||[Oct. 17th, 2006|10:29 am]
|||||I saw the light... Hank Williams SR. (NEVER JR.)||]|
Ed and Hank
Part 14, Thursday afternoon
Ed saw the light Ed saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now Ed’s so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord Ed saw the light...
Warning: Really long. Lotta religion.
Links to all previous parts of the story, postcards and other stuff and nonsense can be found here:
Part 14, Thursday Afternoon
“Hey Ed. Hey Bill. What’s fer lunch?” Hank moseyed into the kitchen, Edthedog right behind him.
Ed stopped short before taking another bite of his sandwich and looked up at Hank with a frown on his face, “Lemme get this straight. Me ‘n Bill been workin’ since sun-up tryin’ ta keep this here ranch goin’. ‘N you been either sleepin’, lyin’ ‘round, or writin’ tha’ story. Am I right?”
“Yep. Third one. Writin’ tha’ story.” Hank grinned, “Well… Guess a little a them first two too.”
“’N now ya want me ta serve ya lunch too. Would ya like tha’ served ta ya up in bed? Maybe on a silver platter?”
“Sure. ‘Preciate tha’. Rose in a vase on the side be a nice touch too. Prefer them yellow ones. But red ‘d be okay too.” Hank turned to leave and head back upstairs.
“Get yer ass back down here.”
Bill laughed, “Hey Hank, ya don’ come back ta work soon I may make a move on Ed here. Figure he’s fair game ‘n all.”
Bill winked at Ed. Ed turned red. And Hank laughed, “Didn’ know ya were queer Bill.”
“Ain’t. Jus’ lonely. Almos’ had a date couple weeks ago. Was gonna take her ta the Pizza Hut ‘n out ta a movie. If we hit it off I mighta even taken her ta the Dairy Queen after.”
Hank started making a sandwich for himself, “Wha’ happened?”
“Don’ really know. Weren’t nothin’ definite. Kinda a long distance thing. Guess she couldn’ make it. Says she’s gonna try again. Maybe move here. But don’ wanna get ma hopes up…”
“Hey, wha’ ‘bout Betty? Works at the animal shelter. Seems ‘bout your age. Husband died a few years back. Ran inta her the other day. Wanted ta know how Edthedog and Hankthedog were doin’.”
At the mention of their names the dogs raised their heads, looked at Hank and wagged their tails. Hank smiled over at them, now both curled up on either side of Ed’s chair, “Hey, Edthedog. Hey, Hankthedog. How you fellas doin’?”
They didn’t answer, but they seemed to be doing just fine.
Bill laughed, “Them is two ugly dogs.”
Ed leapt to their defense, “Hey! They’s not tha’ ugly. Jus’ got a whole lotta character.”
“Guess it’s true what they say. ‘Bout love bein’ blind ‘n all.” Bill laughed again.
Hank finished making his sandwich and turned his attention back to Bill, “We could ask Betty over so’s she could see fer herself how they’re doin’. You could jus’ happen ta be ‘round. See if ya hit it off.”
Bill sighed, “Think I’ll jus’ see if this other one works out first.”
“Suit yer self.”
Bill pushed his chair back from the table and got up, “Thanks fer lunch Ed. I better get back ta work.”
“Join ya in a little while.”
“Be countin’ the minutes.” Bill winked at Ed again before he went out the door. Ed turned red again. Hank laughed.
“Hey Hank, ya ever comin’ back ta work? If them were retirement watches we exchanged ya coulda at least let me in on it.”
Hank sat down next to Ed with the sandwich he’d made, “Ain’t retired.”
“Coulda fooled me. Ya do a pretty good imitation a it.”
“Writin’s hard work.”
“Yeah. Ya look all worn out.”
“Been writin’ ‘bout tha’ first week we spent together, after we met up again after them years apart. Ya remember?”
Ed stopped eating and looked out the window towards the mountains in the distance. Not the same mountains, but mountains, just the same, “Ain’t senile. Yet. ‘Course I remember. Damn. That was some week. Wished we coulda jus’ stayed up on tha’ mountain forever.”
“Woulda starved. Froze ta death. Or worse. Run outta Vaseline.”
