Friday, May 26, 2006

Big Bus Trip of '68, Part 8

(To read previous chapters, go to The Old Blog Archive.)

Rev. Wright paused for a moment, then continued his sermon:

"Bob and Bill's mother came to see me early on a Saturday morning. She had just gotten off work at the Pancake House and was dead tired, but she made the trip to see me anyway. We went into my study and she began telling me all about Bob and Bill, told me all the things I just told you--and more. When she was finished, she said, ‘Rev. Wright, I’m at my wit’s end. I can’t do anything with those boys. They’re wild and out of control, and I’m afraid of what they might do next. They might get killed, or kill someone else, they're so wild.’

“Then she broke down crying. The poor old thing just sobbed and sobbed and cried her heart out, and begged me to help her. ‘Oh, Rev. Wright,’ she said, ‘you’ve got to help me. I’ve heard you’ve worked wonders with other teenagers. Maybe you can do something with Bob and Bill. Will you help me, please? Please talk to the boys. Please. You’re my only hope.’

“Well, I told her I’d give it a try.

“I went to their house that very afternoon and knocked on the door. She let me in and introduced me to Bob and Bill.

“They were watching television and drinking beer, and smoking. Their mother said to them, ‘Bob, Bill—I got someone here I want you to meet. This is Rev. Wright. He’s come to talk to you.’

“Bob--he was the oldest, about a year older than Bill--he looked at me with hate in his eyes and said, ‘Reverend, is it? Are you a preacher man?’

“I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ And then he cursed me, and he cursed his mother for inviting me to the house. I won’t repeat the things he said, they were so wicked. And his brother, Bill, just sat there laughing.

“I said to Bob, I said, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself talking to your mother like that. You ought to be ashamed of yourself sitting around drinking beer and watching that Godless television set while she cleans up after you and feeds you and works two jobs trying to support you. And you--’ I said to Bill who was still laughing his fool head off ‘--you think this is funny, don't you? Well, I’ll tell you something even funnier. One of these nights you and your brother are gonna’ get drunk and go hot-rodding and you’re going to smash right into a truck. Yes, that'll be real funny. There you'll be laying in the torn-up wreckage with blood and pieces of flesh mixed up with the broken glass and twisted metal, and your guts oozing out. Yes, that’ll be real funny. And here’s something that’s gonna' be even funnier--the look on the undertaker’s face when he sees the mess laying on his embalming table. It'll be a closed-casket funeral for you. Yes, that'll be real funny. I’ll bet you’ll be laughing up a storm. And you’re gonna’ laugh even harder when you find yourself standing before God Almighty, naked and ashamed for all to see. Every sin, every foul-mouthed word that ever came out of your mouth, every drop of liquor you ever drank, every mean you thing you ever did, every act of Satanic wickedness you ever committed is gonna' be read back to you out of the Book of Life, and you will find yourself shut out of Heaven and cast into the deepest, darkest, hottest, snakiest pits of Hell to burn in a torment you cannot even imagine. That'll be real funny, won't it?’

“Well, that stopped his laughing. His mouth dropped open and he looked at me like he’d been slapped. But his brother, Bob, he was in a fury. His face was as red as a beet and he was shaking all over, he was so mad. I could tell that Bob was beyond hope, that he was so eaten up with the Devil it’d be a waste of time trying to talk to him. But Bill was different, I thought. Maybe he could still be saved.

“I looked Bill right in the eye and I said, ‘Boy, what I told you is not something that might happen. It is going to happen. As sure as you are sitting there and I am standing here, you will end up just like I said. You will end up a rotten, torn-up pile of meat laying in a grave somewhere while your soul burns in Hell forever.’

“Bill swallowed hard and his eyes began to water. And Bob said to him, ‘Bill, don’t you listen to that preacher man. He don’t know no nothing. I’m your brother, you listen to me.’

“Well, I kept on. I said to Bill, ‘Bill, if you want to die and go to Hell you listen to your brother, but if you want a chance--a chance to escape that horrible fate and live a good, happy life, and go to Heaven when you die and live in God's Glory forever and ever--then you listen to me. Jesus is offering you a way out of the horror. He's holding out His hand to you right now, trying to save you. All you got to do is take hold of His hand and let him save you, boy. Let him save you.’

“Right then, a tear began to run down Bill’s face, which caused Bob to make fun of him. ‘Look at you,’ he said, ‘crying like a little girl. I told you not to listen to that preacher man. Look what he’s done to you, he’s turned you into a sissy-pants.’

“Well, I wheeled around and I said to Bob, I said, ‘Boy, what you do to your own soul is one thing, but you got no right to drag your little brother into the pits of Hell with you!’

“And he cursed me again, and said, ‘I don’t believe in Hell! And I don’t believe in Heaven neither, nor God, nor none of that. I believe in living it up and having fun and doing what I want. And no preacher man is gonna’ stop me.’

“And I said to him, ‘Son, you may not believe in God, but God believes in you. And if you don’t believe in Hell, I bet you’ll believe in it quick enough when you end up there.’

“‘I ain’t listening to any more of this,’ he said, and he jumped up and grabbed his car keys. ‘Come on, Bill, let’s get out of here.’

“Bill stood up and followed his brother to the door. And I said to him, ‘Son, don’t you walk out that door. If you do, you are walking straight into Damnation.’

“That caused him to stop. Then his mother spoke up. She was crying, she said, ‘Bill, don’t go. Stay here and let Rev. Wright save you.’

"'That's right, son,' I said. 'Stay here and be saved. Take the salvation that Jesus is holding out to you.'

"But Bob said, ‘Come on, Bill. Don’t listen to that preacher man. He’s old and crazy. He’s never had fun in his life, so he doesn’t want anybody else to have fun either.’

"Bill started towards the door. I spoke up. I said, ‘Bill, your brother is possessed by the Devil. Every word he’s saying is the Devil's words. Don’t listen to him. As you value your mortal soul, don't listen to him.’

"Bill stopped again, wavering. Then Bob said, ‘Bill, don’t listen to that old fool. You come with me. We can have fun tonight. I know some girls we can take out to the lake. You don’t want to miss out on that, do you, Bill?’

“And when Bob said that, Bill grinned. And followed his brother out the door.

“Well, their mother was bawling like a baby. I patted her on the shoulder and said, ‘I did my best. Maybe there’s still hope. I’ll come back tomorrow and talk to them some more. It might be possible to save them--or, if not Bob, at least Bill. I think Bill will listen, especially if I can talk to him without Bob in the room.’

"'I don't think that will be possible,' she said. 'Those boys have always been inseparable. There's nothing that can keep them apart.'

“I left and went home.

"Late that night, around two in the morning, the phone rang and woke me up. It was that poor woman and she was crying so hard I couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. Finally, someone took the phone away from her and another voice came on the line. It was the police chief. He said, ‘Rev. Wright, there’s been a terrible accident. Bill is dead, and Bob isn’t expected to live through the night …’

to be continued