We hadn’t been settled on our new home planet more’n a week when we had ourselves our first visitor and danged if it wasn’t some kind of preacher. Pa and I were sitting on our porch, which was a sort of platform we’d rigged up in front of the airlock of our spaceship on account of that was what we was living in at the time, us not having built no kind of real house yet. We was sitting there sipping from a jug of Dew Drop Over, which my brother Zefus had concocted from a local cactus and I hears a rustling at the edge of the field we landed in. I looks up and sure enough them funny ferns they had on that world are all waving and so on, and then they parts enough for me to see there’s a stranger there. He steps out of the bresh and looks around, then looks at us, gives a big salesmany grin and walks toward us, waving
his hand in the air like the air’s full of gnats. Only there ain’t no gnats, that’s just this wheylow’s idea of being friendly.
I hands Pa the jug and says, “I didn’t know they was living critters on this here world.”
And Pa, taking the jug, said, “Course ya did, Boofer. Didn’t you hear all them frogs a-croaking last night?”
I said, “But Pa, he don’t look like no frog to me --,” and Pa said, “Look again, son,” and I looked again, and I had to allow as there was something of a resemblance. But I thought I had me a point. Sure, this here feller looked like a squat, runty little critter with a wide mouth
and popping eyes and what all, but he also looked to me like a regular human being just like Pa and me, except he was a little on the small side and I suspected he didn’t glow much in the dark. But before I could bring up all these scientifical observations, the runty man yanked a funny-looking hat off his head and said, “Howdy, neighbor.”
Pa leaned forward in his chair. “Now that’s a surprising thing to hear, stranger. We didn’t know we had any neighbors yet.”
“Then it’s well past time we drapped by and said ‘howdy,’ ain’t it?” said the stranger. “My name be the Reverend Tinsdale Cullus, and I dropped by so we could get acquainted and I could invite that whole clan of you folks over to the big revival we got going tonight.”
“Is that a fact?” said Pa.
“It most certainly is.” He hooked his thumb back toward the way he come and said, “They’s a passel of us got here about a month ago, built us a settlement back that ways a few klicks, and we ain’t been killed by nothing yet, nor covered in no alien fungus, so we got to thinking that was something to celebrate. What better way to celebrate than with a good, old-timey revival? We’ll have us a dinner on the grounds, we’ll sing old-timey songs, we’ll have some three-legged races, and a contest to name this planet, and I can promise you we’ll have all the good, old preaching any man, not to mention most women can stand for. And I mean I can promise it, because, like I told you, I’m the preacher. And I means to preach the whole night away. And we’d sure hold it decent of you if you came and
brought your whole family, which looks to me --,” and here he nodded in my direction, “as if it could use some salvation. You do have a family, don’t you? I notice you got two spaceships parked here in this field –”
Pa nodded, “Well, yes, we got a family. Actually, I kind of think of that fact as the family curse. But we’re not rightly religious folks in the way you’re talking up, if you get my meaning, and –”
“What do you mean we ain’t rightly religious folks,” came a voice right behind of Pa and me, and when we look around, there stands Evil Aunt Toody, arms folded and a glowerful look on her face. “You fools don’t know nobody no more religiouser than I am.”
The runty stranger plops a big grin on that wide, froggy face of his and gives a little bow. “Why, how-do, ma’am,” he says like he was tasting honey on his tongue. “I’m your neighbor The Right Reverend Tinsdale Cullus and I’d like to invite you to attend our festivities tonight. It’s an old-fashioned tent revival and it’ll be held about three klicks from here – just follow that path I came by, back thataway, can’t miss it, just look for the big, flat rock and the tent – and I promise you an uplifting time.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” said Aunt Toody. “I been stuck with this family of atheists and other heathens for all these years, and a good civilized revival is just what I need. What are you reviving?”
“Why, your godly spirit, madam,” says the stranger. “We’re
non-denominational, of course. We got ourselves quite a mix of beliefs represented here, and I don’t mind telling you I take a lot of pride in the range of our tolerance. We mostly got Entropists, but there’s a healthy passel of Solipsists, some Evangelical Nihilists, which is my calling, and there’s a family of Anthropophagites moved in three weeks ago, but don’t you worry none about that, they’ve promised to plainly mark the box dinners they donate to the picnic.”
Evil Aunt Toody was so happy she was doing a little dance, waving around her Book and giving out with an occasional “Hallelujah! Ia! Ia!” the way she does when we can’t stop her, and then she stopped and glared down at the stranger and said, “I’ll be there, The. You can count on Evil Aunt Toody being at your revival tonight.”
