A few months after they found Scooter Friendly hanging from a railroad tie cross in his basement, after the lawyers had done their work, after what was left of his family decided what to do with his belongings, his collection of Jesus memorabilia sold at auction for 450,000 thousand dollars. Just imagine Scooter’s step-sister who said, “Toss this shit in the incinerator with that whack job.” Imagine her watching the news man report that all that stuff she donated to St. Andrews Episcopal Church could have put her in early retirement from the transistor plant. Imagine her on the phone with one of those scaly lawyers insisting that he “do something about this,” and him telling her she “donated it—can’t nothing be done.” We all wanted the Jesus stuff to stay where it was; turn that place we all called the Jesus Museum into a, well, into a Jesus museum.
Scooter never would have called it “stuff.” “My collection,” he called it, or “my artifacts.” That was before he quit talking at all.
He’d be in the Dollar General, all dressed up in his robe, and the clerk would say, “Hey, Scooter, we got a Jesus action figure for your collection,” or “There’s a Last Supper 500 piece puzzle back in the seasonal aisle. Get it for your collection.”
It became like a game or a contest to all of us: who could find Jesusy stuff for Scooter. The rules were, it had to be original—in other words, he couldn’t already have one—and it had to be legit: no jokey Jesus junk. Scooter didn’t like the stuff making fun of Jesus: the one on wheels, the “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirts. Not that Scooter made up the rules. He didn’t even know there was a contest, or if he did, he didn’t let on. Someone would bring him something, he’d give it a look-see, and either nod or shake his head, like some religious investigator determining if a relic is authentic. No “no thank you” or “thank you” from Scooter, just a nod or a shake. Bring him a hook and latch rug featuring Jesus giving a sermon and you’d get a nod; bring him a poster of Jesus shaking hands with George Bush and you’d get a head shake. Some stuff required a little more study, so Scooter’d either look at it with you standing there or back slowly into his house and shut the door. He didn’t mean no meanness by it, just letting you know that he’d let you know. What makes one neon Last Supper better than another I’ll never know, but Scooter sure did.
What I do know is that Jesus is his own industry. In a Flying J truck stop alone, you can find the following Jesus-related items: wrist bands, t-shirts, cowboy hats, cutlery, belt buckles, license plate frames, greeting cards, candles, CDs, socks, buttons, pins, stickers, baseball caps, and breath mints (they’re novelty breath mints though, so Scooter doesn’t want them). That’s just one truck stop, and I’m sure he had all of that stuff years ago. Still, every time I go into a gas station, I check out the Christian merchandise and ask myself, “What would Scooter buy?”
While I am just a browser, there are some who are serious about this, maybe even more serious than Scooter. Susabeth Combs spends her nights on e-bay; Lisa Mueller is a yard sale fiend; and Mattie Adams will knit, crochet, or needlepoint her way into Scooter’s heart.
Why did the whole town seem to fawn over this goofy guy who lived alone, never talked, and looked like he just stepped out of the musical Hair? Maybe because the kid grew up here; maybe because of what happened to his mama; maybe because his family seemed to disown him; maybe out of curiosity.
Scooter wasn’t always like that. He wasn’t ever class president or anything, but he was a regular kid. I cut his hair until he was twelve or fourteen. I went to the same church as his folks—his mama and step-daddy. He was an acolyte, I think.
Then his mama died in the tub. I don’t know if this is when Scooter went a little wonky, but I wouldn’t be surprised. We all knew his step-daddy, Tug, had something to do with it. Never was charged. Boy was he ever on fire when they read his mama’s will and she left that house and all her possessions to Scooter. That night there was all kinds of screaming and violence coming from that house. The next morning, Tug and his daughter had left. Susabeth went over to check on Scooter, but he said he was fine—he was sixteen at the time, and nearly out of school—and we left him alone.
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