TITLE: Brother Will Betray Brother
By Sherry Hoffcastel
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Brother Will Betray Brother
Bang! Crash! A plume of smoke curled from the rooftop, erupting in a flower of bright orange and red brilliance. Somewhere a lamp shattered to the floor as the terrified screams reverberated in the slick darkness. The smell of death lurked in the air as the Hatfield clan stood at the ready, guns drawn.
“Nobody come outa that house without gittin’ shot first! You hear me! I want those yella bellied cowards to pay!”
Johnse Hatfield and the rest of his gang were tired of running and tired of losing. Tonight, the first of January, 1888 would be their day of reckoning.
Old Randall McCoy was sitting on his front porch, soaking up the morning sun. He sipped his coffee from an old tin cup, savoring the flavor. His rocking chair made a creak, creak sound as it gently glided on the hardwood. He sat in the stillness, lost in his thoughts. If only Asa hadn’t gotten involved in that ridiculous war…why couldn’t he just do what he was told? I guess he had it coming…can’t say I blame Jim Vance for seeking retribution. A man has to defend his beliefs…
Out of the corner of his eye, Randall saw a flash. He looked in the direction of the movement. What the…what is going on over there? He reached for his glasses and quickly perched them on the tip of his nose. He stared into the distance, hoping to catch another glimpse. There! There it was again! Is that Floyd Hatfield? Is he actually trying to steal my pig? I’ll string him up! He thinks he can sneak up onto my property and steal my hog? He’s got another think coming!
“Boys! We got us a problem! Looks like Floyd Hatfield done stole my hog! It’s time to go git it back!”
“Bill Staton, do you swear on this Bible that that pig belongs to Floyd Hatfield?”
“Yes, sir I do. That pig is Floyd’s, plain as day.”
“Why you! I’m gonna kill you, Bill Staton! You’re gonna pay for lying under oath!”
Old Randall’s red eyes bulged out of his skull. Sweat dripped from his flushed forehead. His clenched fist was raised over his head, driven by adrenaline.
Crack! Crack! Crack! The gavel pounded as chaos erupted in the courtroom.
“Order! There will be order here! Mr. McCoy, I’m warning you. One more outburst and this trial is over. Now sit down!”
A few minutes later, Floyd Hatfield was a free man. Thanks to another McCoy by the name of Selkirk, Floyd didn’t have to answer to Randall anymore regarding that God-forsaken pig. The turncoat fixed the jury by siding with the Hatfield’s instead of his own blood, praise the Lord! He could go home to his wife and celebrate his victory. He hoped she was in a good mood…
A few months later Bill Staton paid for his mistake. Paris and Sam McCoy were tried for murder and then acquitted with a self defense plea, courtesy of Devil Anse McCoy. After several years and 13 deaths later, the Hatfield’s had had enough. They decided Old Randall McCoy’s time on earth was due to be finished. They raided his home, setting fire and eventually killing everyone inside. The date was January 1, 1888. For decades the feud raged, with an unfathomable loss of life. Grisly murders became the norm as tensions rose and tempers flared. Nobody was safe, and it seemed that even family members were among the distrusted. It wasn’t beneath a man to kill his own brother if the provocation was warranted.
Sarah tied the black apron around her waist, pulled her hair up into a bun and quickly gathered her things. As she stuffed keys, lipstick, and an extra hair tie into her purse, she briefly scanned her closet. All those beautiful dresses lay forlornly on the hangers. When was the last time she was able to wear one of them? It seemed like ages ago. Getting laid off from her Fortune 500 company hit her like a Mac truck. She wasn’t prepared for the suddenness of it. After four months of looking for work, her money ran out. Her parents promised she could stay with them until she got back on her feet. Out of desperation she applied for a waitress position at Mel’s Diner. She had stated in her resume that she required Sundays off but Mel didn’t take demands from new employees kindly. She would keep the hours she was given or find another job.
