Cleb Bowman told this story at the Crawdad Club last evening. Apart from the obscenities, I have transcribed it as related:
“Old Man Chambers only cared for one other thing besides drinking—auctions. Craziest man for auctions I ever saw. Didn’t matter what kind—farm equipment, collectibles, church going out of business—all the same to him. He’d sit in the first row—drunk most likely—and buy things, no matter whether he needed them or not. It was fun going just to see him in action. Amos Finch’d give him free coffee and say ‘Hey, Chambers’ over the PA—make him think he was a big bug and pump him up for spending. Amos knew Chambers was good for any junk that wasn’t no one going to buy—box lots and worthless stuff.
“Well, Chambers hadn’t been to church for two, maybe three years, so folks were mighty surprised when he sludged down the aisle and melted into a pew one Sunday morning. The last time he’d been there he snored so loud that the elders gave him the God or mammon ultimatum. Yes, they did—told him to either repent and stay awake, or embrace sin and stay home. ‘Course, they hoped he’d go mammon, him being such a nuisance. He’d embraced sin already—he just liked to embrace it in church every few years.
“I was still awake when Chambers came in, though I don’t remember why. He must’ve been awfully drunk the night before. He shuffled more than walked—had to keep stopping to pull his pants up—there was all sorts of debris in his hair, and it looked like part of his sleeve had caught fire. No sooner did he hit the pew and he was out—services hadn’t even started. Never moved through the hymns, or the opening prayer, and when the communion came around, Curly Dowd nudged him with the bread tray, but Chambers didn’t budge. Curly nudged him harder with the fruit of the vine—nothing. Curly didn’t even bother with the offering.
“Comes the sermon, titled “What price your soul?” It was a good one, too, about a rich man who fared sumptuously—meaning he was a one-percenter—but wouldn’t give poor Lazarus a situation, and how there ain’t any luggage racks on hearses. That’s a lie, though. Otto Hopp and his wife take the hearse on vacation every year and they always rent a luggage rack.
“Anyway, the lesson was nearly over and Fletcher was stoked and scooting along, pounding the pulpit all hot and sweaty, and you could see his birthmark getting darker as he went. Then he pauses, and wipes his head, and closes his eyes for a moment. There wasn’t no sound—just as quiet as a bar on Monday morning. Then Fletcher raises his head and opens his eyes and as loud as he can, asks the humdinger with as much brimstone as he can throw.
‘One last time, good brethren…WHAT PRICE YOUR SOUL?!’
Up jumps Chambers and raises his arm.
‘Thirty-five dollars!’ ”