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Bird Noobie was the most profane and vulgar man in Lincoln County. He was also fat. So fat that he had to weigh himself on cotton scales. His clothes draped around his body like stage curtains. He wore brogans without socks and a black felt hat that was too small for his basketball sized head. He hated Eleanor Roosevelt, the W.P.A., Japs, ready-rolled cigarettes, and Chevrolets. Bird blew his nose with his fingers and belched loudly and often. He was a white cracker. He dominated conversations and was a know-it-all. He intimidated adults and terrorized children. He delighted in making Forest, Jr's life a living hell. Little did he know that Forest, Jr's revenge would shock the entire community.
One summer day I remember Bird coming into the store. Forest, Jr. had started helping his father behind the counter. The Pure Oil company had given my cousin an adult gas attendant Pure Oil cap. It was military style with a shiny black bill. Even though it was too big for his head, Forest, Jr. had stuffed newspaper inside to make it fit. He loved it and wore it every day. Bird waddled through the store's screened doors and plopped down on a bench next to some other men sitting around on nail kegs. Then he started in on my cousin.
"Hey, Jr. cut me off a dime's worth of that cheese, if the rats ain't done eat it all, and bring me one of them coker colers out of that drank box. And hand me a fly flap to kill these here flies before they take us off."
Forest, Jr. delivered the order and started back behind the counter. Then Bird called out to Forest, Jr's back, "Where did you get that hat? Must be your Daddy's, 'cause it's way too big for your pinder head." My cousin adjusted his hat and ignored the insult.
Bird turned his attention to the men. "I had a hell of a breakfast this morning: three fried up eggs, six biscuits smeared with a gob of butter the size of your fist, and the best cane syrup you ever put a lip to."
He caught me staring at him. "What you lookin' at, you little shit?"
After that morning we didn't see Bird Noobie for a couple of weeks. We heard he was sick, but one Saturday morning he came back into the store, a changed man.
"Boys," he said, "I damn near crossed over. Had a bad case of the flux. Had a bad fever. Saw a ugly old angel at the foot of my bed, looked just like Eleanor Roosevelt, I swear she did. She told me I needed to get ready, so fellas, I've decided to take out a little fire insurance. Gonna join the church, get baptized, the whole damn she-bang."
On Sunday morning, true to his word, Bird came to church, walked down the aisle and "obeyed the gospel." It was decided that the baptism would take place that night.
After lunch forest, Jr. whispered, "Come on, I've thought of a plan, but we've got to hurry."
For me and my cousin church attendance was never an option. We hated the torture of going to services, not just on Sunday morning, but Sunday nights and the middle of the week as well. Sermons were long and rambling, filled with the evils of smoking, drinking, dancing, and mixed bathing, all practices that we both had discovered and enjoyed in secret. A fundamental church service was almost more than young boys could endure. Even the music. Singing was acappella because instruments of music were forbidden in the worship service. The pews were homemade with slats that pinched our body parts, and protruding nail heads that tore our clothes. Same routine every Sunday, boring hours, negative messages and endless warnings about the flames of hell.
Forest, Jr.'s plan would change all that. We were going to give Bird Noobie a baptism he would never forget.
Quickly Forest, Jr. gathered some essentials from his Daddy's store: large ice tongs, burlap bags, and a wagon to haul a 100 pound block of ice to the church house. Once we had the ice in the wagon, covered up with burlap bags so that it wouldn't melt, Forest, Jr. divulged the plan. "We're going to ice down that baptistry."
Bird Noobie arrived at the church wearing a new white shirt and a new pair of white pants. The church was packed because the word had traveled fast that the largest man ever to be baptized would be baptized that very niight. At the appropriate time the lights in the church were turned off, baptistry lights were turned on, and the congregation softly sang, "Oh, Happy Day." Forest, Jr. and I slipped down to the front row so we wouldn't miss a thing.
The congregation continued, "Oh, Happy Day, Oh, Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away." Forest, Jr. couldn't be still. He was punching me in the side with his elbow, and grinning wickedly. A pin dropping silence in the church, as we waited for Brother Pastor to slip on his rubber waders, and for Bird Noobie to join him in the sacred water. Suddenly the silence was shattered by a blood curdling scream just as Bird stepped off into the water. "OOOOOH, GODDAMN! THIS WATER IS FREEZING!!!" Just then, Bird's two fat feet slipped out from under him and he fell face down into and under the water. Flopping and sloshing water out of the baptistry, he looked like a wounded whale. It was quickly decided that Bird had been completely immersed, and although the baptism was bizarre, it had been completed according to the scripture.
The ugly angel was right. Bird died within the year. Forest, Jr. was thankful he didn't die of pneumonia