#264 The atheist

crucifixBeing an atheist, I didn’t believe religious bullshit, but I hadn’t eaten in three days, so the thought of bread and wine drove me inside when I spotted the Catholic Church. I entered, washed my face and hands in the fountains of water I found right inside the door.

“What’re you doing washing with holy water?” a woman asked.

“Shit, water’s water,” I told her, scooped a handful to my mouth, gargled and spit it back into the basin. Her look of disgust made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have done that. We both watched people dipping their fingers into the bowl I spit in and touching their foreheads with my holy spit as they blessed themselves.

I pushed through a second set of double doors and saw massive stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes and above the altar a gigantic cross with a crucified Jesus hanging from it. I stopped a priest who walked past me, “I thought Christians weren’t supposed to worship idols?”

“As a Catholic you should know an idol is an image of a false god. A crucifix is an image of the true God, so it isn’t an idol.”

“Okay. I came to receive communion.”

“Bless you. Mass will start in a minute.”

I prayed along with the parishioners all the while thoughts of the bread and wine served for communion rolled through my mind. After standing, kneeling, singing, and praying for what seemed like forever, people lined up to get the blood and body of Christ.

I Knelt in front of the altar with the others until the priest came.

“Stick out your tongue,” he said.

I did, and he placed a thin wafer on it. I spit it out. “Where’s the fucking bread and wine?” I yelled.

The priest dropped to his knees, picked up the glob I had spit out and held it toward heaven as he prayed over it. When he finished praying, he glared at me with hatred in his eyes. “Get out of my church,” he demanded.

“Not until I get the bread and wine I came for.”

The priest grabbed me by the collar and pushed me toward the doors. “Wait a fucking minute,” I said. “This is God’s house. You can’t throw me out.”

“Watch me.” He said as he pushed me through the doors.

I stumbled down the stairs and fell onto the sidewalk. Dazed, I sat up, looked around and saw church was over as people came down the stairs. I stuck my hand out, palm up in the hopes the good Christians would give me money so I could eat. Most walked around me. Two spit into my hand. Before long the area around the church became deserted. The thought of bread and wine had me salivating. I went back inside and found an area where people lit candles for some fucking reason. There was a donation slot that I stuck my finger into and hooked a $20 bill. If I believed, I would have thanked Jesus. Instead, I rushed out the door before that priest found me inside “his church”.

I rushed to the nearest liquor store, got a pint of wine and a bag of chips. As I exited, there was a bum sitting on the curb. He eyed my bag, and I saw the desire for a drink wash across his face. “Come around back where no one can see us. I’ll share my wine and chips”. The poor guy guzzled down the entire bottle of wine, tore open the bag of chips and scoffed everyone down in seconds. He was much hungrier and thirstier than me, so I didn’t get upset.

“Sorry,” he said as he wiped crumbs from around his mouth and then sucked the crumbs from his dirty fingers.

“Wait here, I’ll buy more food and wine.” I returned to the store and lay what I had left from the twenty onto the counter. “Let me know when I reach this much.” I told the cashier as I laid two burritos on the counter. Then a bottle of wine, more chips, three slim Jims. “Do I have enough for cigarettes?”

“Hardly, the clerk said, pulled out his pack of smokes and said, Take one. These damn things are expensive.”

I put it between my lips and struck a match, but before I lit it, I thought of that poor bastard waiting for me. Bet he’d love to have a smoke after eating and drinking. I put the butt in my shirt pocket, picked up my bag and returned to the alley in back where he waited for me. I lay the sandwiches, slim Jims, and wine on the ground. “Help yourself,” I told him.

He pushed a sandwich toward me, then scoffed the other down along with two of the slim gyms, guzzled half the wine before setting the bottle in front of me. I ate mine in a hurry, guzzled the rest of wine, chewed on the slim Jim for a few minutes while I watched a look of satisfaction wash over the face of my compatriot.

“Thanks, thanks a lot,” he said.

“There’s more.” I held out the cigarette. He snatched it from my hand, put it to his wet lips and struck a match. He sucked in so hard I thought he’d swallow the damn thing. “Save me a drag, will you?”

He handed me half a cigarette with spit hanging from the unlit end. I couldn’t get angry because it was obvious this guy was desperate and probably had been hungry far longer than me; and hadn’t had a cigarette for days.

“How come you’re so generous?” he asked.

“Wasn’t my money; I stole it from that fucking church down the street.”

“It was mine, but feel free to take what you need when you need it.” As he spoke he became transparent and within a minute completely disappeared.