By Chris S.
The little drama that follows is entirely fictitious. Sadly, it is also highly plausible.
Any similarities between characters in this fable and any you may know in real life are, I assure you, quite deliberate. The names have been changed to mock the guilty. If you can't figure out who they refer to, it probably won't do you any good to read this.
Vulgar language has been replaced with ####. This is to avoid offending anyone who might take umbrage at hearing men of the cloth use such, um, frank language. It also seems funnier that way because the reader can imagine the characters belching any kind of obscenities at each other.
There are no guarantees or warrantees of any kind. Some may find this tale hilarious. Some may break down in tears from the cynical truthfulness. Some might be bored to tears. Your mileage will vary.
Any and all feedback is welcomed. Constructive criticism, particularly about writing style, is especially solicited. Defensive venom and bullying vitriol from True Believers will be subjected to public ridicule, humiliation, and other forms of verbal sport.
Chris S. 3/9/2003
It was steamy midsummer morning in Oklahoma City, but a pudgy figure in a trench coat turned up his collar and studied the neighborhood furtively. Then he slithered down an alley behind a dilapidated warehouse. A small troll-like creature padded after him.
They paused at a shabby door. The dark figure knocked three times and whispered hoarsely, "Recapture True Values."
The door squeaked open. The two figures squeezed into the dim haze.
The guard in a black "Deacon" armband commanded, "Wait here. Mr. Blizzard will tell you where to sit."
Blizzard was still greeting the previous guest. Handing him cigars, Blizzard slapped him on the back and pointed him to the makeshift wet bar.
He turned to the new entrant. The smile froze into a snarl like a wolf challenged on his territory. "Tattoo." He paused, weighing his words, "You weren't invited. Get out."
"I own this church by blood. My name is all over it. You can't put me out."
"That's tough. I own it by litigation now. Throw him out" he commanded the Deacon and turned away.
"I'm sure Dad would approve," Tattoo goaded him.
Blizzard spun around. His eyes glinted and a smirk flashed across his lips, "You know what I'm going to do, Tattoo? I'm going to let you stay. I want you to see what's happening to your family jewels. Take a seat back there." He pointed to a dark corner.
"What's this?" Blizzard glared at the troll shuffling behind Tattoo.
"I - I - I'm Grima Myrmidon," the hooded figure stammered.
"My doctrinal research assistant," Tattoo added, "Heel, Grima."
"Coming s - s - sir." it bleated.
The gavel banged three times, signifying completion. Blizzard was completely in charge, in his element like a fish in water. The evangelists took their places at the long dingy conference table as the Deacon distributed handouts.
Blizzard began pompously, "Many are called, few chosen. I contacted over 200 of your fellow ministers, but only 18 of you responded to my call." A low snicker came from Tattoo's dark corner. Blizzard ignored it. "You are the firstfruits. As such you will be offered an especially generous package that the second generation will not get."
"As you know, God has blessed our work by giving us custody of Mr. Fungus W. Alphamale's canon. It signifies that God's presence is with us and we are the spiritual heirs of Mr. Alphamale. On this foundation I propose to rebuild his mighty work. To Recapture the True Values, as it were."
"First we must gather all the sheep that were scattered by the false shepherds. That's where you come in. I propose that we merge our churches under the banner of Mr. Alphamale's canon."
"Since I own the canon, I will control doctrine. But doctrine has always been a pliable concept, subject to interpretation. You, as firstborn of the new church, will be allowed to apply your own interpretations in your local congregations. Interpretations that are particularly profitable, er, productive may be adopted by Headquarters as 'new truth'."
"To support this effort you will send 15% of your local collections to HQ to support The Work, and retain the rest for local church support and marketing"
Blizzard paused, expecting thanks and adulation.
"In other words, you're setting up a franchise just like McDonald's." Einstein observed dryly.