Ed laughed, “Hated tha’ stuff. Got all over everythin’. Hard ta wash off. Specially campin’. Felt like a greased pig by the end a tha’ week.”
“Remember ya gettin’ harder ‘n harder ta hold onta.” Hank grinned, “Woulda been mighty sore withou’ it though.”
“Was still mighty sore. Gettin’ a migh’ sore this week too.” Ed reached under the table and rubbed Hank’s leg, “Ain’t complainin’ mind ya.” Ed smiled, a little sadly maybe, “Still wished we coulda stayed. Didn’ wanna go back.”
“As I recall, ya seemed ta be in a right hurry ta get down tha’ mountain.”
“Was jus’ worried ‘bout tha’ rain ‘n them switch-backs. Wanted ta get down ‘em quick as possible.”
“Oh. So now, after all these years, yer finally gonna admit ta bein’ scared a heights?”
“Ain’t scared a heights.” Ed grinned, “Scared a the ground. Ya know, hittin’ it at a high rate a speed.”
“Yeah. ‘N ya seemed ta be scared a tha’ little ol’ shirt too.”
“Damn right I was scared a tha’ shirt.” Ed sighed, “Scared a what it meant. You findin’ tha’ shirt. Makin’ me tell ya how I felt ‘bout ya…”
“Hold on there, Cowboy. Didn’ make ya tell me nothin’”
“Yeah. Right. Ya were leanin’ ‘gainst tha’ truck lookin’ like ya lost yer only friend ‘n the world. Lettin’ me do all the work. Then sayin’ ya didn’ know if ya were comin’ tha’ next month. Shit.”
“Wait jus' a gol-darn a minute now... Way ya were actin’ after I found tha’ shirt. Didn’ look at me. Didn’ say two words ta me. Thought I had lost ya. ‘N damned if I knew why.”
“Sorry Hank. Guess I was bein’ an asshole. Yer findin’ tha’ shirt threw me. Cain’t ‘xplain it even now. Don' make a lotta sense. Kept it hidden fer so long. But you pullin’ tha’ shirt out made me feel like our secret was revealed ta the whole world ‘n God up above. Even though we’d been together tha’ whole week ‘n I was purty sure God already knew all ‘bout us.”
Ed laughed, “'N tha’ clap a thunder when I walked over ta the truck ‘n found ya there with tha’ shirt jus’ kinda brought it all home ta me.”
“Don’ remember no clap a thunder.”
“Don’ surprise me none. Ya never did listen ta God much. Even back then.”
“Speakin’ a which… Know ya got past all tha’ fire ‘n brimstone religion yer folks…”
“Damn.” Hank thought, “Not the best way to start this. Bringin’ up Ed’s folks."
Hank forged ahead anyway, “But… Ya never really told me how ya managed it. Gettin’ past it ‘n all.”
“Shit. Jus’ finishin’ ma lunch here.”
“Wha’s tha’ got ta do with it?”
“Dunno. Jus’ don’ wanna talk ‘bout it. Migh’ give me indigestion.”
“Quicker ya tell me stuff quicker I’ll be done writin’ ‘bout us.”
“Know ya were taught some a tha’ same stuff. ‘Course not as… uh… not like I were. ‘Bout how bein’ who we was were so wrong. ‘N all the rest a it too. How’d you get over it?”
“Dunno really. Guess I never got under it in the first place. Jus’ never took. None a it ever took. Don’ know why. Tried ta believe. When I was younger. Jus’ couldn’ make ma self. Tried ta like girls later. Jus’ couldn’ make ma self. Ain't sayin' it weren't real diff'cult at times. But lovin’ ya felt awful right ta me. Rightest anythin’s ever felt.” Hank put his hand over Ed’s, “Still does.”
“Ya still make it sound so easy. Wish it were tha’ easy fer me.” Ed sighed, “Weren’t quick neither. Guess you know tha’ well ‘nough. It felt right long as I were with ya. Well. Most a the time anyway. It was after. When I would get back home. Full weight a all tha’ religion come crashin’ down on me.”
Hank didn’t say anything. Sometimes the best way to get Ed to talk was to just be quiet and let him.
“Weren’t jus’ one thing tha’ happened. Guess I first started ta think ‘bout it when I were going through a real rough time a it. Real rough.” Ed let out a harsh laugh, “Think I even thought ‘bout doin’ ma self in ‘round ‘bout then.”
