Holy Redeemer Catholic School did not prepare me for this

Posted: 2011 in Post 3.0
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Saturday, March 24, 4:36 p.m.

A Christian heavy metal band is screaming for Jesus on Lucy O’Lies’s stereo.

“Holy, holy, holeeee! Say holy…”

“Holy!” roars an enthusiastic crowd on the CD.

“You have no idea how good it is to get away from that satanic person. It’s like a leave of absence from purgatory,” says Christopher, Lucy’s nineteen-year-old Not Boyfriend. He’s lolling on her pink canopied bed. He’s incredibly tall. His feet hang off the end of the bed a good ten inches.

Lucy grits her teeth and nods at Christopher.

I sit uncomfortably on a grubby pink beanbag chair, clutching a glass of Hawaiian Punch and praying, secularly, that hearing damage isn’t immanent. I glance at the stereo, then at the walls above it, which are covered with framed cross stitch scenes of varying degrees of clumsiness, ranging from fluffy Lambs of God to a gory multi-pane of the stations of the cross, complete with a gushing spear-stabbing and circling vultures dripping eager saliva. Skeins of embroidery thread lay scattered all over the floor. A pair of wickedly sharp little scissors gleam on the bedside table. I hope this beanbag chair isn’t in fact a gigantic pincushion.

“Ave M’ria!” shouts the lead singer on the CD.

“Aaaaaaveh…Maaaaaareeeeah!” replies the crowd.

“It’s effective, isn’t it? I got it at work. It’s the most hardcore thing they have,” says Christopher.

“I’m sure,” Lucy murmurs, picking at a cluster of pimples at her jaw line.

My unheralded arrival chez O’Lies some twenty-five minutes ago apparently interrupted Lucy’s asexual assignation with Christopher, The Future Priest. That’s how she introduced him: Christopher, The Future Priest. I was handed the Hawaiian Punch, led up to her room, and invited to wait for her dad who was “Out getting coffee or something.” My initial chagrin at lacking Jack’s cell phone number faded as I considered his daughter.

I can’t help my inordinate curiosity about fifteen-year-old Lucy, witness to her mother’s kidnapping. She’s a pudgy, pimply, sullen sort of teenager. She looks only a little like the photos of her mother that I saw Thursday; much more like Jack if he put on forty pounds. She has his cold stare, though her eyes are brown and lack his ability to hypnotize.

She’s so religious it scares me.

“Where exactly do you work, Christopher?” I holler.

“Christian gift shop at Northgate Mall,” he replies.

“Ah,” I say. “Could you turn it down a little?”

“What?” Christopher shouts over the holy din. “So tell me if you think this’ll work: I’m going to—”

Lucy reaches out and clicks off the stereo. My ears ring and I silently bless her. Secularly.

“I’m going to play this CD when it’s just me and the Evil One. None of his freak friends slurping off the bong and taking the Lord’s name in vain, like they do.”

“Uh-huh?” Lucy says.

“I’m sure he’ll smack me on the arm like I hate when he hears it, and say something all profane, like, ‘Hey Chris! You finally gone and got some fuckin’ taste, man!’”

“Christopher!” Lucy’s eyes bulge with shock. She makes a huge sign of the cross and stares at him accusingly.

Christopher covers his long face with his hands and groans.

“Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forgive me,” he mutters, signing the cross as extravagantly as Lucy.

“So, Christopher…the Evil One? Is he your roommate, or…” I say.

Christopher nods at me. He’s as pimply as Lucy.

“I’m at the end of my rope. This CD is my last hope. If the subliminality of God’s Word doesn’t penetrate his thick skull and turn him into a decent Christian, I’ll…I don’t know. Die, probably.”

I’m not sure if “subliminality” is a real word. If so, I want to use it verbally and in an article this week.

“Oh, let’s not die,” I say. “Did you meet him through Craigslist? You’ve got to be careful.” I almost add, “young man,” but I stop myself. I’m not that old.

“He’s the nephew of our priest,” Lucy explains. “Father Bertrain.”

“He’s a sinner,” Christopher says. “I thought I could redeem him. Then Father Bertrain would have to sponsor my seminary application.”

I have no knowledge of the politics of seminary enrollment. But considering that Christopher, The Future Priest, is spending his Saturday afternoon in the bedroom of a fifteen-year-old girl, I’d say the pot smoking Evil One has a better chance of getting into seminary than he does. See also the classic definition of nepotism, from the Italian nepote, or “nephew.”

“Ah,” I say. “Maybe you could find a new roommate?”

Christopher gives me a look that tells me how naive my suggestion is. He leans across the bed and turns the stereo volume back up. My God, his arms are eight feet long!

“I wonder if he’s ever going to clean up the kitchen. He had this party last night—more of a sad pagan gathering—and his stupid buddies spilled tortilla chips and beer all over the inside of the refrigerator,” he complains.

