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HUSTLING HEAVEN by Peter Dean Rickards

So, there I am stuffed into the UWI bus on my way to Sovereign Plaza to look for some food. I'm feeling particularly reflective today as the term draws to end and I contemplate where I'm going to live during the summer now that the lease on my ‘rustic' little room at Irvine Hall is up in a couple of days.

Once around the bend, my thoughts are suddenly interrupted by the shrieks of a female voice coming from the back of the bus, and this time its not Antoinette Horton on the radio chastising some ignorant caller for trying to speak with an American twang. No, this is much worse: it's that horribly psychotic church-woman again!

The same zealot in the frilly light-blue blouse who tries to sell everyone tickets to Billy Graham crusades at National Stadium. The same prematurely released out-patient who decided last Saturday morning at 7 AM to tell everyone at Preston Hall about the blood of Jesus Christ and the coming rapture(whether you wanted to hear it or not).The same zealot in the frilly light-blue blouse who tries to sell everyone tickets to Billy Graham crusades at National Stadium. The same prematurely released out-patient who decided last Saturday morning at 7 AM to tell everyone at Preston Hall about the blood of Jesus Christ and the coming rapture(whether you wanted to hear it or not).

-‘JESUS LOVES YOU, she howls, ‘ALL DI' HEEEEE-VIL DAT IS IN DI' WORLD...DI' LARD JESUS CHRIST DID DEAD ‘PON DI' CROSS FI' CLEANSE YOU FRAM EET AND SAVE YOU FRAM DI' HEEEE-TERNAL FIRES OF ‘ELL."

As is usual , everyone is annoyed but nobody says anything because her sort of madness is excusable since its only GOD she's ranting about and not the invisible, 9-foot tall goat that's been following her around and telling her to buy AMWAY products ever since she missed her dose of lithium last week. Not surprisingly, she's getting on my nerves more than anyone's else's. Partly because I'm a faithful reader of the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS and have already been warned about the impending arrival of Satan's army of rapist devil-monkeys who will appear in Times Square within the first ten seconds of the new millennium and drag all non-believers to hell (otherwise known as downtown Kingston).

As she continues on, talking about the Sabbath and pork and Jezebels and Jonah and his giant fish and the various evils of every other religion but the one she learned under a tent somewhere in Portmore, I begin to cringe in my seat in an effort to restrain myself from throwing a half-full bottle of Welch's grape juice at her head. Its moments like this when it becomes a little easier to understand why the murder-rate is so high in Jamaica even though I would never actually try to murder anyone (unless of course I came home and found a stranger walking around my room dressed only in my underwear and a crude necklace made out of my mother's teeth).

Anyway, after another five minutes, I can't stand it anymore and I turn around and say : ‘Hey mad-lady?! Why don't you shut up?!' Expressions of shock creep over the faces of several students who start to wriggle around in their seats as if they are expecting the bus to be struck by lightning at any second.. Unfortunately, however, the crazy woman pretends not to hear me and starts on a new ( and louder) sermon about the how GOD will smite the gentiles and cleave their tongues to their knees for all eternity.

-‘Yow! Mad-lady!? You never hear me? Mi seh...SHUT-UP YUH BIG-MOUTH NUH?!' That's all it took: an older woman (one of UWI's many 50-year-old students) suddenly stands up and points at me as if trying to expel a bullet from her finger: ‘Hey bwoy! Shut up unu damn mouth!'

Another student pipes up : ‘Why he must shut up when dat mad-woman can scream down di' bus as much as she want?!'

-‘Because is di' word of GOD she a' speak!"

-‘She mad!'

-‘You mad!'

-‘Yuh face tuff like Spanish-town handcuff!'

-‘Suck yuh madda!'

-‘...and JESUS said unto di' Lard...forgive dem Lard..dem know not what dem ‘a do'

-‘Mad-lady shut yuh rhatid mouth!' The driver turns up the radio and everyone is quickly drowned out by the voice of Allan Magnus (the RJR morning guy) telling another one of his crap jokes. The arguing simmers down and the bus pulls into the post-office parking lot across from Sovereign Plaza.

Everyone piles out of the bus. Some of them look at me and shake their head. Others smile. But not the crazy church woman. She's running across the street. Away from the wicked heretics and the harlot verses of Nadine Sutherland and the giant invisible goat with his catalogue of AMWAY products. ‘Leff me!', she mutters angrily as the goat follows her gingerly across the street, ‘me don't need no damn Cubic-zirconia earrings'

Praise the Lord