Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Remnant: Ananias and Sapphira


Hermes Aiello rubbed his temples as he sorted through the worst of the issues facing the neighborhood.

Aiello had taken over a closed Chinese restaurant named HuaPei. Neighbors joked that the name was the cause of its demise. “Why Pay?”

It was on the southeast corner of the neighborhood. Although it was not centrally located it was easy to find and the heavy brick walls were resistant to drive-by shooters. It was spacious inside and light enough after some of the plywood on windows not facing the streets were peeled off.

Hermes had volunteered for the job of administering the neighborhood out of self-defense. He had grown up south of the border and seen what happened in neighborhoods when the wrong people ran them.

Hermes had a background in general construction and had been on-track to get his general contractor’s license. He had a knack for making things come together and for not agonizing over tough decisions.

People will follow a decisive leader even if his decisions don’t always seem fair. They will neither respect or follow somebody who waffles.

A loud man with a florid face that bespoke of a long-standing intimacy with whiskey bottles demanded to see Hermes. The man resembled a daddy-longlegs spider with spindly arms and a round body, hard with long-standing fat deposits.

The man pushed past the people sitting in chairs along the wall who were waiting their turns.

Aiello tuned him out. Waving his hand to one of his lieutenants, Hermes directed him in Spanish to throw the loudmouth into the street.

Then addressing the strident loudmouth, Hermes said “I don’t have time for you today. You must make an appointment. I think there might be one open next week.”

Two lieutenants bracketed the man and literally tossed him out the door like a couple of bouncers.

When they came back, Hermes said “This one looks like he could be trouble. If he comes back, don’t let him in. If he has a gun, shoot him.”

One of Hermes’ first acts as administrator had been to discipline one of the local hot-heads.

The next neighborhood east of Fabulous Acres sent a mob to collect the hot-head claiming he had raped one of their girls.

Hermes stood them down by force of personality. “He is mine to discipline. If you don’t like how I handle it...then we can talk.”

The neighborhood rumor mill verified that the young man had forced his affections on the unwilling girl. He had bragged about it.

Hermes dispatched a couple of lieutenants with 30” long pieces of concrete rebar and they had given the man a vigorous tune-up. It would be a long time before the man would walk normally.

Everybody was happy. The neighborhood east of Fabulous Acres was happy. The residents of Fabulous Acres appreciated a firm hand on the helm. The only person who was not happy was the recipient of the tune-up and he didn’t matter.

Twenty minutes later, Jim Thresher was lurching toward Hwai Pei with his hand in his pocket.

Hermes’ lieutenants operated on the premise that anybody worth shooting once was worth shooting ten times.

Thresher had a cheap, dirty Hi-Point handgun in his pocket.

The lieutenants dragged his body into the center of Mt Hope Avenue. His body was not the first, nor would it be the last.

*

Joyce Wagner was a kind, soft-hearted woman. She hired local women as maids even though she was totally capable of keeping their small home clean. She bought handicrafts and folk art from them.

The one luxury that Joyce allowed herself was a room air conditioner on their bedroom. None of the homes in Fabulous Acres had central air but most of them had at least one room that they kept air conditioned.

She was oblivious to the fact that one reason their home had only been burgalled twice was because the neighborhood had a comprehensive list of everything they owned...at least on the ground floor. They simply had very little that could be fenced for decent money.

Rod, for his part, held two neighborhood barbecues a year. It was a way to clear out the freezer before he went back out-West. It cost him nothing but made a big impression on the neighbors.

Rod was torn.

Joyce told him that they were going to donate their supply of food to the local church, Iglesia Pentecost├ęs Puerta de Refugio. Joyce rarely told Rodney what to do but she had very strong feelings about this.

While Joyce and Rod didn’t belong to any local church, Joyce read the Bible daily and she felt “called” to give away their pallets of food.

Rod felt like he was being roasted over a slow fire. It went against every fiber of his being.

Joyce persisted. “What are people going to think as they waste away to skin-and-bones while we stay fat?”

Then she played her trump card. “It is like the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. This is not a time to be half-hearted.”

Oh, how it tortured Rod. He knew, at some level, that Joyce was right. It would not be too long before a delegation from the neighborhood went door-to-door, forced their way in and confiscated every bite of food.

It was a hard thing to swallow, but he conceded. Better to appear to be with the program than to have others rip it out of their basement. Better to give your heart than to have it ripped, beating, from your body.

Joyce called the Pastor. The Pastor sent a couple of Elders to assess the offer...basically to see how many people it would take to carry the food to the church's food-bank.

Rodney was carrying a lantern as he showed Victor Aiello and Antonio Silvas around the basement.

Rodney froze when he heard Victor ask “What are those?”

Turning, Rodney saw Victor was pointing at his stash of Com-Bloc ammo spam-cans and US Mil ammo cans with his flashlight. Rod had completely spaced that they were visible.

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