Goodies On Demand
I’m an old piece of coal and this is my fire.
— Reverend Ashlar Jobling
As a boy I attended Shaddai Vineyards Private Elementary School. It was a Christian school but anyone with enough money could matriculate. Did you know that the root of the word “matriculate” was the Latin word “mater”, a word for “breeding female”? That was told to me by Ruth.
Ruth, Judith, and Jonah were my best friends at Vineyard.
My name is Ashlar Jobling.
Ruth also told me that “Shaddai” meant “The Destroyer”, and “The Self-Sufficient”, and even “The Source of Food for Babies”. To tell the truth I really didn’t know about all that. Ruth was always talking to me about descendants and lineage and progeny and marriage.
Anyway, we had just taken a math test and it was time for lunch. I saw Beal Perdison, my nemesis, ahead of me in the hallway. He had copied my answers to the test. I had caught him looking at my answers but I hadn’t said anything.
When Beal got beside the Goodies On Demand vending machine he glanced over his shoulder and he saw me. He grinned and raised his eyebrows up and down like a clown and then he danced sideways and leapt against the vending machine with a crash. I could hear snacks falling down into the dispensing tray. Beal bent down quickly and grabbed two Rewards Bar candy bars. He held his trophies up over his head with both hands like they were scalps and he whooped away.
I only hoped he hadn’t damaged the machine or taken the last Rewards Bar, because that was to be my personal reward for ace-ing the math test.
Goodies On Demand was the one true vending machine for me and for everyone else at Vineyard, actually. The Rewards Bar was my very favorite snack of all time.
Praise Be! There was one left in the mechanism, selection B3. I withdrew from my pocket six coins of the realm and I rendered to the mechanism. I pressed B, and then I pressed 3.
The spiraling mechanism moved the Rewards Bar toward the edge of the drop-off and it stopped as was its design and the Rewards Bar tipped but it did not bestow itself to me.
I drooped and sat on the polished floor in front of the Goodies On Demand monolith and I cried out, “No! No-o!”
I heard Ruth’s voice calling in alarm, “Ashlar, what is wrong?”
I dropped my face into my hands. Ruth, Judith, and Jonah were then beside me. I was beside myself.
Ruth placed her hand on my right shoulder, asking, “Ashlar…?”
Judith asked me, “What happened?”
Jonah said, “Dude, we’re here for you.”
I lifted my face out of my hands and I looked up to Goodies On Demand and I pleaded with the Rewards Bar which tantalized me, asking of it, “Why me? It isn’t fair!”
Then, instead of commiserating with me, Ruth said, “It must be fair. Virtue is rewarded and sin is punished.”
I turned to Ruth, flinching under her dagger of betrayal.
Jonah shook his head and was saying, “Dude, how have you sinned?” and he sat down cross-legged beside me and placed his hand upon my left shoulder.
I shuddered with indignity and I blurted, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Judith tisk-tisked to Ruth, “I think I see.”
I snarled, “Just what is it that you think you see, Judith?!”
Then Ruth said, “See?”
I was ready to cry. I said, “I have not sinned! I didn’t even say anything when Beal was cheating off my test!” I then hollered down the hallway, “And Beal got two Rewards Bars!”
Judith offered soberly, “Love of Rewards Bars is the root canal of all evil.”
I cried out inarticulately.
Ruth said, “Weeping and gnashing your teeth, Ashlar? Like Sodom and Gomorrah? They didn’t think that they had sinned either.”
I cried out, “That is my Rewards Bar! I earned it fair and square! Righteously did I study. I could have gone to see The Hobbit! I studied math instead! That Rewards Bar is mine!”
Ruth stroked my hair and recited, “Nothing is ours except our choice of good or evil.”
I pounded the polished wood floor and I hollered, “That is MY Rewards Bar and I earned it without sin!”
Judith asked me, “So, who decides what is sin? Do you, Ashlar?”
I replied evenly, “I know the Bible better than anyone.”
Jonah and Judith gasped.
I added quickly, “Except Ruth.”
Was that my sin? Such blasphemy?
Ruth shook her head and sighed and said, “You have confessed to Pride, Ashlar.”
I could not take it anymore. I stood up and said decisively, “I’m taking this to the top!”
I stomped down the echoing hallway towards Mr. Goddard’s office. Mr. Goddard was the maintenance man responsible for Goodies On Demand.
I pounded on Mr. Goddard’s door. I heard the sound of a large bottle hitting the floor and breaking. I heard a great voice.
I closed my eyes and I began to speak with a trembling mouth as I opened the door and I asked, “Why did Goodies On Demand deny me my Rewards Bar…?” and then my eyes were opened. Darkness was upon the room. The great light overhead came on and it blinded me but as I was being blinded I glimpsed a red-faced Mr. Goddard.
Mr. Goddard yelled at me, “Get the fuck out of here right now, you whiney little shit!!”
I learned well that day: nobody questions Mr. Goddard.
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