"Yes, that's it exactly," agreed Blizzard. "In fact, I'm thinking that you'll have to sign up for a new franchise license every, oh . . . . . , nineteen years." He laughed out loud at his cleverness. Nervous chuckles rippled around the table.
"Here's what YOU get out of it." he continued. "We plan to do a nationwide broadcast schedule. We'll have print media, spot advertisement, and all the other kinds of marketing a franchise does. Just like the old days."
"And we're going to start the college again. Only this time we're not going to make the same mistakes. There's not going to be any smoke-and-mirrors about it being an education. We tell 'em what we want 'em to teach. Straight up, no appologies."
There was the quiet rustle of papers as the men studied the contract.
"But The Hack said when Fungus was on his death bed he told Hack about doctrinal changes that needed to be made." Fume objected.
Blizzard blushed red and became surly, "Does anyone here believe anything that ####, Ruskie weasel said?" Wham! Blizzard pounded the table. "ANYone?" Wham! "ANYthing?? Speak up!" he yelled. No one looked up.
Tattoo snickered again.
"Shut up you #### freak show . . ." Fume called to the corner. "If you had kept your #### in your pants, we wouldn't be in this position now."
Others jeered at Tattoo. Blizzard banged his gavel to regain control.
Einstein suggested hesitantly, "Bliz, the point is that we don't know if you have is the complete canon. Fungus may have had ideas about changes. . ."
Waves of grumbling reverberated down the table. Blizzard interrupted, "Fungus is dead now, isn't he? That leaves ME in charge of the canon. We play by my rules because I worked for it, I paid for it, and I own it."
A baritone boomed above the cacophony, "You could always channel the old ####."
Astonished silence fell on the room. Eyes and heads turned to stare at the outcast.
"What?........" he scowled, pulling his hand out of his pants.
"Channel? You mean like using a medium? That's astrology! That's sin. It's wrong. We've never did anything like that." Fume blurted.
Tattoo interrupted "Don't pull that righteousness #### on me. The old #### did anything he wanted. He made the #### up as he went along. He even had all of you believing it was OK to have the church pay for his prostitutes." the cynical accusations had a haunting ring of truth. He continued, "You think HE actually believed all that religious ####? Hell, no! He's probably rolling on the floor right now laughing his #### off at you"
After an embarrassed silence Buffy queried, "So what we need is our own apostle?"
"You #### MORON!" Tattoo shouted, "You don't need an apostle. No one ordained the old #### an apostle. Einstein just told him he was an apostle one day, and that was it. You can do whatever you #### want to do whether or not you're an apostle."
Buffy turned to Einstein. "Well then, ordain one of us!"
Tattoo threw his hands in the air and sighed. But Einstein offered, "Um, I'm not sure, ah . . . not sure any of us has the same calling. . . um . . . is doing the same work as Mr. Alphamale . . ."
Big Mac guffawed and gestured broadly, "You mean we don't have ANYone here who gets stinking drunk and molests women in his church?"
After an awkward couple of seconds the table erupted in hysterics. Revrund laughed so hard he spit his cigar across the table into Buffy's vodka. Even Spanky's pharisaical scowl broke into a quirky grin. It was a couple of minutes before the knee-slapping laughter died down and they wiped the tears out of their eyes.
This idea was going the wrong direction. Blizzard tried to head it off, "I say it's a sin and we're not going to do it. Period."
Big Mac growled, "Yeah? Fungus lied about all this other stuff. So how can we be sure he was telling us the truth about mediums?" Muttering objections grew again as he continued, "Maybe Fungus didn't want us channeling the real apostles and finding out the truth about some of the #### that was going on."
Blizzard could sense that he was outgunned. Trying another diversion, he offered, "OK, suppose we do this. We have to be able to tell our congregation that an Apostle approved it. How do YOU suggest we ordain this 'apostle'?"
An uneasy silence gripped the group as they eyed each other suspiciously. Blizzard pushed his advantage triumphantly, "This means that we'll have ONE apostle, and the apostle has to run the whole show. WHO will it be? The canon certainly gives me first claim on the position."
