Missionary Position

By John Wesick

 

“You want something, Mr. Terry?” The braless Indian girl moved closer to the table, and the corner lifted the hemline of her tattered, silver dress even higher.

“A line for me and my amigo.” Terry placed a few ten-thousand-peso notes on the table and slid them toward the girl’s smooth thighs.

“Thanks, Rev.” The other man at the table, an Aussie named Gilroy, raised his bottle of Aguila beer in salute.

Gilroy was a squat, muscular man with shoulder-length blonde hair whose khaki vest marked him as a tourist. Nobody who’d been in Colombia for more than a few weeks would be caught dead in one of those.

Minutes later the girl returned with a mirror complete with two lines of cocaine on its surface. Within seconds after she set it down, the first line had already disappeared up Gilroy’s nose.

“Ah, this is the life.” Terry bent forward and snorted the second line with the same rolled up bill that Gilroy had used. “All this and wholesale prices too.” He leaned back as the jolt of excitement slammed his nervous system.

“So.” Gilroy rubbed his nose. “I’m taking those two German girls clubbing, tonight. Want to come?”

“Why Gilroy, I’m surprised at you! Asking a man of the cloth to go out whoring with you!” Terry’s laughter broke out into a series of coughs. “Not tonight, mate. I have to write my monthly report to the home office.” He motioned to the serving girl. “Juanita, I need a little physical therapy.”

She led him by the hand up the rickety stairs to the bedrooms that were rented by the hour.

***

Dear Mrs. McNulty,

Sorry not to have written earlier but I’ve been a little under the weather. Fortunately, the chloroquine seems to have the malaria on the run and I should be back on my feet in a few days. Ramon has been like a mother hen. I know I should be grateful but it’s hard to sit on my hands after making so much progress converting the FARC guerillas. You remember Subcomandante Marcos? Well, he agreed to let me preach a sermon to the camp next time I visit. That is if I can stop Ramon’s fretting about my return to the jungle bringing on a relapse.

Sadly, things have been difficult in San Cristobal. The police arrested Maria’s son on some trumped-up charge and I had to bribe them with the church renovation money to free him. This delayed needed repairs but I’d gladly put up with leaky pipes and peeling paint to know that a member of my flock is safe. Although, if you could see fit to send a little extra in next month’s remittance, we could sure put it to use.

Yours in Christ,

Terry

 

He clicked the send button and his e-mail went from San Cristobal, Colombia to the Pan American Gospel Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina. The words had come easily to Terry that night. No doubt they’d been fueled by the afternoon’s stimulation. He left the cyber café and hurried down sidewalks jammed with peddlers’ wares on the cement. Hopefully, he’d make it to the Papagayo Hotel before Gilroy and the German girls left for the night.

***

He was alone on a dark, deserted street, his footsteps echoing off the walls of brick buildings. Something didn’t feel right. He stopped but the footsteps didn’t. He turned. A dodo bird in a leather jacket, Tasmanian tiger, giant passenger pigeon with a baseball bat, and some kind of zebra with stripes on only half its body were tailing him. When he crossed the street, the animals followed. When he quickened his pace, they matched his stride. He reached into his pocket for his Glock and realized he’d left it in his car. He ran.

“Can’t you go any faster than that?” The zebra laughed while galloping beside him.

He almost didn’t notice the passenger pigeon swinging the bat from above. He ducked in the nick of time and the Louisville Slugger whooshed over his head.

Heart hammering and breath ragged, he came to the top of a crest. The parking lot was on the other side of the river. He could see his Hummer in aisle G. Muscles burning, he made for the bridge.  As he set foot on the metal, he heard a growl behind him and felt the Tasmanian tiger’s teeth puncture his ankle. Stumbling, pain stabbing with each step, he forced himself to keep going, the thought of the Glock in his hands drawing him onward. He knew that if he looked back he was a goner.

The passenger pigeon landed in front of him, tapping the baseball bat against its palm. Terry skidded to a halt and turned to see the others approaching.

“What do you want from me?”

“Payback,” the Tasmanian tiger growled.

“But I never did anything to you.”

