Can't Wait to Get to Heaven (3 page)

BOOK: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
9.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Verbena Gets the News

8:41
AM

V
erbena Wheeler was already at work down at the Blue Ribbon Cleaners and Fluff and Fold Laundromat when her husband, Merle, called and told her that Elner had fallen off the ladder again and this time had knocked herself out cold.

“They are waiting on the ambulance right this very minute,” he said.

“Ohhhh, Norma is going to have a fit, you know how she worries about Elner. Call me back and tell me as soon as you know something.”

Verbena, a tight-lipped woman with a tight little gray permanent, was a Church of God, no-nonsense, strict Pentecostal, “I’m a Bible-beater and proud of it” kind of person who could quote from Scripture to fit any occasion. She had also been very worried about her neighbor, not only about her falling off a ladder, but about her rapidly changing belief systems as well. In her opinion, Elner Shimfissle had gone quite radical as of late, and Verbena was convinced she could trace the changes right back to the day Elner had gotten cable television, and had started watching the Discovery Channel. Verbena, who only watched TBS and religious channels, had been extremely concerned. “Too much science, too little religion,” if you asked her. To prove her point, only about a week after it had been hooked up, she had received an alarming phone call from Elner.

“Verbena,” Elner said, “I’m just not so sure about the Adam and Eve story anymore.”

Verbena had been stunned upon hearing such a thing coming from a lifelong Methodist in good standing.

“Oh, Elner,” Verbena said, while holding on to the counter for support, “that’s a terrible thing to say…. Next you’ll be telling me you have become an atheist!”

“Oh no, honey, I still believe in God, it’s just the Adam and Eve part I have a question about.”

An alarm bell went off as Verbena suddenly grasped the real implications and the dire consequences of the word “question.” She gasped, “Don’t tell me that you’re thinking of throwing in with the evolutionists, not at this late date, I’m just shocked, you of all people.” Elner agreed, “Well, I’m kind of shocked at myself, Verbena, but if you ever doubted that we didn’t come from monkeys, then you need to see the show I saw on television last night, about those little snow monkeys they have over in Japan. They sit around all winter in hot tubs, and I swear to you, there was one that looked so much like Tot Whooten, I half expected it to talk. I’m telling you, honey, if you put a dress on it, put a comb in its hand, you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. The thing even had on blue eye shadow just like Tot’s…had her expression and everything!”

Verbena had been very upset by the phone call. She knew that once a person had even the slightest doubt about Adam and Eve, the stories that followed—Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, on down the line—began to fall apart like a stack of dominoes. She had wanted to call Norma immediately and tell her that her aunt was being dangerously influenced by those so-called educational shows, and if she wasn’t careful, the next thing you know, she might wind up subscribing to
The New York Times
or joining the ACLU! Verbena knew it was just this kind of thinking that had led to taking prayer out of the school, and Christ out of Christmas. Verbena would have called, but was not quite sure just where Norma stood on the creation issue anymore.

Norma’s mother, Ida, had been a strict Presbyterian, but after her mother died, Norma had joined one of those new age, nondenominational, one-size-fits-all, do-it-yourself churches that had moved so far away from the Bible that they hardly ever read it. And even when they did, their interpretation of the Scripture was far too loose to suit Verbena. She tried to warn Norma that joining that new age church was taking a mighty big chance with her immortal soul. Norma had not been rude, she had listened, and thanked her for her call, but she hadn’t gone back to a good Bible-based church either. A lot of the new people in town whom she tried to guide back to the Bible
had
been very rude, had even gone so far as to tell her to mind her own business. Some had even canceled their charge account down at the cleaners. She had taken a hit in her pocketbook and learned the hard way, it was best not to tinker around with matters of religion, not if you want to get along with your neighbors. But another reason she had not called Norma was that shortly after talking to Elner, Verbena had gone on the Internet. There was just no two ways of getting around it; Tot Whooten did look exactly like a snow monkey. It had surprised her at the time, but it had not shaken her faith; it stated quite clearly in Genesis 1:27, “So God created humankind in his image,” and there was just no way in this world Verbena would ever believe that God looked anything like Tot Whooten, or any of the Whootens, for that matter!

Verbena had not been aware of it at the time, but the snow monkey incident was not the first question Elner had concerning Adam and Eve. Years ago, when Elner still lived out in the country, long before she had watched the Discovery Channel, she had been listening to the Bud and Jay early morning farm report on the radio, when Bud had announced the question of the day. “Which came first,” he asked, “the chicken or the egg?” After the show, Elner had gone on about her chores for a little while, then right in the middle of feeding her chickens, she stopped dead in her tracks, put the pan down, and went inside and called Norma.

Norma picked up. “Hello.”

“Norma, I think there is a mistake in the Bible, who do I tell, Bud and Jay or Reverend Jenkins?”

Norma looked over at the clock. It was five-forty-five and still dark outside. “Hold on a minute, Aunt Elner. Let me go and pick this up in the kitchen, Macky’s still asleep.”

“Oh, did I wake you up?”

“That’s all right, hold on.” Norma got up out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, put the light on, and plugged in her percolator. Now that she was awake, she might as well fix the coffee. She picked up the phone. “Here I am, Aunt Elner. Now what?”

“I think I may have discovered a serious error in the Bible. I don’t know why I hadn’t figured it out before.”

“What error?”

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“What? That’s not in the Bible.”

“I know that, but just answer me this, which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“I have no idea,” Norma said.

“Well, don’t feel bad, they say it’s the age-old question that nobody’s been able to figure out, but the answer just came to me a minute ago, just as clear as a bell and here it is…. Are you ready?”

“Yes.” Norma yawned.

“The chicken came first, no doubt about it.”