But The had a funny look on his face, like he’d just seen something he didn’t care for. He says, “That there book of yourn.”
“Yeah? What about it,” Toody says.
“It has ‘Necronomicon’ on the cover in some sort of darkish dried-up blood kind of color.”
“Curses be, curses be,” said Aunt Toody joyfully, as she waggled the book around in the air some more, so cheerful I was feared she were about to go into a religious ecstasy, and I just weren’t in no mood to dig any new grave holes right then. “Don’t you worry yourself none,” she said. “I knows they’re rare and hard to find even in this more enlightened part of space. So I’ll bring my own copy.” And she laughed.
And the Reverend Cullus just sort of went pale and laughed too, only it were a nervous sort of a laugh it seemed to me, and kind of backed away toward the bresh and didn’t get up no speed until he was right near it. He got up speed then.
“Curses be to Cthulhu, Ia fhtagn!” she shouted. “I’ll sure bring my book.” And in a lower tone, “And some other things, too.” Then she give that cackly laugh of hers again and ran back inside the ship, doubtless to get herself all gussied up for the big revival.
“Boy, howdy,” I said to Pa. “That’s sure going to be some revival, what with Evil Aunt Toody there. No telling what can go wrong. I almost wish I was going to be there to see the fireworks.”
“Funny you should almost wish a thing like that,” said Pa. And swan if his cackle didn’t sound a lot like Evil Aunt Toody’s.
I told him I weren’t no ways about to go with Evil Aunt Toody to tote groceries back from the market for her, much less to a church social, but Pa had a carefully reasoned argument and a two by four, so about the fifteenth time he shouted, “You got to go, son. I ain’t in no mood for such stuff,” whacking me in rhythm to his words with the two by four, I kind of gave in as how he had the better argument.
So it was that long about sundown, Evil Aunt Toody showed up on the porch, all decked out in her Sunday go to sacrifice best, expecting me to drive her over to where that big tent was supposed to be. She had a
sunbonnet, and was wearing a dress with a big skirt and skulls and crossbones all over it, clutching her Necronomicon tight to her bosom, and with a silly, simpering schoolgirl grin on her face. So we piled in and took off.
We drove back follering the trail The had come in on back about three klicks and sure enough, we come to a place where we saw a big flat rock and a tent aside of it. There was still some daylight left and we could see everything plain. Evil Aunt Toody got so excited I thought she was going to jump out before I slowed down, but no such luck. When she did jump out, after I’d stopped and even shut down the engines some, she ran like a little girl up to that there rock and just clapped her hands happily. “That there’s a big rock,” she said. “I bet it could hold a entire busload of people.”
“Now, Toody,” I said, grabbing her arm and dragging her toward the tent. “You just behave yourself on account of this ain’t that kind of revival.”
“Now, you jest ain’t talking sense, boy. What kind of awful people are you trying to claim our neighbors are, anyway?”
At about that time, The comes up, follered by six or seven people, most of them with the same toad-like look he had, but one of whom was a real good looking girl who stood behind him peeping over his shoulder like and giggling, cute as she could be. I give her my best grin.
The took my hand and pumped my arm up and down like I was a well spigot, but I didn’t so much as stick my tongue out at him, I was that taken with the sight of that girl ahind of him. “Welcome, new neighbors,” he says. “I’m proud to see you and I can tell you sure need to hear the word. Knew it the moment I seen you. This here –” he waved his arm sort of toward the folks was all behind of him. “This here’s my young’uns, and they’s all pleased you came here, just as much as I am. That right, children?” The children didn’t say nothing, they all of them except that cute gal one, looking at us kind of bug-eyed, so Preacher The speaks up again, this time a lot louder, so I suppose his family suffered from some kind of genetic hearing problem, “That right, children?” and they all allowed as how it sure was. But the cute gal one stepped up alongside of her pappy and, in that shy kind of way she had, said, “Oh, I’m real happy to see you folks.”
Did I remember to say to you that she was cute? She didn’t have that froggy look like all the others, so I suspect Mrs. The might have took up with a actual human being at one point or another when The was off preaching and salvationing and so on, but I was too polite to say nothing. Besides, I was looking at her. She was button sized and right-girly shaped, and had curly blonde hair and blue eyes and dimples. I think she was taken with me as what sensible girl wouldn’t of been.
