“None of your damn business.” Uriah’s rapid response loudly interrupted the hum of the after school quiet.
“Where in the hell did you come from?” demanded Whit.
Before she could answer, Uriah added,
“Well you can just git to hell outta here and forget about what you think ya mighta heard.
“‘Yeah, get lost, PDQ!”, seconded Whit in his usual kiss ass fashion.
“Well, I just happened to be walking by and I couldn’t help hearing Uriah ranting about God and all that other stuff,” answered Pearlie Mae.
“Yur definitely not part of anything we had in mind, PDQ.” added Uriah.
“Aw, come on.” said Pearlie Mae, “You guys are always good for a laugh if nothing else. It would be great if you’d just let me tag along for shit and giggles.”
None of us had never ever before heard Beulah Pearlie Mae Quick use a word like shit before. As a matter of fact, Uriah had often said he didn’t think she would say shit even if she had a mouthful. This inane observation was always followed by Whit’s chuckling endorsement or at other times rolling on the floor belly laugh, depending on whatever effect was called for, depending on who was listening.
This time, Pearlie Mae’s answer left both of them and me with a very rare gasp of speechlessness. Being wordless for a change, the gasp gave Uriah and Whit time to reconsider how she might be able to help out in their still vague idea of how to solve what they thought might be a problem if the truth somehow got out about the teacher’s vague and unclear theological rambling tirades.
Scratching his head in a rare moment of serious consideration, Whit offered, “Hey, Uriah. If we let her come along, maybe we can find out what would have happened if those guys had brought a female along on their walk-a-bouts.
“Don’t waste your time thinking, Whitty, Remember, Early said, he who thinks too much is dangerous or something like that” Uriah warned.
These off the cuff remarks were not the sort of thing I would have ever thought Uriah and Whit had in their bag of tricks. Usually connecting thoughts in a linear or related manner was beyond either one of them. Somehow, this diversion once again raised my anxiety level and increased my interest in how this whole thing was about to play out.
After more uncalled for thought, this time on Uriah’s part, he answered with,
“OK, you can come along as long as you keep your damn fool opinions to yourself. But, it’s over my better judgment and remember, girl, if we want any shit out you, we’ll kick it out!”.
“Yeah, kick it out!” emphasized Whit.
“OK, I promise.” answered Pearlie Mae, “Let’s go”
“C’mon, I’ll show ya where” said Uriah. “I ‘member seeing a sign, last fall when we were coon hunting. “
Now with Pearlie Mae in tow they were about to set off on their mission of social justice and mercy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was about to become the most memorable vain attempt to protect our accumulated collection of mundane myths and bullshit about religion. We all had been force fed and required to memorize since birth, a lot of what we later discovered to be a little bit of history and a whole bunch of religious propaganda: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and everything old and new after that.
All this planning without purpose and setting out on what appeared to be at face value an entertaining covert operation sounded to me like a bit of harmless fun. Looking back on that moment, I guess it might have been wise to give it more thought, but my curiosity got the best of me and besides I wasn’t expected at home for roll call until suppertime.
It was late afternoon and I still remember them sneaking out the back door of the old school building. Deciding to follow them; at a discreet distance, of course, and stay unnoticed turned out to be a major life-changing moment for us all. As they hit the dusty winding trail, setting off to find something in the woods to do the job, I skulked along behind.
After a good three hours of rambling on the scabby trail and fighting the underbrush, the dim trail petered out in a clearing of a mixed up mini forest. Standing more or less In the middle of the clearing, their objective was a rundown shack. It was built in the stand of old-growth white oak snags and Tulip trees. With Mother Nature for gardener, family doctor and landscape designer, the topless Tulip trees looked like something out of House and Garden’s award list of winning entries.
“Them trees are sure purty to look at, . . remarked Whit, but I bet they’d sure as Hell be hard to harvest!..
To Whit, beauty was like pornography, a vague, flimsy idea, bobbing around in his head like a fart in a mid-wind. He didn’t spend much time thinking about it, but he figured he’d know it when he saw it. The idyllic picture in his head of the shack and grove of trees was definitely the more beautiful of the two.
The weatherworn sign on the shack said, “Arkansas Society of Explosive Specialists “. Dusty shiplap siding, mostly missing cedar shingles for a roof and President – Judd Breedlaw in tiny but neat hand printed letters on the margin of the sign.
“This must be the place, Whit”. said Uriah, There ain’t no place like this place anywhere near this place so this must be it.”
“Yup “, muttered Whit, “but that’s a helluva name fer a president in this line of work “.
“Well, I don’t give a damn what his name is as long as he’s got the stuff we’re looking for. Dja think a couple a pounds a black powder will be enuff?”
“The Austin Powder Company was what we’re looking for, So let’s see what ol’ Breedlaw has to offer.”Whit replied.
Uriah Huntrager and Whit Burchfield somehow just didn’t fit the mold of your run-of-the-mill hillbillies. Both had somehow survived a short stint as grade school inmates, by becoming model prisoners long enough to get out without apparent harm.
They were about to embark on a mission of mercy aimed at liberating all of us by blowing up the building and institution we had shared for the last five years.