“You made us extinct.” The dodo bird flicked open a butterfly knife.

“Yeah, happy Urf Day, motherfucker,” the zebra said.

Terry looked back and forth. There was only one way out. He climbed onto the rail and jumped.

***

Green light woke him. It was everywhere. Like a drowning man Terry thrashed until he clawed the sheet off his face. His head hurt. He’d never mix cocaine and barbiturates again. A naked woman sat up next to him with her skinny, tattooed arms crossed over her D-cup breasts.

“Who are you?”

She answered in German, not the harsh German of World War II movies but the sexy German of Marlene Dietrich and fishnet stockings. Terry understood none of it but he liked its tone. He also liked the decaying elegance of the woman’s bruised thighs and her dyed hair’s black roots. After learning several new words for a woman’s body parts he searched the threadbare hotel room for his pants and found them soaking in the bathtub. He took a soggy walk to his own hotel, changed, and returned to the cyber café to check on his remittance.

 

My Dear Reverend Elgan,

Barbara has been forwarding your monthly reports to me and I’m impressed with your selfless dedication to the Lord’s work. Each year the trustees award the ten-thousand-dollar Herman K. Walters Grant to the missionary who best represents the Fellowship’s work. I’m proud to announce that you are this year’s winner. The funds will be in your next remittance.

Yours truly,

Bishop Alvin Townsend

 

Terry clapped his hands and spun his chair in a circle. With that much money guaranteed he could put his long-delayed plan into practice. An hour later he was standing outside the iron gate of the largest mansion in San Cristobal.

“I’d like to see El Gordo,” he said into the intercom.

A remote-controlled motor swung the gate open. Terry entered and followed the driveway past a Mercedes and a BMW to the front door where a bodyguard, whose suit jacket was too small for his massive upper body, frisked him. Satisfied Terry carried no weapons, the man showed him into a wood-paneled study where the drug lord was watching soccer on a flat screen TV that covered an entire wall.

“Sir,” Terry said, “I’d like to offer a business proposition that could benefit us both.”

Despite his nickname El Gordo was surprisingly thin. He wore a scarlet smoking jacket and sat in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

“Go on.” El Gordo set down his cognac.

“You might say I’m an expert on tourism. The local attraction that draws the most visitors from all over the world is your fine product, but the problem is distribution. That’s where I come in. If you could advance me a kilo, I’ll repay you once I’ve sold it.” Terry folded his arms satisfied that even if he didn’t sell anything, he could still repay the drug lord with his award money.

“You want me to sell you a kilo?” El Gordo’s laughter could be heard all the way in Medellin. “My friend, I only deal in quantity.” He looked Terry up and down while holding his cigar between his knuckles. “What the hell. You amuse me. I’ll front you a kilo but beware of Colombians with chainsaws, my friend. You saw the movie ‘Scarface?’ Well, if you don’t repay me, the same will happen to you.”

The bodyguard ushered Terry out and after a bit of a delay produced a bag of white powder, which Terry hid in an Adidas shopping bag after trying a little sample. Outside the mansion the flowers were a deeper red and the peoples’ smiles glowed. Terry’s pulse sounded like hail on a tin roof and he practically skipped back to the hotel.                 He was so absorbed in his plans that he didn’t notice the unmarked car tailing him. The next thing he knew, two guys in sunglasses and leather jackets had his face shoved against a wall so they could handcuff his wrists behind his back. The larger of the two spun him around.

“Hey man, what the f-”

“I’m Captain Benitez of the San Cristobal Police.” The smaller cop fished the passport out of Terry’s pocket. “You’re under arrest for narcotics possession.”

They hustled Terry into the back seat and drove off, turning left on Calle Libertador away from the city center and police station.  Terry began to recognize this for what it was.

“All those lawyers and courts are so inconvenient. Don’t you agree?” Terry twisted to take the weight of his handcuffed wrists. “Perhaps I could pay you the fine.”

“Fine?” Captain Benitez said. “I could lock you up for twenty years.”

Terry began bargaining. The big cop took a meandering drive while they negotiated the bribe and after a tour of beautiful, downtown San Cristobal they settled on three thousand dollars. That and the price of the confiscated cocaine would use up Terry’s award money. It was a painful lesson but at least he would walk away from it in one piece.