“Never told me tha’, Ed.” Hank was stunned. He wanted to get up and take Ed in his arms. But he didn’t. Just squeezed Ed’s hand, hoping maybe if he made Ed talk about this it would end up being a good thing.
“Knew I was lost in this world and the next. Lucky fer me it were, whadda they call it… a Catch-22. Go ta hell fer lovin’ ya. Go ta hell fer killin’ ma self. Ain’t no winnin’ fer losin’.”
A chill ran through Hank as he suddenly flashed back to the postcard he had come across a few years after they had moved in together. Hank had run out of clean clothes and was digging through Ed’s things for something Ed might not recognize as his own. Hank found the postcard tucked away in the back of a drawer under a couple of old t-shirts, not with any of the other postcards. It was a pretty picture of the mountains, addressed to Hank, stamped and ready to be mailed. On the back was written, “Didn’t know how else ta quit ya. Sorry Hank. Ain’t yer fault.”
At the time, Hank thought Ed had planned on dumping him by sending him that card. Thought Ed lacked the courage to do it face to face and for some reason hadn’t followed through. Hadn’t mailed it. Hank hadn’t understood why Ed still hung on to it so many years later. He never mentioned finding it to Ed. Was hurt that Ed would have used a postcard of mountains, of all things, to dump him. Put it back where he’d found it, tried to forget about it. Never quite could.
Now Hank knew that postcard meant something entirely different. Knew Ed had got a lot closer to killing himself then he would ever let on.
Hank still didn’t say anything, didn’t trust himself to, just squeezed Ed’s hand even tighter as the anger he felt towards those bible thumpers filled his heart, digging itself in a little deeper than before. Anger for how they had made Ed suffer. Anger for how they had made so many others suffer. How they were still making so many people suffer. Hank couldn’t help clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth together as he thought to himself “Goddamn religion better at wieldin’ tire irons than mos’ people ‘round here would be.”
“Sure am glad I didn’...” Ed gave Hank a smile that made Hank stop grinding his teeth, made his anger ease, at least for the moment.
“Me too, Ed. Me too.” Hank whispered. He didn’t want to let on that he knew about that postcard. At least not right now.
Ed was quiet for a moment, then continued with his story, "Guess it started when I first took Iris ta the lib’ary. Was lookin’ fer somethin’ ta do while I waited fer her. Saw this big ol’ book lyin’ on a table. Title somethin’ ‘bout religions of the world. Had never known nothin’‘bout other religions. Jus’ sat there starin’ at it fer a while. Was thinkin’ ‘bout maybe openin’ it when Iris came over sayin’ she was done ‘n we left.”
“Didn’ see it out the next time. Tha’ same lib’arian from years before were there though. She’d always been real nice ta me. Saw me ‘n asked how I been. Said she wondered where I went. Told her ma friend didn’ travel so much no more, so I didn’ need ta look places up. She asked if she could help me find anythin’. Somehow got up the nerve ta ask her ‘bout tha’ book. Woman didn’ bat an eye. Jus’ showed me where they kept it. Like it weren’t nothin’.”
“Not like it was a dirty book, Ed.”
“Sure woulda been considered a dirty book in the house I grew up in.”
“Didn’ read it cover ta cover. Read some. Understood some. Didn’ understand’ some. Would look at it whenever I brought Iris there. Didn’ even ask her, but tha’ lib’arian brought me a few other books too. Couple a them looked awful new. Kinda got the feelin’ she mighta bought ‘em jus’ fer me." Ed paused before continuing, "Never knew. People all over the world. All believin’ somethin’ differen’. All believin’ they’re righ’. Lot of ‘em hatin’ each other…”
“Yeah. Not really a whole lotta lovin’ thy neighbor goin’ on in this here world.”
“Got tha’ right. ‘N a lot of ‘em believin’ everybody else is goin’ ta hell.” Ed shook his head sadly, “Tha’s what I was taught. Tha’ everyone who didn’ believe like we did was gonna go ta hell. Be damned fer all eternity. Lookin’ at them books. Started ta think ‘bout jus’ how many people tha’ was.”
