A Short (A)Morality Tale

Justin Faire was a godly, fair-minded man. He whipped his kids no more than they deserved, went to church every Sunday, paid his taxes on time, and worked hard upon his farmlands, earning a comfortable living for his grateful family. He gave alms to the poor, and every year hosted a generous feast for his neighbors and fellow churchgoers. When a neighbor’s crop was lacking, he supplemented his neighbor’s stores with the abundance from his own. As a father, he was loving, but firm. As a husband he was devoted and very satisfying to his wife. As a neighbor he was friendly and inspired good will in all that he did. His only vice was his virtue: he believed in fairness and order and an ideal sense of the cosmos.
“You reap what you sow,” he often said.
And what was more, he believed it. He believed that if a man worked hard and was morally righteous in his leisure time then God would treat him well in return. That was the one true covenant between Man and the Cosmos, according to Justin Faire.
Justin Faire had a bountiful life in many ways. Not only were his fields fertile, but so too was his marriage bed. His beloved wife bore him four children: two daughters, lovely as their mother, and two sons, strong as their father. All of his children were upright in all that they did, following the straight and narrow path that their father and mother walked every day of their lives. Their children adored their parents, honoring them in all they did. As a consequence, the Faire family was much lauded among the county, and no gossip ever followed them but praise without even a hint of resentment, even if rife with envy.
Many respected the Faire family, especially its patriarch. Justin would have been a chieftain in ancient times, wherever and whenever he might have been planted. He was strong, wise, handsome, and just, always encouraging his neighbors to be better men. Had he the desire, he could have ran for mayor of the county, governor of the state, president of the nation. Yet, Justin Faire solely wished to farm and earn his bread through soil, seed, and sweat, like any righteous, Godfearing man should.

Just down the road from Justin’s farm, however, there was another family that was the abject reverse of the Faires. This family, whom no one spoke of except with a disapproving shake of the head, had earned a nasty reputation throughout the decades. Terrible things were said of them, and more terrible things were true of them. They earned their ill-repute each day of their lives in honest recompense, for they were overfond of cheating and lying and stealing and trespassing their way into infamy. Consequently, no one wished to speak to them, much less do business with them or marry into their family. The patriarch of that family had been warned against breeding his wife at her age. And though he often scoffed at any sort of advice— including a doctor’s advice—he heeded this advice and took it to heart.
He bred his daughter instead, or so his neighbor claimed.
The malformed boy borne from this grotesque union was named Joshua, though most people called him “Mongo” behind his back, for he was, without a doubt, the largest, most ornery Mongoloid anyone had ever seen. Mongo heard this name sometimes, but was partially deaf, and slurred as if he was always drunk, and so he spoke of himself using this name, but mispronounced it as Mondo whenever he spoke. For Mondo spoke of himself in third-person whenever a thought crossed his lopsided brain.
Eventually his name went from Joshua to Mongo to Mondo, and it remained there. Mondo was well known throughout the county. Women and children were admonished to avoid him. Even men feared being near him alone. The towering creature scared everyone. He was a large man-child, an idiot, with a high voice that slurred as if he was always drunk, even when he wasn’t. And he was strong, despite his laziness, and could hurt someone if he was of a mind to. Eventually, Mondo’s father died, and his sister-mother had fled not long after he was born, and so no one remained to take care of him. The people of the county did not know what to do with him. He was a middle-aged man who could not take care of himself. The Bible offered no specifics concerning such a peculiar predicament.
And so Justin Faire— sensing the injustice of the predicament—stepped forward and offered to take Mondo onto his farm as a farmhand. Mondo greeted this offer indifferently, shuffling away with Justin Faire with an impassive blandness on his malformed face. Justin took Mondo to his home. Justin and his sons then built a small shack with nothing more than wood, nails, and a sense of duty to their fellow Man.
“This is your new home, Joshua,” Justin said, for he despised when other people called the imbecile Mondo.
Mondo stared at the edifice indifferently, his gaze wandering toward Justin’s two daughters and his wife.

