“Life is long and God leaves his ledger books open.” My Grandma used to say that, and she would have known because she lived through a lot of injustice in her time.
You may not think so, but there are times when life puts this principle to the test and I can see that my Grandma’s conclusions were right.
One such time happened when I was about sixteen. That was the age where you could start to pick up odd jobs that might be a bit more serious than the usual kid venues like cutting grass or shovelling show, and delivering newspapers to pick up a bit of spending money.
My best friend Garth called me up one day, and said, “Hey, you want to earn twenty bucks? Mr. Simmons called me up and he needs someone to dig a trench beside his house so he can fix his weeping tile. All we have to do is dig it up, he fixes it, and the week after we fill it in and he pays us. We can split the money.” (Twenty bucks was also on the edge of what you might call serious money in 1976 when minimum wage was $2.25/hr. and the standard rate to cut grass or shovel snow was two dollars).
So I was game. We went and did the work; hot dirty work in the dry part of summer when the ground is dry and cracked like one big desert patch of hardened clay and rubble. A sweaty afternoon of grunting and digging with a pick and shovel got us where we needed to be with Mr. Simmons leaning on us to make sure he got his money’s worth. “C’mon boys, don’t got all day fer this. Put yer back into it. I’m paying good money fer this..” and Mr. Simmons sent us off with instructions to come back the following week.
Next week rolled around, we filled in the hole and Garth approached Mr. Simmons expectantly for payment.
“Well boys, he looked at us with the edge of a smile playing on his lips. Where’s my pickaxe? I can’t find it and I think you boys must’ve buried it in the hole. If I don’t get it back, I can’t pay you. You boys cost me twenty bucks.”
I looked at Garth and Garth looked at me. Common sense would dictate that you use a pickaxe to dig a ditch, but not to fill it in. We left the pickaxe the week before, but the only way to prove that would be to dig the hole up all over again. Without a pickaxe. We protested with this logic, but in vain.
Mr. Simmons sent us away, “Sorry boys, no pickaxe, no pay”, despite our remonstrations. It was clear to us anyway, what was going on, but it didn’t put any more power in our hands to exact payment. To put it in perspective, Mr. Simmons was “known” in town as he loved to point out. He was a deacon, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a businessman in the Rotary club, a presenter of awards and city functions. In addition, this was 1976 where the word of any kid, never mind a teen, would NEVER hold water against an adult, let alone one with standing in the community. Both our parents were “busy” and to put it bluntly there was no one to go to bat for us.
This is a situation that ANYBODY might identify with. At some point in your life you will be trampled on by a bigger kid, or your boss, or SOMEBODY simply because they can.The strong lean on the powerless and the world turns one more time. Or so it seems.
But… “Life is long and God leaves his ledger books open.” Just like my grandma used to say.
This is how it happened.
Mr. Simmons ran into Garth’s mother, selling Avon door to door. That was her second job to bring in some kind of income to look after her brood of five. Mr. Simmons blustered a bit, “Well, ahem I ain’t got much call for AVON in this house, but here, someone gave me these here tickets to a draw this morning, take one, maybe you can win yerself a gift basket or something. You know, people in town they KNOW me, they give me these things for free. Here, take one…” Mrs. Markewitz obliged by selecting one of the proffered tickets and continued on to the next house.
A brood of five boys. No man in the house. Mrs. Markewitz made ends meet by being endlessly and unremittingly frugal with her purchases. She would have to walk down the hill to the grocery store, and come up afterward laden with grocery bags. No car. Summer or winter, rain or shine. And no luxuries, groceries on a per need basis only. The only perks came from her ability to bake and to make a lot with the basics.
Until the phone rang one day. “Hello, is this Mrs. Ethyl Markewitz? Yes. This is the Rotary raffle calling. I wanted to inform you that you are the winner of a brand new Cadillac. Mrs. Markewitz? Are you there? Did you drop the phone? Yes you can come on down, on Thursday to pick up your prize.”
Well, in a house of no extras, you might have sold that car for a lot of things. But Mrs. Markewitz kept it. She said, “I’m in need of a little bit of FANCY in my life”.
That car sat in the carport, better cared for than the proverbial vehicle owned by a little old lady and driven only on Sundays. It got a regular wax job, and I recall it lasted a LONG TIME.
Long enough, to count. Remember justice? The known member of boards, the upstanding citizen who felt free to put one over on a couple of teens simply because he could? He had to drive by the Markewitz home every day of his life and look at that polished Cadillac sitting proudly on side of the house. Last words he said on the matter I only heard repeated, but they still sounded sweet on my ears.
“I should have held on to that gull-derned ticket. How was I to know it had a Cadillac attached to it?”
Like my Grandma used to say, “Life is long and God leaves his ledger books open.”