“Yeah. Heard they keep havin’ ta add onta hell. Already annexed Texas, Oklahoma ‘n Kansas. Now they’re thinkin’ ‘bout ‘xpandin’ inta Nebraska.”
“Ya wanna hear this? Or ya wanna do yer stand-up act? Be glad ta stop talkin’.”
“Sorry, Ed. Wanna hear it. I’ll try ‘n shut up.” Hank knew he was overdoing it. Probably because he was trying not to think about that postcard. Could have kicked himself.
“Came home from work sick one day ‘n Iris was watchin’ tha’ ol’ show, ‘Let’s Make a Deal’. Seems kinda dumb. Maybe it was the fever or somethin’. But all a the sudden tha' Monty Hall fella made me think a God. Makin’ people pick their religion like pickin’ between them three big ol’ doors. ‘N ya don’ know what’s behind ‘em. But if’n ya pick wrong, instead a jus’ gettin’ ‘zonked’, ya go ta hell.” Ed shook his head, “Or worse yet. Didn’ even make a choice. Burnin’ forever jus’ ‘cause ya was born inta the wrong religion. Or maybe jus’ cause ya was born… Jus’ didn’ make a lotta sense ta me.”
Hank shook his head, “Yeah. Don’ ‘xactly paint God in a real good light.”
"Then there was all tha’ with ma sister Ruth. Think ya know most a tha’ story.”
“Go ahead ‘n tell me again. Was a long time ago.”
“Shit. Wanted her ta get away from tha’ bastard husband a hers. Tried ta help her tha’ one time. When I was livin’ there. But he was bigger ‘n me. Beat me up righ’ good. ‘N Ruth told me ta stay outta it after tha’. Said I'd jus' get hurt 'n it’d jus’end up makin' things worse fer her. First thing I did once Nora ‘n me were settled proper was ta call Ruth. Tell her she were welcome ta come live with us. Anytime ‘n for as long as she needed. Permanent-like even. Didn’ talk ta her much. But every time I did I told her tha’. Years later, she showed up on our doorstep beat up real bad. Kids in tow. Had finally got up the gumption ta leave. No problem havin’ ‘em stay with us. She ‘n Nora got on real good. Kids all got along good too.”
“Only ‘bout two months had passed when tha’ damn preacher got a hold a her. Told her it were her fault she got beat. Told her it were God's will 'n her duty ta go back. Ta serve her husband. Nora 'n me tried ta stop her. Won’ never ferget the look on her face when they drove ‘way with him. Won’ never ferget the way her face looked the next day. Lyin’ in tha’ hospital bed. She almos’ didn’ make it. Least she left him fer good after tha’.”
Hank couldn’t help adding his two cents worth again, “Ain’t no one’s ‘duty’ ta get beat up. Physical-like or otherwise.” Hank knew Ed had been on the receiving end of both.
“Watched what Nora went through too. Nothin’ like ma sister. More like tha' 'otherwise' ya jus' mentioned. Still bad ‘nough. Nora didn’ want no more children after Iris. Loved Iris. Jus’ didn’ want no more kids. Nora’s family gave her a real hard time over it. Sayin’ she was goin’ ‘gainst God. Never let up on the topic. Then years later, after we got divorced, they practic’lly shunned her over tha’. Treated her like damaged goods. ‘Cause it was Nora’s idea. The divorce ‘n all.”
Hank let that one slide. They’d argued about it in the past and it was still a sore spot. Real sore. The divorce being Nora’s idea. Hank sometimes thought Ed might still be married to Nora if she hadn’t decided to end it. Ed swore he just would have waited ‘til Iris was a little older. But Hank wasn’t so sure. After all, it wasn’t like Ed moved in with him right after. Took him a while.
"Kinda sad, Ed. Seems tha' people like Nora's folks, 'n yer folks, all them other religious zealot-types jus' wanna make sure everyone else stays as miserable as they are.”
“Shit. Nora’s folks sure were miserable. No doubt ‘bout tha’. Fer a while then Nora started in with the religion stuff too. Few years ‘fore we got divorced. Prob’bly really was ‘fraid she was goin’ ‘gainst God. Come ta think a it. Maybe she was doin’ the same thing I were. Tryin’ ta figure it all out fer herself.”
