Read Boys in Gilded Cages Online

Authors: Jarod Powell

Tags: #meth addiction, #rural missouri, #rural culture, #visionary and metaphysical fiction, #mental illness and depression

Boys in Gilded Cages (3 page)

BOOK: Boys in Gilded Cages
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I enter the first house, wearing a pair of
overalls and rubber boots, holding a sturdy metal wire with a
handle on it—they call it a chicken hook. I bang and clang around
on everything to scare the chickens away, hoping with dread to find
one that has died. They die of various things; heart attacks

The dead are sparse. Out of twenty thousand
some-odd birds, you may find ten that have died per day. But the
whole barn smells like death.

Sometimes I bring my old Walkman with me,
but I keep it hidden deep in my overall pocket because the air is
thick with dust and ammonia and feathers and a few hours of
exposure could ruin it.

Yesterday, my foot was caught on a water
line. My feet are always caught on things; it seems the world is in
my way.

Anyway, my cranium crashed into the body of
a particularly obese chicken. Maybe six pounds. Maybe more. The
chicken squawked in pain and that’s the last sound I remember
hearing in this dimension.

Everything went quiet.

My body was below me, and I felt
discombobulated like my head had been knocked off. That chicken
towered over me. He shook his head, red tissue swinging off his

You disgust me,
his look said.
cavalier and cruel, and so hungry and animated at dinnertime. You
eat me at dinner. And you don’t even understand what you’re

I ought to puke my hormone-corn all over

I ought to take your hook and lop your head

I ought to peck your eyes out and turn them
on you to see how pathetic it is that I have the upper hand right

I ought to pluck your pubes out of your
body, one by one.

I ought to skin you alive.



Westboro Gives Birth to
Even Weirder Bastard Church

The Westboro Baptist Church has some
competition. Or maybe they’ve created a monster. Hawthorn Baptist
Church, established in 1977 but recently reinvented by former music
industry executive Harold Redmond, has a less defined philosophy
than Westboro’s “God Hates America.” Redmond’s philosophy is more
“God Loves A Good Protest.”

Led by Redmond--who is former Vice President
of Eye of the Needle Entertainment in Nashville--since 2008, the
church is growing in size. Shortly after Redmond started his
pastoral career, he reached out to Westboro Baptist Church, and
briefly began protesting alongside the church--on Wednesday, they
aimed to cause some trouble at a Lady GaGa concert in St. Louis.
It’s unclear how many Hawthorn members attended. It’s also unclear
if Redmond has protested at military funerals, the type of protests
that made Westboro so infamous. Redmond, after a backlash from his
congregation, claims he didn’t; Westboro claims he did.

It is partly Redmond’s association with WBC
that has earned Hawthorn Baptist Church so much attention. But it
seemed, for a while, that Redmond was unprepared for the attention
he has received. He has discouraged internet use among his
congregation, and the church distributes monthly newsletters
warning parents of the dangers of Hollywood influence, often
accusing celebrities of secret Satanism and homosexuality,
including Hawthorn native Brandon Bennett. The pamphlets are
written and designed tabloid-style, and they often have salacious
headlines with offensive, homophobic language. If the WBC published
a tabloid, it would look a lot like Hawthorn’s monthly

Unlike the Westboro Baptist Church, America
still doesn’t know what to make of Hawthorn Baptist Church.
Hawthorn, at this point, seems more like a self-contained town
rather than a church inside of a town. Their protests are no less
spirited, but seem aimed at a more mainstream audience. Post-Lady
GaGa, there have been protests at local businesses run by open
homosexuals, Springfield’s Missouri State University, and,
interestingly, in lieu of protests of military funerals, they have
picketed outside the National Guard for their perceived
pro-homosexual policies. Though inflammatory and controversial,
Hawthorn Baptist Church toes the line behind WBC’s universal
maligning by following a simple rule of not offending funeral
mourners. America’s okay with moralist doomsaying, just not when
you’re fucking with our best and brightest, and especially not when
they’ve died in battle.

