I wrote last about a woman, but in this entry I must digress from that pleasant subject and relate one of my weekly rituals. I went to church. Do not stare so. Yes, I went to church, as I do nearly every week, though I am afraid you may consider my motives less than pious. I have become a kind of informal supplier of liquor to a certain local minister who has discovered that Bacardi looks exactly like water when seen from the pews.
My friend Reverend Clockslip (naturally I have had the good taste to give him a pseudonym) is a remarkably paranoid individual who refuses to be seen in a liquor store, so I bring him, by way of friendship, a small bottle every Sunday. I shall relate to you this week’s delivery.
I met the Reverend, as usual, in a small room behind the auditorium where he secluded himself in order to prepare for his sermon.
“Clockslip!” I said, savoring the syllables as they left my tongue (for if you must know his real name is just as deliciously unusual as the false one I have given him), “I’ve got your delivery.”
“Good!” he said, shaking himself out of his dissipation, “hand it here.”
With practiced hands he poured a significant serving into a plastic cup, then opened the top drawer of a filing cabinet labeled “private,” pulled back a mass of folders and deposited the bottle safely at the back.
“Thanks,” he said, gratitude pouring from his eyes as he took the first sip.
“Why don’t you stay and hear the sermon this time, Alec?” he offered hesitantly.
“I stay every time, Reverend.”
“Oh. Well that’s good, I suppose.”
“Time to go get ‘em.”
With this he strode out slowly, every step a deliberation, straightening the hunch in his back by force of will.
Out in the auditorium the congregation murmured, as they did every week, at the delay between the special music and the pastor’s appearance. Finally he took the stage, stowing his cup inside his impressive hardwood pulpit. Taking the sides of the mighty lectern, he paused, as if for dramatic effect, then launched into oratory.
The reverend has a noble face, which transforms, by its dramatic intensity, the everyday clichés of his sermons into pearls of wisdom strung between frequent emphatic pauses. He is a man who you can never accuse of losing his train of thought, for his face sternly replies that he is simply mustering the forces of argument in order to make a final assault on the recalcitrant minds of his flock.
He was in fine form this Sunday, drawing widely disparate lines of exegesis into a seeming whole, which he finally held high in one fist and brought crashing down on the pulpit to bring his message to a close. This cathartic apotheosis achieved, he bowed his head like a condemned criminal and intoned wordlessly a prayer which we always heard, but none but God ever understood.
This done, the congregation retreated. First, the casual attendees scattered like cockroaches, their duty done. Then the faithful made a more disciplined withdrawal, chatting quietly of lunch. I stayed back long enough to see that my friend successfully hid the liquor cup before being driven home by his wife. Then I too left to find other pursuits, feeling as usual, less religious, but more of a friend. Perhaps even more of a Christian, though I believe my nomination for sainthood has hit upon some bureaucratic difficulties. Damn Catholics