His triumph was short-lived. "It's not fair," Buffy whined petulantly. "Why can't we ALL be apostles?"
But Revrund raised his eyebrows, "Yes! Why not? Ordain ALL of us as apostles. You said the we'd have advantages over latecomers. This is it! No one else will be able to challenge one of us. We'll even be able to ordain our own cadres of evangelists."
Deep in thought, Einstein stroked his chin and mused, "Hmmm . . . Multi-Level Marketing televangelism."
"Yes! YES! FINALLY!!! . . .," Spanky ejaculated, then regained control of himself, "Finally we'll show the world's churches that we're better than they are because we'll have lots and lots of apostles and they don't have any."
Blizzard made another desperate attempt to derail the train, "OK, how are we going to ordain all these apostles? Who has the authority to do it? Who gets to be first? How the #### #### are we going to do this?" he practically shouted in agitation.
Silence again. Eyes turned to Revrund again as he puffed thoughtfully on his cigar. But Spanky would not be denied his chance for glory. He pronounced, "If all of us get together and laid our hands on one person, we'd have the collective authority to ordain him as apostle."
Again they eyed each other suspiciously. "That makes the first one kind of a leader, doesn't it?" Blizzard suggested slyly. "He'll be kind of a firstborn."
Revrund was calculating, "What if we all got in a circle and each laid hands on the guy in front of us ... could we ordain all of us at once?"
"Well, maybe." Einstein opined, "But we would have to have to make sure we had enough men to equal an apostle."
"We have 18. Is that enough?" Fume asked.
Buffy turned white and shuddered, "That's three Sixes!"
"Holy #### ####," Fume spat, "We're ####."
"If we get one more evangelist, we'd have 19, a complete time cycle." Einstein offered. "And the word cycle is related to 'circle,' so the verbal symbols work out OK."
"Too bad Outhouse croaked. He could tell us how to get it out of prophecy." Buffy mourned. "But how can we get to 19?"
Tattoo had lost patience with their gymnastics and retired to his dark corner where he was again grunting, happily occupied with his own thoughts. Revrund called out, "Hey Tattoo! C'm here a minute."
Blizzard glared at the Revrund. This whole operation was not working out at all like he planned. Before Blizzard could object, Revrund spoke up, "Tattoo, we have a proposal for you."
As Revrund explained, Tattoo became increasingly animated. He broke into a wide smile. Then he chuckled. As the Revrund finished, Tattoo was howling with laughter. He struggled to compose himself, "You actually believe this ####? Puh-leeese!"
"Humor us, Tattoo, at least for an old friend," Revrund urged. "We have to be able to tell our local congregations something."
"Lie to them. It never stopped any of us before."
"But then we'd have to keep our stories straight. This will be easier. And painless. Trust me," the Revrund pleaded.
They needed him! It was an offer Tattoo could not refuse, even if it was backhanded.
Grima's eyes shone with pride as he danced around Tattoo. "Oh Master, you'll be an apostle at last!" he burbled.
"Stifle it!" Tattoo snapped.
"OK, everyone stand up. Lay your hands on the head of the person on your left. No. Make that your right," Blizzard instructed--these things have to be done ever so carefully. "I'll say the ordination prayer."
"Wait. That makes you the one with authority." Fume objected.
"Why the #### do you have to make everything so #### hard?" Blizzard growled.
"We could all say something, that way we'll all be assuming the mantle of responsibility." Einstein suggested nobly.
Blizzard rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth, "Fine. You #### start."
Einstein intoned humbly but earnestly for a couple of minutes until Big Mac interrupted, "If we all take this long it will take for-####-ever. I'm going to time it," he warned. "Anyone going over fifteen seconds gets buzzed and you have to shut up."
Buffy was the last one in the chain. By then all the good lines had already been used two or three times. So all he could stammer was, "uh, ... uh ... amen."
