The wedding was set for seven-thirty Saturday night and all the tem- perance personnel were in place by seven-fifteen. First came Annabelle Claassen, who was the secretary-treasurer of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, then it was Reverend Prediger’s wife Hildegard, the president, and then it was Rayburn Kroeker, who headed up the youth auxiliary.
Next came our parents, who weren’t members of the WCTU but had come to see how their sons looked when they stood up straight and tall. Gary got to seat his parents and I got to seat mine and Bobby Joe got to seat his.All of them said they were friends of the bride, at least the mothers all said this, the fathers weren’t consulted. Billy had parents too, but they never went to weddings because when it came to a choice between going to a wedding and milking the cows, the cows won out every time. The Baumans enjoyed seeing their son stand up straight and tall as much as the next parents, but as ol’ Pete liked to explain it,“A cow ain’t necessarily that dumb of an animal, but I never seen one that could milk hisself.”
Before every game Coach would gather all his men around him in the locker room and have us bow our heads and he’d holler, “Our Father Art in Heaven not all of us are religious min we admit it but we got a lot of Thy Spirit so let’s go out and beat them guys. But if it be Thine will to let us lose at least let’s me and you build the characteristics of these young min and we’ll git ’em next time. P.S., help Billy Bauman, he’s Number 78 I believe, and Ervin Huddlebury, he’s the big guy at center, you can’t miss ’im. Help these young min remember the plays. In Jeez name we pray it, Amen. Okay, now let’s git out there and beat them goddam bastards!”
We at the Myles Junior Think Tank are never surprised by power blackouts.
Though solar power appears to be the most viable form of clean energy, far outstripping its major competitor, wind-generated electricity, there is, sadly, only one sun, which shines on any given spot on earth less than fifty percent of the time. Thus it cannot be expected to provide energy (1) all of the time and (2) in sufficient quantities for our growing energy needs.
In proposing lunar power as the best solution, we are not so simple as to believe that the present moon, as constituted, has carried its fair share of the energy burden. What we propose is a change in the moon itself.
Inspired by the example of the artist Christo (1935- ), who has draped Australia’s coast, a Colorado valley, two California counties, several Florida islands, and even Berlin’s Reichstag, in fashionable cloth, we are suggesting that the moon—or at least that part of it that faces the earth—be wrapped in tinfoil. Thus the rays of the sun that hit the moon would be reflected onto the earth, outstripping our solar power by as much as ten percent.
A quick phone call to our colleagues at NASA confirmed our surmise that this project is feasible within two years, given adequate federal funding; moreover, the folks there agreed that this plan seems to be an efficient, environmentally responsible use of the discarded tinfoil that presently litters our garbage dumps. However, they pointed out that the moon goes through phases. In the jargon of the energy industry, it does not always run at full capacity.
After this conversation, we at MJTT repaired to the drawing boards and, working feverishly yet coolly, came up with what we dare say is a brilliant reformulation of our theory. Is there any reason or intergalactic law to prevent us from borrowing a moon or two from our more plentifully endowed fellow planet, Jupiter?
To our knowledge, there is none. In fact, there is a precedent for just such action. Astronomers now believe it likely that eons ago, Neptune snatched its renowned moon Triton from empty space.
Another quick phone call to the folks at NASA again bore fruit. They referred us to their co-workers at the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), who were near-ecstatic about this general schema and, after only a moment’s hesitation, promised to come up with the technology for sending a space vehicle to the far side of Io and pushing it out of its orbit around Jupiter and into an orbit around us, this in such a way that when our native unnamed moon is in its new phase, Io will be in full mode, and vice versa.
The rest would be easy. After plastering our borrowed moon with used tinfoil, we would, by our mutual rough calculation, have enough energy to last the entire earth for the remainder of this century. This would provide humankind with plenty of time to filch at least half of Jupiter’s remaining moons.
Scoffers will undoubtedly scorn this plan on the grounds that it would deprive us of night and thus of romance. But let it never be said that we at MJTT are behind the curve. Research assistants at the University of Alaska have verified our guess that the mating habits of moose, elk, and caribou are not affected by the long summer days in that part of the world. We have every reason to believe that this behavior will be replicated among humans.
If this surmise proves to be erroneous, the problem of unmanageable population growth will be resolved, and with it, that of insufficient energy.
Being initiated into the Mennonite version of the Christianreligion was pretty simple. As soon as your age group graduated from the eighth grade, they put you in catechism class, where Reverend Prediger checked you out to see if you’d been paying attention all those years in Sunday School; whether you’d memorized the correct order of the books of the Bible and the Scriptural proofs that Jesus was really God in disguise.
A year of catechism and you were ready for baptism.Your class had to stand up in front of the whole congregation and take turns answering questions like,“Do you renounce the devil and all his works?”The correct answer was “I do,” and everybody in my class got it right the first time. I mention this because when Billy Bauman had gone through this process he’d asked Reverend Prediger to please repeat the question.Then the Rev poured a couple handfuls of tapwater over your new crew cut and down your neck and onto your new shirt and tie. Last of all he gave you a Holy Bible (With Helps) and quoted a verse he’d chosen especially for you.
