Devil’s Territory; Word Bullies

The tale of sticks and stones, begins true, and ends in a lie. Words have hurt me.  The words themselves wiggle inside ears, the brain digests the patterns, the mind sparks, and the heart breaks.  But I wonder about the nature of the spirit pulling on the marionette strings of the tongue.  It dances and twists, its silver glint catching the reflection of flame.  The floating black mist of an evil demon, grins under red eyes, and hides laughing behind yellowed teeth.

I was in my grandmothers garage in Fort Collins, my cousin and I were playing on the dusty concrete, when he produced a letter.  He told me that it had been scribes by a demon named the phantom.   At seven years old, those words begged my soul to jump out of the cold standing hairs of my neck.  Because he was my hero and idle, as he was two years older than me, I began to read.  He got up and closed the handmade brown screen door with black metal hook, and eye latch.  “Keep reading,” he whispered.  The demon spoke of all those who would die and be rippled off of the earth.  I cried.  I asked him why the handwriting looked like his.  He said he sent a letter to his friend and the phantom intercepted it.  I beloved him.  His tongue licked a fire into my brain.  My Aunt (his mother) has a bad heart, and she was always sick, she had lost her husband in 1982.  He was in Vietnam when they were spraying the jungle with Agent Orange.  I remember he was always angry, and yelled at me.  He had a beard, wore turquoise, and had permanently tinted thick glasses, he collected comic books, but I was too afraid of him to ask to read any of them.  My cousin Jason, was adopted.  I think his blood parents were 15 and 14 years old.  My moms family would always say, “He’s adopted”, as a justification for any wrong doing.  So the phantom, born of lies, lived on in my mind.  I would never tell my parents, because Jason told me not too.

When I was twelve my mom told me I was going to a church camp.  I was in the desert of Wyoming.  It was dry and windy.  I remember there were weeds that were like spears.  I had a few laughs with my friend Jamie throwing them at unsuspecting peoples shoulders.  We set our tent down by the river, where the boys camp was.  It was dusk, and I thought to myself, “No showers this week,”  as I looked at the garden hose hanging over a picnic bench under a tree.  When you are a twelve year old boy, standing naked in front of a crowd of laughing and jeering boys is something of great terror.   It was getting to be time to get to the main hall for evening services.  I was scared and nervous, and I stood by myself at a door.  Someone had pulled up in a car that had a something in the backseat, that caught the light on its purple glittered surface.  I was staring at it.  A preachers kid with curly hair like a poodle, and thick glasses leaned into my gaze and said, “What are you doing?”  I sheepishly replied, “I was just staring at this car, it looks like it found pieces of crashed alien space ship, I wonder what they are going to do with them?”  He pulled away with a look a surprised disgust.  Then he lean back toward me and yelled, “Its a Drum! Duh!”  Words will never hurt me?  I thought I must not be a normal kid, because they did.  Later that night, he was at the podium, talking about the mercy of God and how he had a seizure and almost drown in a river.   His angry words were burning in my mind.  I was crying, because I was hurt and angry.  My tongue flicked words in the air like a fiery whip when I whispered to Jamie,  “I wished he would have died.

In the early 90’s Bill Reed Middle School was getting remolded.  The city of Loveland had just changed from a Junior High to a middle school format.  Instead of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders at a Junior High, they sent the ninth grades to high school, and brought the sixths graders in from elementary school.  Since Bill Reed was going to be remolded, there was only seventh and eighth grade there.  My seventh grade year, we had class in the old side, while they remolded the new side.   The wooden steps had grooves warn into them.  There was a concrete bunker in the basement just in case there was a nuclear war.  Mr. C. told us on a tour that the banging pipes was a disrespectful kid that they buried in the concrete back in the 50’s.  I believed him.  I told everyone it was true.  I got laughed at a lot.  I didn’t master sarcasm until I was in my 20’s.  On the third floor of that beautiful brick building I was in an English class, it was a period just after lunch.  Ms. R. came to the door and asked for me.  I said, “Alright, and energetically walked to the door”.  She was a short fat liberal teacher that was going to change the world, and I was somewhere on that list to get that done.  “I just spoke to your cousin Stacie,” she whispered, “She said you were mean to her last night.”  I turned red and took a step back.  I was angry and embarrassed.  “Yeah, Ms. Rogers, after two hours of basketball practice, I was looking forward to a slice of black chocolate cake,”  She quickly stopped me, “I am talking about Stacie crying, and you are talking about cake…”  I held my ground, I was 6 inches taller than her, and yet I was embarrassed by my size, “Look, there was half a cake,” I interrupted her, “Stacie, and my sister at half of it!  There was nothing left when I got home, and I called them a couple of fat pigs!”  She smiled, and looked me right in the eye, “You can’t talk to people that way, you need to be nicer to your cousin, she is adopted.”  I ended up telling my mom that story when I was twenty five, she just looked at the floor and cried.

I was at the Wendy’s drive through in Longmont on a cold in windy February day in 2002, I was on my way from Denver to Livermoore Colorado, it was funny because I the preacher from the church I was trying to go to was in the drive through in front of me.  He didn’t take much notice of me.  Back then everyone had aqua green four door Pontiac grand AM’s.  I felt bad because I lied to him a few months ago.  They was a nasty dent in my passenger rear quarter panel.  I had a fight with my mom, and in rage I jump kicked it with my heel.  I told him it was vandals.  I felt bad, because he was genuinely sad for me.  As my thoughts danced around my stupidity my cell phone rang.  It was my little sister calling from Denver.  “Where are you?  Do you want to carpool to the wedding?”  I paused, because I knew my answer would go over well, “Sarah, I am going to to the Ranch to help Dad install window wells on the house, he hired an excavator.”  Sarah never got the guilt trip my mom would lay down for manual labor, so it may have been a waste of time to give her the technical details.  The phone was silent for a moment, then she said in an angry exhale, “I hope nobody comes to your wedding!”  I hung up, it was time to pay for my food.  I cried, because I thought I would likely never get married, and if I did, she was right, who would want to show up.  In 2008 as my little sister got married, I cried, because cancer took our mom early that year, and she wasn’t at the wedding.

The tongue is a weapon.  I think, perhaps that God’s intention, was to give a gift of writing, public speaking, and a sharp minds.  Those gifts have been fouled and made a flame throwers burn peoples souls.  A Christian, blasts an orange flame. Burning words tear though souls like burning grease on wet paper. Afterwords, suffocating smoke kills relationships.   Cowards throw arms in the air, and say in a sarcastic giggle, “What?  I was just kidding.” then they smirk and say “Based on A, B, and C you are going to hell!”  Why not tell them how to get to heaven, and beg God to open their hearts to the path.

Behind words, there is darkness or light.  Words are fueled by the glow of heaven, or the fiery burn of hell.  Perhaps focus must be shifted on the listener.   Consider caring about how they are going to feel, then maybe cool the fire the hell fire imbued on foolish tongues.  The flame thrower can only be dismantled by a surrendered sinner who calls upon the strength of his Creator.

The Sticks and Stones, were at least honest.

Copyright © 2017 Zachary W Gilbert

 

 

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