So what’s the deal here? Is this a plot by
Westboro to creep into mainstream acceptance? No fucking way, says
Shirley Phelps, WBC’s spokeswoman. “Those signs you see? Those
signs you see that you spit on, they mean something,” Phelps told
us. “Your flag and your money are things that you worship. You also
worship the dead. Your flag and your money will be taken away from
you, just as the dead have been. Harold Redmond worships money, and
is unwilling to publicly spit on the American flag for fear of
retribution. But money is his goal. His unwillingness to walk the
walk makes him a fag-enabler. He is an abomination, just as you are
an abomination.” Thanks, Shirley. Pleasure as always.

Hawthorn Baptist Church may make a lot of
money, and they may eventually “sell out” like a crossover pop
star, becoming a mega-church and gaining acceptance alongside
elderly hate-monger Pat Robertson, and that weird woman on TCT with
tall, pink hair.

But like most religious
cons and cults, the more likely option is that it will eventually
self-destruct. It’s unclear what the goal of HBC is, but it’s most
certainly not spreading the word of Jesus. The 24-hour news
channels are salivating over HBC at this moment, and it will be
interesting to see how the reclusive Harold Redmond deals with the
exposure. If there’s anything capable of destruction of a human
entity, it’s nonstop television coverage. It will be fascinating to
watch it unfold.

They came here from the Communist shit hole
of Cuba—Or at least her parents did. She comes from the Nouveau
Riche crater of St. Petersburg, Florida. She actually prefers St.
Petersburg. Not that she wasn’t happy to leave. Her behavior
required nothing short of moving, apparently, but I think her
parents are only punishing themselves by moving here. She will
adapt, but they won’t. They are far too old, far too elitist, far
too stupid, far too brown.

This town sucks for sure, but at least it’s
quiet. She can sleep in a cocoon of homework and television, a new
privilege she’s just not used to yet. She never grew the legs for
softball or the tits for cheerleading and in the openness of a
field such as this town, there is nothing but space for thinking
and sleeping. Possibly going insane in the quiet of a church
sanctuary, all of them solemn and lonely like funeral parlors.

She stares up at the evergreen steeple,
envisioning it getting sucked up into a cloud. This church looks
near-death. It sits on the brim of a collapse and even the pigeons
seem to feel unsafe standing on the gutters for more than a few
seconds. If she had wings she’d fly the fuck out. The sky matched
the color of the once-copper steeple, and her mother wondered
aloud, as she exited the SUV, what that meant for the weather.

Marcia shoves her bulky glasses up towards
her eyebrows and looks up, pretending to care. “Looks cold,” She
says. Both of her parents, in unison, shoot her an impatient

Her mother gently shoves the small of her
back to guide her toward the sanctuary door. Janessa and Vanessa,
two skinny white bitches from school who hate Marcia, smile at her
as she pretends not to notice.

Marcia,” her mother
snapped. “Those girls are smiling at you. Say hi or something. Be

She finally makes dreadful eye contact with
the two cunts and creaks out a grin. They look at her with
ridicule, a dare to engage them. They’re making fun of her and all
of them know it. Marcia, a chubby, and up until this point, home
schooled Cuban dork with a thick accent. They, Goddesses with big
tits and loose hips that gleefully sink ships.


Hi Marcia,” Janessa let
out in a chuckle. “Hello, Mrs. Cruz.”

Hello, young lady.” Her
mother’s accent was thicker than Marcia’s. It embarrassed her

Hello, Mr. Cruz,” Marissa
said seductively. My father glared at her coldly. “Hello, Misses,”
he said firmly, as they marched into the sanctuary. Marcia is
pretty sure she heard Marissa say something about her father’s cock
being big because he’s Cuban and the two cunt twins bursting into
laughter, but she figured it was probably just her being paranoid.
Marcia’s father seemed to have heard something similarly
inappropriate because he looked at her reflexively.

Do you know those girls?”
Her mother asked.

Not really,” Marcia said

Her father said nothing.