"OK, are you happy now?" Blizzard snarled at the rebels. "Spank, go find us a medium."
Spanky's lip curled but Blizzard was all over him in a heartbeat. "Don't even try it, boy. You don't have a leg to stand on. You pimped college kids for the old man for years."
Spanky seethed with rage as he stalked out the door.
It was a seedy part of town, but even so it took awhile for Spanky to find exactly the right person. Spanky prided himself on his high standards. He wouldn't settle for an ordinary medium. This person had to have quality and character, yet be feminine and submissive. And she had to have special talents for contacting the dead. Madam Szédelgo fit this description perfectly. Also she was the only one Spanky could talk into making a 'house call.'
Szédelgo grew wary as Spanky led her down the deserted alley. At the door he knocked and muttered, "Recapture True Values." No answer. After a few seconds he knocked louder and spoke, "Recapture True Values." After another minute he pounded on the door and shouted, "Answer the #### door, you #### ####".
The door swung open. "Hey, man!" the deacon looked loopy and disheveled.
"You're supposed to be listening for the password." Spanky scolded.
"Oh, right, yeah. Um . . . . . what's the password, man?" the deacon slurred.
Spanky exploded, "In my church we disfellowship people for less than that."
"OK. Whatever," the deacon shrugged and slouched back through the smoky haze.
The boys were partying down just like the old days at Lake Sandy Loam. The sharp twang of burning rope stung Szédelgo's eyes.
"You want a stripper, not a medium," she said dryly and turned to leave.
Spanky blocked her. "No, no. We REALLY need for you to contact someone from, uh, the other side." His head cocked again and the corner of his mouth began to twitch again.
She looked over the sorry spectacle of pasty, paunchy 50's fossils and 60's relics smoking, toking, boozing. "Five hundred dollars. In advance. Who is this guy you want to see?"
"Mr. Fungus W. Alphamale. He was the head of our church." Spanky had to raise his voice over the party animals.
"Never heard of him." She motioned toward the table. "Give me some space."
Spanky cleared away the cigar butts, cigarette papers, ash trays, stale drinks, donut crumbs, and a couple of roaches. Szédelgo spread a small cloth on the table, laid out some cards and a small incense temple, and sat down, "OK. What was he like, how will I know when I see him?"
"Well, he was quite old, the pastor general of our church. He did television and radio programs, he . . ."
"A televangelist?" she interrupted. "Thousand dollars. Cash."
"A Thousand Dollars? For an hour's work?" Spanky bristled.
Szédelgo started picking up her paraphernalia. "No, wait!" Spanky begged. "We'll take up a collection. Just don't leave."
He nervously herded the stoned and sozzled evangelists to the table, watching Szédelgo to make sure she didn't escape. When they had all slouched to their seats, he nodded to Blizzard.
Blizzard stood unsteadily, cleared his throat for attention and began, "Men, we have procured the, um, professional consulting services you asked for. Spanky, introduce her and tell us how to proceed." He sat down and put his head in his hands.
"Ms. Szédelgo specializes in contacting, uh," Spanky's head cocked, "contacting those who have, uh, gone over. Her fee for this kind of specialized service, and I don't mean that in a wrong way, brethren, is, ah, one thousand dollars." Twich, twich. "Since I don't, heh heh, carry that kind of money on me, we'll pass the hat. Dig deep, fellahs, we need everyone to contribute.
Big Mac counted the money three times but kept losing track. Finally he averaged the three totals and declared, "Six hundred and thirty-four dollars. And, um, thirty-three cents."
Spanky stared at the pile of small bills. "What's this? It's not a holy day offering you #### cheapskates. This is serious stuff. Fork over some more cash."
"Spank, no one carries cash anymore. It's easier to charge it on the church's card." Fume objected.
"Then give me that Rolex," Szédelgo demanded, pointing to Spanky's wrist.