Over the next month or so Mondo stayed with the Faire family. He did little work on the farm, sitting around and idling by himself. Sometimes he harassed the cows. Sometimes he killed chickens for no reason. And sometimes Mondo eyed Mrs. Faire in a way she did not like, and the daughters, too, but Justin dismissed their concerns, saying, “Charity unburdens the heart, and heavy hearts sink like anchors into the Lake of Fire.”
Mondo had no heavy heart, for he regretted nothing. When Samson, the farm’s dog, ran up to him in an excited state, Mondo kicked the dog so hard that the amiable mutt tumbled over backwards like a wheel and struck the side of the barn. The dog was insensate for a while, but gradually stood and limped away. It took three weeks for Samson to heal. Mondo never did apologize or pet the dog. Instead, whenever he saw the dog his booted foot dug into the ground as if ready to kick the wary mutt again.
Whereas Mondo contributed nothing to the farm, he ate in outsized proportions compared to anyone else, including Justin Faire. The large imbecile could and often did eat a whole chicken by himself. When Justin’s two sons complained, Justin admonished them toward patience.
“He takes much, it is true,” he said, “but he will provide us strong labor when he overcomes the grief of losing his family.”
Justin’s sons were not convinced, nor were his daughters. Mondo sometimes stared up at their window at night, watching them lay down for bed. Justin’s daughters said he never prayed, but only stared at the house like a cat staring at a mouse in the field. Nor did Mondo pray in church with them. He sat in the back pews, or simply walked out during the sermons, preoccupying himself by throwing rocks at birds in the trees near the graveyard. One day Justin discovered Mondo turning over headstones, and knocking them down. Justin chastised him, but Mondo turned an indifferent shoulder to him.
At last, Justin Faire tired of Mondo’s laziness and petulance, realizing that it stemmed not from mourning, but from a lack of regard and a lack of shame. Thus, he doffed his belt and went to take it to Mondo’s backside, hoping that a few lashes with leather would soften the man-child’s contrariness where the lashes of a tongue would not.
Mondo was sitting in the barn, as he often did when he wanted to avoid farm work. He had the farm cat in his arms, and was tightening his arms around the tabby. The cat screeched and clawed to no avail, soon smothered in the Mongoloid’s unfeeling arms.
“I will put the fear of God into you, Joshua!” Justin yelled, at last losing his temper and coming after the idiot like a spirit of vengeance.
Mondo greeted Justin Faire’s wrath as he greeted any other thing done by Man. He ignored it. When the belt came down against his backside he did not flinch, nor cry out in pain, but dropped the dead cat and looked impassively at his caretaker. Standing, he took hold of Justin’s wrist in his fat hands and twisted it until there was a terrible sound like an oak branch breaking. Justin Faire squawked and dropped to his knees. When he tried to free his broken arm from Mondo’s merciless grip, Mondo took hold of that other wrist and broke it as easily as the first. Justin was a strong man, but this pain was severe. He tried to remain conscious, but the agony proved too great. He fainted within moments.

When Justin Faire woke later he staggered out of the barn, sweating and groaning as he staggered over the field toward the house. He came upon the bodies of his two sons— limp and pale upon the ground. Choking back tears, Justin Faire hurried around the house. His two daughters sat together, agog with horror and clutching one another in their trembling arms. Justin saw Mondo atop his wife, rutting like a beast while the latter screamed in terror.
Howling like a wounded wolf, Justin leapt atop Mondo, striking him with his elbows. The imbecile did not grunt or groan or even sigh, but grabbed Justin Faire and wretched him down to his knees, clutching the patriarch’s head between his arms as a man might a sheep soon to be shorn.
Justin wept and raged and fought in utter futility against the fat, unwavering arms of the idiot.
“Why would you do this?!” he cried between clenched teeth. “We took you in! Gave you a home! Food! Clothes! We were as charitable as anyone could be, and now look what you’ve done to us!”
“It ain’t about you,” the idiot said. “Nothing ever was.”
Mondo snapped Justin Faire’s neck and let him fall to the heedless brow of the imbecilic earth.

The Earthwalker

The tombstones arrayed in haphazard fashion
around the church, each headstone black with fungus,
as was the Madonna before whom the girl knelt in a passion
of prayer for her child not yet born among us.
A damp dew lay upon the grass that stained her knees
and the sky was overcast not unlike a vault in a crypt
and it refused to rain, or to shine, the distant trees
whispered in the hushed tones of judgment and gossip.
The church had existed for over two hundred years
and had been the place where many people came
to pray for hopes, and joys, and wrath, sorrows, and the fears
that are the natural heirlooms in Life’s two-faced game.
The stranger sat on the stone bench, not too far from her,
listening to her prayers, and the prayers through the centuries
which were like a bountiful crop whose yield from Summer
had not been harvested to serve in Winter’s ease.
The stranger wore a large trench coat, and a broad-rimmed hat,
and there seemed something odd about his figure and his airs
as he hunched over, watching the young mother while he sat:
so intent, so engaged in the girl’s desperate prayers.
Before she left, the young mother crossed herself again
and said three Hail Mary’s, her rosary clutched to her breast,
hoping the doctors were all wrong, that the child within
would bud and blossom, despite each ominous test.
The stranger, having heard all of her pleas, wove
the countless prayers of that church into her womb,
granting the child that untapped cornucopia trove
of lives and hopes and fears to help her bloom.
The sky remained overcast and neutral, the miracle seeded
without radiance, or thunder, or rain or birdsong,
for while she would be born, just as her mother pleaded,
she would be the heiress of neither good nor evil, nor right or wrong.
Her life would have joys and sorrows, love and loss,
and would be neither blessed nor cursed, but the same as all
who had come before her, offering their prayers to the cross
and hoping for reprieve, or being thankful, or answering the Call.
The stranger stood, then, and stretched his limbs of seven,
the trench coat cast aside and the angel wings spreading to fly—
though he could no longer fly to the luminous spheres of Heaven,
having been cast out eons ago as he gave to God a reply
so lukewarm as to his alliance that God raged and fumed
and smote him from Empyrean like a shooting star in fall
that struck the earth, a cast-out seed that therein bloomed,
granting to that desolate rock a lush, vibrant garden sprawl.
Neutral in the War of Heaven, and Neutral now upon the earth,
he could only grant the gift of Life, serving neither Heaven nor Hell,
being now the Earthwalker, the Waker, Janus, the Angel of Birth—
and whether he served good or evil, no one— not even God—could tell.