~ What if we did something completely different and actually loved all people? ~
Max is steering his car through the church parking lot when a pedestrian catches his eye.
“What is that?” he gasps.
“Oh my gawd,” murmurs Mimi. “Is it a he or a she?”
“It’s an it,” blurts Max.
The sturdy pedestrian sports orange hair, a stubbled chin, a tight pink dress, hairy legs and chunky, white sandals. Max scowls as the pedestrian waves to catch his attention.
“I think he-she wants to talk to you,” squeaks Mimi.
“We’re trapped,” hisses Max, bringing the car to a halt.
Max locks the doors, then opens the window a crack.
“Excuse me,” says the visitor, stepping up to the car. “My name is Comet.”
What kind of name is that? Max wonders.
“Is this your church?” Comet asks.
Man’s voice, thinks Max, giving a frigid nod. Strange foreign accent.
“Because I like your sign.” He points to a large marque that simply says “God is love.”
Jet black skin, thinks Max. Must be African … or Caribbean.
“Before my mom died, she told me the same thing, that God is love,” Comet says. “And I always wondered …”
They can’t be real, thinks Max, gawking at Comet’s breasts, but hell, with those new kinds of hormone technology …
“… because personally, she was the most loving person I ever knew,” says Comet. “Ever since she died, those words ‘God is love’ have kind-a been haunting me. Then I saw it on your sign and wondered, you know … how does that impact me? … and what does it even mean?”
Comet’s expression is quizzical and sincere, like that of a bewildered child.
“It’s complicated,” Max says, speaking to the dashboard. “You tell him, Mimi.”
“I’ll try,” she peeps, “but … I mean, the pastor always says it’s important to get your theology right. And well, that is … ah …”
“There’s lots of rules to follow,” says Max with an air of finality.
“And you have to be baptized,” says Mimi.
“Baptism seals the deal,” says Max.
He taps his fingertips on the steering wheel, making a barely audible “dta-dta-dta-dta” sound with his tongue.
“So it’s complicated,” Comet says with a nod. “But it’ll only take a second to clear up one question I had about …”
“I don’t mind,” says Mimi.
“No!” blurts Max. “I mean, it’s way too complicated. You know, the best way to … er, if you wanna get your questions answered … that is, you gotta talk to the pastor.”
“Or take a class,” says Mimi. “The new believer’s class. It’s once a quarter, right here in the fellowship hall.”
“Yeah,” says Max. “That’ll answer all your questions.”
A look of disappointment crosses Comet’s face. “So … a minute ago, you said I had to be baptized, and maybe that’s something we could do today …”
“Wouldn’t be possible,” exclaims Max.
“You can’t rush into it,” says Mimi.
“Look into that class,” says Max, reaching for the shifter. “Call the church office and they’ll set you up.”
“The church office?” asks Comet.
“The church office,” says Mimi.
“Now if you’ll excuse us,” says Max, rolling up the window, “we’re late for an appointment.”
“Bye,” says Mimi.
While Comet’s unanswered questions swirl like brackish eddies in a bayou, Max steers the SUV onto a crowded thoroughfare.
“I’m so hungry, I could eat the steering wheel,” says Max. “What’ll it be, Mimi?”
Mimi shrugs. “You choose.”
Max makes an aggressive lane change.
“The usual, I suppose,” he says. “Can’t beat the breaded shrimp at Hogan’s.”
They continue driving along a six-lane highway lined with offices, box stores and restaurants.
“Oh, look,” says Mimi, “there’s Pastor and his wife.”
As Max accelerates, Mimi waves at the car beside them. “They’re such a cute couple,” she says.
While passing a swanky shopping mall, Mimi reaches toward the radio, then hesitates.
“What did you think about the sermon today?” she asks, dropping her hand.
Mimi brushes her black skirt, then picks off a bit of lint.
“I like how that Ethiopian eunuch got saved and baptized by Philip, then he went on to change the course of a whole nation. What a great story!”
As a traffic light turns yellow, Max presses his foot to the floor.
“What’s an Ethiopian eunuch anyway?” he asks.
Mimi purses her lips and sighs. “Well, Ethiopia is in Africa so … I suppose you’d say that an Ethiopian eunuch is … hmm … a transvestite? … No, that’s not it. Ah … you might say it’s a differently-gendered black person.”
For several seconds, Max stares straight ahead with a blank look on his face.
“With a strange accent?” he asks.
Mimi shrugs. “Yeah. With a strange accent.”
After a moment’s silence, he nods again.
“When you think about it, it’s really a miracle,” he says, taking his sunglasses down from the overhead compartment, “to get out of church as late as we did and still beat the traffic. Because this Sunday rush is getting to be a pain in the …”
Image by A K M Adam / Flickr.