Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three Parables

The Parable of the Old Biddy

To what shall I compare this generation? It is like Grandma Schmidt sitting on her front porch, chewing a plug of tobacco and holding a loaded shotgun across her knees.

Along came a yokel stealing Grandma's horse, but she just spat over the porch rail. A while later, a local ne'er-do-well climbed up a ladder right in front of her and carried off her prettiest granddaughter, but Grandma just rocked in her rocker and shook her head. Soon after this, a posse of yahoos ran into her yard, trampling her vegetable patch, busting down her fence, and throwing eggs against the side of her house. Grandma just yawned and slapped a mosquito.

Then who should come up Grandma Schmidt's driveway but a clean-cut young man wearing a belt of tools and driving a mule-cart filled with pots of paint, sacks of dry plaster, rolls of tarpaper, and stacks of bran-new roof shingles. "What do you want?" Grandma challenged him, cocking her gun.

"Thought you might have some work I could help with," said the visitor.

Grandma Schmidt spat in the man's direction, hitting the running board between his feet. "Look at the state of your shoes," she said.

"Looks like your fence needs mended," the man observed.

At this, the old lady aimed her gun and fired. Wounded, the man fell off the side of his cart and barely managed to avoid being run over as his mule bolted in panic. "What did you do that for?" he screamed, bleeding.

"Cain't abide a man with scuffed shoes," said the old biddy as she cocked her second barrel and drew a bead on the young man's head. Let him hear who has ears to hear...
The next two parables celebrate a certain church body's glorious lawsuit against four little old ladies on the Left Coast, the officers of a congregation that voted to leave the ___ Church. Historically, the ___ Church has never claimed to own the property of its several congregations, though it is customary for a parish's constitution to state that in the event of its dissolution, its assets will be donated to the ___ Church.

So, a civil bench in the Bay Area may soon set a major precedent by ruling that the ___ Church holds equity in a congregation and can force it to dissolve (thus forfeiting its property) rather leave the church body. Paradoxically, -- and this may be worth a parable or two on its own -- counsel for the ___ Church argues that (A) its policy against suing fellow Christians does not apply to people who have voted to leave the Church; while (B) it has legal standing to sue these same people because their decision to leave the ___ Church was invalid. Hmm.... To what shall I compare this generation?
The Parable of the Beneficiary

And elderly widow was driving into town for her monthly purchasing when her car had a flat tire. She pulled it off the gravel and waited for someone to come by and help her, wringing her hands anxiously. By and by, a lawyer came along and helped her put on the spare tire. Then he followed her slowly into town and made sure the local mechanic repaired her tire properly. The old lady so relieved that she promised the lawyer, "I'm going to put you in my will."

"I'm sure that's not necessary, ma'am," said the lawyer with a big, toothy grin. "Just doing what I can to help a neighbor."

"That's all right," said the lady. "Only, I don't have any surviving kin, and I would hate to die without knowing who was going to own my 75 hundred acres with oil under it, and my pristine, 18-bedroom house designed by what's-his-face, that Swedish Jew from early in the last century..."

"Do whatever you feel is right," said the lawyer, grinning even wider.

For a few years, all was well. The widow kept making her monthly trips into town without incident, and the lawyer built up a thriving practice, mostly by borrowing against money he expected to inherit from the widow.

Then one day the lawyer read in the newspaper that the widow had put her farm up for sale. He stormed down to the widow's farm and pounded on her door. "How dare you go back on our agreement," he began lecturing as soon as the lady opened the door.

"What is it to you?" the widow retorted. "I'm too old and feeble to keep this big house up, let alone all this land. If I get a chance to trade it for a condo in Boca Raton, isn't that my right?"

"We'll see about that," spat the lawyer. "You put me in your will to inherit this farm. I think the judge will agree that you can't throw away what's rightfully mine. Consider yourself served!" Let him hear who has ears to hear.

A Sequel to the Parable of the Beneficiary

The lawyer won his case against the widow. The judge agreed that, by naming the lawyer in her will, the old lady had given him a lien on her house and land. She was enjoined to stay on the farm for the rest of her life, on pain of being evicted and seeing the property turned over to the lawyer directly.

Years passed. The widow grew more and more feeble and inactive. Work on the farm stopped. The house began to suffer from neglect. The lawyer repeatedly sued to force the widow to make certain improvements, such as paving her driveway, and to prevent others, such as installing a wheelchair-accessible bathroom. The widow's savings dwindled, and she lived in increasing poverty and desolation. Yet she kept on living, beyond anyone's expectations.

Meanwhile, the lawyer had been living the good life. Such a good life, indeed, that his debts grew beyond his ability to service them, and his health deteriorated as well. No longer a young man, and plagued by heart problems, liver problems, gallbladder problems, and arthritis, the no-longer-young lawyer realized that he could not wait for the old lady to die. So he petitioned the court to declare her dead and send her property into probate.

"But I'm still alive," the lady argued during a hearing before the judge. "You can't inherit my land until I'm dead."

"You should have thought of that before you tried to cut the plaintiff out of your will," the judge barked, slamming his gavel down. "Bailiff, remove this corpse from my courtroom." Let him hear who has ears to hear.

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