This morning, we are going to accompany the Sugar Creek Gang as they go to church. Remember how our minds always used to wander during the sermon and daydream about what else we could be doing? Well, now we get to watch Bill do it too!
I’m not kidding.
Bill’s family is picking up some extra people for church that morning, if you recall, so we go to Little Jim’s house first. Bill is in the backseat. His mom, dad, and baby sister Charlotte Anne are in the front seat. This is apparently in the days before car seats were required. We’re going to assume Bill’s mother has the baby on her lap.
Not including the baby, there are 4 people in the car.
Little Jim’s mom isn’t feeling well this morning, so he and his pop brought her breakfast in bed. We get a paragraph about how Bill’s pop brings his mom breakfast in bed even when she’s feeling just fine….yawn.
Bill’s family pulls up to Tom’s house and honks the horn. This happens twice. Finally, Bill and Little Jim are sent in to go get him. This takes 3 pages.
Little red haired Tom finally opens the door, and tells them he can’t go to church because his mother has the flu. Little Tom says he has to take care of her and keep the fires going.
“Can’t your daddy do that?” Little Jim asked in a disappointed voice, and Little Tom swallowed hard like there was a tear in his throat and said, “Daddy’s not home again. He’s–he’s–not home,” Tom finished, and I knew what he meant, but he was ashamed to say it, and it probably was that his pop had got drunk again and was maybe right that very minute in the Sugar Creek Jail.
If Bill knows this, I’m sure Little Jim does too. Why is he even asking about Tom’s father? He should know better, bad Jimmy, bad! Get me a beech switch!
But Little Jim hasn’t learned, because the next thing he asks about is Tom’s brother.
“Where’s Bob?” Little Jim wanted to know, and Tom stood there in the half open kitchen door and said, “He got up early and went over to Shorty Long’s; they’re going to hunt pigeons.”
Bill tells us that sometimes the farmers have too many pigeons, so kids will go out to their barns and catch them. They catch the pigeons, I mean, not the farmers. Bill tells us that one could get 15 cents each by selling the pigeons they catch.
Yanno, this book is very educational. If this had just been a book about Bill educating us about life in Sugar Creek, that would be…. well, boring, actually, so nevermind.
Bill is relieved, because that means that Shorty Long won’t want to go to Sunday School. Little Tom says says to tell their Sunday School teacher that he’ll try to come next week, he’s studied his lesson, then hands Bill a small envelope with two small coins. His offering.
These churches make me sick. They will take a poor boy’s last
pennies dimes when they should be encouraging the boy to keep them and use them to buy something he needs. I have heard countless stories of churches knowingly accepting tithe from poor people even though it means those people will struggle for necessities.
Bill thinks the two coins are dimes, and that Little Tom probably earned them by catching pigeons.
Bill idiotically asks if the doctor has been around, and Little Tom dodges the question, leading Bill to believe that they can’t afford one.
Bill’s father honks the car horn, and he and Little Jim go back and tell him what is happening.
Bill’s pop gets angry.
“He’s a slave,” pop said, thinking of Tom’s pop, and mom said, with a very determined voice, “Theodore, you take the boys on to Sunday School…Bill, here, you hold Charlotte Anne. If Mrs. Till has the flu, I can’t keep Charlotte Anne here with me.”
The baby was definitely riding in her mother’s arms, then.
Bill’s mom says she’ll stay with Mrs. Till and send Tom along to Sunday school with the boys. Hope Little Tom isn’t a carrier for the flu.
There’s some talk about getting a doctor to stop by, and I wish doctors still made house calls because when I have the flu it’s like, impossible for me to get to one by myself.
Bill tells them that the Till family can’t afford a doctor.
Pop spoke up almost fiercely, like he was angry at somebody or something, and this is what he said, “But I can.If Tom’s mother needs a doctor, she’s going to have one.”
Maybe I do like Bill’s pop, at least a little bit. Still haven’t quite forgiven him for the cat abuse, though. I read ahead in the book, actually, and this storyline is never resolved. Does Mixy ever catch any mice? Does she starve? Does Bill’s dad cave in and feed her anyway? I hope you weren’t worried about poor little Mixy not getting any food, because we don’t get to know the outcome.*
Bill tells Little Jim he hopes Shorty long and Bob don’t go to their barn, because his favorite pigeon, Snow White, is up there with her babies.
I don’t think Shorty and Bob would go into someone’s barn without permission but it was the 1940s, maybe they didn’t need it.
Pop, Little Jim, Tom, Bill, and Charlotte Anne all go to the Long’s house to pick up Shorty’s mother. In case you lost track, that’s 5 people in the car, excluding the baby. Which I guess isn’t too bad. For time periods before car seats, that is.
“I’m going to the parsonage to call the doctor to stop at your house,” pop said to Tom. “and I’m taking a radio to your mother, so if she feels able she can listen to a gospel program.”
These are very nice things to do, but I kind of hate that he’s only giving her the radio so she can listen to god talk. If that’s what she wants to do, fine, but what if she just wants to listen to something fun? I hate it when favors have strings attached.
Little Tom tries not to cry, then runs to the church.
