stored it in my fruit cellar against just such an occasion. It is gloriously soaked with rum and aged for heaven knows how long. So, what is going to happen with Ty?" She wheezed as her chubby body gasped for air. When he didn't answer, she followed him into the house.
Ty was lying on one end of the couch with Suds, who was snoring loudly, lying at his feet on the other end. He looked up at his father and the neighbor, but did not speak.
"Where's Guilda?" asked Guiseppe.
"Gone," shrugged Ty.
"Gone where?" demanded Guiseppe.
"How do I know?" snapped Ty. "I'm still tired from getting no sleep on that hard as a rock jail mattress, thanks to you not getting there until this morning with my bail."
"Where could she be?" Guiseppe asked of the room in general.
"Well, I could tell you if you would slow down and listen," said Florence with a smirk, as she lowered her large body into the nearest chair.
When she saw that she had Guiseppe's undivided attention, she began her tail of intrigue. "Well, I was in the kitchen getting my lunch and minding my own business, when I heard an Ox Cart pull up outside your door. Not that I was snooping or anything, but I ran to the window and looked out. A tall fellow with new looking boots and a tall hat, wearing a green coat, and matching breeches came up and knocked up the door. I saw him at your house one other time. His name is Jonas, as I recall. And my, oh my, did he have the bluest eyes I have ever seen! What a handsome man," she murmured, momentarily taken away with rapturous thoughts that flip flopped somewhere between admiration and lust.
"You would remember him if you saw him," she continued, "for he came with another gent from the Tax Collectors Office last week or so. Guilda opened the door, smiled at him, came outside with her valise full to overflowing and two bags of something. She got into the cart with him and off they went, pretty as you please."
"Why did you not stop them? Why did you not ask where they were going?" demanded poor Guiseppe, his blue eyes filling with tears.
"What do you think I am, a nosy neighbor?" she sniffed. "Besides, it was plain as the nose on your face that she was running away with him. She was positively glowing!"
About this time, Maude Ann strolled in, looking as smug as the cat who fell into the cream pitcher. "Well, I warned you, but did you listen? No! Guilda has left with that person who looks like Paul Newmac or Neumox, or whatever his name is. Florence, dear, I feel sure you have something to do at home, but thank you for the fruit cake. If no one else wants it, the dogs will eat it."
Scowling, Florence lifted her bulk off the chair and walked slowly back to her house, cocking her head to one side to catch any bits of conversation that might float out the door, which as it turned out, didn't float, but rather blasted through the open window.
"Maude Ann, how could you invest all our money with those two charlatans?" he screeched.
"What are you babbling about?" she demanded.
"That is what I am trying to tell you. The Wicked Weaver Brothers were ridden out of 'The Kingdom Across The Small Pond,' on a one-oared rowboat according to Bors. They were convicted of fraud and you gave them our money! And Guilda. Where has she gone? Were you here? Why did you not stop her? My wife and my money have disappeared all in one single day. Now, I am ruined! I have nothing left in my life worth living for," he stammered. Sinking down into a chair, he began to sob uncontrollably.
"Will you quit that sniveling already? There should be some money left in the fruit cellar. Wait a tick and I will go see how much we have left," Maude Ann said quickly.
"How quickly 'I have left' became 'we have left'," he thought murderously.
Off she went at a fast clip, the floor shaking with each heavy footstep. Guiseppe sat there sobbing, his head in his hands. Ty looked on in disgust, as Suds came over and licked Guiseppe's hands trying in his doggy way to comfort him. It really was not his fault that a flea jumped off his back and bit Guiseppe on the leg. It just happened. As Guiseppe bent to scratch the bite, Maude Ann came in through the back door, her face ashen and in a strangled voice shrieked, "She took it all. Every last coin is gone! Why did you not take my advice and pay more attention to her? Why were you always running around helping other people, and ignoring your own family? Why? Look what a sorry mess you have made of Ty. A sad specimen, if ever I saw one."
"But Maude Ann, you were the one who gave the money to the Wicked Weaver Brothers in that fraudulent investment," he blurted out.
"Nonsense! It does no good to blame me. You are the one who forced me to take over the money management; this has happened because you are such a failure. If you had managed it better, then I would not have had to take over. Why, that money was running out through your fingers like ale from a flask with a hole in it," she snorted. She walked briskly out of the room leaving Ty irate and Guiseppe demoralized.
"What are you going to do for money now, Pop?" Ty asked his stricken father. "Who will pay my fine and buy the Mayor's brat a new ox cart? For that matter, when will you get a new ox cart for me to drive? I hate walking every place. What a drag. You have a serious problem. Well, I'm outta here," he announced cheerfully, sauntering out the door. Whistling for Suds, they both trotted off in the direction of the Hog's Jowl Inn.
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 Seven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eight
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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