“Just one thing,” Terry added. “It’ll take me a few days to put together the money.”

“Three thousand five hundred,” Captain Benitez said as he stored Terry’s passport in the glove compartment.

When the car stopped in front Terry’s hotel, the big cop unlocked the handcuffs and released him.

***

Terry was already coming down from the cocaine when he returned to the cyber café and found another e-mail from the bishop.

 

My Dear Reverend Elgan,

There’s been a change of plans. Your messages of hope have so inspired me that I want to see your ministry with my own eyes. Therefore, I’m coming to Colombia to award your check personally. I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll do this old preacher’s heart good to get out in the field again. I arrive on the 15th.

Yours truly,

Bishop Alvin Townsend

PS – Sadly, since most of my outreach was spent in Africa, my Spanish is not up to snuff. If you could have someone pick me up at the airport, I would greatly appreciate it.

 

Terry stared at the monitor. If the bishop found out he had no church, it would all be over. Everything began to irritate him, the cigarette smoke, the woman talking in the telephone booth, and the cashier who needed a shave. Then Terry had an inspiration and reached for the keyboard, his fingers composing a symphony of deception.

 

Dear Bishop Townsend,

It is with great disappointment that I beg you not to come here. It’s not safe. There have been several disturbing incidents that I have omitted from my reports so as not to alarm Mrs. McNulty. Most involve kidnappings. As you may have heard, the kidnappers often send the victims’ body parts to their families to ensure payment. And even when the ransom is paid, the victims often turn up castrated or dead.

In addition to civil war and narcotics trafficking we’ve had an increase in street violence. Two local gangs, the Quinidos and the Santa Fes, have been battling it out for turf. The innocent get caught in the crossfire too often for comfort.

Sir, I’d love to hear of the lessons learned from your service to Our Lord but I’m afraid it will have to be through e-mail. San Cristobal, at least at present, is just too dangerous.

Respectfully,

Terry Elgan

 

The reply came almost immediately.

 

Terry,

Thank you for your concern but I’ve learned you can’t do the Lord’s work unless you’re willing to take risks. In my ministry I’ve faced down Mau Maus and angry Hutus and God has always protected me. And at 80 years old I don’t have much to lose. If God wants to take me, then I’d rather it be while I’m doing His service.

See you on the fifteenth.

Alvin

***

It had to be him. The bald man in a Hawaiian shirt stepped through the sliding glass doors into the airport lobby and searched the faces of waiting tour guides and limo drivers. He had a wiry build and carried a worn, leather travel bag that looked like it had been dragged on the pavement all the way from North Carolina. Terry considered abandoning the bishop to the crowd and unfamiliar language but that wouldn’t get him his award money so he held up a cardboard sign with the bishop’s name in magic marker. The bishop nodded, smiled, and approached.

“Bishop Townsend, nice to finally meet you in person.”

“Please call me Alvin.” The bishop had a surprisingly strong handshake for someone in his eighties.

“Let me carry your luggage.” Terry took the heavy bag and nearly dislocated his shoulder. “I have you staying in the Hotel Dorado. We can catch a cab outside.” Terry lugged the suitcase toward the exit. If his scheme worked, the bishop would be on the very next flight back.

As planned, Gilroy and a Russian cokehead named Sergei, who was once the number two Elvis impersonator in Vladivostok, were waiting outside in front of a 1978 Buick Regal. Both had dyed their hair black to appear more Colombian, but the coloring had left stains of their foreheads. On a nod from Terry Gilroy approached.

Quando la perro va pepe.” He pulled a toy pistol from his pocket and motioned toward the car’s back seat. “Quando la perro va pepe!

“We better do as he says.” Terry feigned a look of panic but it was hard given Gilroy’s pathetic Spanish. How long had the Aussie been in this country, anyway? “If we cooperate, he’ll probably just drive us to a bank machine and make us withdraw the daily limit. If not…” Terry swallowed.

