A novel by Dennis Earl Fehr
Immensis laboribus comparatur emditio: ad post moriendum est.
I accept both conditions.
God’s Servant Guthrie Bodkin
The rays from the streetlight could still penetrate the dusty air, although not by much. They bathed the Beth El synagogue, a double-wide house trailer, with ugly yellow light. It looked like a camping cabin, Guthrie thought. Praise Jesus, the Jews in Windham County was poor (except for Rabbi Stein, of course) and few in number. And if the weather report was right, a nice sandstorm was about to help him reduce that number a bit more.
This would be Guthrie’s first moment of glory. He had been a Wimp for Christ until now, but tonight some slaves of Satan, as many as he could manage, would die. And there would be other nights for other deaths. The nigger Marcus House’s barbeque joint would be next. Then the Catholics, and then the Unitarians. Or maybe the other way around.
Just today he had run into Louie in Drover’s Fine Footwear. Actually Louie had seen him go in and followed him, and Louie had said the Unitarians was renting their building out to Buddhists one evening a week. He hadn’t known there was Buddhists in Redrock, and the thought made him sick. Not even the Catholics was dumb enough to rent space to Buddhists.
He had been in Drover’s just to buy a pair of boots, but Louie brought up the topic of the Jews’ plans to build themself a new synagogue. Louie said something needed to be done, that maybe someone should just blow up their old one. Send a message.
Louie had come along at just the right time. Guthrie had been waiting for a calling from the Lord about what his mission might be, and here it was, handed to him pretty as you please.
“You want to get you some cheap boots that’s three, four sizes too big,” Louie had said quietly. “The Jews water the synagogue lawn every evening this time of year, so be sure to leave plenty of footprints and then throw the boots away. Wear gloves, so you don't leave no fingerprints. Weather report says there’s wind coming in tonight. The dust from the wind plus the dark will give you cover.”
What a genius. Good old Louie. His real name was L, just the letter L. His pa’s name was El, with the E. He named his son plain old L because once the boy got older, he didn’t want the two of them getting each other’s mail. L picked up the nickname Louie once he started school and he seemed okay with it.
Too bad he had to miss this. “I wish more than the world itself that I could go with you,” Louie had said, “but of course with Emma pregnant--I told you she was pregnant, didn’t I--I need to be home with her.”
Guthrie had been too shocked about Emma to say anything. But he thought to himself, no, Louie, you sure didn’t tell me she’s pregnant! You two ain’t married! You can’t get her pregnant without committing fornication. You done fornicated, Louie!
Guthrie loved Louie more than his own family, but Louie lost big points with that news. Guthrie confessed to touching himself--truth be told, he touched himself constantly--but he acknowledged that it was a sin in the eyes of God Almighty, and he prayed passionately for the strength to stop. No luck so far.
The sand was getting thicker and night had fallen. He scrunched his cowboy hat down, pulled his bandana over his nose, and looked both ways down the street. Nothing. He stepped out of the alley into the wind. The blowing dirt felt like sandpaper against his squinting eyes.
He crossed the street and stopped at the edge of the synagogue’s lawn. He was so scared that he was shaking.
“Guthrie,” he muttered, “your life ain’t but filthy rags. What happens to you don’t mean a thing. The Savior has this whole show under control.” He felt the Savior’s comforting love envelop him as he slid off the knapsack that held the 2-gallon can of gasoline. He could hardly see the building anymore. Perfect, perfect. He stepped up silently to the one window that shined a light. He peered inside.
There they sat. Around a fold-out table. Six of them, including the richest man in Windham County, Rabbi Stein. And there off to the side was three of the rabbi’s half dozen kids, the three pre-schoolers. And there, laid out in plain sight, was the building plans.
Guthrie could smell their Jewishness right through the glass, that putrid stink that came from eating kosher food. My, my, didn’t they look mighty, sitting there thinking they was going to build that fancy synagogue. Guthrie felt a thrilling rush of danger that blended, how sweetly, with an ecstasy known to those who answer a calling greater than themself.
Just having Rabbi Stein and his wife and all them kids move into Redfield last fall had almost been enough to push Guthrie to act. But when he learned that Stein had put up twenty thousand dollars of his own money to build a new synagogue, Guthrie realized Jesus was calling. Today Louie had been Jesus’ messenger. And tonight Guthrie would fulfill the message.
He had experienced some doubt about killing this group of Jews, considering that he personally had not witnessed to them about Christ. But when he asked Louie about that today, Louie showed how silly he was. First of all, these Jews lived in a Christian nation, and second of all, Redrock was a Bible-believing community. They’d had chances right and left to be saved. They’d burn in hell because they deserved to. And Louie clinched it when he asked how Guthrie would like it when the Rabbi’s boys was old enough to start raping the good Christian girls, especially the ones under ten.
Guthrie went to work. He removed the cap from the gas can, stuck his finger into the opening and hooked it around the strip of pillowcase that had been soaking in it. He dug the matchbook out of his jeans pocket and took two steps back from the window. He needed room to swing the can. He sat it on the ground and with shaking hands tore off a match.
Then he lost himself in the perfectness of this deed and sobbed. The blend of holy hate and the Holy Spirit was too much.
“Thank you, Jesus,” he whispered, “My Lord, my Lord, thank you.”
He gathered himself and pulled half an arm’s length of fabric out of the can. He struck the match and held the flicker to the end of the sheet. The flicker puffed into a full, round flame. He grabbed the handle of the can with both hands, spun himself in a fast circle, and sent the bomb smashing through the window.
He skidded back several steps.
Someone shouted, “Look out!”
Chairs scraped and then BOOM! Flames blasted out the windows, and he heard a loud rushing sound like a strong wind. It was the fire. The inside of the building was bright orange, a beautiful orange. He felt the heat on his face. Then the screams started.
All had gone according to plan. He turned and, pressing the new boots into the wet ground with deep, stomping steps, disappeared into the dusty night. He allowed himself the prideful thought that God might be pleased. Surely few fifteen-year-olds could claim to have done this much to prepare the world for Christ’s return.