Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.
But unless Christ Almighty comes down Himself in the next two weeks, I’m going to have to take things into my own hands. There’s going to be a reckoning, a day of judgment, my own separation of the goats and the sheep. The trouble is my neighbor. She has a contravening spirit against the Almighty. Christ says that sins against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, and that’s exactly what’s she’s done. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is my responsibility to put the fear of God into her heart before it’s too late.
Things started out pretty sweet between us. Don’t think that I didn’t do my hardest to make her a friend. I’m a friendly guy. I’m a neighborly guy. I don’t wish ill on anyone. But Kathryn, that’s my neighbor, she has taken things too far.
It all started with her mother, old Mrs. Colluci. Everyone in the neighborhood loved her. I loved her too, she was a sweetheart. I used to help with her yard work, or anything she needed done around the house, a light bulb changed or what have you, I was glad to help out, we all did. But she got sick and Kathryn her daughter came to live with her. Kathryn had been a school administrator living a couple towns over but when her mom got sick she took a leave of absence to come live with her.
That’s something I can get behind. It’s good for kids to take care of their parents. That’s the right thing to do, that’s what they’re their for. She moved in and helped her mom after she had surgery.
I introduced myself and said if she needed anything to let me know. I showed the same neighborly spirit that I’d shown to old Mrs. Colluci. I said, I’m just offering my help if you need anything and she said, Thank you very much, that’s very kind of you, and so that’s how we got started.
I asked her how Mrs. Colluci was and she said that she had breast cancer. I said I was sure sorry to hear that, my sister-in-law had that and it was hell to go through but she turned out okay in the end, thanks be to God. She said that wasn’t the only thing going on. Her mother had dementia. And I said I was really sorry to hear that. Real sorry. I said if she needed anything to holler and I’d be glad to mow the lawn or help with fixing anything in the house, whatever she needed.
She said thank you won’t you have some iced tea and I said I would. We sat on her little back patio and she went to check on her mom who was resting and she came back out and we talked. I don’t know if it was the beautiful summer night, the thought of our own mortality but there was something special between us that night. We sat and talked and told our entire lives practically. We talked about everything.
I talked about my wife Gloria who had died in a car accident ten years ago. We have a son Jonah who lived in Utah. Kathryn had never been married, didn’t have any kids.
I was engaged once, she said. To a man named Robert Moses but decided I didn’t like him that much. I decided he was an asshole. I figured it was probably important to like someone you’re going to be marrying, that might be important. I called it off a week before the wedding. My mother was so upset. She loved him, he was a doctor, had a good practice over in Fairville. Sometimes other people can convince you of something that you’re not sure of, and you have to really take a step back and look deep into yourself and figure out what you really think about something, what you really want, not what people say you want.
I never felt I could be so honest with someone, let alone someone I’d just met. I was looking forward to when I’d see her next. I just reached out and touched her gently on the shoulder, not in a romantic way, just because I’d been so moved by what we’d shared and she recoiled.
Sorry, she said, I just don’t like being touched.
Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it, I said.
It’s okay, she said. I just have this thing where I don’t like being touched.
I sometimes used to get old Mrs. Colluci’s mail. The mailman had gone a little senile in his sorting, had been for years, and every week nearly, I’d get a few pieces of her mail in mine and I’d always go and drop it off. Didn’t think too much of it, since it’d become habit, almost normal. When Kathryn moved in, I started to get her mail too.
About a month after she moved in I got a piece of mail that I suppose set off this whole disaster. It was from the Euthanasia Organization of America. First off, I had no idea there was such an organization, how was that legal in the first place. An organization dedicated to the killing of old people, diseased, infirmed, like they were animals, I couldn’t believe how that was legal to exist. But I looked it up on my computer and it did in fact exist. They were dedicated to the policy of letting people die with dignity. With dignity? I said to myself. Killing someone was not dignified. Killing yourself was not dignified.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on here. She’d moved in and I’d assumed all sorts of noble things about Kathryn, how she was helping her mother out and dedicated to her well-being, but here, she was maybe thinking about killing the old lady. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t right. Then I thought, I had absolutely no proof that she was going to go through with it.
