Dying for a Drink

Dying for a Drink August 28, 2013
(an excerpt from SOULJOURN, my new novel)


We worked all day.  Dad and Rachel were on one team, Father Crespi and I were on another, refilling tanks, cleaning up trash around them, and placing new ones.  Five new blue flags, marking the new tanks, waved defiantly against the demon of thirst, and fluttered in

the breeze over the desert at sundown that evening.  The crew enjoyed a dinner at Rachel’s house prepared by the
Women’s Society of the Federated Church.

“So Karl,” said Father Crespi.  “Your son, Josh here, he is a fine young man.”

I was enjoying my dad’s further discomfort.

“Yeah, he is.  A fine young knucklehead.  I mean, a fine young man.”

“You have raised him well.  By yourself, I understand?” said Father Crespi, between forks full of tuna casserole.

“Yes, so anything he does wrong, you can blame me for it,” answered Dad.
“And whatever he does right, you can claim credit for it, too.” said Pastor Kate.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” said Dad.  “I’m only his father.”

“So does Josh get his curiosity about religion from you?” asked Father Crespi.

“Like I say, I’m only his father.  That is an area where he can take all the credit for himself,” said Dad.   Dad was really in over his head now.  I noticed that from the head of the table, silently, Rachel Parmenter was watching Dad, her eyes smiling with soft

wrinkles.  “So it’s my turn to ask a few questions,” Dad continued.  “Why are you religious folks so interested in mojados?”

Pastor Kate was ready with an answer.  “Because that is what we are called to do as Christians: to stand with the poor and oppressed.  So we formed an interfaith, ecumenical covenant group to address the issues of migrants, and came up with a plan of action.”

“You think this is going to solve the problem?  Putting water out there for them to drink?  Hey,” said Dad, waving his fork for emphasis, “I don’t think the US immigration policy makes any sense either.  Not that I have any alternatives to propose.   But let’s get realistic here.  You put water stations in the desert, that just attracts the mojados.  More of them come across, more of them die.  You make it hard for them, deny them water, fewer come across, fewer of them die.  It sounds harsh, but when you look at it practically….”

“Karl,” said Rachel, “when you are dealing with human beings, when you see them suffering, sometimes you do things for them that aren’t entirely practical.”

Website: JIMBURKLO.COM    Weblog: MUSINGS    Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo

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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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