He turned and reached for the car door but a commotion made him look back. Somehow the old man had gotten hold of Gilroy’s gun hand. He delivered a devastating punch to the ribs and flipped the Aussie head over heels so he landed on the sidewalk like a piano dropped from a twelve-story building. The toy pistol went flying. Spectators applauded. Sergei panicked and stomped on the accelerator. Tires squealed as he steered around taxis and pedestrians. A startled grandmother hopped to the curb as her walker disappeared under the Buick’s tires. Sergei lost control, plowed into the side of a green and white city bus, and fled the scene chased by the bus driver and several angry passengers.

Meanwhile, the bishop was stomping Gilroy’s ribs. Terry winced each time a New Balance walking shoe struck flesh. After a dozen or so kicks he realized he ought to step in and save his pal.

“Look!” He touched the bishop’s shoulder and pointed. “There’s our cab.”

When they got in the back seat, the bishop asked, “Should we call the police?”

“No, they were probably in on it.”

“Strange sounding Spanish, the guy was speaking,” the bishop said.

“It’s Quechua, the local Indian language.”

“Quechua, right.” The bishop pointed at the cab driver. “Ask him is he’s accepted Jesus as his personal savior.”

Terry translated.

Si,” the driver said. “Soy Católico.”

***

The failure of the bogus kidnapping meant that Terry had to create a church from scratch. Problem was he hadn’t gotten out much. In fact, the only person he knew with a suitable space was Lorena, the madam of the brothel where he spent the Fellowship’s money on women and blow. Fortunately, he was a good customer and she agreed to lend the downstairs to him for a modest fee.

While the bishop rested from his long flight, Terry got to work, taking down the liquor posters and moving tables into the storage room. He arranged the chairs in rows and tacked crosses on the walls. There wasn’t much he could do about the bar except hide it behind some paint-splattered plastic sheeting.

For a rest he took a seat in the office and ransacked Lorena’s desk for some blow. All he found was a pair of pink, crotchless panties, which he examined while trying to refine his plan. Now that he had a church, he had to figure out what a pastor actually did so he could fake it. His past experience at the Haynes Non-Denominational Bible Church was little help. All he’d done there was repeat sermons he’d copied off the Internet until the trustees fired him for an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Sermons! He still had the CDs from Dr. T. Jefferson Passnauer’s Hour of Praise. Once translated into Spanish, the bishop would never know the difference. What else could he do? Terry spun the panties around his index finger. The sick! Terry stuffed the panties in his pocket and rose from the chair. He had an idea.

***

“What is this place?” the bishop asked as he followed Terry up the steps to a turquoise, concrete building.

“Drug treatment – I try to help Colombia’s cocaine problem however I can.”

Seeing their bibles and clerical collars, the sleepy guard removed a set of keys from his pocket and unlocked the front door. There didn’t seem to be any organization in the lobby, just unshaven patients in bathrobes and a bored nurse painting her nails carmine red behind the reception desk.

Terry, que pasa?” A thin man with haunted eyes and a prominent Adam’s apple rushed over.

Hola, Miguel.” Terry shook hands and asked in Spanish, “What are you doing here?

The wife threatened to leave unless I quit the cocaine so I came here for a week until she calms down. It sucks. You can’t even get beer.” Miguel pointed to the bishop. “Who’s he?”

Someone from headquarters checking up on me.” Terry nodded to the bishop who smiled, not comprehending the Spanish. “I have to pretend to be a priest so they’ll keep sending money.”

Miguel nodded. Such scams were common practice among addicts everywhere, many of whom were Terry’s friends and were in this very facility. Soon Jorge, Fidel, Carlos, Esteban, Roberto, Pablo, Porfie, Juan, and Guillermo gathered, swapping stories and complaints.

Hey, do me a favor, guys,” Terry said. “Pretend we’re praying so I can impress the bishop.”

They got on their knees while Terry recited a few “Nuestro Padres.” As Terry and the bishop rose to leave, Miguel asked, “You got any stuff?

My friend, a priest’s job is to bring comfort to the sick.” Terry handed him a bible. “You’ll find all you seek in here.”

Miguel’s eyes grew bright when he opened it and found the bag of powder hidden in the cavity Terry had hollowed out of its pages.

