[NSFW language ahead]
“The People of the Book” refers to those persons and prophets represented in the three primary texts of the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim tradition: The Old Testament or Jewish Torah, what Christians call The New Testament, and the Koran of Islam. Of course, there are other, even older books which may not mention people at all…
Pallas, Daniel. The Necronomicon Cults: A Study in Ecstatic, Organic and Manufactured Religion. Aziz: Three Lobed Press, 1986. 235. Print.
But the idea that ideas themselves can be dangerous—that true wisdom comes from fervent faith, and that independent thought can lead you down a dangerous path—is an old one, and one that has sometimes led not to bibliophilia but bibliophobia, a fear that reading is perilous, particularly reading certain arcane and occult books.
The Journal of Rutgers Library. “Forbidden Words: Taboo Texts in Popular Literature and Cinema” by Stephen Whitty 2014
I couldn’t believe what the old man said. I wanted him to say it again.
“Say’t agin,” I told him.
“Ah set, ‘If yah want you some money so gotdamn bad, go get yah some.’ Go dig up some of that money in the basement if yah want money so gotdamn bad, gotdamn it,” he snapped. The old man snapped, barked, hollered, and yelled a lot. It was that or he was mute.
“What money? Yah got money. Inna basement?” I couldn’t believe it or him.
“Hell, yeah, Ah got money inna basement. Burred inna wall ahind one of them big ol’ clown pitchers. Been there fer years.”
I just stared at the twisted up old fuck, an old man knot of wasted human life just too furious to do anything other than rage. And drink. And use drugs. My old man was quite a guy in quite a few ways, but money-stasher was a new one on me.
“How much money we talkin’ about?” I asked.
“Twelve fuckin’ thousan’ skins,” he answered. “Yah shit.”
“Yah got $12,000 buried in the basement? What the fuck fer? Why the fuck yah do a stupid thing like that?”
“So you and yer retard brother couldn’t never get yer greedy fuckin’ paws on it.”
“Why yah telling me now?”
The old man clamped his mouth shut, his face collapsing around his toothless hole.
“Ah’m serious, old man. Why yah telling me only just now?”
“Ah got muh reasons.”
“Such as…? Ah mean, how long’ve yah been sittin’ on this stash of cash?”
“Long ’nough,” the old man answered. “And Ah got me some reasons. That’s all yah need to know.”
And, yeah, we found the money. Down in the basement in a hole in the wall behind the third picture we tried, the third choice out of all the clown paintings down there and it was right where the old man said it would be. Or, rather, what was left of it—a rotten, rat-shredded, moldy wad of slimy scraps and fiber. If you ever want to know what $12,000 looks like, do not ask me. All I can tell you about is what $12,000 looks like after my wet-brained, drug-addict old man hides it in a wet, dirty hole in our cellar’s wall and doesn’t tell anybody about it for ten or eleven years. That’s not all we found, of course, but finding those sludgy lumps of cash pudding was awfully disappointing.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] If you ever want to know what $12,000 looks like, do not ask me. All I can tell you about is what $12,000 looks like after my wet-brained, drug-addict old man hides it in a wet, dirty hole in our cellar’s wall and doesn’t tell anybody about it for ten or eleven years.[/pullquote]
Mixed there among the clots of slimy black money were the bones of a child, the skeletonized remains of a little girl, a little girl around 12 or 13 years old, a little girl named Sharon Lebanon from my last class in my last year of school, a kind of cute girl who wore a TV-star cardigan sweater. There she was, yellow bones and ragged shreds of ragged skull hair and super-white teeth, some scraps of clothing, and that cardigan sweater with the sweater-belt tie.
Tobias stood there for a moment looking at the money-slop and the rest of it; then he just bolted upstairs. I mean, he spun around and he was pounding up the steps and the next thing I heard was his heavy boots thumping across the floor above and the meat-sounding smack of his close-fisted blows to the old man.
“Yah stupid, worthless piece a shit,” Tobias’s voice, though muffled, was clear and the space between each word was filled with the sound of another blow. “Yah… insane piece a… fuck… shit.”
Stuff like that. I couldn’t hear much of anything from the old man, but that was not in any way unusual. I can’t remember the last full sentence I heard him speak aloud before tonight and I’d stopped reading his little notes years ago. They didn’t make sense anyway when I did read them. “Cancer dog at the back door,” I remember one of them said; “Claws and beaks are all you eat,” was another one. They were like fucked-up fortune-cookie fortunes or something, like those notes in those little cookies at that Ho Ho Palace those gooks made up in to town.
There’s a story about the old man and a television like there’s a story branching off of everything other damn thing that ever happens. The old man was out, had been gone for a week, a not uncommon practice of his. He’d disappear for a day, a couple of days, a week, and once for almost three months. He’d come up home flush with money and bragging about his wise choices, he’d come home with a chain of catfish or a hindquarter of venison bragging about his woodcraft skills, he’d come home tattooed and puffed up on some kind of promotion he’d got because he was such a gotdamned good Book Keeper, he’d come up home busted up and broke and hungover like hell behind his eyes not bragging at all, he’d come up home with a woman or a couple of men bragging that his sons adored him and that what was ours was theirs but to keep their hands of his. The lesson there for young children such as ourselves was that nothing lasts, that everything can be changed or ruined or taken away instantly for any reason or no reason at all. People come and people go. Attachment to people or things or the things people gave us lead to dull heartache, to the kind of disappointment the old man sanctified, a repetitive chipping away at things like “affection” and “security” and “hope.” It was a kind of hollow understanding; a resignation to all foul things in the past, and all foul things in the present, and all foul things yet to come. Filth and disease wasn’t just a lack of hygiene or antibiotics. It was in The Book. It was the fatalism, the certainty of the nihilism that replaced all hope in The Book and in the supplicant’s heart. The father’s braggart’s ways and the money would both dry up. We’d eat fish and venison until it was gone and then we were on our own. Wounds would heal, the throbbing in his head would ratchet down to normal. The woman or the men would leave cursing him, in a flurry of violence, another loss to add to the losses already given up to The Book. And we, Tobias and me, we’d be right back where we always were no matter what he or we or anybody did…
This is just one of the stories in the anthology Redneck Eldritch, coming in April from Cold Fusion Media!