The glanced at her and then at me, and give out this nervous kind of
chuckle like he did a lot and said, “Uh, this be my daughter Jezebel, who I might as well tell you now, is spoken for.”
“Well that ain’t rightly so,” says I, “on account of I ain’t said nothing yet,” and I give her a even bigger grin and she giggles and turns around kind of, but keeps looking up at me out of the corner of them big blue eyes of hers, and digs her toes in the ground kind of.
Well, about that time this big lunky looking feller with two crossed and beady looking eyes comes up. He’s so ugly he puts me to mind of Blodgett Schmitz, Liz-Ray’s brother, and that accident happened to him back on Klystra afore we took off ahead of that mob. I know that’s a terrible thing to say about anybody’s looks, but he was flat-out ugly, and the only normal thing about him was how his knuckles scraped the ground when he walked.
This here interloper comes right up to where we are and he says to Jezebel, “Is this here stranger bothering you, Jezzy?”
“This here,” The says, a big smile popping out on his scrawny little head, “is Lurg Wainwright. He’s right like one of the family all ready, because him and Jezzy’s planning on getting hitched after a spell.”
“Ain’t not,” says Jezzy. “Leastways, I ain’t not. Don’t know what fool notions that idjit Lurg might be having clunking around inside that hollow gourd he calls his haid.”
“Ah, Jezzy,” this Lurg idjit pipes up. “You know you cares for me like you don’t care for nobody else.”
Now I had me some things I might have said about that, but just then Aunt Toody starts singing and dancing around and I see she’s got the Book open, so I gently slams it shut and says, “That ain’t polite, Aunt Toody,” and when I turned back around The and his family was gone, and people was starting to go inside the big tent. So I grabbed Evil Aunt Toody by the elbow and dragged her toward the tent saying, “Now you just behave yourself, Evil Aunt Toody,” and she gives me one of those awwwws she’s always groaning, but she calms down and I, foolish person as I sometimes are, actually felt like things might go in a reasonable fashion for the rest of the night.
So ever one piles into that there big tent and it’s hotter and stuffier than blazes underneath it but I allows as how we need to behave ourselves and drags Evil Aunt Toody down to near the front so she won’t miss one word of The’s preaching. I figure maybe something’ll rub off about being nice to your kinfolk or something, and not spoiling a nice evening with the new neighbors.
Well, the whole shebang starts off with a song or two, but not no normal songs like I ever heard before at any of those religious gatherings Pa made me go to with Evil Aunt Toody afore. I mean, there ain’t no Ia ia Fthgning or nothing like that, just these words about how when you get killed and go up yonder things’ll be so grand and wondersome that you’ll be happy you was et by grulzaks or howsomeever it was you got yourself sent onwards. I glanced over at Evil Aunt Toody and I could tell she wasn’t pleased by all this foolishness from the way she was scowling.
After that The started telling us all about the sick folk who couldn’t be here today and Evil Aunt Toody cheered up hearing that, until she realized he was just urging us to go visit those folk and cheer them up and take them cake and cookies and lemonade and such like, and not just reading a list of sacrifices scheduled for the afternoon. When that sunk in, she just had the most disgusted look on her face I ever seed.
Well, finally The walked up to that podium he had at the front of the tent and he grabbed the sides of the top of it and held on like it was trying to get away from him and started in to preaching.
Well, he was some preacher and it was a inspiration and all like, and I’d give you a full report of it if I’d been awake enough to hear it. But it was finally over, I know that for a fact on account of I felt Evil Aunt Toody’s elbow in my ribs and I heard her snarling, “Come on, Boofer. Let’s get out of this heathen tent.” And she grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me outside.
“Well, I said,” when we was out in the starlight, “This has been a real uplifting and inspiring occasion, now, ain’t it?” and she said, “They don’t know what an uplifting occasion rightly is, but they’re gonna learn, Boofer. They’re gonna learn.” Those words and the way she was cackling should have tole me she was up to something but I wasn’t paying her the attention I should have been on account of about that time, I spotted Jezzy Cullus making her way out of the tent.
She spotted me too, and she comes right up to me, all coy and girlish,
a-batting away with them long, thick eyelashes she’s got, and simpering and giggling fit to beat the band. So I had to start in talking to Jezzy, that’s just the natural thing to do, and ignoring Evil Aunt Toody, which is natural to do, too.
