All serious daring
starts from within.
He swears he doesn’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. You need a certain innocence, a certain level of trust to do so; except for the first four years of his life, he didn’t own either. He doesn’t remember believing in God, either. He wishes he could, but having been a battered, emotionally abused child, he likes to say he learned scepticism before he learned to talk.
Not that he didn’t do his catechism lessons, catechism being that book which asks questions and supplies a pre-ordained answer- no thinking allowed. He learned to give back the answers they wanted, and kept his questions to himself. The Daughters of Charity, of The Blessed Virgin Mary, thought questions about catechism answers impudent, and awarded them a seat in the back of the class, and a number of written I shall not… lines. So, he never did ask questions, within the fifedom of their classrooms. He asked them of himself, and amused himself, with alternate answers.
“Who made you?’ asked Sister Carmina. That chapter had been among last night’s reading homework. “God made me” he shot back, with the perfect demeanor of an acolyte.
“Why did God make you?” She asked, as if checking to make sure he’d read the whole chapter.
“God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, in this world and the next.” He resisted asking if God didn’t have enough angels to do the housework. Probably a Union thing; conversations about Unions were bread and butter at the family’s dinner table. He didn’t think nuns had unions.
The smile, crinkling on the face under the headgear, told him he’d performed as needed. The nun turned next to the student sitting to the right of him, a pasty, smugged face mama’s boy, whose mother ran in and out of the convent every day with pastries and gossip, both of which she shared with Sister Honora, the school principle. He sat back down in his seat, planning his next trip to the library; there was a book on the Greek gods he wanted to get. He liked the Greek gods. You didn’t have to believe in them. An added pleasure was the pictures that came with the stories, all those beautiful faces and pretty muscles.
He didn’t blame the nuns for their belief. He had an uncle who sold used cars. Watching him with a customer, one day, he heard his uncle praise the wonders of a Hudson coupe to a man looking for dependable value; a car he classified aa a piece of junk to his boss, a few minutes before. Over a hamburger, his uncle had explained that “in sales” you have to believe in the product you’re selling, or at least make the customer think so.” He supposed the nuns’ product was God. It didn’t matter, really, whether the nuns believed, He didn’t have to. He just had to make them believe he believed.