Lawrence - My Hometown
Billy Kaeton is going to Hell
By Richard E. Noble
Billy Kaeton looked like a normal kid. He had wandered down from north of the Howard. He was actually from Methuen. Kids from Methuen were OK. We had a number of guys in the Corner gang who were from Methuen.
Methuen kids weren’t like the regular Lawrence guys. Some of them didn’t even live in a tenement house. They actually lived in a house where nobody other than their immediate family lived. Methuen guys were considered more wealthy and somewhat pampered and spoiled compared to us Lawrence kids. But us guys from Lawrence weren’t bigots. We were an equal opportunity gang.
Billy Kaeton’s dad was a doctor and they lived a few blocks north of the Howard Playground in a single family ranch home. One day I walked him home. He stopped at this fancy styled ranch house that was surrounded by a split rail “designer” fence. When we got to his place, he invited me in. I thought he was busting my chops. Nobody in our gang lived in a house like that. Everyone I knew lived in an apartment. And everybody’s apartment was pretty much alike. I figured he was pulling a fast one on me. I decided to call his bluff. I figured by the time we reached the front door, he would come clean, we would both have a big laugh, and then go to his real house.
We got to the front door and he opened it and walked inside. I nearly flipped out. I still figured he was busting chops and he had just opened the door to this strange rich person’s house. Now we would really be in trouble. He motioned for me to follow him. I didn’t move. I stood outside the entrance and gawked at the inside like a stray cat exploring new, untested territory.
“Come on! Let’s go to my bedroom and play with some of my toys,” he said.
What in the world was this kid talking about? Let’s go to “his” bedroom and play with some of “his toys.” What was this, the land of Little Lord Fauntleroy, or what? This kid had his own room and he had toys in his room?
I came to the conclusion that he actually lived there. I followed but very tentatively. The inside of the house looked like something out of a storybook to me. I felt like an aborigine who had just dropped from the jungle into Grand Central Station. I was looking everywhere except where I was going. I kept bumping into everything.
We walked through a fancy entranceway and then into a big room. All the floors were covered in thick carpeting – even the hallway. I kept thinking I should take my shoes off or something. Billy kept chanting, “Come on! Come on!”
There was someone reading a newspaper, sitting in a big leather chair in front of a huge fireplace. I had never seen anything like this in my life.
The man in the chair peeked from behind his paper and over his reading glasses. When he saw me, he folded up the paper and called out to Billy as he stepped in front of my path and latched onto my arm. He smiled as he escorted me back to the entrance and scooted me back out the door. I felt like I had just got caught by the usher at the Palace Theater after sneaking in the back entrance.
He closed the door. I was standing outside by myself. I heard Billy inside whining to his father that I was his new friend and he brought me home to play with his toys in his bedroom. I heard his dad say, “I want to meet any new friends you make before you bring them home. That boy is obviously trouble. All I need is one look and I know that. What is the matter with you?”
I didn’t wait for Billy to come out and talk to me. I just figured his dad was pissed. I walked back down to the Howard and then down the hill to Nell’s Variety.
I didn’t tell any of the other guys about the incident even when Billy showed up down at Nell’s the next day. I think I was a little ashamed that his father just looked at me and thought that I was trouble. I thought that I looked pretty much like all the other guys.
The first thing Billy did was apologize. He said his dad was just grumpy. I told him that was what I figured. He proceeded to make friends with some of the other guys. Everybody liked him. He was very friendly and outgoing – but Billy was different … really different.
He had been hanging around at Nell’s with us for a couple of weeks when someone mentioned that most of us usually met at King Tut’s on Sunday mornings before we headed off for the eight o’clock mass at St. Mary’s or the Immaculate Conception. He then mentioned that he was not a Roman Catholic but an Episcopalian.
Oh my, the silence was deafening. None of us could believe it. We all looked him over more closely – and with great sympathy. Not a one of us had ever seen a live person who we knew was definitely going to hell. There was one hope. Maybe he was like those pygmies in Africa or someplace who had never heard of the one true Church.
