“I’m Paddington. I’m from Darkest Peru. Where are you from?”
The bible salesman took off his hat and stepped in out of the July heat. “I’m just a simple country boy. From right near Ticksnort. Not so much a town as it is an old pile of overalls inside a barn. I had to start selling these bibles after Papa got thirded.”
“Thirded?” Paddington gasped.
“That’s right. Thirded. Cut into three pieces. Ran right through some concertina wire chasing after a rooster. I have some marmalade in my valise. Try some, Paddington.”
Paddington coughed and gagged on the drink.
The bible salesman rifled through photographs he stored in a hollowed-out bible.
“By ‘marmalade,’ I meant homemade corn mash moonshine. Say, Paddington. Would you like to see some pictures of bears without coats?”
After their modest wedding ceremony, Tom Templeton and his bride Amelia Bedelia pulled up to the local diner, right off the freeway.
“Amelia, run inside and get us a table.”
Amelia Bedelia sprinted into the diner, picked up a dining table, and struggled to pull it out of the front door onto the sidewalk.
“I’m getting us a table, dear!” Amelia called out.
Mr. Templeton became depressed. He looked at Amelia, wrestling a giant table through the doorframe of a diner. Then he looked at the open highway. He sighed and pulled back onto the road.
Amelia Bedelia, abandoned and without a penny to her name, sat down on the curb with her stolen table and wept.
In the great green room
there was a sickbed. And violence unseen
and a picture of—
a car crashing into a ravine.
and three exotic birds and prayers unheard
a neglected wife, an extinguished life
a noose on the beams and distant screams
and a bible and a gun and the hot Georgia sun.
The Berenstain Bears Go to the Big City
“Hooray, Small Bear
Today’s the day.
Our trip to the city
“I do not want to see you mad,
but you have just been pickpocketed, Dad.”
“You’re right, my son,
but have no fear.
We are completely
safe right here.”
“Papa, watch where you put your feet.
A bear just threw up all over the street.”
“Oh dear, Small Bear
I must admit
I am starting to miss
the treehouse a bit.”
“Papa, let’s go home. I don’t feel well.
I think this city is actually Hell.”
The Story of Ferdinand
Ferdinand was sitting under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. A boy and his mother came up barefoot.
“Mamma, why does that bull just sit there smelling flowers? He’s got no fight in ‘em,” the little boy said.
“The preacher is doing a faith healing down at the river. I bet he can fix this bull right,” the mother said.
Down at the river, the revivalists surrounded the gentle bull and rushed him into the water.
“Come to the Kingdom of Heaven, Ferdinand!” the preacher cried out, face lifted toward the summer sun. The congregants surrounded Ferdinand and pushed him under the surface of the brown water.
The bull bucked and snorted, struggling to get free, but he was outnumbered. The believers sent him into the river again and again. And the last time he went under, the crowd came up empty-handed.