At times, religion can test one's faith. 3rd Place, What a Character Contest March '16
|Note: This story was a submission for the March, 2016 What a Character Contest. To view the contest rules, click on Contest Rules: ▼
The young man knocked on the office door a couple of times when -- his mind flooded with more questions than the IRS on April 16th -- his arm froze. The urge to retreat was overwhelming, and he began to rationalize that maybe today wasn't the best day to have this conversation. I should have done more research before approaching him about this.
Convinced a debate involving such serious subject matter with one so knowledgeable about these things was better left for some other time -- as in any time other than this --, Adam Andeve began to back away from the imposing entrance. Besides, it appeared no one was around, anyway.
"Is that you, Adam?" The booming voice almost knocked young Adam off his feet. "Come in, my son, I've been expecting you."
It wasn't the voice Adam Andeve was expecting. What the heck is going on here? "I'm sorry, I had an appointment with the church pastor, Pastor Present. Who are you?"
"I'm a visiting priest. My name is Figure...Father Figure."
"'Visiting priest'? We aren't even Catholic here. Are you sure you're in the right place, Father?"
"Yes, my son. And please, no need to be so formal here. Call me 'Go'."
Adam was beginning to have serious doubts about this supposed 'man of the cloth'. "'Go Figure'? Seriously?"
The suspect priest made the sign of the cross followed by an additional squiggly, erratic sign Adam had never seen before. "Cross my heart and...hope to die -- asterisk -- as in 'live eternally'."
Father Figure then smiled warmly at puzzled youth. "You're very lucky, my son. You do realize that Adam is a biblical name, right?"
"You mean the 'Garden of Eden' thing?"
Father Figure appeared to delve deep into thought for a few moments. "Well, that too, but I was thinking more along the lines of the 'Adam's Apple' thing." He thumped his throat with his index finger a couple of times for effect, and then laughed. "Just kidding, Adam."
The man Adam was addressing was probably half of the pastor's 78 years, maybe less. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a couple of days, his "robe" was likely most recently worn by someone impersonating Count Dracula, and his "collar" looked to have been the cardboard variety, probably most recently pinned to a JC Penny dress shirt.
"Pastor Present was taken ill, and he couldn't make it. Since he had a full slate, I volunteered to fill in for him tonight. Can I offer you something to drink: Pepsi, tea, swig of holy water?"
To say Adam was incredulous would be understating the issue. "Oh, come on, what kind of scam do you think you're pullin..."
The substitute holy man -- or whatever he was -- put a finger to his lips and spoke in a revered tone. "I think, before we proceed, it would be proper to say a prayer for dear Pastor Present."
Before Adam could protest, he found himself with head bowed and hands joined with a guy recanting what sounded like an impromtu mix of The Lord's Prayer and a bad Peyton Manning 'Nationwide' commercial.
After the ending, which sounded suspiciously more like 'Is on your side' than 'Amen', Adam wrested a hand free and pointed it at the supposed holy man.
"Who ARE you?"
Father Figure rubbed his hand through is curly dark locks and adjusted his glasses. "Ah, yes, my son, that is indeed the question we all ask at some point in our lives. Very, very astute of you, my son. And isn't that why you came here tonight...in search of answers?"
Adam looked into the supposed servant of God's eyes. What's this guy's game, anyway? What's he want with me? And what did he do to Pastor Present? Maybe I'll just play along for a little while and see if I can expose this guy for the fraud he is...
"Here's the thing, Father: I have some questions about religion that I wanted to ask Pastor Present. See, I'm getting married soon, and my girlfriend and I each have had very little religious exposure, and we want to raise our children properly, but we're not sure which religion is right for us. I haven't seen our pastor since I was about five years old, and I wanted to ask him about religions in general. But if Pastor Present isn't..."
"That's his name, but he isn't."
"Okay...Stop it! I came here for guidance, not an old Abbott and Costello routine."
"I apologize, my boy. Hit me with a question."
"Well, my girlfriend's cousin is a Buddhist..."
Father Figure frowned. "Frankly, I don't think Buddhism would be right for you. Look at all their statues. The're all bronze; obviously they spend too much time in the sun. Can you say 'melanoma'?"
"Yes, but I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that. But just for grins, let's say you've got a point. Okay, how about Hinduism? I always thought the idea of reincarnation was sort of cool."
"Not if you come back as a maggot. Or a skunk. That's the thing, Adam: You go through all of these lives -- climbing the 'karma ladder', if you will -- and then one little screw up and you're relegated back to the simplest of forms and have to start all over again. It's like a dog chasing its tail. Not gonna happen. You really wanna put your kids through that?"
"Uh...not really. But you're still over-simplifying things, I think. How about Taoism?"
"It's a cosmic religion, Adam. Yin and Yang. Mork and Mindy. Beavis and Butthead. Ren and Stimpy. It's one of the oldest religions around, and like I said, it's cosmic. Stars. You believe in that stuff, you might as well call Rocky Mosele at the International Star Registry and get a star named after you. It's exactly the same thing. Trust me."
Adam was still wondering about this guy's motives, even though his twisted logic was still that: logic. But still twisted. What's this guy sellin', anyway? I think I'll throw him a curve...
"Okay, Father Figure. Why should I believe in ANY religion? Why shouldn't I be an atheist?"
"That's the easiest one of them all. Atheism IS a religion, Adam. They have become unified in non-belief to the extent of having so-called "atheist" ceremonies for babies, funerals, etc; they just omit the acknowledgement of a higher power. But you better believe they believe...in non-believing."
"The only thing I believe right now is that I'm getting a migraine. Okay, Father, now you have to come clean. Why Catholicism?"
"Easy, my son. Free wine. Free crackers. And tell me, with all the super heroes and their gadgets out there today, who else tools around in a popemobile?" Father Figure began tapping his feet impatiently. "I'm waiting."
"Okay, you convinced me. I'll sign up for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in the fall."
"Bless you, my son..."
"No, bless YOU, Father Figure."
And that, my friends, is pretty much how I was convinced that Catholicism was the right choice for me...only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.