“You went out with my dad on Thursday,” Lucy says to me. Her voice is as flat as Kansas.

“Yes,” I say. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘went out?’”

“One of them stuffed chicken bones down the garbage disposal. The water won’t go down. I’m not cleaning that mess up. If the landlord finds out—”

“I don’t know all the cool teenage slang nowadays,” I say, sounding like a senior citizen. “We didn’t ‘go out’ like that. I mean…what do you mean?”

“Guess what I heard at school on Friday?” Lucy turns her attention from my slangless self to her not-boyfriend.

“I’m married!” I say.

“What?” asks Christopher, The Hip Future Priest. He switches his long feet side to side in time to the music, his arms behind his head.

“Well, there’s these—well, okay, so I was reading a back issue of Christian On Assignment in the library after school? And there was this article about these Catholics down in—was it Ecuador? Maybe Guatemala? Anyway, in Latin America, somewhere…”

Lucy has to stop talking for a moment. She is literally breathless.

“At least you still live at home. Your dad, while a drunkard and a bad Christian, isn’t gonna kick you out at eighteen. ‘Either get a job or go into seminary or go to college.’ Huh. Thanks, Dad. The Evil One is so deaf from mosh pits and the various hallucinogenic drugs he’s taken over the years that I could yell, ‘Fire!’ and he’d just keep sucking off the bong. Sinner. Why do I have to exorcise his satanic ways? I’m not official yet. I might screw it up.”

“There’s these Latin Americans, and they have this special ceremony for Easter that anyone can participate in. You wanna know what it is?” Lucy’s brown eyes are aflame. They are aimed at Christopher.

“We were not on a date,” I say. “It was an interview. Could you just give me your dad’s cell phone number? I need to give him back his driver’s license and car keys and cig—and stuff.”

“They crucify people!” Lucy exclaims.

Christopher looks at her. I look at her.

She nods briskly.

“It’s true.”

“They do what, now?” I say.

“They kidnap people? Hang them up? That’s pagan,” says Christopher.

“No way! They’re volunteers. They want to do it,” Lucy says.

I consider this. I’ve perused many an anthropologic publication (okay, National Geographic). Is this practice plausible? I’m not sure.

“Hmm…I think it’s fake. It’s gotta be illegal. They could get sued big time if anyone ever got seriously injured. They probably just tie people to low crosses over, like, mattresses,” says Christopher, The Future Voice of Reason.

“No, they don’t! There were pictures. The priest actually nails their hands right into the wood. Not their feet, they just tie those, but still! They hang them really high above the crowd for…I think it said, like, fifteen minutes!” Lucy says.

“Hmm…” Christopher says. It’s neither agreement nor disagreement. Mere acknowledgement. He’s thinking it over. Lucy waits breathlessly for Christopher’s response. I set my undrunk glass of Hawaiian Punch down. I sense something significant is in the air.

“I don’t believe it,” he says at last. “I don’t think anyone would have the guts to do it—to let somebody actually crucify them. It’s one thing to crawl half a mile to church on your knees, or to fast for days. But it’s something else to let someone pound nails through your hands and leave you hanging.”

“But they do! People do it! I saw pictures,” she protests.

“Oh, and that means it must be real. Nobody ever faked a photo before.”

He smirks at her patronizingly. I call to mind my newspaper’s graphics department and their skill at manipulating images with Photoshop. They once manufactured an entire island and inserted it into the middle of Puget Sound. I make an effort not to grin knowingly at Christopher.

Lucy scowls at him.

“It’s not such a strange thing at all. I’m not surprised at all that people would do it.” She takes a breath, looking down at the rug. “I would.”

Christopher laughs.

“Oh, really? That I’d like to see! You shoving nails into your hands. You’d scream and run off full speed into the jungle before they could get the hammer out of the toolbox.”

Lucy’s face goes red. Smells like teen rage.

“Now, kids,” I say, sounding age fifty in a 1950s educational film. “Let’s take a moment and calm down.”

“Oh yeah?” Lucy says, her cold, Jack-like eyes targeting Christopher.

“Yes,” he chuckles, still sprawled on her bed, the picture of amused nonchalance.

Lucy stands and marches to the bed. She reaches across Christopher’s flat body. Before he can react, she grabs the pair of needlepoint scissors from the bedside table. She flips them open, letting the sharp blades stand tall and free, splayed like legs.

She eyes Christopher, who sits up cautiously. Without warning, without flinching, she rams the longest blade into her palm. It sticks deep. Blood squeezes out and begins to run down her wrist.

Christopher swings his mile-long legs around and stands shakily. His perpetually bored face is alight with shock. I’m sure that my face looks the same.

“Oh yeah?” Lucy whispers, yanking the scissors out of her palm, leaving a bloody stigmata worthy of a martyr. “You want a turn?”

 

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