Her father met her at the door, a scowl across his face. Ever since she’d accepted Christ, it seemed he’d been in a permanent bad mood. Nothing she ever did satisfied him anymore and if she made the slightest remark about God or Jesus it was a full on battle. Just for today, she kept her comments about her newfound joy to herself. It just wasn’t worth it right now.
“Did you remember the milk like I asked you?”
“I told you, Dad. I’ll pick some up on the way home ok? I have to go now or I’m going to be late.”
“Yeah, that’s right! You go to work, you little free- loader. Bring me home a paycheck when you come back!”
“Dad, that’s not fair! You know I’ve been working double shifts to pull my weight around here. I’ve even helped out with the groceries a few times. What do you want from me?”
“I want you to act like you give a rip about the rest of us! You see how hard your mother tries to run this house. Why aren’t you helping her? You call yourself a “Christian”. When was the last time you went to church? I bet you don’t even remember.”
His cold eyes glared at her as she turned the key in the ignition. She held her sobs until she was out of sight, the tears blinding her as she drove away.
Bright light filtered through the stained glass windows, causing multicolored prisms to dance around the cheery room. Soft, soothing music played overhead from unseen speakers, the first of many newly added features. A golden cross hung from the front wall, its extravagance noticeable to anyone who walked in the giant double doors. Blue hymn books lined the back of every polished pew. The music faded as the pastor came out, welcoming visitors. As the opening hymn began, the choir entered from the back, single file, their long, billowing robes trailing majestically behind them. Bonnie leaned over and whispered to her friend, Marie, careful so as not to be overheard by the pastor.
“Has anyone heard from Sarah lately? I can’t imagine why she would miss church again. Doesn’t she know that too many missed Sundays will cause her spiritual life to crumble?”
“I heard she spent the night with that Edwards guy over at the barber shop. Did you see the way she was looking at him? It looked to me like they were halfway to the honeymoon, if you get my meaning.”
<i>I’d like to break in here for a moment if you don’t mind. My name is Strife and I’ve been watching from my chambers for quite some time. I’m simply fascinated by how alike these two stories are. On one side, we have an ancient family feud. I must say, the pig was a nice touch. I didn’t think I’d get to see my brother, Murder but he showed up after all. It’s quite splendid, really. I’m always fascinated at how quickly the mortals devour each other. It’s as if they have no concept of time. If they’d only wait thirty seconds before opening their mouths, I might not have had to show up at all. But they never do. Someone gets mad and I’m called in almost immediately. It’s absolute genius.
Ah, anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. On the other side we have a modern day church with modern day people. One young woman can’t make it to Sunday service because she has a demanding job. Her parents are condemning and full of ridicule. Her friends gossip about her behind her back. I see the makings of another classic feud here and I’m just thrilled beyond words. It’s a mite complicated but I can spell it out for you real good. Perhaps if you pay attention, you might learn something about how quickly I get invited to these little gatherings. Maybe, if you’re lucky I’ll show up to one of yours. If you’re real lucky my brother Murder may come along for the ride.
Christian versus Non-Christian
The Christian versus non-Christian is a great start. Oh, it just makes me giddy! We have the Christian woman, living at home with a non-Christian family. She tries her hardest to go to church but sometimes, life just gets in the way. She has a nasty temper but ever since she’s been a believer, God has been working on her heart and toughening her up. She’s much less quick to curse and my cousin, Fib seldom visits, if ever. I get invited when things start to heat up around the house. The woman is trying to get ready for work while her father calls my sister, Rage. They have a discussion about that self-righteous, pious little imp trying to push her ideas onto the rest of the family. It gets quite crowded when my mother-in-law Ridicule shows up and demands her share of attention. Sarah So Saved has no business shoving religion, morals and values down her father’s throat after all. It’s his business if he wants to live like my father, Satan. How dare she interfere! The party really gets rolling when Sarah tries to speak reason to her father. “Daddy, why are you judging me? I’m doing the best I can. Can’t you just accept me the way I am?”
“You call yourself a Christian! You don’t even go to church anymore!”
I live for moments like these. You see, Sarah So Saved has nothing left to respond with. I’ve stifled her cries with my other sister, Guilt. I’ve finally won.
