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God’s Work

From: Appalachian Heritage
Volume 42, Number 2, Spring 2014
pp. 70-72 | 10.1353/aph.2014.0022

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Blaze had run a septic cleaning company
for fifteen years, called Blaze’s Sewer Review.
His emblem? Dead skunk in a crosshairs
above the motto Dirty deeds done dirt cheap!
His only son, name Cody, had almost finished
his Associate’s in maybe becoming a teacher or a cop,
but now was taking an accidental gap year
where he’d forgot to renew his grants (and made two Ds).
Blaze pretended to be displeased, but truth be told
was happy to have his son around again.
Cody had lived at his mother’s house
for almost all of high school, since Blaze
had kept his place outside the good school district.
So Blaze moved back from the hose to the truck cab,
and Cody went to vacuuming up poop, taking back
his sixteenth summer’s work for his twenty-first.
The sun was hot and the shit stank
and the pay was never low but it wasn’t high
and only certain kinds of women didn’t mind
a man who had that station of employment.
But the two made a tolerable living,
and knew where to find those women.
But then that Glade tornado came and tore Glade up.
If nobody had died, it’d have been something to gloat about:
two square miles of short circuited crap bombs
and them sitting right there, rolling in it (so to speak).
But people did die, and others wished they had,
and more than that lost Mommy’s house and all her things.
The trees looked like the hairline in a razor ad.
So they didn’t like the work they took,
and took some cheap, for dinner or beer.
Sometimes they had to do stump removal,
or spend a half day moving furniture
before they got to shoveling out the tank.
They didn’t put that on the bill. Almost all
they got paid full for was Jobsite Johnny cleanup,
and it seemed to rain about half of the festivals out.
But nothing was worse than when that church group came
to take the trash and trees from Gladys Lamie’s yard.
Jerusalem Church of Jesus the Servant youth group:
twenty-five neon t-shirts strong from St. Jean-Baptiste, Iowa.
Everyone picking up trash with one hand, cell phones
in the other; everyone mixing up the names of tools,
asking folks about their accents, not getting jack shit done.
Mrs. Lamie’d double-booked the day; so Blaze and Cody
had to watch all this and try to work around it.
Everything done something they could have done in half the time
without the trouble, everything not done something
keeping them from getting to their work.
But the kids were doing God’s work, Gladys said;
she held their hands then cried as they prayed for her.
So Blaze and Cody kept their mouths shut for a while
but before the kids were halfway done cleaning
they’d stopped for lunch and pictures.
The girls duckfaced in Jesus name,
with those matching neon shirts: big heart in a house
read Spreading His love to the whole world!
Preacher’s lady clicked that Nikon camera
while the girls duckfaced and the boys got a chainsaw
stuck in a stump, and flooded out the engine.
Finally it all just ate Blaze up too much.
If a man came in on that stump at angles
he wouldn’t have that problem, he hinted to the boys.
Do ya’ll want it I could get that out for you?
We’re sorry, sir, but we can’t let you do that,
the preacher said. You have to be approved to volunteer.
Ah, I think we know how to work with tools.
Well all the same, we best get this alone.
And that was all the two said to each other.
The preacher preached and the shovelers shoveled
and neither spoke to the other one again.
But later, heading home, Blaze turned to Cody
and said, My daddy only ever told me one thing
about religion: ‘You do God’s work, but never call it that.’
And that’s the only thing I’m going to say to you.

Matt Prater  

Matt Prater is...

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