bad date This Do In Remembrance of Me
At some point in this story, reality turns to fantasy. I wish I could tell you exactly when that happens, but I'm not sure myself.
I received a religious catalog in the mail. I never in a thousand million years asked for it. Thumbing through this thing was surreal. Page after page of smiling models in clerical robes, battery powered candles with fake dripping wax, and communion wafers by the case.
Autom Wafers starting at $8.95 a box20% ThickerNo crumble design25% more wheat*
There was even a spooky, snap-together communion table made of clear Plexiglas, looking like something out of a 1960s science fiction movie. The machine-etched "This do In Remembrance of Me" seemed too sterile for a man's last request.
I didn't like the pictures this catalog was bringing to my mind.
Somewhere there is a woman sitting in a factory before an endless line of communion chalices. Her vacant expression of despair is reflected in the silver cups as they pass in front of her. Her image jumps a little as each engraved Chi Rho goes by.
Somewhere there is a man operating a communion wafer machine, stamping out perfect, round wafers, one after another. Kachunk, Kachunk, Kachunk. Mr. Rogers never visited THIS factory.
Do you think anyone ever lost a hand in the wafer press? Was real flesh and blood ever a part of this process?
The catalog slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. I closed my eyes. I was getting that old, familiar feeling of disorientation and despair.
And then HE started talking.
I don't know who he is, but he always shows up at just the right moment. Jung knew. So did Mick Jagger. His is a dark voice, oily and smooth, bubbling up crude from the bottom of your soul.
"Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name."
"Hey there, Preacher. Long time no see. When did YOU start wearing a collar? Denim! Nice. I didn't know they had those. When was the last time we talked, anyway?"
"I think it was when Tom gave me the key."
"No kidding? That WAS a long time ago. That was hilarious, by the way. You, sitting there asking God if he really thought you ought to be a pastor, and a gay man walks up and gives you a key to his church. What was it he said?"
"He said they wanted me to come and go as I pleased."
"Oh yeah. Outstanding. A homosexual made room for YOU at church. Maybe it's just me, but I think that's some funny shit. That really changed you, too; you know that? Have you told THEM about it?"
"Told who about it?"
"Whom! The blog people. The ones who are reading this right now."
"No. I think I'll keep Tom's story for myself."
"Whatever. So why'd you call me?"
"I didn't call you."
"Sure you did. You always do, but let's not argue about that. What's that you're reading?"
"It's just this stupid catalog thing. I don't know where it came from."
"Let me see. Oh yeah, I love this one. Such deliciously bad taste. Sam Walton meets Jerry Falwell. Wanna sit around and make fun of it?"
"What's a matter, you depressed again?"
"No. Yeah. I guess so. It's this damn catalog. Something's wrong with it, with THIS." I shook it vigorously.
He looked at me for a long moment, and then a little smile started to sneak onto his face. It grew until he lost control and burst into laughter.
"Oh sweet Jesus. C'mon, you gotta be kiddin me, right? There's a bazillion churches in this country. There must be a hundred fuckin thousand communion tables in South Texas alone. Robes, candle stands, crosses, pews. Where do you think all that stuff comes from? If you're going to have churches, you're going to have to have places that make and sell church stuff."
"What, did you think communion bread was baked by little old ladies and delivered in baskets with red-checkered napkins?"
"You are such a fucktard. There's nothing wrong with that catalog. Church is big business in this country, and it's all handled professionally. Anyway, I don't know why you got YOUR panties in a wad. You ain't so innocent yourself."
"Whatta you mean?"
"Christ almighty, I'm not going to spell it out for you. This isn't some made-for-TV movie. You're not some fresh, young Kentucky Fried Chicken executive, fainting at his first sight of the chicken farm. You knew church was big business. Hell, you're a professional minister. Where do you think your paycheck comes from, dipshit?"
"There's nothing more corporate than that computer-generated paycheck you get. I don't see you whining when you cash it."
He was right. I'd been hearing this voice for ten years. I always knew he was right, but the catalog broke something in me. I took off my collar and laid it on my desk. He laughed while I slid my church key off my key ring.
"You've GOT to be kidding me. Like you're going to quit right now. What are you gonna do for money? You don't have any skills. Are you gonna flip burgers? You gonna sell used cars?"
He snickered. "Actually, you'd probably make a damn good used car salesman."
"Hey, I know. Why don't you put a Paypal button on Real Live Preacher? Course you won't be a real live preacher if you leave that collar on the table. And we both know you won't really lay that collar down."
"And anyway, if you aren't going to be a real live preacher, who will you be, huh? I'll tell you who you'll be. Nobody."
I put my key and bible on the desk with the collar and headed for the door.
"I'm going to see Hugh."
"I'm going to Los Angeles. And I'm going to find Hugh."
"Hugh Elliott? The six-foot whatever gay guy who does Standing Room Only?"
"You're going to drive all the way to Los Angeles, find his address in the phone book, and show up at Hugh Elliott's door? That's your big plan? That's what you're going to do?"
HE doubled over, laughing uncontrollably. Between giggles, he managed to get out a few words.
"You know he doesn't want to see you, right? You do know that."
I stopped at the door and turned around. "Yes he does. He does want to see me. Hugh's the only one in the blog world who knows my real name, first and last. He has my picture and everything. Hugh Elliott is my friend."
"No, he's not. Look, you can be idealistic and silly and all that. It's sweet. No really, I like that about you. But don't fool yourself. Hugh Elliott knows Real Live Preacher. That's all anyone knows. They like to read you, but they really don't want to know you. They certainly don't want you showing up at their doors looking for answers."
"You're a liar. I'm going to find Hugh."
"Okay, okay. You're going on a romantic little quest. Fine. Just answer me this: What are you going to say to him when you find him."
"I'm going to ask him to help me learn how to live. I'm not going to be a preacher anymore."
He was silent, and real fear flashed in his eyes for a moment.
I didn't wait for a reply. I walked out the door and away from the church. He stayed inside, but I could hear his final words through the stained glass.
"Watch his eyes when he answers the door and realizes it's you. Then you'll know he doesn't want to see you."
"His eyes will tell you the truth."
Coming Next:Real Live Preacher Meets Standing Room Only
*An actual ad from the catalog