***

Next morning, the bishop by his side, Terry stood in front of his congregation of coke heads and prostitutes. He’d snorted a couple lines to give him inspiration for the service and the room was expanding and contracting like a whale’s lung. Giselda, the transvestite, was looking good in the front row with her beehive hairdo and leopard-print miniskirt. Juanita and the rest of Madam Lorena’s girls, at least the ones not working upstairs, had dressed more modestly. Gilroy was there, too. Now blonde again, he sat in the back row wearing shades to disguise his bruises. He’d even brought the two Germans. Terry smiled at the one he’d slept with and tried to see down her shirt. What was her name again?

“If you’d like to say a few words, I’ll translate.” The floor seemed to give like a trampoline as Terry stepped away to yield the podium to the bishop.

“Thank you. Thank you, Reverend Elgan for allowing me to speak,today.” He turned to the congregation. “And thank you for worshipping with us this fine Sunday morning. When I first began my ministry almost fifty years ago…”

Giselda batted her heavily made-up eyelids at the bishop as Terry translated. It wasn’t a good translation. When he didn’t know a word, he simply recounted the plot of a movie he’d seen. In this case it was “A Few Good Men” with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. Ten minutes into the talk a man in mechanic’s overalls entered and looked puzzled until he spotted Juanita in the third row. Then he jostled through the crowd and tried to pull her from her chair. She slapped his hand. A series of shooshes silenced their heated whispers and the mechanic trudged upstairs alone.

Strangely, the bishop didn’t appear to notice. After translating the thirty-nine-minute introduction, Terry began his cribbed sermon in Spanish. Even though they understood little, the cocaine tourists sat politely, all except Sergei who mumbled and scratched the imaginary insects swarming his neck. All that squirming made Terry’s skin crawl but he fought the urge to tear off his shirt and run for the showers. Gilroy bent forward to hide behind someone’s shoulder while he snorted a line. Giselda winked and licked her lips.

Poshyol ty’!” Sergei stood and jerked like an epileptic.

“Hallelujah!” Terry shouted. “They shall speak in new tongues!”

He continued his sermon but when he reached the part about the Apostle Paul saying, “You can’t handle the truth,” the sound of a prostitute’s fake orgasm came from upstairs.

Qué amigo nos en Cristo!” Terry sang to cover the noise.

The prostitutes joined in but Giselda opened her legs revealing that he/she wore no panties. Terry shoved his hymnal in the bishop’s face to block the view and motioned to Gilroy to get her out of there.

“What’s going on here?”

The singing stopped. All eyes turned to Captain Benitez at the entrance.

“We’re having a Sunday service with our distinguished guest, Bishop Alvin Townsend of the Pan American Gospel Fellowship.” Terry reached for the plastic bowl on the table. “Friends, it’s time to pass the collection plate. Please give generously so we can pay the license fee for our new renovations.”

“Excellent!” Benitez smiled. “Please continue.”

The service concluded with a few more hymns. After Terry gave Benitez the collection money and shook hands with his congregation, the bishop spoke.

“That woman, the one with the spotted skirt.”

“Yes?” Terry held the railing as if an earthquake would begin any minute.

“She genuflected when she entered. We don’t do that in our church. Speak to her about it. Won’t you?”

***

A few days later Terry, the bishop, and Sergei (a.k.a. Ramon) were in a battered Toyota on the road to Hayacampo. It was better to brave leeches and yellow fever than risk another fiasco at “church”. The car hit a bump.

Chyort voz’mi!” exclaimed Sergai, a.k.a. Ramon, from behind the steering wheel.

“Quechua?” the bishop asked.

Terry nodded and closed his eyes. The longer they spent driving through the jungle in search of the non-existent Subcomandante Marcos and his band of Christian FARC guerillas, the better. Terry had chosen a safe region to travel through, no guerillas, paramilitaries, or illicit meth labs. In about a week they’d return empty-handed to San Cristobal just in time to put the bishop on his plane home.