The girls’ verses were loaded with advice on the importance of a young woman keeping herself pure, the preferred method being, as ol’ Dearly Beloved had advised Annie and Penny and Margaret in catechism, to take Jesus along with them on their dates. Bobby Joe’s verse began, “The race is not to the swift,” which we all later agreed was a personal insult. Gary’s verse was, “His mischief shall return upon his own head,” which sounded more like a threat than friendly Christian advice. My verse was,“And I gave myself to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly,” etc., which was appreciated by about half the church, judging by the number of snickers. Then he stopped and looked at me and said,“You already know madness and folly, now it’s time to work on the wisdom part,” which to be truthful was a comment I could’ve done without. Later I mentioned this to Aunt Lena, but she told me not to take it all that seriously, the verse could be interpreted as a compliment and besides, Dearly Beloved’s remark had the ring of truth to it.
Everybody in Inverness knew about Nick Monokov.Aunt Lena got to calling him Tom Thumb the Thinker and this name stuck, partly because it summed him up perfectly and partly because when Lena Reisender gave you a nickname it was practically guaranteed to show up on your tombstone. Ol’ Nick was somewhere between a dwarf and a midget and was known for being the mightiest brain of all Inverness.The story around the barbershop was that one time he’d burned a hole in the top of his head figuring out some mathematical problem or the Riddle of Man’s Place in the Universe and he wanted to hide this hole from everybody, like he was protecting his Achilles heel.This was a pretty good story. It came from the fact that he always wore a big Russian fur hat, summer or winter, it made no difference, you saw that fur hat bouncing along behind the wheel of an old Ford pickup and you knew it was sitting on the head of ol’ Nick,T.T. the T., who could hardly be seen. Some people actually believed this story, though anybody who knew Nick Monokov knew he didn’t care what people thought about him. He’d never try to hide anything from anybody, even an ugly hole in the top of his cranium. He was just that kind of a guy, probably because he was extremely short.
The story around town was that one Thanksgiving Day Pete came to pick up Madame Gratz and Nettie for the family get-together. But the Madame didn’t want to ride in his old Chevy, she wanted to ride in the cow trailer it was towing. Ol’ Pete figured what the hell, maybe she’s got a point, so he let down the tailgate and helped her climb aboard. He got a big kick out of this, you can’t blame him, and so did all the neighbors. They all waved to her when Pete drove off and she stuck her head through the stanchion and waved back, just like a Rose Bowl queen you’d see in the newsreels, which meant everybody got to share in Pete’s big kick.
While I was bringing Dad the razor strap I got to thinking about Jesus. When He was twelve, which is way past the stupid stage, He used to argue with the preachers and teachers and He’d win every time. Fact is, when His parents bawled Him out He’d argue with them, not necessarily sassing them but still getting His point across.You’re supposed to do what Jesus did, at least according to Reverend Prediger. The Rev said you should always ask yourself,“Would Jesus do such and such?”with such and such being whatever you had in mind that was maybe a little bit questionable. I didn’t necessarily agree with the Rev on every subject but I had to admit that this particular advice made good sense, at least when it came to the subject of arguments with your parents.
The thing about Miss Ericsson was that she was a new teacher at Inverness Grade School.This meant that if you happened to be put in her class, you were at a big disadvantage.You had to spend the first month figuring out whether she had a sharp set of teeth, like Miss McGovern, the principal, who was also in charge of the eighth grade, or whether she’d buy your story about having to go to the bathroom really, really bad so you could sneak out of school, like old lady Muffett who was blind in one eye and couldn’t see out of the other and could never figure out who was missing. Three weeks into the school year, the only things my pals and I knew about Miss Ericsson were that her teeth were practically as sharp as ol’ Ruthless McGovern’s except she kept them disguised by her chocolate-covered voice and her eyesight was as sharp as an owl in moon- light.We found out all we needed to know about her the afternoon Bobby Joe Runningwater and Gary Albrecht and Jock Buffone and I took turns heading for the boys’ can right before recess and when we were sneaking out the back door, there she was with her ruler and an invitation to go see the grade school principal Miss McGovern, who invited us to take turns leaning down in front of the whole eighth grade to take our punishment like men.
On the opening day of Bible School every year Reverend Menno Prediger would throw out the first pitch by standing up in front of all the kids and teachers and reading a passage from Scripture. It was always the same passage. “Ah yes,” he’d say, wiping the sweat off his tiny dome with his big white hanky and tipping his head back so he could see his Bible through his wire-framed glasses. “Ah yes, the words of Our Lord, found in Mark 10:14b. If you’ll turn with me to that verse, Mark 10:14b, which says . . . wait a moment . . . just one moment, please . . . ah yes, I believe I have it . . . yes, here it is, the words of Our Lord: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’Ah yes.The kingdom of God.”
THE REISENDER CLAN