BY DAVID W.
I could cite a number of excuses that partially explain my posting hiatus. I’ll limit myself to disclosing the burnout of my computer monitor. It enjoyed a nice long life. Until I find a replacement, most of my blog drafts remain trapped in the darkness of my CPU.
But this morning, while sitting on my unemployed ass, the puppy that has somehow started living with me nipping at my pajama pants, I am considering a return to the world of pizza delivery. This somehow prompts me to think about all the religious proselytizers I’ve encountered here in Cleveland. I don’t just mean the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses—though they are well represented in my recollections. I mean also the white sedan covered in appropriately blood red brush paint proclaiming Jesus’ immanent return—once just another car I’d see around town, it has now invaded my apartment parking lot. I mean the fringe Seventh Day Adventist who, years ago, tried to get me to watch a thirty hour video series with him once he found out that, when I did go to church, I went to church on Sundays. I mean the man in a bank parking lot next to Papa John’s who, microphone in hand and ice cream truck speaker on top of his van, futilely tried to yell prayers and prophecies and preaching at the passing traffic. And none of these even touches on the university campus where I once attended and later worked.
This connection of pizza and proselytizing reminded me of a post I wrote last summer. I never put it up for some reason—I think I was afraid it confirmed that the only things I could write about were my pizza job and my teaching job. However, the story is one of the few drafts now available to me as it has waited patiently for over six months on my flash drive. I’ve opened it on an early model laptop, borrowed for a weekend three weeks ago, a laptop that would not fit in even the largest available manila envelope, but a laptop that, combined with the internet connection at the local library, nevertheless defeats my “no computer, no blog” reasoning.
So, I present below the post as originally written. It is what it is.
Bicycling for Jesus?
Being fully aware that my posts are long, perhaps longwinded, I have often tried, futilely, to write something short. David H. and I have even joked that the length of our posts helps make ours a “literary” blog, and that any reader who complains that our posts are too long to compete in today’s fast paced blogosphere is a reader we have no time for.
Our self-absorbed joke aside, I would like again to attempt a short piece—as a test of skill or break to our faithful readers or just for the hell of it. So, without further ado, and with, for me, minimal elaboration and commentary, I present this concise, one-act recollection of a true-life event.
SETTING: A Papa John’s restaurant situated in a small strip of stores along a moderately busy road. The parking lot is of modest dimensions and empty except two cars parked in front of the store. The road in front boasts a charred spot where, just the day before, a few SUVS burst into flames—really, news crews come by all day asking us if we witnessed the event—in a multi-car accident started by some irresponsible high school cruisers. It’s a Sunday morning in July, clear, the blistering sun already promising a hellish day.
1) David: a half-time college instructor, half-time pizza delivery driver; tired but alert, wearing his regrettable Papa John’s uniform: wrinkled khaki pants, belt held together by a few single threads, absurd knit pullover of impossible neon-mustard hue, and a sweat-stained ball cap that refuses to sit in a normal fashion atop his hair. A small, unfortunate ponytail sneaks out from beneath the Velcro hat-size adjustor. The pants and shirt are speckled in pizza sauce and garlic butter stains.
2) Peter: a short, stumpy 28 year old Papa John’s driver with a drooping belly. He wears oversized khaki cargo shorts, a tomato-red pullover already soaked in sweat, and a tan visor out of which long, unbelievable curls escape in every direction. On this morning, like every morning, his face bears the unmistakable marks of a hangover. Sometimes, he claims to have a degree from the local university and a second degree from an out-of-town seminary, but David eventually finds out, thanks to Peter’s cousin who becomes a student of David’s that fall semester, that Peter actually attended Lee for only a few weeks though he did once contemplate signing up for classes at a seminary. When he wants to leave the state, he’s still required to get permission from his PO thanks to a public fight from his late teenage years.
3) Bicycling Evangelist: a forty-something white male in jeans and non-descript t-shirt. A bit crazy-eyed, he pedals a run-of-the-mill ten speed uncertainly through the parking lot where David spotted him a week before accosting an elderly gentleman with many Hallelujahs and even an embrace as if they were old friends.
4) Scott: the store manager, entirely capable save a habit of leaving his delivery drivers outside the locked store on Sunday mornings as he departs his home—30 plus minutes away—at roughly the time they are all supposed to be there. He enjoys fishing and riding his new motorcycle and once asked David if he “had ever heard of this guy named Karl Marx” that his step dad talked about over Thanksgiving dinner.
I wish Scott would get here and unlock the store. It’s hot as fuckin’ hell out here.
It is Scott and it is Sunday.
Fuckin’ A. I should be at the river today. On the water, beer in my hand, hot babes in bikinis driving by waving….
[looks at clock on large, antiquated cell phone]
Let’s give him one more cigarette and then we’ll try to call him.
[both light cigarettes]
Man, I’m so tired.
Last night we had a killer party…
My boy had a suite over at the HoJo.
We was just chillin’, kickin’ it—jacuzzi, cable.
Then all these people came over…
The Howard Johnson. You know, used to be the Chalet.
Fuckin’ hot ass bitches everywhere.
Oh yeah? How many?
Shit! A ton. Cause people started droppin in from the bar.
[Note: “the bar” is a reference to the “authentic” Cajun restaurant, the aptly named “Nawlins Skillet,” attached to the motel. Its sign regularly boasts stand-up comics from Atlanta and Nashville, nightly karaoke, and the latest “last call” in town.]
Fuck, I felt like hell this morning. I may just go home and crash after work.
Yeah, unless I go to the river or my uncle’s. He’s having a party at his room at Exclusive Suites. Didya party last night?
[Enter Bicycling Evangelist on bicycle, apparently unable to pedal in a straight line. This saves D from having to disclose that he read The New Yorker on his Saturday night and is tired this morning because he stayed up watching crime drama reruns.]
Bicycling Evangelist (BE):
P and D:
Hallelujah. This is a day, isn’t it?
Yes, it is a day.
The spirit’s movin, oh, the spirit’s movin.
P and D:
You boys are making a [incoherent mumbling].
P and D:
[leans in and whispers as if revealing a secret]
Jesus is coming back soon, boys. Did you know that?
[P and D stare blankly in response]
[BE continues still whispering]
Yes he is, hallelujah.
[P and D continue the blank staring]
Thank God, there’s Scott.
[Scott pulls into lot and begins to exit his truck]
Well man, we got to go to work.
[abandons the whisper]
You boys have a great day!
[he pedals off, his front tire nearly spinning completely around, he just keeps from falling and then rides away with a continual string of “Hallelujah!!!” and “Praise the Lord!!!” and generic, but no less vociferous, “AHHHH!!!!”]
Who the hell was that?
[P and D shrug their shoulders and walk into the sanctuary that is the store. While the soft, hesitant opening lines of a ballad play, P removes a leak-soaked box of garlic butter and a tub of dreary Pepperocinis from a nearly empty Coke cooler; D calculates the number of onions and green peppers he’ll need to chop for the day and tells of seeing the BE the previous Sunday.]
Why isn’t he at church?
Why aren’t you at church?
That’s Cleveland any time of year, boys…
[S flips on the oven, and over the whine of the preheating cycle and the laughs of the pizza making trio, the “soft, hesitant ballad” reveals itself to be a rock anthem as it explodes from the opening verse into a shredding chorus of guitars.]