Spanky recoiled in horror. "#### no! That's a quality timepiece. It cost $7,000!!!"
"You can come by tomorrow and buy it back. With Interest." she stated flatly.
Blizzard raised his head and snarled.
Spanky ground his teeth, "OK. I'll be there tomorrow at eight AM sharp. You'd better be there or . . ."
"Shut up, Spank, and let her get on with it," Big Mac yelled.
"Turn off the lights. They can't come to the light." Szédelgo lit some incense cones, closed her eyes, held her hands palms-up on the table, and began chanting in Hungarian. The men gathered around the table. In the glow of cigars (and other smoking paraphernalia) they could see her gently swaying. The only other sound was Tattoo grunting softly in his corner. Some of the men began to doze.
After a few minutes a soft light appeared in the incense smoke. Einstein's jaw sagged open. Szédelgo kept chanting. Slowly a figure emerged, sitting in a dilapidated wheelchair. As the features came into focus they could recognize Fungus, gaunt cheeks, skin hanging in fleshless folds, a few strands of straggly hair, a moth-eaten suit. Buffy gasped audibly.
Madam Szédelgo opened here eyes, "Aiiiiieeeeee, ördög fattya!" she shrieked and fell backwards. She scrambled to her feet, fled toward the door and flung it open into the deacon dozing in his chair. The dazed guard wobbled to his feet, blinked his bloodshot eyes at the ghost, and bolted after Szédelgo into the alley, banging the door behind him.
High or not, everyone was now wide awake. Wispy, sulphrous fumes mixed with the stale smoke. In the eerie silence the apparition grew more luminous. Tattoo came out of his dark corner and approached the glowing presence.
Fume leaned over to Einstein and slurred, "Whoa, man! Fungus looks like death warmed over."
"He probably doesn't get a new body until the resurrection."
"Oh ....... Yeah man, I knew that," he mumbled and took another drag.
Einstein shook his head, "I don't know for sure. I'm only guessing. Give me a hit."
"Fungus..., er, I mean Mr. A, is this really you?" Buffy quavered.
"Yes, it's me, you blithering buffoon. Why did you wake me from the dead?" His resonant, Midwestern baritone was now just a hoarse, nasal whistle.
Blizzard was visibly shaken at this turn of events. He stood up and cleared his throat to assert his authority. He addressed the spirit, "Mr. Alphamale sir, The Lower Eastside Pittsburgh Church of God just got the legal rights . . ."
"I know, I know," Fungus groaned, "Get to the point." The vision was becoming clearer. Wine and liquor bottles littered the floor.
"Sir, we need to know if you really intended to make any changes to the doctrines before you died. Or was that #### Russian . . ." his words trailed off as the vision became more vivid.
Women appeared around the wheelchair. Gorgeous college coeds. In bikinis and negligees. They began to tease Fungus erotically. The evangelists were breathing heavily.
Bliz struggled to focus, "Sir, The Hack claims that, that ah, . . . that ah, before you died, you told him several doctrines needed to be revised. We need to know . . ."
"No, that's not what you need to know," Fungus interrupted. "Now listen to me . . ."
"That's right. They need to know all about all the other resurrections!" Spanky jumped in. "I tried to tell you before you died, but you wouldn't listen. You know, you left the church in a mess. You should be ashamed of yourself. You ought to be spanked. And spanked..." he began to drool.
"And I suppose YOU would like to be the one to do it!" Fungus snorted.
Spanky cocked his head and paused. A slight smile twitched across his face, "Could I?" he began.
Blizzard interrupted desperately, "Listen, Mr. A, we're trying to recapture the true values that you . . ."
The girls had begun stripping; heavy breathing turned to panting. The men were whispering, chortling and nudging each other. The sulphrous stench took on a sharp tang of testosterone sweat.
"I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to recapture the old cash cow," he strained to make himself heard above the panting. "Now YOU listen. There's something more important . . ."
