Funky God Stuff

WIM HYLEN

Dilsy is flummoxed.  Everyone at vacation Bible camp has been to The Sugar Box with Ms.Total except her:  Sapphire Fernlock, Lucre Fins, Nordstrom Lash, even Fella Nist, that slow-witted scoundrel.  It's a reward for being a good student.  The Sugar Box, run by Mr. Drolliers, a stooped blind man with an impenetrable accent, specializes in rare delicacies: Peanut butter imparfait, white chocolate globs, double-dipped caramel turnips.  Ms. Total lets you choose anything you want.

Dilsy doesn't understand it; she's the best student in the class.  She knows the Bible stories inside and out:  Abraham and his Tin of Nuts; Joseph and the pastel sports jacket; Solomon and the 12 incontinent dogs; Judah and his Silvertone guitar and bucket of coins; David and the Splendid Grass-Parakeet; and her favorite, Jesus and the Surly Pharisee.

*It is manifestly unfair, an unadulterated outrage*, Dilsy thinks. *When those simpletons are jumping Double Dutch and being hypnotized by PlayStation, I've got my mug buried in First Timothy.  They're heathens compared to me*. 

Dilsy vows to make her case to Ms. Total.  But she immediately has second thoughts.  What if Ms. Total reacts with anger to her plea rather than with the mixture of palsy and flatulence that Dilsy hopes for?  What if she is able to prove to Dilsy by a simple mathematical formula that Dilsy is not entitled to go?  In other words, what if it becomes embarrassingly apparent that she is missing the Big Picture? If so, it wouldn't be the first occasion.  For some time, Dilsy was unable to see that the prevalence of evil in the world does not preclude the existence of God, it just makes Him more exasperating. 

Dilsy also wonders whether she has any right to complain.  After all, she is attending vacation bible camp on the taxpayer's dime: family court issued an order compelling Dilsy's attendance after her mother used the phrase, "Funky God Stuff," within twenty-five feet of a school zone. 

*But don't I deserve the same consideration as the others*? Dilsy thinks out loud as she straightens her Hello Kitty barrette in the mirror. *I am a child of God, am I not*?

She paces the house, nibbling on a cookie shaped like Strom Thurmond.

"What do you think of this, momma?" Dilsy asks. "What if I say, 'Ms. Total, I believe the mark of fine character is not that a person never perpetrates injustice, but that a person immediately rectifies injustice when it becomes manifest'"?

"Manifest, shmanifest," her mother replies, wearing a grin that nearly swallows her face.  "That woman just needs some Funky God Stuff!"  Her hands move circularly at her sides in a stunted gesture of exclamation.

"Hush now Momma! You never know who could be listening," Dilsy hisses, glancing suspiciously at the heating ducts.

"How about this, Poppa?  A little levity. I'll say, 'Ms. Total, they say the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  So I'm here to do a bit of squeaking.'"

"Your mother's right, Dilsy," he says, reaching for a box of Howell Heflin-shaped chocolates on the side table. 

Dilsy approaches Ms. Total during recess as she sits twirling a kudzu vine and telling Nordstrom the story of Isaiah and the vain leper. Dilsy smoothes the plaid skirt her mother forgot to iron and clears her throat.

"Pardon, ma'm," Dilsy says.

"Don't interrupt, child," Ms. Total says, her ears twitching with impatience, "I was in the middle of telling Nordstrom about Isaiah and…"

"Listen and learn, Total," Dilsy barks. "I'm the one that should be going to The Sugar Box, not these morons."  She gestures malevolently toward her fellow students.  "I know more about the Bible than the rest of those retards combined."

It's not what she meant to say.  Yet there it is, floating in the air like cigarette smoke at a Southern Baptist convention.  Ms. Total's mouth hangs agape.  Not because Dilsy let loose with a burst of venom but because as she is speaking, Dilsy is floating skyward.

"I'm flying good Lord, I'm flying!" Dilsy shrieks, her exclamations becoming fainter as she rises. 

Ms. Total and the children gaze blankly as she ascends, her hands outstretched in a rapturous gesture.   When she arrives at her final destination, a host of seraphim and cherubim burst into a discordant jam on harps and trumpets.

"Funky God stuff!" yells a copper-haired cherub with flecks of dirt on his ruddy cheeks.  He waives wildly at Dilsy while hopping up and down chimp-like, his trumpet bobbing like a golden, drowning sailor.  Dilsy smiles tentatively at him.  I guess anything goes up here, she thinks.

A paunchy middle-aged man with enormous black-framed glasses approaches her, scowling.

"Name?" he demands officiously.

"Well, my full name is…" she begins.

"Relax, I'm just kidding," he interrupts, breaking into an inscrutable grin.  "We've been waiting for you." 

He extends a hand, crossing-guard style.  "But watch your mouth here. This isn't a truck stop."

Dilsy nods obediently.  The man looks her over and with a quick motion, straightens her Hello Kitty barrette.

"You know, it doesn't usually happen like that," he says.

"What?"

"The whole transition.  You usually have to, well... die.  It's terribly unpleasant."

"Yes, sir, I know."  What does he take her for, Dilsy wonders, a half-wit?  Or is he expecting some kind of gratuity?  She wants to ask him a million questions but her brain is stalled, as if it were coated in molasses.

"How about some of this action?" he says with a wink, his outstretched hand brandishing a double-dipped caramel turnip.

"Oh, yes please." 

Dilsy twirls it dramatically, admiring the geometry of the fossilized caramel curling upwards at the point where the stick jabs the turnip. But when she slides it into her mouth, her face twists into a grimace. The sickly sweet taste reminds her of the time her mother overcooked okra and tried to hide it by adding, of all things, cinnamon.  And it occurs to Dilsy that perhaps no matter where she goes or what she does, she will never, ever, get what she wants.

"Delicious," she pronounces, forcing a grin that nearly swallows her face.

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