The Missionaries
My ex once sent in a reply card from some magazine to receive a free copy of "The Book of Mormon". We weren't interested in converting or anything, but despite my having attended many an evening service at a Mormon church during my high school years in the company of a young lady who was a member there, neither of us knew that much about the CJCLDS and, well... the thirst for knowledge knows no bounds. What the advertisement didn't say was that it would be hand-delivered by a couple of young missionaries.

A week or so later I was up on the roof trying to get the chimney ready for the heating season; My house is heated exclusively with wood and the chimney was pretty well clogged with creosote from the previous winter. I had just succeeded in breaking loose a large amount from the top which promptly sealed the narrowed opening farther down. This rendered the chimney brush useless so I had switched over to the heavy-duty tool, a 10 foot section of pipe to which I had attached an old blade from a short sword I once made from a truck leaf-spring "just to see if I could do it". The way this works is, you stick the pointy end down the chimney, gather all your strength and HEAVE the thing down as hard as you can, whereupon the blade enters the packed clog with a sort of a "thwump" sound. Then you haul it back up with a rope and repeat the process. When you get really good at this, you can develop a pretty good rhythm, almost like a heartbeat. I had been at this for a while and was taking a short break to catch my breath and think up some more uncomplimentary things to say about creosote, wood furnaces and chimney cleaning in general, when I saw the Mormons crossing the yard.

They were the standard-issue, clean-cut, All-American Mormon youth: White shirts, black pants, matching black ties. Shoes so shiny that no self-respecting girl would accept a dance with their owners if they'd asked. Backpacks. (How far do these guys walk, anyway?) They never even looked up but went straight to the front door and knocked. I went back to work on the chimney, not really presentable for company but figuring if my presence was required the wife knew where to find me. As it turned out, she never called me so I was able to keep working on the the clog.

After the missionaries left and I'd come down and washed up, I finally got to hear about their message. It wasn't very impressive, to tell the truth. They hadn't really said much of anything, just looked around the living room while my ex answered their questions about our religion, gawking at the Goddess calendar on the wall, the horned headdress, chalice and candles on the altar, and the cauldron by the fireplace. (You'd think they'd never heard of home worship before!) Looking back on the whole thing I suppose they might have been distracted by the steady "thwump-thwump-thwump-ing" emanating from the wall, or perhaps the occasional affirmation I'd mutter down the chimney, sometimes at the top of my lungs when I scraped more hide off my knuckles on the flue, but you'd think they'd practice their speech a little before setting out!

They'd finally asked if she would pray with them, and being the good hostess she'd agreed, cheerfully hopped up, grabbed her ceremonial knife and began casting a circle. I think at this point they must have remembered some important prior commitment, because they didn't even wait for her to call the quarters, just grabbed up their stuff, said a quick goodbye, and left. They didn't even wave back at me as they glanced over their shoulders to see what all the celebrating was about on the roof; I'd finally broken through the clog and was triumphantly bellowing a victory cry, my hair blowing in the wind, my face, arms and clothing blackened from the soot, and holding my "spear" overhead in my fist as if it were a whaler's harpoon and I'd just spotted Moby Dick.

They dropped a copy of The Book of Mormon on the way out the door. It was fairly interesting reading and I still have it on the shelf with all my other religious texts. I did find out later why they left, though: When the ex began filling the chalice I think they were afraid of insulting her because they'd have to violate their beliefs in order to share it; The poor woman apparently didn't know that Mormons don't drink coffee!

Oakdancer 3/16/00

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