The car’s bouncing lulled Terry to sleep. He dreamed of Juanita unbuttoning her shirt to reveal her brown-tipped breasts. Her hand reached for his zipper. The German girl was there too, naked except for a spiked, Prussian helmet. Sergei slammed on the brakes, jolting Terry awake.

Chto za huy!” the Russian said.

A dozen men in camouflage fatigues blocked the road. All carried Kalashnikovs and hid their faces behind bandanas.

“Looks like we found your friends.” the bishop smiled and got out.

The guerillas yanked the others from the car and shoved them down a muddy path that led into the jungle. When Terry reached for the cocaine in his shirt pocket, a guerilla shoved him so he went sprawling face first in the dirt. His reward for not scrambling to his feet fast enough was a rifle butt in the kidney. Even worse, he lost the cocaine. After a few minutes they arrived at a clearing. The guerillas positioned their captives on one side and then crossed to the other.

Games will be games but when the FARC guerillas chambered rounds into their assault rifles and aimed, Terry realized the fun was almost over. Sergei babbled in Russian. They say your life passes before your eyes in these situations but all Terry could think about was the cocaine he’d lost only a few hundred feet away.

“For God’s sake,” Bishop Townsend bellowed. “If Subcomandante Marcos learns that you’ve killed us, he’ll have your asses!”

When they heard that name, the guerillas lowered their weapons. What Terry hadn’t realized was that the FARC actually had a subcomandante named Marcos. Having long lived in the shadow of the Zapatista leader with the same name, the FARC’s Marcos had chosen to take the guerillas on a raid deep into government territory. Many of his men would die but at least the TV reporters would finally be talking about him instead of that other guy.

After a long, mosquito-bitten slog through the jungle they arrived at the FARC camp, a ramshackle assortment of dingy tents, bearded guys shaving with rusty machetes, and busty leftist women in tight olive-drab T-shirts. Terry had no time to admire the ladies. He and his friends were shoved into the subcomandante’s tent.

The man sitting behind the walnut desk looked familiar but Terry couldn’t place him. Then he remembered. Subcomandante Marcos bore a striking resemblance to Norm from the TV show “Cheers”. That is, if Norm held a Colt .45 pistol and spoke only Spanish. To Terry, finding Norm in the middle of the Colombian jungle seemed unlikely but no more unlikely that finding a two-hundred-pound desk in his tent.

The bishop poked Terry in the ribs. “Ask him if he’s accepted Jesus as his personal savior.”

With nothing better to try Terry did as so. The subcomandante’s laughter could be heard all the way in Chiapas.

I believe religion is the opiate of the masses,” he said. “And you know what happens to drug pushers in Colombia?

They buy mansions and fast cars and have lots of women?”

True.” Subcomandante Marcos inserted the magazine into his pistol, chambered a round, and aimed at the tent pole. “But we still shoot priests. Nothing personal, mind you. It’s just that reporters love a good priest shooting.” He lowered his weapon. “Of course, they love the story of a guerilla showing mercy to a worthy adversary even more. I’ll give you a sporting chance. Preach a sermon on Sunday. If you can convince me there’s something to this faith of yours, I’ll let you go. If not…”

***

The millipede crawled out from under the dirty bowl. It moved each tiny leg deliberately as a Tai Chi master. Terry took off his shoe, smashed it into a splotch of yellow goo, and went back to reading his bible. Neither Sergei nor the bishop had understood the conversation so Terry told them they were to be the subcomandante’s guests until the Sunday service. There was no need to worry them. He’d explained that the guards were there to protect them and that they had to remain inside their mildewed tent due to an impending AUC paramilitary attack. Each day they woke early. The bishop led them in prayer until the guards came with a meager breakfast of tepid water, rice, and a banana. The menu repeated for lunch and dinner with the addition of some gristly meat.

The head and humidity came long before midday. They sat shirtless and unwashed, listening to the whine of mosquitoes and the guards’ laughter. Terry flipped through his bible trying to remember the sermons of Reverend Doctor Passnauer but all he could recall were a few fragments. If only had hadn’t lost his coke.

“It’s no good.” Terry closed his bible. “How do I preach to a bunch of atheists and killers?”

