Every once in a while a stranger knocks on my door holding a raffle ticket or something. My stock greeting is:
"This better not be about Jesus."
Today an older gentleman knocked on the door. I was raised to respect my elders, so I gave him a cordial 'hello' instead. I was wondering what was up, though. Perhaps he was coming over to complain about Barky the Mutt, who was yelping his fool head off in my yard.
"I'm the pastor of the church on the corner. We have a chicken barbecue today and..."
(F*ck... here we go. 'Your dog is quite the nuisance. We're wondering if you could throw him in the basement for the day.' Okay... prepare respectful response.)
"...we'd like to invite you to join us. I have some free tickets for you if you'd like to come."
(Wait. Scratch that. Yes or no question.)
"Uh, sure. (What the f*ck did you just say? He's a cleric. DECLINE! DECLINE!) That sounds great." (Aaaaaaarrrghhhhh. It burns. It burns.)
The Fletchmonster and the O-Dog peek their curious heads in and say hello.
"Hi guys. So, three tickets?"
"Well, my wife will probably join us."
"Oh, sure," he says as he hands over four tickets.
"Thank you," I said as he departs.
Now part of the reason I agreed to take it is that we've scavenged a summer picnic or two. Sometimes I'd be taking the Fletch or the O-Dog out of their car seats and some friendly church broad would offer the kids a hot dog.
"Sure, what the hell - uhh... heck."
(The last time this happened, the Fletchmonster pissed in his chair so we had to take our church dogs to-go.)
The other part of the reason is that every once in a while, the missus and I try to make it through the weekend without having to cook. Friday? Fish fry at the in-laws. Today? Jesus Chicken.
When Mrs. P comes home from work I fill her in slowly.
"What do you want to do for dinner?" I offer a loaded lead-in.
"I don't care. What do you want to do?"
"Well," I reply, "we've got an invite."
"Oh, cool. Who?" She inquires.
"We'll that's the good news."
"Okay. What's the bad news?" She asks.
I bow my head solemnly, keeping a straight face: "And now we pray."
"My Aunt Jo and Uncle Rob?"
"No," I laugh heartily. "The church across the street!" I knew she'd be agreeable. She's not a church-goer either, but she doesn't look out for lightning whenever she steps near one. Besides, that's one of the four things she's in charge of: laundry, the bills, small talk and jesus. I'm in charge of good times and taking out the garbage (which she's in charge of picking up the slack).
The afternoon progressed, we digested lunch and once the bellies started grumbling again we rustled up the kids for the churchy dinner. O-Dog was a little tough to rein in, since he was having the beginnings of a meltdown. We approached the entrance and my wife starts falling behind - a maneuver that indicated she didn't want to go in first. 'F*ck that,' I thought, on to her little game. I stepped aside and said, "Go ahead. By the way, that guy there's the one that gave us the freebies. Thank him again."
Common courtesy falls under small talk.
Anyhow-lellujah, we went in, smiled politely at everyone, bought raffle tickets for the 'theme-tray' acution (stuffed the smoked salmon bucket with tickets) and sat down to feast.
Now we go out to dinner a LOT, but seldom attend these types of functions. I couldn't help but notice how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Even the crack-heady looking lady and her bag ladyish friend with the beard were real sweethearts. I looked around and saw a lot of families with their kids, elderly parents et cetera... all enjoying the churchy meal.
For a fleeting moment, just a f*cking milisecond I thought, 'This is actually nice,' and was toying with the idea of telling the missus, 'You know, maybe we ought to pop in here on Sundays.'
(Aaaarrrghh.... nooo.... beelzebub.... mmmmust.... fight... pious Flandersy... gasp feeling.)
I held my tongue, as I mulled it over. Then it happened. I wiped the grease from the Fletchmonster's cheeks, put the napkin down and started fiddling around with the table top literature.
After-school art program. This looks cool for the O-Dog. Underneath? A churchy brochure... pastor this, pastor that... 'Christ-Centered. Inclusive. Committed.'
Oh yeah. I forgot about the christ part. All of a sudden the thought of nursing the muscles after Sunday morning hockey in a pew listening to the preachings and teachings of a two-thousand year old corpse made me take a couple steps back. I thought about all those creepy-ass crucifixes on southern roadways and those weepy freaks on TV...
(Grrrrnnahhhhh... That's it. You're one of us, sinner. You're nobody's bible-bitch. Nyyyyyyaaaaawww...)
At that point, the O-Dog's meltdown finally materialized and we had to kowtow our asses backwards out of the place. Of course I was gracious and thanked the pastor heartily for the meal and neighborliness, but the Religification of Prego?
Thank you for the tasty meal from thy bounty, dude, but not this weekend...
(Flames flicker. Head spins.)
And I didn't win the salmon basket, either. Damn.