Someone squeaked out squeamishly, “Did you ever hear of the Roman Catholic Church?”
“Of course I have.”
Ought oh! Bad news! He knew about the one true Church and he didn’t care. It was over. Unfortunately our new friend Billy whose father was a rich doctor who lived in a fancy house up in Methuen was going to Hell. Wow! Ain’t that something, we all thought. It’s just like we were taught in St. Rita’s. “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and end up losing his soul.”
I don’t know which one of us it was who broke the news to Billy but somebody had to do it.
“You do know that you are going to Hell.”
“I am not.”
“Oh yes you are. You know about the Roman Catholic Church and you refuse to join. That means you are going to Hell.”
“Other religions can all go to heaven besides Roman Catholics.”
“’fraid not, Billy boy. Whoever told you that one?”
“The priest at my church.”
“You ain’t got no real priest at your church. If he ain’t Catholic, he ain’t no priest.”
“He is so!”
“Sorry buddy, the priest at your church is an imposter. He’s going to Hell too, you can bet on that.”
Billy got really, really upset when he learned the truth. None of us thought all that much about it. We had to tell him. When a kid is going to Hell, he should know about it.
Billy returned the next day fortified with information that he got from this phony priest who belonged to this phony church.
He started telling us about these popes who were bad guys in ancient times. We told him that we knew all that crap. And we knew about Episcopalians too. “You’re church was started by this whacko King of England who wanted to divorce one of his wives. He was a big, stupid, fat guy. All he wanted to do was eat and screw pretty Queens. When the Pope wouldn’t give him a divorce, he started his own phony church and chopped his wife’s head off. You mean to tell us that you are going to put your faith in a nut cake like that?”
He babbled on about the Pope and burning people at the stake and all this ancient history stuff. Who cared! That was all a long time ago. And most of all this anti-Catholic garble was made up by a bunch of clowns who just didn’t like keeping the commandments and living like respectable Catholics. At one time everybody was a Roman Catholic until all these perverts like this King Henry came along, we told him.
The next day when he came back he told us that his priest had told him that Roman Catholic’s were crazy and they hated everybody and wanted to destroy all the people who didn’t think like they did.
We laughed. “That is ridiculous. Listen, if you and your whacky priest want to go to Hell, go ahead. We were just trying to help you out because we like you and you seem like a nice kid. But if you choose to go to Hell, go with your eyes open. Don’t fool yourself.”
“Well, Father Bob says that Roman Catholic’s are dangerous and they have guns stored in all the cellars of their churches.”
“Oh wow! Father Bob is it? Well tell “Father Bob” that we will bring him down to the cellar of any Catholic Church and if he finds anything other than scribbled over, losing bingo cards and cake crumbs from the last bake sale, we’ll buy him a free season ticket to Canobe Lake Park.”
Billy got all red in the face. He didn’t know what to say but what could he say? It is tough to have the truth thrown right in your face. Unfortunately, Billy will just have to deal with it, we thought.
We watched him walk up the hill towards the Howard. We felt really sorry for him. He never came back to the corner and we never saw him again. But he was the only kid that any of us ever met, face to face, who we knew for certain was going to Hell.
Since that time I have met many, many sad, uninformed souls who will be going to Hell. Unfortunately one of them is my wife. She says that she is a Methodist. I have asked her what method the Methodists believe in. She doesn’t know and she doesn’t really care. She says that she liked being a Methodist as a child because of the sauerkraut suppers and the “nifflies” that they served up in the cellars of their churches. Nifflies are boiled noodle dough drenched in real butter and salt. I asked her if she thought that Catholics had guns in the cellars of their churches. She said she didn’t think so.
I have never told her that she is going to Hell – though I must admit, I have come very close many, many times.
Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for bookstore discounts and volume sales.