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Losing My Religion

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People pile in slowly one after the other as close as they can be without touching. They shake hands with the greeter who seems happier then the people entering the building. How many people has his hand touched? Hundreds in less than a half an hour, probably more, hundreds of germs and excess DNA follicles going from one hand to the other. By the time its over his right hand is moist and glistening with other peoples sweat; thick bubbly globs. He just smears it off on the side of his pants leaving a dark wet stain.

In the back room behind the altar, two ten year old kids screw off the head of the holy water sprinkler so that the round brass ball at the top sits very loosely on the handle. The kids both with their hair combed over to the side, wearing long white altar boy robes with their Nike's coming out the bottom.

The two altar boys sit on the side of the altar staring up at the priest with his purple robe. This probably means its advent, or is it lent, or maybe both, I don’t know. They follow along just listening for their queue to do something.

The priest stands in front of the center aisle facing the people who are now on their feet. The two altar boys stand on either side of him. The one on the right holds the brass holy water sprinkler in its matching bucket filled with holy water. The priest gracefully holds out his hand toward the altar boy signaling him to hand it to him. Still facing foreword, he grabs the bucket handle with his left hand and he takes out the sprinkler handle with his right. He holds it above his head and thrusts it foreword over and over again forcing the holy water covered ball at the end to soak the people in the front rows with fat drips of water. An absurd tradition, I know.

The two boys are trying to keep a straight face because they know what is going to happen. They’ll do anything just to have some fun and not waist an hour out of their lives. They’re anticipating the chaos.

He thrusts the holy water sprinkler forward, once, twice, and then on the third time, the brass ball shoots off the end of the handle like a cork being popped out of a wine bottle. The people in the first seven rows duck under a shiny brass comet flying over their heads leaving a trail of holy water behind it. Now that it’s soaked into the carpet, I guess it’s just called water. In the eighth row, the shiny brass ball hits an old woman who is ducking, holding her hands over her face. It plops at her feet and starts to roll further down the rows. It then bounces off of the heels and toes of people’s dress shoes and leaves a trail of soaked carpet behind it like a sled through the snow.

The priest Looks down to the boy on his left, points his finger to wear the ball landed and whispered through the laughter of the audience, “Go get it.” The boy looks at the other altar boy and they both can’t hold back their crying laughter.

He starts running almost tripping on his long white robe and when he gets to the aisle were the brass ball is, he gets down on his hands and knees and starts to crawl, knocking his skinny shoulders on the people’s knees. This looks a lot like when you throw a white towel over a small dog and he runs around frantically trying to get it off.
The boy finds it lodged near the leg of one of the seats. He snatches it off the ground and runs all the way back to the priest holding the wet brass ball out in front of him like a trophy, enthusiastic to show off his small accomplishment. The dirty water is dripping down his small hand. The priest, without cracking a smile, takes it from his hand and screws it back onto the handle.
The boy notices the dirty water; sticky and shiny on his hand, and he wipes it on the side of his white robe leaving a dark wet stain.





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