Leaving Salem

“Be sure your sins will find you out.” That’s what the Good Book says. My mama said it a lot too. In fact, my mother once arranged for the public display of this proverb. I’m just glad I wasn’t on the receiving end of her righteous indignation.

It was during a time in my childhood we now call middle school; seventh grade to be exact. My bagged lunch was kept in my homeroom, and I returned from math class to retrieve it each day. Someone began stealing my lunch on a daily basis. My family was poor. We didn’t have a whole heck of a lot. My frugal mother could spread the family budget a bit further by spreading peanut butter on a couple of pieces of bread rather than buying school lunches every day. So the robbery of my lunch was like stealing from my father’s meager pay check. My mother did what you are supposed to do: She complained. Still, the thievery continued. That no one at the school seemed capable of correcting this wrong really sent her five foot, one inch frame into orbit.

So, she did something I have rarely witnessed in her since I entered the world. She took matters into her own hands. This was highly uncharacteristic. Understand, my mother isn’t timid, but she is a rule-keeper. A legalist at heart, she plays within the bounds. But not this time. My mother made a sandwich combining dog food and that greasy potted meat compost stuff. Knowing the thief would only get a bite or two of this down, she sweetened the deal with a nicely baked Ex-Lax brownie. The thought of my good Christian mother orchestrating and executing such a devious plan of revenge made my teenage heart leap with joy. By God, now we’re talking! Enough of this mamsy-pamsy “turn the other cheek” stuff. Justice would finally roll down like the waters!

Or at least said justice would be expulsed from every orifice of the offender’s body. Either way was fine with me.

On the appointed Day of Judgment I placed my lunch in its usual location and went on to math class. When I returned to fetch my lunch, to my sinister delight, it was gone. I nearly hyperventilated with satisfaction. I watched the absentee roll for the next several days. Dexter Wilkey missed three days in a row and finally returned to school with a peaked and poor look about the eyes. Mother and I had our man. The statute of limitations has expired so I reveal the identity of the bandit here for the first time. Shame on you Dexter.

When I reported this information to my Bible-reading, rule-keeping, daily-praying, no-card-playing, mama, her eyes fired up. She cocked her head back and crowed, “Hah! Remember this boy; be sure your sins will find you out!” I reckon they will.

How is it that our wrong-doings always float to the surface? They are like the continual reincarnation of some bad horror movie villain.  They just won’t go away. They won’t stay dead. Cheat on your taxes and lo and behold that’s the one year out of thirty you get audited. Cheat on your wife and that will be the miss-opportune time she decides to investigate the extra charges on your Visa card. Steal from your boss and expect a pink slip. Make purchases you never intend to pay back, and one night the re-po man will be sitting in your driveway. It might take a while to catch up with you, but catch up is coming nonetheless.

Sure, some will get away with it – whatever “it” may be – but there aren’t many. Call it sin, or the inescapable justice of the universe, or the law of karma, or bad juju – whatever. “It” has a way of catching up with you like so many persistent bill collectors.

So what is the solution? Wave the white flag of surrender. Stop skimming off the till. Stay faithful to your spouse. Cut up a credit card. Be honest at work. Quit stealing little boys’ lunches. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Never. Unless of course you’ve got that brownie half-way down your throat already. If that’s the case, well, Godspeed brave soldier. Your sins have caught up with you after all.

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