“She started draggin’ me ta church all the time. Talk ‘bout yer fire ‘n brimstone… Thought I’d burst inta flames every time I walked through them doors. ‘N wantin’ money all the time. Like it didn’ matter so much whatcha did s’long as ya gave ‘em ‘nough money. Some a the crookedest people ‘n town were sittin’ pious as can be in church every Sunday. Singin’ the loudest. Preacher all chummy with’ em. Stuck in ma craw.”
“Started lookin’ at them holier-than-thou types a lot more closely. Wonderin’ why I thought they were some kinda ‘xperts on right ‘n wrong. Came ta be more 'n more sure tha' they wouldn' have no clue what God thought 'bout me or was plannin’ on doin’ ta me. Finally had 'nough. Jus’ flat-out refused ta go ta church with Nora again.”
"Between what I read 'n what I saw, started ta think either God was a righ' son of a bitch or a lotta them religions were jus' plain wrong. Seemed more likely tha' them religions were wrong. Maybe ma folks ‘n all them other people who said they got all the answers don’t. Maybe nobody’s got the answers. Maybe nobody’s got any a the answers.”
“Yeah. Don' really think anybody's got the answers Ed. Think lotta religion's not really 'bout lovin' God 'n yer neighbors. More 'bout keepin' people 'n line 'n passin' tha' collection plate.
"Same thing I ended up thinkin'. Even if they don' start out tha' way. Sure seems ta be how lot of 'em end up."
“Then Nora started lettin’ anyone who came ta the door talkin’ religion inta the house. Small town so weren’t tha’ many a them. But were some. Them Witnesses, ‘n them Mormons, don’t really remember the others by name. Think word musta got ‘round tha’ Nora would let ‘em in. Let ‘em talk all they wanted.”
Ed snorted, “Felt like we was shoppin’ ‘round fer insurance. Tryin’ ta figure out which policy had the best benefits. Which heaven sounded best ‘n was the easiest ta get inta. Most a them fellas jus’ seemed like pushy salesmen. Sayin’ anythin’ ta close the deal. Get them numbers up.”
“Sure remember them Mormons good ‘nough.” Ed laughed, “With tha’ religion, if ya play yer cards right, can get yer own planet. Become a god yerself.”
“For real. Don’ think they advertise it gen’rally. But tha’s wha’ them fellas told us. Like they were tellin’ a big secret. Think they was jus’ tryin’ ta get some converts quick. Entice me with ma own planet ‘n all.”
“Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Bein’ a god ‘n all.”
“Sure. At first. But when I thought ‘bout it some… Long hours. Don’ even get Sundays off. Decidin’ who goes ta heaven ‘n who goes ta hell. Wars bein’ fought ‘n yer name all the time. Jus’ don’ have the stomach fer it. ‘N havin’ ta decide who wins all a them football games... Shit. Way too much work.”
“But as a god wouldn’ ya get ta farm out some a tha’ stuff?”
“Oh yeah. There’s a comfortin’ thought. God runnin’ a big ol’ bureaucracy. Some heavenly version of ol’ Bert down at the DMV messes up yer file ‘n ya end up goin’ straight ta hell whether ya deserve it or not.”
“Yeah but if ya was a god ya could make sure it’s okay ta be queer on yer planet. That’d be good, wouldn’ it?”
“Won’ work. In tha’ religion cain’t become a god if’n yer queer. ‘N even if I could be a god… hell… everyone’d prob’bly jus’ ignore me. Make up their own rules anyway. Jus’ like lotta people do here on Earth. In order ta ‘xcuse whatever it is they wanna do. Make it okay ta hate whoever it is they wanna hate...”
“Hurt whoever they wanna hurt.” Hank added.
“Think it’d jus’ be real depressin’ and real frustratin’ ta be a god. Prob’bly jus’ make me sad ‘n give me a big ol’ headache.”
"Did ya ever think 'bout some a them religions tha' really try ta be 'bout lovin' God 'n yer neighbors. One a them tha' say it's okay ta be gay?"
"Was goin' through all this so long ago. Ain't 'xactly like any of them religions were located 'round these parts. Still ain't. 'N sides, ended up bein' more 'bout me thinkin' fer ma self 'n tryin' ta figure out right from wrong. 'Stead a jus' havin' somebody tell me. In the end, worked out ma own way a lookin' at things." Ed smiled then, "Kinda made up ma own religion. Jus' left God outta it entirely though."
