Call Me Catholic!
God swats flies
by Michael McGirr
You can't call yourself a Catholic unless you have helped someone sort out their sleeping arrangements. Discretion may be required.
My new next door neighbour, Cardinal Shallots, has done well to get a roof over his head. Our visits to the tip triumphed in the discovery late one Saturday afternoon, under piles of discarded wire and fencing, of the broken body of an old VW Kombi van. It was a classic of its kind, with a split front windscreen and the remains of brightly deckled flowers on the flaking paintwork.
'We used to have one of these in the seminary,' exclaimed his eminence with delight. 'It was called the chastity chariot.'
In the world of mortals, such vehicles had been used for other purposes, but I didn't want to give the innocent cause to blush. The man had enough red in his outfit without more.
'The rest of the world,' Shallots continued without demur. 'Used them for sex. The rear suspension had to be among the best in the world. So I believe.'
As a young monsignor, Cardinal Shallots had been involved in a secret Vatican plan to entice the makers of the Kombi van to have the words of Humanae Vitae inscribed backwards in invisible ink above the point in the van where members of the flower power generation were customarily deflowered. Humanae Vitae was the encyclical which tried to capitalise on the sex boom of the sixties by getting as many Catholics out of it as possible. It was believed that if encoded the words of the encyclical might have an effect that they clearly didn't have when people could understand them.
These were the years when the were singing the lyrics of pop songs in reverse. Indeed, reverse was always the Kombi's most powerful gear. The Kombi was a vehicle built for getting out of places. It was also the time of the cold war, the era when Communism was the new Islam. Some of Shallots' fellow seminarians found summer jobs in condom factories where they risked all in works of sabotage in the cause of an authentic sexuality. Whilst some stood guard, others used hypodermic needles to prick as many of the condoms as possible. When two of the more enthusiastic of these seminarians later died of AIDS related illness in the United States it was said in a Vatican press release that they were knitters who, in a reckless gesture of fraternal generosity, had shared needles. As a last gesture, the two boys, now priests, decided to knit a sock each, so that together they would have constituted a pair. Unfortunately, only one was able to finish. It is said that it was this moving yarn which led Cardinal Shallots to develop his famous Theology of the Missing Sock.
We towed the Kombi back to the block on which Cardinal Shallots has been squatting. He will only be squatting until we can find him a latrine. This will improve the view over my back fence where I could not fail to notice that the Cardinal, a man of deep faith, has some words of scripture tattooed on his backside. They say 'turn the other cheek.'
The Kombi nestled comfortably under one of the statuesque gum trees on the property and we set about evicting the insects and mice which had been calling the place home. Cardinal Shallots was delighted to find that the campervan included signs of previous human occupation, such as half a bottle of bourbon under the driver's seat.
He told me that used to enjoy nothing more than a few bourbons with Pope Sony Playstation IV on a Saturday night when they would dial out for pizzas and watch replays of the great ecumenical councils or get videos from the Vatican video store, Video Videre. Favourites included biopics such as Humanae Vita Sackville West, the story of a writer who became a lesbian to avoid having to offend the papacy by using contraception. One of the perks of the papacy was that the pope was allowed to have new releases for three nights. This was handy for long films such as The Penultimate Temptation of Christ, by the teams of writers which created Vatican 2.2 The opening credits alone lasted forty five minutes. There was a pecking order at Video Videre. Cardinals could have new movies for two nights. Non-Catholics were allowed to have them for an hour. Homosexuals, the divorced and those with a gluten intolerance were only permitted fifteen minutes.
Pope Sony Playstation IV loathed anchovies. He wanted to have them banned from all Catholic pizzas. Sadly, he died before he could pronounce on the matter, leaving the devout in limbo for want of guidance. It was the same Pope Sony Playstation who reintroduced the sedan chair to the papacy, a move that was widely applauded for restoring dignity to an office which had been trivialised by occupants who thought they should walk. He brought it back because, in point of fact, after a big Saturday night with the likes of Cardinal Shallots and his other mate, Cardinal Budweiser of New York, his holiness often found it hard to walk. The remains of Pope Sony Playstation have been miraculously preserved, almost as if they had been stored in alcohol.
Shallots shed a little tear when he found two empty cans of Coke under the passenger's seat of the kombi. Sony Playstation loved to mix coke with his bourbon. Just a drop of coke, added with a delicate silver spoon. Enough to suggest the coming together of caffeine and alcohol, of wakefulness and sleep, of action and contemplation. Indeed, Sony Playstation wanted to have the mingling of bourbon and coke incorporated into the liturgy, especially when he was saying Mass. He found the water and wine a bit bland for his needs, especially if there was a crowd and he'd had to do a lot of praying and waving before he got down to business. Shallots found it hard when the incoming Pope Toyota Camry banned Coke from Vatican vending machines, a situation which was made permanent under a sponsorship deal which brought Pope Pepsi Max to sit beneath the triple tiara. Pope Sony Playstation IV had wanted to make it a quadruple tiara as a gesture of gratitude for the quadruple bypass which gave him an extra eighteen months on the throne of Peter, enough time to use most of the free vouchers he had accumulated from Video Videre. Shallots was given the sacred trust of bringing bourbon to the bedside of Pope Sony Playstation as he was recuperating. Cardinal Budweiser brought the coke.
The old Kombi has become the heart and citadel of the Burning Ham Oratory, the name locals have given to Cardinal Shallot's modest earthly abode. We managed to find him a picnic table and some chairs which he has deployed outside and here he sits in the shade most days, reading comics and saying his prayers. The only way to know what precisely he is doing is that sometimes he chuckles quietly and gently to himself. This is a sign he is onto his prayers. The comics are for swatting flies.