“The boss would like to see you now.”
They pushed Freddie through the empty Italian diner and sat him down in front of Moses Maggio. He was finishing up a plate of Mama’s Meatballs. Freddie sat down staring at the red and white checkered table cloth as Moses picked up his napkin and wiped the red sauce off the corner of his mouth.
Freddie was afraid of Moses. Moses was a hero to his people. He lead them out of Italy to this amazing land of the free. Moses also spoke for the Godfather. No one but Moses saw the Godfather. The Godfather set all the rules for the community. Many doubted the existence of the Godfather, some said Moses was making him up to keep order. Those who spoke against Moses were often taken care of and made as an example.
“I have heard some troubling news about you, Freddie” spoke Moses with a raspy whisper.
Freddie shuffled in his chair waiting to hear the charges laid against him.
Moses reached over and caressed Freddie’s cheek. “Have I not been kind to you? Have I not provided you protection? A place to live? Food to eat? A family to belong to? All I ask is that a few rules be followed.”
Moses pulled his hand away and sat back in his chair, placing his arms folded over his stomach. “What’s this I hear about you picking up sticks? Freddie, you know it’s the Sabbath. Yet, you openly defy me and the Godfather by strutting your ass up and down MY streets and picking up sticks? Freddie, your forcing my hand here.”
Freddie lifted up his hands in defense. “Moses! I didn’t know I couldn’t pick up sticks. I needed a little wood for my oven. My wife is cooking a big meal and we ran out of wood. I meant no disrespect!”
Moses sighed. “Hey, I don’t know what to tell ya. I’m going to go back to the kitchen and talk to the Godfather. I personally would love to let you off with a warning. But, it’s not what I want to do, it’s what the Godfather commands.”
With that Moses leaned on the table and pushed himself up. Moses wheezed as he walked to the kitchen, every step buckling under the weight of his body. Freddie watched every step waiting for one of Moses’ knees to blow out like an overinflated tire.
Five minutes passed as Freddie waited nervously. Moses came lumbering out. The momentum of his body carried him back to his seat in front of Freddie. As Freddie looked at Moses he noticed garlic bread crumbs around his mouth and neck of his shirt.
Moses cleared his throat. “Well, Freddie, the Godfather has spoken. He said we need to stone you.”
“WHAT?” screamed Freddie as he tried to stand up, but immediately two men from behind him grabbed his arms and restrained him. “This is insane! Did you even talk to the Godfather or did you just shove bread into your fat face?!”
As Freddie was yelling the men started to drag him out of the diner, knocking over tables and chairs. Freddie pulled himself out of the men’s arms that were dragging him. “How is it against the Godfathers law to pick up sticks to cook dinner for my family, yet it’s OK to pick up stones to kill a man? How is that fair, Moses?”
The men that were dragging Freddie hesitated to grab him. They wanted to hear Moses answer. The room got silent. Moses looked up from his plate. “I don’t make the rules, I just execute them. The Godfather has spoken. Unless we remain loyal to him, he’ll do to us what he did to the Sicilians.”
“No one has seen or heard the Godfather but you, Moses. Most of the people think your loosing your mind! You want me to believe you saw the Godfather in a burning olive bush? Oh wait… whats this…. I think the Godfather is speaking to me…” Freddie reached over and picked up a glass sitting on a table and put it up to his ear. “Yes, Godfather? He’s giving me a revelation. He’s telling me your full of shit!”
Moses stood up and flipped the table. The teetering fat man now appeared to be a towering behemoth. The room felt darker and heavier every step Moses took closer to Freddie. Moses grabbed Freddie’s shirt collar.
“You are the reason we stone people who pick up sticks. First you pick up sticks, then you question the law, then you question your boss, then you question the Godfather. People like you are an infection. A plague on our community. Getting rid of you is cutting off a gangrenous finger. Better for one to suffer than all die.”
Freddie stared at Moses in the eye. “The only thing your protecting us from is moving forward. You can continue to cut off parts of your body that you think are infectious. Eventually you’ll run out of parts to cut off. All that will be left is a stump on the ground. An abomination of a human being groveling in the dirt. As you lay in the dirt not able to walk or even feed yourself you’ll remember it started with your finger. That seemingly unimportant finger.”
Moses threw Freddie into the arms of his men. “Get him out here… you heard what the Godfather said…”
The two men looked at each other waiting to see what the other would do. Moses turned around and paused for a moment. “I don’t think I need to remind anyone here the penalty for not heeding a command of the Godfather, do I?”
The two men grabbed Freddie and dragged him out the front door.
I saw death once. He wasn’t as scary or intimidating as one would think. He wasn’t wearing black, his face was not a skull, he did not carry a sickle to harvest souls. No, that would be too obvious. He was on his front porch eating Campbell’s Spaghettios.
I was working construction with my dad. I was young at the time, too young to help. It was in the summertime and he took me along to get me out of the house. As I worked with him he told me he wanted me to meet someone. It was a man he made friends with. He lived in a trailer down the road. As my dad worked, he wanted me to sit with this man. He told me the man was blind and he needed company. I never met a blind person and the idea made me uncomfortable.
My dad lead me to the run down trailer and there he sat. I remember looking at his white hair, his stubbled face, and his disheveled flannel shirt. His eyes were blue, but an unnatural blue. He looked forward and ate his bowl of spaghettios. My dad introduced me to him and left to go back to his work.
I don’t remember anything we talked about. All I remember is looking at his face and feeling a fear, discomfort, and even disgust. He would lean in and talk to me and the smell of spaghettios would wash over my face. To this day when I look at a can of spaghettios I think of that man. I wanted to run back to my dad. With every sentence my stomach churned. Thankfully he was unaware of my discomfort. He was happy to have someone there to talk to.
What I saw that day was death and it frightened me. I saw mortality, I saw weakness. My mind that was filled with ideas of super-humans, super-heros, and American strength could not comprehend what I was looking at. Weakness, frailty, age, and poverty. I could deal with death as long as it looked like a spirit from another world. I could not deal with death when it looked human and natural.
Many years of my life I tried to fight my disgust of death. I hated him. I embraced ideas of heaven and hell, an afterlife that was void of all these flaws. Give me resurrection, give me divine health, give me miracles, but please keep me away from the man on the porch.
Then something happened in my heart. I started having compassion towards death. I remember the kindness death showed me on his front porch. Even though I was disgusted with him, he was willing to have a conversation with me. Death had something to say, death had a lesson to teach me. Death confronted me with my own mortality and weakness. Death made me realize how precious today was, and how valuable my heath is.
Death no longer disgusts me. We have become friends. He has taught me how to enjoy my children, how to enjoy my life, and how to embrace those in need. I no longer fear death. When I see him I hug him and spend time with him. I listen to his stories and learn and laugh. I hold a can of spaghettios and remember how fragile and short life is.
A pastor giving us an insight into his personal story. In this episode he discusses how he spoke in tongues and taught it even though it never did anything for him.