Chapter Fifty-Seven: The Plague of Greed

Editor’s Note: as Vine approaches the 21st century, it’s not hard to feel as though the town is beset by challenges on all sides. Nowhere can stay completely cut off from the world forever. Christine thinks the turn of the century will see Vine fully merging with the outside world, modernizing completely, but gradually, like a frog boiling in a pot. How much say will the people of Vine have in the matter? How much say do they want? I was at the Council meeting where Andre Sherman Pilt’s plan was approved, and wrote this after:

Now it had long been central to Vine’s self-mythologizing that the town was entirely self-sufficient. Being a consecrated land grant unto its chosen people by God, with dominion over the animals, all material needs were provided by the land. Vine’s soil was fertile and its farmers virile. Food and drink and clothing were summoned forth from the Earth with the collective effort with which a rowing crew might traverse a daunting yet predictable river. 

Andre Sherman Pilt, descendant of a long line of railroadmen in Vine, knew this was bullshit. Vine lived and died by its shipping agreements and the functioning infrastructure of the surrounding counties of Tennessee. 

windows frosted with snow—lamplight on Main Street dusk—air brightly dotted with violins and the smell of bean soup—bag-encumbered we bound—holy holy holy—we gather by the tree

Now pay attention to the map. Picture a time lapse from 1970-2000. Do you see those red spots like boils popping up all over the skin of Tennessee? That’s Wal-Mart opening up shop. Now see this flood of darkness encompassing the entire state, like an ocean of despair? That’s a Mom-And-Pop general store closing down. 

Andre Sherman Pilt, whose older brothers consisted of one dead at 17 from a car wreck and one blackout drunk floating from work crew to work crew, was determined to be a man of stature, worthy of his family name, the son and grandson and great-grandson of Captains of Industry. The Great Non-Elders of Vine. 

when first this land was made there was a stream—a beaver dam is a civics work project—as the water stills mosquitos come air thickens—what was once stream is now bog—so to is the life of a town—so thus do we depend on the veins of rivers

Now pay attention: Andre Sherman Pilt is about to cut the legs off of Wal-Mart. Or is he opening Vine’s door and inviting Wal-Mart in like a vampire? Here he is in the boardroom, getting these execs to believe in Jesus. O can you not feel the Lord brothers. O my brothers can you feel the Lord Jesus in this room. O the tide may be turning O the winds may be shifting but righteousness is not a port you divert from O brothers. O brothers the strength of this great nation is in communities like Vine. O brothers the will of God is in communities like Vine O brothers and if America is to be a Christian Nation then She needs her communities like Vine O brothers. And there you have it: Wal-Mart trucks load up onto Vine rail cars. Vine crews unload Wal-Mart goods into Vine to be sold at the Vine General Store. Vine General Store kicks back a percentage to Wal-Mart.

so we rake away ash—so we rake away dust—so we rake away ash—so we rake away dust—

Make no mistake: one day a mouse made eye contact with a hawk. As the hawk swooped in for the kill, the mouse opened its arms and cried it is a joy to fulfill my duty to God and the food chain. Praise be to God for granting me purpose. The hawk, moved by this display of holiness, spoke, saying: surely I cannot eat one as holy as you, a small sarcastic pause before breaking the mouse’s neck. Later that year, a different hawk nested in the same tree. 

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