“You’ve got to scare them.” The bishop leaned forward. “Let them know what’s in store for them after they die. Nothing brings a sinner around like a good hellfire-and-brimstone sermon.”

Terry nodded and looked at Sergei. The Russian would be looking a lot worse if he were going through withdrawal. He had to have some coke. The next time the bishop left for the bathroom, Terry confronted him.

“You holding?”

“No, no have.”

“Come on man, don’t bullshit me. You’d be freaking now if you didn’t have any coke.”

“No have!” Sergei held up his hands.

“Just give me one line. I’ll pay you a hundred bucks when we get back. A hundred bucks, man!”

“Am I interrupting something?” The bishop entered and went to his cot.

“No!” Terry glared at Sergei. “Nothing!”

Terry went back to his bible but the King James English seemed opaque. Soon he was fantasizing about a FARC woman, her frizzy hair under her fatigue cap. In his mind he wrestled her cargo pants over her hips. The she slit his throat. He closed the bible and turned to the bishop.

“What made you become a missionary?”

“I suppose God did.”

“Come on, Alvin. That’s not an answer. Why did you choose to risk your life in countries where they didn’t even listen to you? You could have done any number of other things.”

“It’s where I can do the most good.” The bishop took a breath and let it out. “A doctor can heal the body for a lifetime but a minister heals the soul for eternity.”

“I’m not getting anywhere. Maybe you should give the sermon Sunday.”

“And steal your moment of glory? No way!” The bishop put a hand on Terry’s shoulder. “Everybody has doubts, son, but the going ahead anyway, that’s faith. Open yourself up to God. Let Him speak through you and you’ll do fine.”

***

The days passed until it was Sunday morning and Terry found himself with bowels loose, standing in front of the assembled guerillas. He hadn’t had any blow for over four days. How was he supposed to function? The bishop stood by him and took his hands.

“Lord.” He bowed his head. “You’ve given us the chance to preach Your word to ears that sorely need to hear it. Let us accomplish Your will. Amen.” He squeezed Terry’s hands and sat down.

Terry looked at the faces, the sneers, the looks of boredom, and the subcomandante’s jagged metal grin. Each of the fighters held an assault rifle. Terry had no idea what to say.

“Let me tell you about my church,” he said in Spanish. “It’s located beneath a whorehouse. Most of my congregation are addicts except for the putas. I don’t think they use. We have a transvestite named Giselda who’s so good at makeup that she fooled the good bishop here.”

The guerillas laughed.

“You may ask why I don’t have a better church, one with upstanding members like mayors and businessmen. Maybe it’s because I’m not upstanding or maybe it’s because my church is what a church is supposed to be, a place we can practice acceptance and forgiveness. If God made both scorpions and lambs doesn’t He love the scorpions too? And doesn’t it take a scorpion to preach to the scorpions?

“That’s about all I have to say to you. You may want to shoot me now and that’s okay. I just ask that you let my friends go. This so-called ministry of mine isn’t their fault. It’s mine.”

***

Terry stumbled out of bed around noon. Bleary-eyed and head aching he made it to the bodega a block from his hotel for coffee and a newspaper. It had been three weeks since the incident in the jungle. To his surprise the guerillas had released them and after awarding Terry the ten thousand dollars the bishop had flown back to North Carolina with a glowing report about the work he was doing in Colombia. Terry had paid off Captain Benitez and El Gordo with the money, leaving him pretty much where he’d started.

He found a table near the entrance, opened the paper, and found a picture of Subcomandante Marcos. Government soldiers had killed him and his FARC fighters near Hayacampa. Even in death this Marcos had been relegated page two.

Terry reached for his cup. There was a reflection of Jesus on the coffee’s surface. He stared at the long-suffering eyes and tired expression like that of an exasperated mother. Terry shook his head. He really needed to cut back on the blow. He placed a few coins on the table and walked away, leaving his coffee untouched.

 

Jon Wesick’s stories have appeared in journals such as Space and Time, Zahir, and Tales of the Talisman. He’s also published over two hundred poems in small press journals such as The New Orphic Review, Pearl, Pudding, and Slipstream. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest.

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest
Print this pageEmail this to someone
0 comments