Pierre Fontenot Thursday, May 14, 2015 0

Late Friday afternoon, store still open, but no customers, I hear gulls and rush to get a slice of bread. There I am in the parking lot, wadding up little balls of bread and throwing them into the air, hoping the gulls will snag them in flight. I am pushing sixty, but not right now, because this takes me back to childhood, standing on the back of the Galveston ferry, feeding the birds.

A car drives up and a man gets out. He’s smiling. He walks towards me, compliments an athletic bird catch and then offers a handshake. I’ve never seen the man before, and the first words out of his mouth are, “Lemme ask you a question, if somebody asked you for some money to buy some food, what would you say?”

He caught me soft, and stole my peace, to try to con me out of five bucks, and I despised everything about the moment. Hours later, still angry at him, I think about what I wish I’d have said, a real zinger, but in the moment, alas, I couldn’t think fast on my feet; the best I could do was shake my head, turn my back and walk away…

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Next morning, a Saturday, the Big Day of retail, I am summoned to the phone. It’s somebody from Entergy warning me that they’re about to turn off the electricity. What? I know I’m paid up, but where’s the statements? The truck will be here in 45 minutes! I don’t have time to argue with a phone person, so I walk right into it…”What do I need to do?”

A check or a credit card will take 72 hours – that won’t cut it – but if I had a prepaid credit card we could do it over the phone. Where can I get that? He looks it up; at the Dollar General just a little walk away. He tells me to get it for $500, mentions Green Dot as the credit card preferred…

And so I do.

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If you’ve read enough of my Bedtime Stories there’s bound to have been an occasion where I assembled several words of the English language into a tight, powerful sentence and as you read it may have crossed your mind that I have a few smarts…

…and some of you are reversing the compliment as you watch me about to get taken for $500…

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Like I was with the guy hitting me up for chump change, so I am with this phone guy, just not quick enough on my feet to see it clear, say it sharp, meet their less with my more.

The best I could do, as I called him back to handle the transaction, was to keep saying, “This makes no sense.” I’ve not been given mail warnings, nor email, and now out of the blue I’m being disconnected? By now I’ve found a statement, and start reading the details to him.

Then he says, “This isn’t for your bill, this is for a deposit on a new meter that we’re installing.” When he says the words, “and Louisiana is the first state to get these new meters,” something dinged, because Louisiana (you know where I’m going with this) is never first at anything.

And that’s when I said the word, “This feels like a scam.”

I came thatclose. I still have the credit card loaded with $500, and have the loss of respect for feeling almosttaken, but at least he didn’t get a penny.

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My father got taken for a few thousand dollars by some Jamaican scammers. They prey on the elderly, and my father, with his early dementia and his virginal God-loves-us-all outlook was easy pickings.

These Jamaicans were pros. Once they found out that Dad was a preacher they’d fill their script with religion, and even pray with him. I looked at his caller ID one day and they’d called him fifteen times in an hour, just hounding him…

We’re coming back from the cemetery one day and his cell phone rang. He flinched. I said, “Is that them?” He nodded. I answered the phone.

“What’s it like to wake up every day and go to work trying to steal money from old people?” I asked him. I hung up on him.

He called right back. I was ready for a fight. This was a dirty little person, a professional liar, and he’d stolen from the most innocent person I’ll ever know.  I was ready to fight, until he started talking, and I felt a shiver down my back.

Folks, I ain’t bragging, just stating, that I’ve been around evil. Years ago in my not-knowing years I wrote something like this, “I hope Good exists, but as for Evil, I know it does…”

Once you’ve been close to naked evil it ain’t a fire you ever wanna be near again; a few words from Jamaica, and I knew I was talking to someone filled with it. I hung up the phone, turned it off, and shivered a shake. I was out of my league.

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Friday, Saturday, back to back with badness, and I felt anger, thought thoughts I’d prefer to not mention. And now it’s Sunday and found myself in the pews this morning, and the anger just went its way.

One of my father’s pet sayings, “The Christian life is an easy life,” seemed so corny when I was younger, now seems so simply true. We’re supposed to be nice to each other, because we share the same Father. It’s okay to profit, but not to gouge; it’s okay to have, but not to make having a god; it’s okay to grow, but not to make others shrink.

In a Right Life we can always hear our consciences. A Wrong Life requires lies to ourselves, until our consciences are voiceless, and in our ears are whispers of the one who would steal our soul.

The guy hitting me up for Happy Meal money is in danger of becoming the guy who tried to take me for $500, who in turn is in danger of becoming the professional liar, like the Jamaican, who preys on God’s beloved, and sells his soul, and his chance at being.

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I speak as one who has offended his own conscience, and found that I lost God in my ear. Having paid that price I protect my conscience as if it is sacred. One of the reasons I am self employed is that in young adult life I sold what I wouldn’t buy, worked for people that I didn’t respect, felt empty, trapped, and crossways with God.

There are too many hours in a work week, too many years in a career, to spend with your stomach in knots.

We are children of God, and should never have to turn off our best self when we pull into work. We should never work for spiders, where customers are things to be caught. We should never work in fields where it’s all about the money, and no sincerity about the service. We should not sell what we would not buy, should not make what gives harm, should not throw our time away in the merchandising of nonsense.

Some of you are there. So was I. You don’t have to stay there. When I got low enough I said a child’s prayer, asking Father for directions; how could He not hear, and answer?

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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we try to Golden Rule it every day. Uncle P can be reached at