As Far As the East Is From the West
By Heather Ann Martinez
When we were young, Finn, Luke and I used to go cow tippin’, drinkin’, drivin’ and steal from the shops in town. I knew how to pick almost any lock. Luke was the best get away driver and Finn was like our big brother. He was bored. He was tired of living out in the country. To entertain himself, he would talk the rest of us into going along with his next adventure. It didn’t take much to convince the rest of us, we were all eager to grow up and move as far away as we could from where we grew up. The crazy thing was we never got caught. We always managed to get away with our loot and our crazy stunts. Finn once fractured his leg trying to kick in the window of the country market. Those were the days. I didn’t regret the things we did when we did them. I didn’t know others suffered consequences for my actions. I didn’t know that when we were stealing bread and cake from the bakery that Finn smashed in the mixers in the kitchen, and the family that owned the bakery couldn’t make their next few mortgage payments. The bakery’s insurance didn’t settle their claim right away. With the bakery closed, the family got behind on their bills. They were evicted and had to move out of state.
All Finn ever told us was there were no guarantees in life. He lived for the moment. He didn’t think about anyone else. Now that we are all adults, I know I am done with pranking and stealing from people who really deserved my respect. Every year, I dread April first. I hope that God has forgiven me, that my sins are forgotten as far as the east is from the west. I know what I have done. I have confessed to God all that I have done wrong. I won’t even lie about anything anymore. My mailman asked me how I was the other morning. I know he didn’t expect to get the litany I gave him and the loss of twenty minutes. I offered to buy him a cup of coffee the next day and promised I would not join him. I knew that I wasn’t going to go around town pranking people on the first day of April. It begged the question of what should I do instead? What could I do? I could no longer ask Finn for advice. He died several years ago. I don’t know what happened to Luke. I heard he was in jail for drug distribution.
To be honest with you, I hate pranks. I know you wouldn’t expect to hear that from someone like me, but it is true. I hate how they can hurt people I care about. Needless to say, I have been on the receiving end of some good pranks. I feel as though they were all part of my penance. You see, even when I thought some of my pranks were all for fun and to get a laugh out of someone, they almost always came with a price. I never thought about it until recently. I miss going to the bakery. I miss seeing cows on farms going about their business. What I didn’t care about at the time was that we weren’t just scaring cows, we scared their owners and we threatened their livelihood for a few laughs over one too many beers.
The question of what could I do to make up for all of my past wrongs remained with me. When I saw the mailman the next day, I asked him what he thought I could do instead of pranking someone of April first. What he said surprised me. He asked me if I thought about blessing someone instead. He suggested that I do a good deed for the ones I thought needed to be made up for. I told him there was a long list. He said I should get crackin.’ He said there was an elderly woman who lived up the street from me who could use a ride to the grocery store. She is no longer able to drive and gets the roads confused. He then said there was a young man who just returned from the war. The young man is in a wheelchair and the ramp he uses to get in and out of his house needs repair. The mailman said he would even help me with fixing the ramp. The mailman said he hand delivers the mail to the young man, because the young man cannot go to the end of his driveway.
As the mailman was leaving, he told me there was a new family that moved in at the corner. The couple has four children of their own and they foster a couple of kids in emergency situations. Even though they receive funds from the state for fostering kids, they said their kids all wanted to have a working train set in the living room. They have all the pieces for the train set but need help getting the tracks laid and the miniature town put together. The parents said it took hours to set up in their old house and welcomed having extra hands to put it together in this new house.
During a pause, I put my hand up. I told the mailman those were all really good ideas. He looked at me and said that he could introduce me to every person he mentioned, and we could do some of these things together. I asked him why he would want to help me. He said it was on his heart to help all of them. He knew some of the tasks required more than one person, but each would be rewarding. So, we set out to help each person that he mentioned. We went grocery shopping with the elderly woman and found out she had been a stand-up comic. She gave us some of her best comedy routines. We repaired the ramp for the young man that was wheelchair bound. We restored his freedom so he could leave his home to help other veterans at the community center. He volunteers in the soup kitchen helps in the neighborhood food pantry. He told me that he may have lost the use of his legs but he said he could still use his arms and hands. He looked at me and said if I needed it to be April first every day, pretend it was so. There will always be a need I could meet.
Putting the train set took more than a few hours over a few days. It was worth the time. The kids loved watching the train go under the tunnel. There were battery operated lights in the miniature houses, the miniature church and post office. The mailman cut out small envelopes and stamps to put in the mailbox to make it look more realistic. By the end of the week, we finished a long list of good deeds. April first came and went. When I went out to get my mail a week later, I saw the young man in the wheelchair helping another neighbor fix his garden hose. The kids that we put the train set together for were helping the elderly woman cook and they cleaned her house. I continue to make it April first every day, a day of good deeds.