Having lost out on some la dolce vita, like Melville's Ishmael, yesterday, alone, I attended services at St. Ann's Monastery Parish, Scranton, Pennsylvania. A regular Usher at Sunday 11:00 A.M. Mass, I recalled old friend, Moogie McGowan, who once comically designated me a “coin extractor.” Considering how moneychangers were once tossed out of Temple, I approached the holy water basin, knelt upon knee, dipped-in three fingers, and blessed myself.
My wife of 25 years, Carol, at home and suffering daily from advanced rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, I began to consider a Bible story which clicked quite well with my present selfish and carnal attitude. I stood beneath a beautiful bronze bust of Pope John Paul II, and contemplated King David's extra-marital pursuit of Uriah the Hittite's wife, Bathsheba.
Soon, a shapely platinum blonde woman, perhaps in her late fifties, dressed in tight expensive jeans, a long black leather coat, high-heel boots to kneecaps, entered the church, blessed herself, and totally ignored me. In words of rock & roll Jethro Tull, I looked at the woman with “bad intentions.” Did she have either a husband or a “significant other” who I could kill, take her home to Taylor Borough with me? Why not? What's good for King David is good for me?
In words of rock & roll Jethro Tull, I looked at the woman with “bad intentions.” Did she have either a husband or a “significant other” who I could kill, take her home to Taylor Borough with me? Why not? What's good for King David is good for me?
Damn – soon as the choir started singing entrance hymn, and the priest solemnly followed a group of Eucharistic Ministers toward the altar, I cast away bone headed thoughts, and looked at
at the parish bulletin's “What's New” announcements. Eight bullet items down, in big black ink I found, “A Pilgrimage to Poland.” Hmmm, in the waning years of Great Depression, my Dziadek left Poland, settled in Scranton, married, had kids, and got a job as a coal miner. Again, return of “bad intentions,” thoughts of pretty coal miner daughters skinny dipping in Vistula River, under N.A.T.O. anti-ballistic missile protection against Iran! The priest raised chalice to ceiling, I could not shoo away thoughts about Bathsheba, and decided to read detail about the bulletin's invitation, “Pilgrimage to Poland.” It said:
“Father Fran will be hosting this trip from October 12th thru 20th, to Krakow, Warsaw, Czestochowa & Auschwitz. Cost is $3,209.00. A presentation about this trip will be presented on Thursday, February 5th at 6:30 PM in the Shrine Dining room for anyone interested in more information.”
Having experienced a few Northeast Pennsylvania jobs which were prep schools for forced labor camps, I always wanted to tour Auschwitz, and get a Jan Karski view of the camp, see exactly what 20th Century fascists were up to. What's more, maybe I'd meet Lech Walesa, and he would introduce me to attractive Solidarity girls, in particular, the variation liberated from both Catholicism and Communism? But man...the trip cost, $3,209.00 per person!
As a Scranton School District school bus driver, buried in bills, frequent school closures due to snowfall – how the hell could I afford the trip's price tag? Return of “bad intentions,” like Judas Iscariot, I considered my job as Usher, the inevitable filling of the collection basket loaded with envelopes and several $10 bills. The priest's sermon finally ended, I marched toward altar, knelt, turned, and began to pass the basket to all parishioners.
Midway down the aisle, I arrived at the pew where the platinum blonde lady sat, and only inches from her pink V-neck cashmere sweater and large breasts, I smiled, presented the collection basket before her. She took deep breath, reached into her purse, fidgeted, and dropped a mere dollar into my basket. My smile never reached Bathsheba, and I intuited she felt a little cheap by only donating $1. Who the hell knows... maybe the broad's on fixed income?
Rear of church, I stared at the collection basket, which brimmed with envelopes and $10 bills. “Bad intentions” intensified. The basket's monetary content would bring me closer to putting a downpayment on Father Fran's “Pilgrimage to Poland.” By the time St. Ann's personnel and Scranton cops found out about my temptation and theft, I'd be outside gates of Auschwitz, FREE from sacramental marriage vow, and explaining all I know about Guantanamo to wealthy Polish girls who had issues with Euros slumping value. My Lord..., forgive me for wanting to get the hell out of Sodomerica for a while? Besides, whatever marital problems David caused Uriah the Hittite, I checked his Old Testament standing, and found that the King's reputation and lineage did not expire.
Thanks to charred remnants of conscience, I stayed lustful hands, reached into jacket pocket, extracted a $2 Pennsylvania “Lucky Valentine” scratch off lottery ticket. The priest's sermon finally over, would the “Lucky Valentine” bring me closer to putting down-payment on the “Pilgrimage to Poland”? I got down on one knee, made sure no none looked, prayed, and began scratching the lottery ticket with car ignition key. Tiny shards of paper fell to church mosaic floor, and I thought about the Joe's Kwik-Mart owner, a Delhi native, a faithful Hindu, who upon purchase, wished me “Good luck.”
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Scratching, kept on scratching, the Mass over, and parishioners began to depart Church. I came to the final concealed space, hesitated, it appeared likely that I bought a losing ticket. Suddenly, the platinum blonde lady approached holy water basin, she blessed herself, and gave me a big smile, her teeth were perfect. She seemed to have lots to talk about, and aroused, I dropped dreams of pilgrimage to Poland, and longing for her attention, I carelessly cast the unscratched and promising “Lucky Valentine” ticket into the collection basket.
“Yikes, Mister, why did you do something stupid like that? Are you wealthy or holy
something... ticket might be a winner?” She whispered.
“Uh... I don't know. Have you ever been to Warsaw?”
“Of course not, I'm Irish. Do I look like a Pollock?”
Prior to answering, I took a few moments to get thoughts and soul in order.
“Well, true, blue eyes, but you look like your related to Uriah the Hittite... is that right?”
“Look it, Mr. Genealogy. If I find Uriah, you'll be the first to know!”
“Did you happen to date him in West Scranton High School?”
The lady looked at me questioningly upset, deep and biblical personal.
“Look here, pal. In our home, those days, my parents had rules against dating Hittites.
Have a nice day, loser!"
There were no people left inside St. Ann's Church. Alone, like Ishmael, I watched as Frank, the lead-Usher, carried collection basket and delivered it to sacristy, locked donations inside a safe. My Pennsylvania lottery ticket might as well have fallen into Jonah's belly. Placed three fingers into holy water blessed self, departed church wood door. Cold wind gust, this might seem very strange, but I could not wait to get home, awaken wife Carol, and betray her not with a kiss.