The Intolerable Gospel | Sojourners

The Intolerable Gospel

Arnold Bledsoe stood bareheaded on the courthouse steps, drenched with sweat. The summer heat beat down incessantly, bleaching the marble whiter, blinding people walking up the steps, and baking Mr. Bledsoe. He leaned on an old wooden crutch, padded with a sweat-stained rag wrapped loosely around the end stuffed in his armpit. His glasses, the same pair he bought new 40 years ago, had twisted slightly in the intervening time, and now sat on his face crooked, making one eye look higher than the other. The sweat lubricated his nose, and when his glasses slid dangerously low, he'd squash them back against his crooked face angrily, adding still another fingerprint to the lenses. There were bags of skin beneath his eyes and large jowls which hung from his cheeks. All this redundant skin flapped when he shook his head with conviction, which he did frequently.

Chancery Court was in session that day, with the usual array of divorces, custody cases, land disputes, and paternity suits. The people slowly climbing the courthouse steps came in bib overalls, faded house dresses, shorts, in halter tops, polyester slacks, bare feet; they came for justice, or at least verdict, or to watch. The lawyers, in three-piece suits, carrying briefcases, moved quickly through the heat, as if insulated by their garb. Bledsoe stood on a landing about halfway up the steps, facing people as they ascended. Their greetings were cordial and predictable:

"Mornin' Arnie."

"Howdy, Mr. Bledsoe."

"Y'all right, Arnie?"

"Whatcha know, Arnold?"

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