"Ya made up yer own religion?" Hank was dumbfounded, "Why didn' ya ever tell me?"
“Didn’ ask. Ain’t like we sit ‘round talkin’ ‘bout religion regular-like. Or ever. ‘N I shouldna said it were a religion. Ain’t really a religion...”
“’N leavin’ God outta it?” Hank laughed, couldn’t help himself, “Can ya do tha’? Have a religion where there ain’t no God?”
“Didn’ say there ain’t no God. Tha’s ‘nother thing I thought ‘bout fer a long time. 'N damned if I know if there’s a God or not. So I decided I weren't gonna spend ma time worryin’ ‘bout it. Jus’ left Him outta it. Figure if there is a God, He migh’ actually ‘preciate tha 'n judge me fair ‘nough in the end."
"'N if there is a God 'n He ends up bein' ma folks' God... Well, ain't much I can do 'bout it. 'Cept maybe hope I get a chance ta take Him ta task over a few things 'fore He sends me off ta hell.”
Hank grinned at the thought of Ed arguing with God, “Maybe I can be yer first convert. Long as it ain’t a cult. Ain’t joinin’ no cult.”
Ed laughed, “Ain’t a cult. ‘N it ain’t like somethin’ ya convert ta. Like I said. It ain’t no religion. Jus’ tryin’ ta figure out wha’s righ’ ‘n wrong fer ma self. ‘N I didn’ make it up ma self either. Funny thing is, jus’ borrowed it from all a them other religions.”
“Took me so long ta figure it out. But it were so simple. There’s jus’ one idea I try ta live by. Tha’ ‘do unto others’ one. Ya know. Treat other people how ya’d like ta be treated. Got it from them books. Seems ta be the only thing all them religions have in common. Jus’ all got their own way a puttin’ it. Know it ain’t perfec'. But it helps me think ‘bout right ‘n wrong withou’ havin’ ta worry ‘bout all tha’ other stuff.”
Ed paused again, “Think 'm makin' it sound a lot easier than it were. But all them things were what made me start thinkin’ fer ma self ‘bout all this. 'N after all tha’, it weren’t too hard ta understan’ tha’ there weren’t nothin’ wrong with you ‘n me lovin’ each other. Both feel the same way ‘bout it. ‘N it don’ hurt nobody. Still took me a lot longer ta see tha' it ain't no different from how any other couple love each other. 'Cept fer the details. Same feelin's. Same problems.”
“Shouldn' say it didn' hurt no one though." Ed frowned, "Hurt Nora. But me ‘n her made our peace long ago. ‘N hurt you. Waitin’ on me fer so many years. Hell, hurt me too. But all tha’ hurt come from me believin’ it was wrong. Tryin’ ta make ma self stop lovin’ ya. Even with Nora. If I’d a had the courage ta end it ma self earlier, woulda been a lot better. The marriage I mean... Not...”
Hank saved Ed from having to finish that sentence, “Guess there ain’t no escapin’ hurt in this world. Jus’ glad ya did finally figure it out fer yerself. ‘N fer us.” Hank smiled then, “Think Monty Hall is still alive? Could write him a nice ‘thank you’ note.”
“Don’ know. But know who I should thank. Tha’ lib’arian. Know she’s still alive. Never felt like she was judgin’ me. Knew she wouldn’ tell no one wha’ I was lookin’ at. She’s the one person kinda made it okay fer me ta think it was okay ta even think ‘bout all this.”
“Think ya know wha’ I mean.”
Hank thought for a moment, “Gotta be hard sometimes though. ‘Cause ain’t everyone followin’ it. Sometimes seems like ain’t no one followin’ it. Ain’t everyone gonna treat ya very well. Like them bible-thumpers. Hard ta treat people well when they’re hatin’ on ya.”
“Said it were simple. Didn’ say it were easy. Didn’ say I always managed ta do it. Jus’ do the best I can.” Ed sighed, “Was only half the battle anyway. I migh’ have come ta terms with all tha’ fire ‘n brimstone crap. But still had the real world ta deal with. No way yer makin’ me talk ‘bout tha’ today.”