The sanctuary walls were covered with
particle board from the seventies and the blue-green shag carpet
was something her brother Juan would adore as ‘kitschy and campy’.
There were a lot of kids running around, a few years younger than
Marcia, and their dads were in overalls and some in sweat pants,
most of the moms had frosted hair and be-jeweled sweaters. Juan
would have a field day.

The woman with the frostiest hair of all
stood up and stuck her hand halfway up, and all of the kids entered
a trance and sat down and shut up. She smiled.

As she lectured and preached, Marcia kept
the corner of her eyes on her parents, seated to her left and
right. She wanted to get a feel of what they thought of this place,
and more importantly, a female preacher. From what I understood
about the Baptist faith, female preachers were discouraged, and
from what I knew about Catholicism, female priests didn’t

Vanessa and Janessa were seated four empty
pews behind her, whispering and giggling. Marcia automatically
imagined that she was the object of their ridicule, though she
couldn’t hear what they were saying. Marcia kept waiting for
Reverend Queen Frostyhair to conspicuously clear her throat to get
them to shut up, but she ignored them.

On the drive back, Marcia kept waiting for
some conversation between her parents that indicated whether this
was the church for them, but they were silent. The only time anyone
said anything was when Marcia stuck her head out the window.
“Marcia, the heat is on!” She rolled up the window, and Marcia
heard her father lock it from the driver’s seat.

That night, she went to dreamless sleep and
the alarm clock failed to wake her.

The SUV smelled of the casserole Marcia’s
mother brought to church that night and it occurred to her that she
hadn’t eaten breakfast, for which she imagined would her growling
stomach would humiliate her during her second period class.

The sun was out in full force, and the muggy
atmosphere made Marcia sweat her makeup off. Her mother, ahead of
her on our way to the car, turned around and looked at her like a
swamp creature and used a Kleenex to wipe her brow affectionately.
“Oh, Marcia! Your Cuban blood hasn’t taken a hold of you yet.”

She envied the looks of even her mother, in
a slim-fitted pantsuit, on her way to sell houses worth half their
old house in Florida. She was able to make fast friends in this
town but she was a bit icy. Beautiful, but with a scowl that was
probably alluring twenty years ago.

When they arrived at school, the rush of
well-groomed kids walking toward the main entrance made Marcia want
to vomit. She should have worn more makeup and she should have worn
a blouse that her tits would poke out of while making her gut fade
into her hip-huggers. I don’t think such a blouse exists. Marcia
got out of the SUV lightly as she could, almost tip-toeing, she
don’t know why. Maybe she thought no one would notice her that way.
Her mother obviously did.

She’d carry that look of disgust with her to
dinner. Her plate had exactly 6 ounces of pork, a cup and a half of
green beans, and conspicuously missing was Texas toast. Her mother
and father had twice as much meat on their plates, and half as many

You’d think that this quietly-insulting
ritual would make Marcia go to sleep at night with a mouthful of
half-chewed Ding Dongs, washed down with her dad’s bourbon and her
own tears, but eventually you grow accustomed to it. It gets
comfortable, actually. You rely on the fact that you’re
aesthetically disgusting, embellish it in your own mind, imagine
yourself as an obese swamp creature, wear it like a Girl Scout
badge. Saves a lot of social effort.

At dinner they’d ask how school is going,
not really expecting an answer. Marcia’s mom would perk up briefly
when she’d ask her about boys while dad groaned. Her dad would
suggest She bring food over for the neighbor, an old shut in who
was related to Marcia’s awful history teacher, Mrs. Danforth. By
now, she learned to have dinner conversations with her head down
because it is impossible to see a bowing person’s eyes roll.

Have you ever seen Mrs.
Danforth?” Marcia was eager to change the subject.

Yes, she’s a very nice

No, I mean, have you
looked at her?”

Not really, I don’t know.
Why, Marcia?”

She doesn’t have any


No eyebrows. I think she
might wear a wig too. Very pale.”

Yes, I heard she might
have cancer or something. It’s not nice to scrutinize an old
woman’s looks.”

This is how their weeks would go at home,
and then they go back to church, with the two slutty gringos and
old ladies with frosty hair and a bunch of people in sweat

BOOK: Boys in Gilded Cages
13.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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