(The following text contains blasphemy and deceit, and is not recommended for children nor people who might still think highly of me. Reader Discretion is Advised.)
It all started with the question of the perfect gift. My best friend had moved to the area recently, and I wanted to give him a gift on his birthday that showed some forethought. At the time, I worked a fairly mindless job, so I spent the mental revelries of the next few days pouring over the question: “What do you get a blasphemous Satanist punk that has everything?”
He drove an old Chevy sedan he called ‘Santa Maria,’ white with a red interior, that he was trying to fill with as much religious paraphernalia as he could get his hands on, a preference to Catholic because it was fancier. He had recently discovered a Pro-Rosary group who would send anyone who asked a package of rosaries for distribution. Strewn about the interior of the car were these sturdy plastic and string rosaries, not unlike the ones the Military distributes at Mass, except these glowed in the dark. The door pockets were stuffed full of prayer cards and tracts and a cross-shaped incense box sat in the back window, waiting for a head-on collision to enact blunt judgement for this sacrilege.
The perfect answer sprang into my head and so, after work, I headed out, intending to buy two things: A dashboard hula girl and a dashboard Virgin Mary icon. I had thought that both would be easy to obtain at an auto parts store and, perhaps, back in Arizona where I was living previously, they would have been, but here in the Midwest, they had the hula girl but nothing else. Three more stops told the same tale.
I suddenly remembered seeing a tiny Catholic supply store growing up, and headed off in that direction. My hometown had a distinctly Catholic presence, and the tiny store with the odd name still existed, looking like a tiny stone cottage near the tiny town square. I had never been in the building before, but assumed that it would be like any other Christian bookstore, disinterested staff and a variety of items in bins.
As I popped the door open to the tiny foyer, I quickly realized my mistake. The front room was cozy the way a sitting room should be, dark wood and soft lighting. I almost bolted out the door, but the proprietor had already seen me and was coming around the desk to greet me, so I steeled my nerves, channeled my Protestant upbringing, and continued my quest, still hoping for a quick exchange.
In hindsight, she was probably a Nun, but I saw her as simply a kind older woman, possibly someone’s mother. I quickly doffed my hat, and explained that I was there looking for a dashboard icon. The woman seemed confused by this request, so I quickly amended with my first lie of the day. Namely, that I was seeking the icon for a friend who drove a truck over the road. He couldn’t always make it to church, and I thought that, for his birthday, I would surprise him. She questioned the choice of the Virgin Mary, but I assured her that this would be his preference. When she asked me what type of icon he would prefer, I claimed genuine ignorance.
I was shown to a case of resin iconery of a much higher quality that I had been anticipating, though exactly the right size. I was looking over the selection, judging them by shape, while the woman peppered me with questions. At some point, I must have passed the test because she suddenly vanished, only to reappear with a stack of laminated cards. “Do you think that your friend would be willing to leave these prayer cards when he stops?” I accepted them with thanks, assuring her that my non-existent friend would definitely be into distributing the tracts, so as not to blow my cover.
My heart dropped as I realized how deep in I was. I am not a religious man, and I have been judgmental about other religions in the past, but I try to be a respectful. My quest for a gag birthday gift had lead me to the dark side, and I could feel the flames of Hell gently caressing my saddened heart. At these moments, a man only has two decisions: climb out of the hole or keep digging. I reasoned that I had already come this far, so I took my shovel and dug deeper.
I quickly selected a Mary that I thought would work and attempted to pay for it. I am pretty sure that she discounted it for me, and, as I accepted my change, the woman told me something that chilled me to the very core.
“You should take something from our Gift Wall.”
I tried to beg off, but at her insistence, I found myself standing before a wall of what, at first glance, appeared to be jewelry. Instead, after the Protestant veil was lifted from my eyes, I saw that it was a wall of beautiful, well-made rosaries. Glass gems twinkled in the light of my damnation from chains forged in the fires of my deceit.
I stood before the wall with my head hung in shame, trying to think of a way to extract myself from this horrible nightmare. I realized that I had to take some beautiful chunk of someone else’s religion with me before I would be allowed to leave. I searched for the simplest thing I could find and a tiny chaplet caught my eye. Beads like pomegranate seeds and a chain of tarnished silver, it displayed a crucifix at one end and a saint’s medal at the other.
I held up my selection to the woman, “I think my Mother would like this one, ” I lied about my Protestant Mother.
“But the gift was intended for you,” the Nun insisted.
Suddenly, like an epiphany, the right answer fell from my lips, “My gift is the giving.” I could tell by the look in her eyes that I had angled her into the end of our transaction. I wished her a good day and escaped as quick as I could.
When one of my Ukrainian co-workers caught me hack-sawing a Virgin Mary statue in half, the look in his eyes felt like the dismissal of a monkey playing with filth, and I knew it was deserved. I felt a frantic energy and just wanted the thing to be over with. The resin was excessively dense (quality) and I ruined three blades before the task was complete.
The gift was well received. ‘Our Lady of the Perpetual Motion’ was a hybrid hula dancing Virgin Mary, and she was quickly mounted to a place of honor on the Satanist’s dashboard. Sadly, the sun through the front window of the car was too much for the epoxy I had selected, and the incredibly dense Mary top turned out to be too heavy for the gift to function properly.
The desecration that ensured my place in Hell was regaled to a glove box and forgotten.
No picture of ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Motion’ actually exists, to the best of my knowledge, but the end result looked something like this:
I carried the Chaplet for years, to the point that the silver chain was polished bright once again. When I discovered that one of the beads had chipped, I retired it to a box of mementos. In recent years, I have taken a respectful shine to St. Jude and various icons of the man sit in various parts of my house, but I still like to take the chaplet out and look at it, remembering that I am something of a better person now.
I still have it, though I think that one of my children has hidden it somewhere. It looks a lot like this chaplet, though the white beads on this one are clear and prismatic on mine. Mine also did not have a “Made in France” tag.
My guilt was recently salved by the knowledge that the Saint on the medal, St. Philomena, is not actually considered a Saint and her followers are considered something of a sub-sect cult in Catholicism.
I doubt that this relieves me of my sin, but it does mean that this blasphemer made the right choice from the Gift Wall.