“I still ain’t done makin’ ya talk ‘bout this.” Hank grinned, “Wha’ ‘bout Jesus? Ya got Jesus in yer religion?” Hank couldn’t help teasing Ed. After all, sometimes the other way to get Ed to talk was to poke him with a stick. So to speak.
“Already told ya twice, it ain’t a religion. Jus’ followin’ tha’ one idea. Lotta people from all kinds a religions said it. Jesus said it too. He was all ‘bout doin’ unta others. So’s I don’ think he’d have a problem with me borrowin' it."
“Hey, wha’ ‘bout if I was one a them guys who liked gettin’ ma ass whupped. Does tha’ mean ‘cause tha’s how I’d like ta be treated I can go ‘round whuppin’ other guys’ asses?”
“Think I’m gettin’ a headache here.” Ed rubbed his temples, “Course not. Guess tha’ “do unto” idea don’ work fer ya if yer an idiot. Gotta use common sense. Think ‘bout how other folks want ta be treated too.”
“What ‘bout heaven ‘n hell?”
“S' like with God. Damned if I know if there’s a heaven or a hell or angels or demons. ‘N I ain’t gonna pretend I do. Jus’ try ta live ma life in the here ‘n now. Tryin’ ta do wha’s right. Tryin’ not ta hurt no one.
"Think ya need a heaven 'n a hell. Tha’s where all the drama ‘n suspense comes in. Ain’t gonna get many converts withou’ no heaven or hell.”
“Told ya dumbass, ain’t ‘bout convertin’ no one. Was jus’ ma way a dealin’ with everythin’ I grew up believin’. Maybe find some peace in this here world.” Ed grinned then, “Ain’t hardly likely long as I’m livin’ with you though.”
“True ‘nough.” Hank was still grinning, “Ya got a ‘Good Book’ at least? Don’ most religions got a ‘Good Book’?”
“Know I got a headache now.” Ed rubbed his temples again, “Nah. No ‘Good Book’. ‘N yeah, most a them religions got some kinda book or ‘nother. Real confusin'. Used ta think there were jus’ one Bible. The one I been thumped over the head with so many times. Found out there’s lots a diff’rent ones. Like everythin’ else. Lotta pickin’ ‘n choosin’ goin’ on."
“Seems like ya at least gotta have a book a all yer teachin’s.”
Ed sighed, then got up, stepping over Hankthedog and pulling out the junk drawer. He rummaged around until he pulled out a notepad and a pen, then sat back down and wrote “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" on the paper, tore it off the pad and handed it to Hank. “Here. Tha’ make ya happy? Ya got the first ‘n only copy a ma ‘Good Book’. Believe this version’s taken directly from Jesus.”
“Could ya maybe sign it fer me? Tha’ way when ya become a famous guru I can say I knew ya when. Sell this on eBay ‘n make a fortune.”
Ed grimaced, “Ya ain’t gonna drive me crazy fer the rest a ma life ‘bout this now are ya? Won’t never talk ta ya ‘bout nothin’ again if ya do.”
“Nah. Wouldn’ wanna risk ya havin’ a relapse.”
Hank grabbed the pen and the notepad and started writing quickly.
“Watch doin’ now?”
“Writin’ a list.” Hank continued writing, “It’s a ‘Do Unto’ list.”
“Hold yer horses.”
Then Hank stopped writing and handed Ed the list, “Mind ya, I’m not done yet. But take a look. It’s a list a things I’d like ta “do unto” ya.”
“Shit.” Ed turned red again as he looked at the list.
“Specially after ya did unta me so well last night.”
“Well...” Ed grinned as he read the list again, “Guess ya could start with number three there. ‘N maybe follow up with numbers one, seven and… lessee… all sound mighty good… Let’s end with number...
“Guess I shoulda set a limit. Ain’t nineteen no more, dumbass.”
“Always be nineteen ta me.”
“Damn. Now I feel all bad fer callin’ ya dumbass.”
“S’okay. Love ya, dumbass.”
“Love you too, dumbass”
“So, how many can I pick?”
“Maybe start with two ‘n have another in mind. Jus’ in case. ‘N I’ll try ma best.”
