Opinion » Bill Cope

A Wing, a Prayer

And not a damn thing else


"Going down to the airport, Cope?"

"Wasn't planning on it, Red. Why would I do such a thing?"

"Laura's comin' home, ain't you heard? Our hometown hero gal is flyin' free from her trials and tribulations in Haitiville, an' don't you think it'd be nice if the whole town was there to cheer her in?"

"Sorry, pal. Believe I'll skip it. Got some weed-whacking to do."

"Them weeds can wait, Cope. C'mon, you can ride with me. I'll even bring you back. An' besides, there might be some of them big-time news fellers there, doing interviews and photo-pops when she comes out past the Homeland Security beepers. Wouldn't be surprised if Dee Sarton, herself, shows up. This is a big whoop, can't you see that, Cope? Laura's done put Idaho back in the tweet-o-sphere again. There'll probably be balloon bouquets an' everything!"

"I don't want to go, Red. I'll watch the condensed version at 10 p.m. Or maybe not."

"I'm beginnin' to get the suspicion you don't think Laura's about the best thing to happen 'round here since the Fiesta Bowl. An' here she's a Meridian gal, just like you. 'Meridian's Mother Teresa' ... that's what the boys in my darts league been callin' her. Too bad us real Christians don't have saints like the Cat'lics do. Laura would get herself a halo sure as shootin'."

"Frankly, bub, I'm not as impressed as you seem to be."

"What you mean you're not impressed? How's the hell ain't you impressed? She was saving babies, for Christ sake!"

"Calm down, Red. Yes, saving babies is very commendable, no doubt about that. But your Saint Laura didn't actually get any saved, did she? All she managed to do was to get herself and her little pilgrim posse tossed in jail."

"Wull that's not her fault, dangit! She tried, she did! She got a busload o' orphans rounded up, then had to sit for months, sweating it out in that Haitiville hoosegow for her troubles!"

"Red, you've heard, haven't you, that not one of those kids she rounded up was an orphan? Not a single one."

"Yeah, I heard that. But their mammies and pappies begged Laura to take them and get 'em set up with a good Baptist future, don't you see that? Them parents were givin' them babies away! That makes 'em orphans, if you ask me!"

"So is that your idea of a Christian response to unfathomable suffering? To jump in like a pack of dingoes and snatch as many babies as you can out of the arms of distraught parents? Is that what you call 'family values,' to leave the grown-up ones sitting in the rubble so's you can carry the young ones off down your evangelical rabbit hole? Wouldn't it have been a damn sight more Christian to have tried to do something for the mammies and pappies, too? For whole families, so that they might keep their kids, rather than hand them off out of desperation to the first self-righteous meddler from Ain't-Got-A-Clue, Idaho, who comes by with a bus and a Bible? And don't you think if someone really wanted to do some good, they'd start by showing a little respect for the laws and customs and traditional faith of the land they're in? Who knows how many babies she might have saved if she'd learned something about where she was going? But that's sort of the trouble with the loudest thumpers, isn't it, Red? They always presume they know better than everyone else, especially when it comes to people from different and diverse cultures. Then if they screw everything up beyond belief, they start reaching for the sky with that vacant look on their faces and spouting how 'God's in control, God's in control.' No sir, Red. Laura Silsby was in control of that screwy mess. And the people that went with her are just damn lucky the Haitian authorities showed more sense than she did."

"Cope, ain't you gonna give her any credit for good intentions? Here she had all these troubles at home. She had her business going belly up, and she had those disgruntled employees gripin' about what they ain't been paid, and she had custody troubles over her own children, and with all o' that chewing at her, she still rushes down there to get an orphanage goin' when the quake hits. If that ain't the very definition of 'selflessness,' I'll eat my Social Security card!"

"Mm, 'selflessness' ... maybe. 'Opportune timing' ... for sure."

"What you saying, Cope? You saying maybe she went down to Haiti to get out the hot water she was in here?"

"You said it, Red. Not me. I have no idea if that was her intention. All I'm saying is that she left town with some questionable behavior dogging her, and she comes back a hometown hero. And it appears to me she's a hero not because of anything she accomplished, but because she broke a law, got caught, and Heaven forbid, had to face the Haitian music. And by the way, Red, let's say she had gotten those kids out of Haiti and set up her orphanage like she set out to do. So who was going to stay down there and run it, you suppose? Or would she have crossed that insignificant little bridge when she came to it?"

"Know somethin', Cope? You ain't never gonna be a hometown hero! Ain't nobody ever going down to the airport to cheer you in! Ain't nobody ever gonna surprise you with balloon bouquets, 'cause all you're good at is popping balloons and people's illusions!"

"Yeah, I have to agree, Red. It's almost like God gave me a mission, huh?"