23 May 98

Shaggy Dog Story

Dr. Orrin took a cup of coffee from Mom's wicker tray and spoke about First Reformed.

"We're called. I've preached to many congregations, but so few were alive in the light as this one. You, Paul, are you up to the task of spreading the word? Because I can guarantee you'll be called."

"I think I'll be ready," I said.

"How are you spreading the word this week? Today?" he asked.

"Umm," I fidgeted. "Well, school and prayer can't mix up...."

"Jesus would not have--hello, puppy."

Buddy walked into the room, tongue out, nose in the air.

"That's Buddy," said Mom.

The dog, a Rayy, sniffed the air. He trotted over to Dr. Orrin and snorted over the minister's black shoes. Quickly, Buddy mounted a pantleg, wrapped his paws tight, and began to thrust.

My mother flew across the room, tearing the dog back and smacking it. Arms and hair were mixed up, in the air. I began to giggle, then stopped.

After apologies, Buddy was sealed in the kitchen, where he began to bark. Dr. Orrin said, "enough apologies, really." He took a deep breath, and smiled. "In any case, I'm going to head out. Right before I go, I just want to ask--we're going to need everybody's full support in the mission drive. I'll need to count on both of you. Can I?"

Mom's hair was all over her face. "You'll have our support," she said. "Of course, Reverend Orrin. I'm sorry about--"

"No problem. Really. I'll see you Wednesday night for Bible study, Dan?"

"Yes, sir."

Wednesday night I walked to First Reformed. Before meeting, I walked into the bathroom. As I was sitting in the stall, the Reverend walked in and stood before the mirror. I watched through hinges in the stall door. He took a bottle of pomade from his pocket--something called "HeatMate," then lifted his leg and began to wash it with paper towels.

He finished quickly and walked out, taking the bottle with him.

Bible study was boring as usual, mostly because we talked about the Bible.

The next week I stopped at the Parkway, for the Community Reading bookstore. I bought a book on sale about the Masons and their rituals, and, remembering my mother's request, stopped in the pet store for a rawhide chew for Buddy, who had turned his last fake bone into a soupy mess. He was young enough to go for the furniture if he didn't have something solid to chaw on.

As I browsed the dog toys--fake tiny rubber chickens, rubber newspapers, those balls with bells inside of them--I saw a bottle of HeatMate and picked it up.

"Using a scientific compound," read the back, "this cream guarantees your dog will enter a brief, simulated heat." It described in detail the process required to synthetically conjoin two dogs.

It didn't sink in for a few minutes. I thought, "why is he using dog heat cream for his hair?" Finally, I realized that Dr. Orrin was using the cream to stimulate the dogs in his parishioners' homes by rubbing it over his legs.

It was a perfect setup--it gave him a way to leave the house quickly, with everyone too embarassed to ask him to stay. And after his leg had been raped, he could easily ask for contributions, in this case for the mission drive, and receive an automatic, "we'll be glad to help out."

A braver person would have asked him about it; me, I never went back to church.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


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