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AsA ~ The Toonerville Collector
The Roach
by Asa Sparks


It was the early 1970s and churches everywhere were following the latest fad to save the world: bus ministry. We had one, too. Our bus was a decrepit old wreck that we ran around town and found Harold Dean (Buddy) Williams, his wife, and son and daughter. Buddy rode one of the city garbage trucks and seemed to take some of it home with him. His face was continually splotched with some sort of eczema. Nevertheless, in that mill town of Gastonia, North Carolina, Buddy had a pretty good job.

We were in the middle of Thanksgiving Day dinner when Buddy's wife, Brenda, called. "Buddy's dead!"

It seems about 11 a.m. someone had called her, anonymously, and told where to find him. Harold had not come home the previous night. In time we learned the rest of the story. He had been with the guys for a few beers. The newspaper reported, "Williams apparently fell into a creek, then collapsed into the ditch after crawling out and froze to death in the 15-degree weather. Officials ruled his death was from exposure."

During my second trip to the house that afternoon, Brenda expressed the belief that Buddy had been murdered and asked me to go look at him at the funeral home. The folks at the funeral home knew me well and took me right to the embalming room. Buddy was lying on his back on the table -- thawing -- legs and arms in the air both from rigor mortis and icy veins. We examined the slight bruises on his forehead and were convinced they were only minor, caused by his fall in the creek.

On my third trip back, Brenda and I went back to the bedroom to talk about what I saw. We sat on the edge of bed -- there were no chairs. Unfolded clothes were piled over most of the bed. Brenda leaned against the headboard with her head back against the wall. While we talked, I noticed a cockroach crawling down the wall behind her. It disappeared into the full head of hair. I never saw that roach again, but Brenda gave no sign of an awareness.

The next day I returned and found the church folks had taken care of those two essentials absolutely necessary for the burial of one of their own: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Three-Bean Salad. Buddy had been thawed, embalmed, and casketed luxuriously by the kind funeral home folks since Buddy had a large inheritance of $2,000 provided for city employees. Brenda had, maybe, $500 left after the funeral to restart life with her two kids. Anyhow, she wanted a "home wake" since she was decidedly uncomfortable in middle class institutions like funeral homes. A crowd of relatives were there and Brenda accompanied me for the viewing.

So, there Buddy was, all straightened out and in a suit he had never owned. While we watched another (?) roach crawled out from under the pillow and onto his forehead. Brenda lifted the veil, picked up the roach, and dropped it on the floor where it scuttled off to join its friends.

I mumbled, "Do you want me to buy some bug spray?" and Brenda replied, "No, that would bring them out of the walls in thousands." Somehow, I had already eaten and did not participate in the ritual K.F. C. Well, after careful checking, maybe one drumstick from the top.

Brenda wanted a church funeral. One of the good deacons mumbled about a non-saint being buried from our church. But the funeral went uneventfully except for the three cans of Raid that this deacon who also served as janitor used as soon as the casket cleared the door. The burial went uneventfully.

But somehow, on that "great gettin' up morning" when the trumpet sounds, I have a feeling that when Buddy’s coffin lid pops, a saintly cockroach who has fed all these years on flesh and formaldehyde will rise to meet Him in the air.

Does this make me a "holy roacher?"

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Asa with granddaughters Lyndsie and Emily


~~All about AsA of Montgomery, Alabama~~

“My full name is Asa Sparks, but I am known primarily as AsA all over the State of Alabamer. Until I retired, I worked and traveled for the Alabama State Department of Education. Prior to that I worked with delinquents kids--of whom I was chiefest.

“I have been fortunate to have written several trade books. Hope For The Frogs (oop) was the most popular. Many assumed I liked frogs. I don't. Give me princes and princesses every time. The only other book of mine currently in print is The Two-Minute Lover.

“I am singular and have three wonderful children who all live in the South, but not as deeply south as I. They have provided 8 genius grandchildren for me to dote on in my dotage.”


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Readers may write Asa at asasparks
Visit Asa's Toonerville site by clicking this link: TOONERVILLE


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