“Know ya always do.”
Edthedog moved out of the way as Hank got up, pulling Ed up from his chair, holding him close, kissing his neck, whispering in his ear, “Jus’ thinkin’ ‘bout it… Damn… Think Bill would come lookin’ fer ya, if’n ya didn’ show up fer a while?”
“Why? ‘Fraid he migh’ wanna join in?”
Ed protested as Hank broke away from him, “Hey! Watcha doin’ now?”
“Lookin’ fer the phonebook. Thought I’d better call the ear doctor. Or maybe a psychiatrist. Don’ rightly know which. Fer me. Or fer you. Think I’m hearin’ things.”
“Ain’t hearin’ things. Jus’ kiddin’ ‘round. Like I always do.”
“Ain’t generally yer favorite topic fer kiddin’.”
“Wouldn’ never do it. But ain’t tha' big a prude tha’ I cain’t kid ‘bout it. Remember the first time ya ever made me laugh? First day I met ya.”
“Couldn’ rightly ferget tha’. Ya asked me why they were separatin’ out some a them sheep from the others ‘n puttin’ them blue exes on ‘em.”
“’N ya told me ‘since we were gonna be up on tha’ mountain fer so long they were doin’ us a favor. Markin’ the sheep tha’ didn’ kick.”
“Didn’ even realize you was laughin’ at first. Tha’ noise ya were makin’. Thought ya were chokin’ on somethin’.” Hank laughed, “Hell tha’ joke was older than the hills back then.”
“Well I never heard it ‘fore tha’ day. Ma first off-color joke. Thought it were damn funny. Prob’bly the first time I ever laughed out loud in prit’ near ma whole life. Didn’ ‘xactly have much ‘xperience laughin’ ‘fore I met ya. Cain’t blame me fer not quite knowin’ how right off.” Ed opened the junk drawer and started digging through it.
“Watcha lookin’ for?”
“Nothin’. Here it is.” Ed took out a blue marker.
Hank laughed and took a step backwards, “Ya ain’t gonna mark me up with tha’, Cowboy. ‘Sides I kick sometimes.”
“Yeah, but I don’.” Ed unbuttoned his shirt, lifted up his t-shirt and drew a big old “X” across his chest, over his heart, then grinned at Hank, “There… Jus’ so’s you’ll know fer later.”
Hank grabbed Ed’s belt loops and pulled him close, then ran one hand over the ‘X’ Ed had drawn. “Seem ta recall ya kickin’ a bit tha’ first time…”
“Not much. ‘N ain’t since then. Was like a true convert.”
Hank’s smile faded as he pulled back from Ed, looking confused, "Thought ya said... Wait a minute… Ya don’ believe ya was born gay? Ya think I converted ya?”
“Nah. Know ya didn’ convert me. Know I was born queer. But if anyone could turn a fella, it’d be you.”
Ed grinned as he pulled Hank back towards him, putting Hank’s hand back under his t-shirt and over that blue mark, over his heart, “Was jus makin’ a joke ‘bout religious converts. Ain’t as funny when ya have ta ‘xplain it. Guess ya don’ know. Don’ matter wha’ the religion is... Converts are gen’rally known ta be the most enthusiastic.”
Hank laughed, “If there is a hell, think maybe ya will be goin’ there.”
“S’okay. Already got more a heaven than I deserve right here. ‘Sides I’ll save ya a seat righ’ next ta me.”
“’N if I go first, I’ll save you a seat.”
“No way are you goin’ first. I’ll save you a seat…”
“Nope. I’m goin’ first.”
“Wanna bet? Ya ain’t leavin’ me here...”
“Kinda think this argument ain’t makin’ a whole lotta sense.”
Ed laughed, “Guess yer right. Ain’t ‘xactly like arguin’ over who gets ta drive.”
Their arms wrapped tight around each other, then Hank pulled back from Ed again, looking worried this time, “Hey Ed, wha’ if the Devil don’ let us sit next ta each other?”
“Don’ worry, Rodeo. I’ll fight the Devil fer ya. Hell, I'd fight God fer ya. I’d fight anyone or anythin’ fer ya...”
Hank pulled Ed close again, whispering in his ear, “Think ya already have, Cowboy. Think ya already have...”