Christian verses Pretend Christian
The pretend Christian against the real Christian is splendid! Fanny Faker is an excellent pawn that I use quite often to further my kingdom. From all appearances, Fanny Faker looks wholesome, well rounded, even righteous. She goes to church, pays her tithes, and sings in the choir. Nobody would suspect her of any wrongdoing. Yet behind the scenes, she’s anything but angelic. She gossips and hides a knife behind her back everywhere she goes. She’s so insecure with herself that she feels an obligation to attack her fellow sisters just to make herself appear more righteous. I don’t get called until later because I’m quite comfortable just living in her heart. It’s actually a little on the lonely side until my cousin, Jealousy gathers us all together. Jealousy is a fabulous little trouble maker of her own. She’s constantly sowing seeds of Pride that gradually manifest into other demonic attributes. I love Jealousy because she’s unquenchable without the love of God. Left alone, she creates a wildfire that burns down innocent homes and churches, starting from the inside out. It isn’t long before I’m summoned and the fun begins. Little by little, I take out everything in my wake. I start with one pretend Christian and work my way around the room, pitting them against each other until they’re left lying on the floor in a puddle of their own blood. After I’ve destroyed all the pretend Christians, I go onto the real ones, like Sarah So Saved. I’ve already been working on her family, as you know. But, after spending time with Fanny I’ve got a real foothold. It won’t be long before Sarah So Saved isn’t so saved anymore. I’ve got an agenda. I want her out of church and serving me again. Occasionally I’m overpowered by Love and Forgiveness, my worst enemies. Their companions, Mercy and Grace create an ambush and sneak up on me when I least expect it, but it isn’t all that often anymore. Lately it seems like I’ve all but scared away Love’s finest attributes. I’ve been able to do some serious damage too! Families have been destroyed by infidelity and divorce, and somehow, financial ruin even finds a way in. It’s extraordinary how little ghouls like Jealousy and Pride can create such disaster!
You might be wondering at this point how Love and Forgiveness manage to keep me away. You might even be asking, “With all the lives you’ve taken, how can anything be restored again?” I really work hard to hide people from the Truth.<i>
I’m sorry, but I too feel it’s time to interject. You see, I am Love. I also go by Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. In this case, I prefer to go by Sound Doctrine.
<i>Wait, a minute I wasn’t finished!<i>
Yes, you are. It’s my turn now. As I was saying…today I prefer to be called Sound Doctrine. With my help, any church can get back on its feet but it isn’t an easy road. Strife is right in saying that lately I’ve been pushed into a corner by his companions. Sadly, nobody has room for me in their homes, churches, or lives anymore. I’ve been overshadowed by greed and sin. If my name does happen to be uttered, I’m usually chased away by Strife’s stepmother, Intolerance. Therefore, Love and Peace just can’t exist under the same roof. Sometimes, they can’t exist at all. But there is hope. There is a Savior who understands. Strife followed Him everywhere he went. He wasn’t even accepted in his home town because Strife was there every step of the way. It followed Him through the towns He preached in and the people He tried to save. Its long talons reached out and grabbed at the Pharisees, drawing them in as He healed people on the Sabbath. Its brother Murder was there for the final judgment, as He was beaten and left to die on the cross.
You could learn so much from the Savior. My advice to you would be to stand firm and allow my warm tendrils of Love and Mercy to embrace your soul. Don’t ever back away from me, Sound Doctrine. Strife’s aunt, Compromise will try and defer you and cause you to doubt what you know so well. Hold me in your heart and don’t let go, no matter what. Believe that you have a crown waiting for you in heaven and Strife will never have the opportunity to enter your domain. Reject Pride, Greed, Jealousy, Guilt, and Rage. If you are able to do this, you will never have Strife breathing down your back. It will have no choice but to flee. And if you ever get lonely, know that the Savior and I will always be right here. You can run to us and know that we will catch you before you become another casualty like those poor Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. Peace be with you.
© Sherry Castelluccio 2008
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