“Ahh…and how did you come up with that?”

“Simple! Where does an egg come from? A chicken; so the egg had to come after the chicken, the egg
couldn’t
lay itself. But then I got to thinking, if the chicken came before the egg…then how could Adam get here first, when Eve was the only one who could give birth?”

Norma reached for a cup out of the cabinet. “Aunt Elner, I think you may have forgotten that according to the Bible, nobody gave birth, God made Adam, then took a rib from Adam, and made Eve.”

“I know it
says
that, Norma, but the sequence is off…. It’s the hen that lays the egg with the rooster inside…the rooster doesn’t even lay eggs.”

Norma said, “Yes, honey, but there has to be a rooster to fertilize the egg.”

There was a long silence on the other end. Then Elner said, “Well, you’ve got me there. I guess I need to do some more thinking about it. Oh, shoot. Here I was thinking I’d just solved one of the great mysteries of the world, but I still think there’s a chance that Eve came first and the men who wrote the Bible changed it around at the last minute so they could be first, and if that’s so, we may have to rethink the entire Bible.”

At around seven-thirty, when Macky had come into the kitchen, he found Norma sitting at the kitchen table wide awake.

“What are you doing up so early, couldn’t you sleep?”

She looked at him. “I could have…if the phone hadn’t rung before the crack of dawn and woke me up.”

“Oh,” said Macky, getting his cup. “What did she want to know this morning?”

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg.”

Macky laughed as Norma went over to get the cream out of the refrigerator.

“You can laugh, Macky, but she was just about to call the radio station and tell them that there was a mistake in the Bible, thank God I stopped her.”

“What does she think is a mistake?”

“She’s convinced Eve was created before Adam. Can you imagine the uproar that would have caused?”

Macky smiled. “Well, at least she has an open mind, you can say that for her.”

“Oh, it’s open all right,” Norma said. “I just wish it would open a little later in the day. Last week she woke me up wanting to know if I knew how much the moon weighed.”

“Why did she want to know that?”

“Who can tell? All I know is, she can ask more questions in one day than most people do in a year.”

“Yeah, she can.”

“And you wait, once she’s off and running with this Adam and Eve thing she’s going to be calling me all day.”

As predicted, around ten
AM,
just as Norma had finished applying her special Merle Norman facial mask for dry sensitive skin, the phone rang for the fourth time that morning. “Norma, if Adam and Eve were the only two people on earth, then where did Cain and Abel meet their wives?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Aunt Elner…at Club Med? Don’t ask me. I don’t even know why the chicken crossed the road.”

“You don’t? Well I do!” said Aunt Elner. “Do you want me to tell you?”

Norma gave up and sat down. “Sure,” she said. “I’m just dying to know.”

“To show the possum it can be done.”

“Aunt Elner, where do you hear these silly things?”

“From Bud and Jay. Did you know that another name for the potato bug is the Jerusalem grasshopper?”

“No.”

“Did you know there are forty-seven trillion cells in the human body?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, that was the correct answer yesterday. It won somebody an electric knife.”

Norma had just put the phone down and was headed to the bathroom when the phone rang again.

“Hey, Norma, you just wonder who had the time to count all those cells, don’t you?”

To Believe or Not to Believe

8:49
AM

N
orma was driving as fast as she could, and just missed the last red light by a second and had to slam on her brakes, causing Aunt Elner’s insurance files to spill all over the floor of the car. She was so upset by this time, and wanted to pray for help with her nerves, but she knew she either had to pray or drive carefully; she couldn’t do both, so she decided to pay attention to the road.

Besides not wanting to have a wreck, she was also not 100 percent sure that praying would help. Norma had struggled with her faith all her life, and wondered why believing had not been easy for her, like English or speech had been in high school. She had made all A’s in both subjects; everyone said she had a lovely speaking voice, and to this very day, she could still conjugate a sentence. But she of all people needed to have faith in something. Macky was absolutely no help; he was as sure there was nothing out there as Aunt Elner was sure there was, contrary to what Verbena thought. Aunt Elner had called her just last week and said, “Norma, since I’ve been watching my science shows, my opinion of the Maker has shot up, I knew he was great, but I didn’t know how great, how anybody could think of so many things to create is beyond me, why just your different species of tropical fish alone are a miracle.”

Aunt Elner had no doubt whatsoever, but Norma was stuck right in the middle, fluctuating back and forth. One day she believed, the next she was not sure. Norma wished she could talk to someone about it, but she couldn’t confide in her minister, who was just starting out, and needed all the encouragement she could get. But even though Norma was not sure who or what she was praying to, she often did pray for help in overcoming her character flaws: not to notice when people put the ketchup bottle on the dinner table, or kept their garage full of junk and left the doors wide open, not to recoil at the sight of Verbena’s solid oak toilet seats, but she failed miserably, disappointing herself over and over again.

Norma was convinced her inability to not be offended by people with bad taste, terrible manners, or those who used incorrect grammar and said “went” instead of “gone” was directly related to the fact that she was unsteady in her faith. She hoped that one day she might get a sign, some kind of revelation, to prove that
something
was out there. Verbena said she was always on the lookout for “signs, wonders, and miracles,” and Norma would take anything at this point, but so far she had seen nothing. If she died in a car crash right now on her way to Aunt Elner’s, her tombstone would have to read:

         

HERE LIES NORMA WARREN

DEAD, BUT STILL CONFUSED.

BOOK: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
9.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Tainted Relic by Michael Jecks, The Medieval Murderers
Love Comes in Darkness by Andrew Grey
Water by Robin McKinley, Peter Dickinson
General Population by Eddie Jakes
Bad Connection by Melody Carlson
Criopolis by Lois McMaster Bujold
Beast by Paul Kingsnorth