So Jezzy and I just stood there gabbing, her saying I looked strong enough to bend horseshoes with my bare hands, and me saying she ought to of brought a horse with her so I could show her, and her saying as how she’d made up a special box lunch she just knew I’d love, and asking if I liked hoedowns and haylofts, and me saying of the two I reckoned I preferred haylofts.
Just then that lug Lurg came up and asked Jezzy if I was bothering her. To which she replied, being a cultured and edjercated woman, “Lurg Wainwright, you just leave us alone on account of I ain’t speaking to you ever again.”
And Lurg said, “Oh, Jezzy, I didn’t mean nothing by what I said about Lucy Benbow.”
“How could you,” she said, a quaver in her voice, “even joke about how a mule faced whelow like Lucy Benbow could have eyes like the melting moons.”
“He said that?” I butted in. “I don’t even know this Lucy Benbow, who might actually be a presentable female, but I don’t see how anybody could have no eyes like melting moons.”
“See?” Jezzy said to that Lurg feller. “A cultured gentleman just automatically knows some things.” She turned to me. “And she’s not.”
“Not what?” I said.
“The least bit presentable.” She hooked her arm in mine and added, “Let’s find us a more private place, such as a hayloft, where we won’t be pestered by no riffraff.” Well, we started off and I allow as how that must have been about all from her that Lurg person could take on account of he fetched me one on the side of the head that rang bells on the next planet.
Well, as is widely known, I am by nature a sweet and peaceable sort who eschews common squabbling and fighting, but there’s something about having a plain idjit batter away at the side of my head which just annoys the bygosh out of me.
It was my kindly nature that prevented me from losing my temper with the poor misbegotten fellow and in a calm voice I told him I realized he had not really intended to do that and I was a forgiving sort of fellow and all, but I sort of figured that if he could do something he had no intention of doing, well, so could I, too. So I picked him up and slammed him into the ground about as hard as I was able to and jumped up and down on him for seven or eight minutes until he began to get mad.
Well, we got into it then, with him chawing on my ear and me whacking away at his ribs and vitals, and I thought it might of gotten to be a bit
rough when all of a sudden I hears a sound that chills me to the bone. I hears Evil Aunt Toody and she’s a-chanting away, just as happy as a grulzak in a briar patch; and I hears a nervous titter coming up from some of the folks standing around and I don’t think they’re feeling a lot of sympathy for poor Lurg Wainwright, and I risks a look around and sure enough, there she is, a dancing away and chanting like crazy out of the Book, up there on that big flat rock.
And I can tell that already something’s heard her.
Well, I might be having a certain amount of fun with that Lurg Wainwright at the time, since I had him by the ankle and was bouncing his head up and down on a particularly rocky patch of ground, but I knew it was time to forget about such frivolity and deal with the problem I could see was coming.
I tossed Lurg Wainwright away and he just sort of lay there all in a clump like a rag doll or something and do you know what? That Jezzy Cullus just ran to his side, a wailing away and calling him names like sweetums and darling and me names which I won’t repeat here, just like he meant something to her. There’s just no accounting for the fickleness of woman, I suppose.
But I had other stuff to worry about and I hopped up on that flat rock and grabbed Evil Aunt Toody by the scruff of the neck where her skin’s good and loose anyway, and took the Book away from her and hauled her down from there and off back toward home.
She was laughing like she’d invented laughing. “It’s too late, you’re
just too late, Boofer, I done did what I set out to do. Make a horrible noise unto Cthulhu, praise his tentacled little snout! Curses be, curses be!”
But I hauled her back to the ship and tossed her into it and then had to explain what had happened to Pa.
I seen him unhappy a time or two, maybe now I thinks a mite, a few more times than that. But I got to say he was real unhappy this time. “We might have to up and move again, and us just having got here,” he pointed out.
“It weren’t all that bad,” I told him. “All she conjured up was one or two shoggoths.”
He calmed down some once he realized we weren’t likely to have enough neighbors left to force us to move, but I wisely stayed out of his way for the next many weeks.
I wasn’t completely lucky of course. Just this morning Liz-Ray Schmitz came over, mad as a dry shark to tell me she’d heard all about me and that Jezzy Cullus and what did I mean by paying any kind of attention to a mere plain-faced washout wheylow such as her, anyhow? It seems Liz-Ray had a unscheduled five and a half hours with nothing important planned for it and she spent every minute telling me why she was never going to speak to me again.
I swear, women is something, and it’s just like I said afore, there’s no accounting for their fickleness.
fillo by Jim Garrison