His words were drowned out as the panting turned to gasping. Bloodshot eyes glazed over as the girls began to undulate and flash their ####.
"Mr. A, please . . ." Blizzard was practically in tears.
"You #### #### idiots! Shut up and listen to me!" Fungus wheezed and feebly pounded the arm of his wheelchair.
A flash of light illuminated the room as the front door opened briefly. Grima jerked his head in the direction of the flash; Tattoo had slipped away. Grima bolted for the front door. Spanky's face twitched curiously. He forced himself away from the delicious spectacle and followed Grima.
Spanky caught up with Tattoo and Grima arguing next to a fireplug at the the curb. Tattoo was gesturing wildly, "That ### old #### lived like a bat out of hell and still gets to #### heaven with all those #### girls. Why the #### #### should I stay around this #### life???"
Grima's eyes widened and he shook with fright. "Grima begs you, master, don't do this. Please don't go! You are an apostle now. Grima will lose everything. We will have nothing."
"Do what?" Spanky interrupted densely.
"He wants to die and go to heaven with his father." Grima hissed, "Stop him!"
Spanky's scowl brightened with sudden understanding. He pushed Grima aside. "Wait a minute, Tattoo. You're going to do yourself in? Think about it, man. What will happen to your members? What will they think? Who can they turn to?"
"Spank, it's always been a #### scam anyway. Let them go get a real #### life, for all I care."
"NO! They'll just look for someone else. Let me have them.Give me your members." Spanky pleaded.
Grima shrieked, "No, master, NO!"
"Lazy #### ####!" Tattoo sneered, "Recruit your own #### suckers."
"You #### little pustule. I could beat the #### #### out of you if I wanted to. I was a Golden Gloves champion."
"You've never been #### man enough. You couldn't even #### #### ####" Tattoo smirked.
Spanky grabbed him by the collar, "You #### ####, you need a good spanking!"
Tattoo's smirk froze in surprise. Grima tried to squeeze between them but Spanky had an iron grip. Tattoo slapped at his tormentor. Spanky deftly landed a left hook and Tattoo's lip spurted blood.
Grima shrieked "No!" and scrambled up on the fire plug. Teetering precariously, he slapped at Spanky, flapped his arms to regain balance, then lurched forward, tumbling them into the street. Grima fell backwards onto the curb.
Horns blared, tires screeched, and Grima hid his face. A delivery truck from Sha'Long's Kosher Sausage skidded into the squirming, cursing combat.
Spanky's head, torn off by the impact, rolled into the gutter. The drooling lips were still mouthing "Spank, spank,..."
The rear wheels smashed Tattoo's head. But even writhing in its death throes, the corpse's hands slithered towards its ####.
Grima crawled across the sidewalk, leaned against the building and vomited. He blinked back bitter tears as he groped for the door.
Fungus's visage burned brightly through the murky stench. "Give me a bottle!" he barked and pushed at one of the girls. She tossed a Beaujolais in his lap and mockingly teased him with her #### ####. "Look!" he shook the bottle top toward the gawking ministers. "Look, you drooling Cretins! There's no cap, no opening. You can't drink the wine, the whisky, nothing."
They stared blankly.
"Miserable, pathetic, #### fools! Don't you get it yet?" he croaked, "THIS IS NOT HEAVEN!"
The testosterone panting stopped; cold, bitter truth froze their veins.
The front door crashed open. Grima burst through the blinding sunlight, crumpled to his knees and howled, "Mr. Tattoo and . . ." he struggled to spit out, "Mr. Spanky..." He took a shuddering breath. "They've been killed. They were run over in the street." His shoulders heaved with sobs.
The apparition moaned and slumped in his wheelchair. Behind him the mangled form of Tattoo emerged from the mists. Tread marks angled across his grotesquely smeared face.
"Hi, dad!" he rasped, "I got here as fast as I could. Where are all the girls?"
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