Just inside the vestibule, fastened to the wall, was what is called “The Minister’s Question Box,” with a little slit in the top for people to put in Bible questions they wanted explained, or also for any extra offering people wanted the minister to have… Right that second I saw Little Jim pull one of his small hands out of his pocket and slip a folded piece of paper into the box, kinda bashful like, then he and all of us went on in to where our classes would be sitting.
Mercifully we are spared the details of Sunday school. Unmercifully, we have to suffer through church.
Just before the sermon starts, Mr. Black comes in.
I was surprised to see him come to church, but I knew our minister would preach a good sermon like he always does, and it wouldn’t hurt even a school teacher to hear a good sermon maybe once a week.
I see. So, basically, Mr. Black sucks because he is not a christian. Fantastic.
In any case, that’s the end of the chapter. What a cliffhanger.
Chapter 8 opens with church.
Two or three times while our minister was preaching a very interesting sermon which a boy could understand,
Again with the telling instead of showing. Though for once I have to agree with the author here. I would not want him to show us what he thinks is a good sermon. His book is enough of an insomnia cure already.
My thoughts flew away like they were birds with wings, and for quite a while I didn’t even know I was in church on account of I was far away in my thoughts.
Show of hands, how many of us were like this? I was totally like this.
Bill thinks about Syliva, the minister’s daughter, and about how she’s Big Jim’s “favorite girl.” He also tells us his parents won’t really let him sit with his friends, because they have a tendency to get distracted.
We get a few Bible verses the preacher is reciting, then Bill starts thinking about Poetry, who had a little lamb once, who’s fleece was not white as snow because it fell in a mud puddle and you’d know that if you’d read The Sugar Creek Gang In School.
How common was it to drop the titles of your previous books into the current one? I feel like CS Lewis did this, but only a couple of times. The author here has done it at least twice.
This brings Bill to the poem that was stuck on the snowman’s stomach yesterday and Bill resolves to act like a gentleman in school even if he doesn’t like his teacher.
Then Bill looks out the window and…. you know what? Fuck this. I’m done. We’re going to leave Bill’s head now and get to the plot.
After church Little Jim tells Bill that that sure was a good sermon, and Bill wonders what the fuck he’s talking about. We’re supposed to wonder too, but, really, I don’t care.
Pop tells the gang that Tom Till’s mom doesn’t have pneumonia, only a bad chest cold. While he was there, Bob had come home with a lot of pigeons. Bill gets worried and dashes outside to the back of the Till’s house, where there’s a cage full of pigeons. Inside is Snow White, his favorite pigeon.
Little Tom looked and swallowed and got a very scared expression on his face, and started to say something, then stopped……”Bob’s got a terrible temper, and he’s already mad at me.”
Poor Little Tom. He’s in a quandary. If he spares the pigeon, Bob will be mad at him. Actually, I’m not sure how he could only spare one pigeon, so Bob would be really mad at him when all those pigeons he worked so hard to catch are suddenly gone. Bob’s family is poor, and if I were him I’d be pissed right the fuck off.
If Little Tom doesn’t let the pigeon go, possibly all the pigeons, his “best friend” will be mad at him.
Bill understands this, but he still isn’t happy.
Little Jim Foote is coming over for dinner, but they didn’t invite Tom because….?? At least they leave him some food.
Just that second, just as we were getting close to Little Jim Foote’s house, Little Jim said, “Hey, Bill! Look! There goes a white pigeon flying all by itself.”
Poor Bob. He worked very hard to catch that pigeon and was probably looking forward to the money. I feel kinda bad for him. I feel a little less bad for Little Tom, who is clearly very concerned with trying to please Bill.
Bill is very happy about Tom having done this despite being afraid of his big brother, and I want to punch him. He should want his friend to avoid a beating, for fucks sake.
Tom Till really was a great little guy, I thought; one of my very best friends, and I remembered that before he had started coming to our Sunday School and had become a Christian, he had been one of the meanest boys I ever saw.
Only non Christians are mean boys. I think we’re supposed to read this and go “Shorty Long needs to go to Sunday School so he can convert and become good!” But…. I don’t care.
The boys eat dinner, go sledding, and go to the barn to check on the stupid pigeon.
I hope Mixy catches the pigeon and eats it for dinner since her worthless humans aren’t going to feed her.
Pop discovers his new ladder is missing, and he, Jim, and Bill all search for it, to no avail. Bill is sure that Shorty Long and Bob did something with it while they were hunting pigeons. He’s mad that they went into the barn without permission.
After pages and pages of fruitlessly searching for the ladder, Jim and Bill go over to Poetry’s house.
It was while we were at Poetry’s house that we saw the ladder, and you’d never guess in the world where it was(sic), and most certainly you’d never guess in the world all the excitement we were going to get mixed up in before the afternoon was over.
Wow, what a real cliffhanger. There’s tension and drama coming, I promise! It all has to do with the missing ladder we just spent pages searching for! Can you bring yourself to care? Because I really can’t. Which is a real shame because the next chapter is actually pretty interesting. I’d really like to cut out a lot of this book and have it be a short story. I think it would do well.
*Speaking of storylines we don’t get to know the outcome of, remember how his parents were so worried about him last chapter? Well, I just finished the book today, and we never get to know what they were so worried about.