CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)


Evil, like beauty, is often in the beholder's eye

@sc: Gertrude Stein and I went with Nemo to the grocery store the other night to shop for Halloween decorations.

"Juanita came by just before supper," he told me as he started pushing the shopping cart up the aisle. "She couldn't believe Grandmother wants to make costumes for the kids. She said that was just about the nicest thing anybody had ever done for them. And the kids are excited, too. They've never had artist-made costumes."

"I hope they don't mind being a giant okra or peas and carrots," said Gertrude with a smile.

Elvira Steinwither, Nemo's grandmother, is a renown painter of fruits and vegetables. She also makes him a Halloween costume every year. Last year he was afraid she might make him a glob of spinach, but she did peas and carrots.

"Juanita brought me over a list of their sizes for Grandmother," he said. "And, besides, she wouldn't do that to little children. She loves little children."

"Some people don't," I said.

"Did Juanita say how Mrs. Waspe is doing?" asked Gertrude.

Nemo shook his head. He put a bag of orange-foil-wrapped chocolate jack-o'-lanterns into the cart. "Juanita said there was another problem last Sunday afternoon. The police came to the house."

"Police?" I asked. "What on earth ...?"

"They said there had been a complain about a disturbance. It turns out Daphne and Finus were playing hide-and-seek with a couple of neighborhood kids out of doors and they were all laughing and running around. That's why Mrs. Waspe called the police. She said they woke her up from her nap."

Just as we passed the soup and rounded the aisle, we saw Pharis Aical standing with an old woman. He was holding a clipboard for her and she was signing a sheet of paper.

She finished, and he smiled and thanked her, then walked us.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

He shrugged one shoulder. "Only what God would have all good people do," he said.

Gertrude snatched the clipboard out of his hand.

"Hey!" he said, trying to get it back.

"Wait a minute," she said, turning away from him. "What is this? A petition?" She read. "What! You're trying to get 'To Kill a Mockingbird' taken out of the school libraries because it's satanic? Are you nuts?"

"Give me my property," he said through his teeth, reaching again for the clipboard.

She thrust it at him. "You fundamentalists couldn't see God's truth if it was sitting on you bluenoses," she said.

Pharis' neck was turning very red. "I know Halloween is satanic and this book is right there in the schools for any impressionable child to read, and the main characters attend a Halloween carnival."

I smiled. "Remember when all the grammar schools had Halloween carnivals?" I asked. "You know, both Halloween and carnival are religious words."

"Now people like this grints-for-brains have forced them to change the name to Fall Festivals or some such nonsense," said Gertrude.

She picked up a one of the little jack-o'-lanterns from the cart. "You like chocolate, Pharis?" she asked, quickly unwrapping it. "Here!"

She thrust the candy at his mouth.

Pharis threw up his hands with the clipboard to ward her off.

"Are you insane," he said, hurrying away.

"What did you think it was, devil candy?" she called after him. "It's just chocolate!"

Several people had turned to look at Gertrude.

She sighed and shook her head. "What about crepe paper?" she asked Nemo. "Don't you need orange and black?"

John Armistead is Daily Journal religion editor.

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