Maybe in the shock of her mother’s diagnosis she had signed up to the mailing list for this organization and she didn’t really realize what she was thinking. She’d tear it up when she got it, and she’d probably be horrified to know that I’d gotten this piece of mail. I didn’t want to give her any more temptation, and so I burned it.
It was a bright blue day, the kind of day you’re glad to be alive and you’re saying, Thank you, sweet Jesus, for the pleasures of the world your Father has created. I guess all three created the world, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Makes more sense, it would take at least three divine beings to bring this beautiful earth and universe into being. Holy Ghost couldn’t do it on his own. Maybe Jesus could have but he needed the Big Poppa.
I was out doing my yardwork and in my neighborly way I decided to mow old Mrs. Colluci and Kathryn’s yard. So I just did it, I started mowing. And I had to get pretty close to the house because the lawn gets pretty close to the house, as lawns often do and Kathryn comes out of the house and she’s looking a little bit miffed and I turn off the mower and she says thank you so much for doing that but her mother was sleeping and could you perhaps come back later. Her mother was having a lot of trouble sleeping lately and so it was important that she get her rest. Of course, I was understanding about it, but I wasn’t some hired hand.
I was just trying to be neighborly and I wasn’t sure I could mow the lawn later. But still I said, sure, no problem, and I said I’d been praying for her mother. I said a member of my congregation had told me about a Faith Healer up in Kenningsett who had worked miracles. The spirit of God was upon him and I could ask him to come down and pray over old Mrs. Colluci. I said he’d healed a woman of Alzheimer’s up in Kenningsett, and all sorts of miracles had been reported. It was all very exciting.
I was thinking about asking him to take a look at my back but there were people with needs more pressing that a few misaligned vertebrae, painful though it was.
She said thank you, but she gave me a look. I guess I’d call it disgust mixed with hate. It was only for a second but I saw it. I’m very perceptive that way. People don’t think I am but I pick up on these cues. Gloria used to say how I could read people real well. And I saw that look.
She said, Thank you, but no, her mother wouldn’t be needing a faith healer, that just might upset her. You understood, right? she said. How it might upset her?
I said I didn’t see how being healed might upset her, but it was their life and their decision, I was just going to go back to my yard and take care of a few things. Well, I found out some very interesting things in that conversation with Kathryn. Very interesting about her thoughts about religion. I know where she stands now.
Maybe I was too hard on her. I know everyone doesn’t believe the way I do but I figured she’d be a God-fearing person. Old Mrs. Colluci was. She went to Baptist church, her friend’s daughter picked her up every Sunday. I wasn’t of the Baptist persuasion myself but I sure respected her for her Sunday attendance.
I got two more pieces of mail. One more from the Euthanasia Organization and the other from a Wiccan Organization. When I got these documents I knew she hadn’t had a change of mind. The package from the Euthanasia Organization was a bunch of documents about how to kill someone. I couldn’t believe it.
Kathryn’s mind was still going in the same direction. Here she was in her house just a hundred feet from me plotting how she could kill her mother and get away with it. Just because her mother was sick and was going to require a lot of work to take care of, it doesn’t make it right to think about killing her.
This was an issue in our church a while back when Gary, our pastor, had a brother with a wife who was in a coma, and he wanted to pull the plug. But Gary said no, that wasn’t right. She still had vital signs, she was still breathing, even though she had some tubes and machines hooked up. There was still hope.
With old Mrs. Colluci I know the chances of getting better were slim. Dementia wasn’t pretty, I know how hard it is to acknowledge that and to care for people who are suffering that terrible disease. God I know. My mother had dementia her last years of her life. You think I was happy to see her suffer like that, forgetting everything, even me, wondering around, pumped up on drugs the doctor gave her so she would stay calm and not freak out, you think I wanted her to suffer like that?
