As a boy growing up in Fayette County, we were never taught to pray, except at night, when we either prayed for the people in our lives or suffer the pit belt across your already tired behind. Prayers weren't for everyone else, but just for those in the immediate family. Other families should have their own prayers so we didn't have to mess with them.
Everyone, save three families, went to St. Hedwig's Roman Catholic church located on Smock Hill. The three exemptions were Reverend Nedd and his wife who pastored a small Baptist church well out of town, Mary Taylor and her husband, who I believe went to Reverend Nedd's church, and the Hart family, who were non-Catholic heathens who most likely participated in demonic rituals and other devil worship (they were Presbyterian). As a child, I was allowed to speak to Reverend Nedd and Mary Taylor, but the Harts were "off limits" since no one knew a lot about them. Since nobody knew their background, they HAD to be evil sorcerers.
Linda Hart was my age and wore....glasses. Glasses that allowed her to peer into the souls of others and helped to focus the powers of hell. Otherwise, she played the piano and made pretty good grades in school. One day, I was standing outside the Hart's home listening to Linda play rather non-satanic music when her mother appeared and asked if I'd like to come in. Whoa. On one hand, this was like entering the inner sanctum of the Masons but on the other, it allowed me a peek into what was surely the occult. After entering, I found Linda playing a rather pretty demonic tune on the piano while her mother, eternal priestess of the netherworld, offered me cookies. What was an 11 year old Catholic boy to do? I ate four of them and much to my surprise, I did not die.
After listening a bit more to Linda and the piano, I went home and told my mother of my exploits. I was beaten to within an inch of my life for cavorting with pagans and eating their demonic cookies which would, according to Mom, rot my soul. I have no idea how I was able to survive all of this, especially when I was going to make my first confession really soon and Father Oris would no doubt pour a bucket of Holy Water over me to douse the evil spirits.
In my subsequent years, prayer resulted in luck. Good things happened and God was on my side, although I now play music in several "demon-infested" churches. How could HE smile on me for doing these things?
Now, I'm going to tell you something personal. On Sunday evening, June 22nd, I complained to God. No, not some whiny, wimpy "you never do anything for me" prayer but a full-bodied tirade telling God that He is falling down on the job. You see, I have not had a lot of work for six months and I was sick and tired of staying home. So I really let God have it. "YOU DON'T LISTEN. MY PRAYERS ARE BOUNCING OFF THE CEILING AND EMBEDDING INTO THE RUGS. UGH. MY FAITH IS SLIM TO NONE AND ALL I SEE YOU DOING IS MESSING WITH THE WEATHER.
So I asked God to show me a sign. My financial status was emergent and so I made an emergency prayer. Let me know in some tangible way where even an idiot like me would understand that this would be a message from YOU.
Dr. Joe Klimoski delivered more than half of the population of Brownsville. He was one of those rare general practitioners who did it all; delivered babies, burned off warts, set bones, did hysterectomies, gall bladder and appendix removals, and even did the occasional tonsillectomy. "My license says to practice Medicine and Surgery" and that's what I damned well do". Joe had one vice which was playing the illegal numbers. And the only number he'd call into his bookie was "913". Every day. Shoot, even the hospital switchboard operators paged him by saying "913, call the operator" or "913, report to the operating room".
Ever since I left the Brownsville Hospital in June of 1977, I would point at the television if the Pennsylvania Lottery was on, snap my fingers and say "913 !!!!!". It never came out.
After I made my demands to God on June 22nd, I knew that "60 Minutes" was coming on soon so I turned on the television and switched to Channel Two. The Pennsylvania Lottery was on so I took this as a sign to go to the refrigerator and get an orange. As I passed by the television, I snapped my fingers and said "913". The Daily Number that was drawn was 913. Perfect. Not backwards or "boxed". 913.
Was this the sign I literally demanded to see? I'll bet Linda Hart's devil-piano on it.