You think I wouldn’t have just pulled the plug if it wasn’t against the almighty law of God the Father in heaven? Life is Sacred. That’s true even if it isn’t comfortable for us, even if it isn’t comfortable for the people suffering. Suffering is the hardest thing we can do in this world, I believe, and watching people we love suffering is the second hardest thing, almost worse than the first because sometimes you wish you could take their suffering onto yourself, but you can’t. Wishing doesn’t make it so we all know that. That’s a hard fact of life but we gotta face it. I sat and read through the mail, I know it wasn’t right to open her mail but I’m talking about the greater good here, the more important thing, which is a life. A human life had to be saved, and as far as I knew I was the only person who knew about it. I had a holy obligation to save old Mrs. Colluci.
The table was set. The candles, just some candles—nothing romantic or anything—just to make it a little nicer, a little more festive. I was making steak. She told me she loved a good steak and she was bringing some potato salad and had prepped a big delicious green salad.
I had thought long and hard about my approach to her. I could be direct and upfront if I wanted to, I had no problem doing that, but I knew I had to be smart about this. If she was a Wiccan I needed to be as devious as a serpent and as wise as a dove. She might have the devil on her side but I had God on my side and Christ had cast Lucifer from the heaven so we know who won that fight.
The doorbell rung.
No need to be formal, I said, when I opened the door. You can just come around to the back next time.
I like coming in the front door, she said. You get a good sense of the house that way.
Well, it’s not too much to look at. Haven’t really changed much since Gloria passed, this was all her handiwork.
Is that a Dali? she said.
A gift from Gloria’s uncle in Los Angeles. I didn’t like it at first but it’s grown on me over the years, I said.
You must miss Gloria.
Everyday. It hasn’t been the same since she’s been gone. The only thing that kept me going is my faith. It’s the only thing though the dark times. I hope Mrs. Colluci’s faith is holding up these days.
She prays everyday, Kathryn said. Well, most everyday. She’s talking to someone at least.
How is she doing? I said.
Well, her hours are driving me a little crazy. She’s getting up early in the morning. 3am, 4am wandering around. So we’re going out for walks in the morning.
But that’s the way it is.
Listen, I said. Kathryn.
We’d finished our meal and had a couple glasses of wine.
I need to get real straight with you here.
I need to ask you a question. I’ve received mail of yours from the Euthanasia Organization, and I need to ask you directly, are you planning on going through with that with your mother?
She was quiet for a moment. She put down her wine. That’s something for me to discuss privately with my mother, she said.
I can’t let you do it, I said. I just can’t.
She stood up.
I’m going to be real clear here, she said. It’s none of your goddamn business.
I didn’t want it to come to this, but she left me no choice. I grabbed her. She screamed.
She was clawing at me, screaming fiercely, scratching my face, but I took her down to the basement, to the room I prepared. I locked her in the room. It wasn’t so bad. It had a nice carpet, a mattress, even a bathroom. I made sure she didn’t have her cellphone or anything, not that you could get reception down there. I was doing something that was wrong for the greater good. I fully believed that. I had to save old Mrs. Colluci, give her a true death with dignity. Kathryn would see the error in her ways. I’d help her see.
I went over to old Mrs. Colluci’s house. I wiped off the blood on my face, from where Kathryn was clawing at me. I told Mrs. Colluci that her daughter asked me to care for her from now on. Her daughter had to go away for a while. She didn’t seem to understand. Let’s pray together, I said. Lord Jesus Christ give us the strength to do what is right, always. I ask your blessing over Mrs. Colluci, I ask you to first of all heal her, send your healing power, but if that is not your will, I ask her to give her the strength to go on, every day, until that time when you call her home. Home to heaven. Home to be with the angels. Home to be with Jesus Christ. Lord, give us the strength. Amen. Thank you, Jesus, thank you.