Lighten up, Francis

This happened five years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in a howling foul mood and had walked down the stairs to the side exit. As I pushed open the heavy steel gate a new tenant was coming up the walk, laden. She was African, I don’t know from where.

As she approached the gate, I held it open for her. She smiled.

So far, so good.

Then as she went through the gate she paused and said, “God bless you, my son.”

To which I said, “I don’t believe in any of that Jesus mumbo-jumbo stuff.”

You might as well have dumped a bucket of Christopher Hitchens on her head. “Excuse me?” she said, shocked.

“Don’t bless me,” I snarled. “I’m an atheist.”

Over the years we have passed by each other countless times, both of us smarting over that incident. We’ve never done more than nod.

Last night I got home and was dead dog tired. I looked down the staircase and saw this lady and her two daughters wrestling two giant things I can only describe as blobs. They were five or six feet across, wrapped in plastic, and set on a four-wheeled dolly.

The dolly was tilting off the stairs, and they’d put a big tarp under the blobs, pulling the tarp up by the corners with their hands to try and maneuver these giant things, and it was like pushing a Titanic made of Jell-O through the mud with your bad foot.

“You need a hand?” I shouted down.

The lady looked up at Satan, and she was lathered in sweat as the muscles in her neck and forearms popped. “That would be appreciated!” she yelled back.

I hustled down the stairs and put my 150-lb. back into personhandling the blobs. Pretty soon I was as lathered as they were. Those things weighed a thousand pounds and the only direction they wanted to go was down + fast.

With the dolly tumbling off the lip of the stairs and the blobs trying to crush us and the four of us crammed into this narrow staircase, mingling sweat and straining like hogs, it was touch-and-go, until finally it went. As the bigger blob got momentum firmly in its corner, I crouched and thrust with my back, stopping it just enough for the lady, who was twice as strong as I, to arrest the blog’s incipient careen.

At the bottom of the staircase the four of us, dripping, each circled one blob and then, on “three,” heaved it into the back of her pick-em-up truck. Would someone please tell General Motors to make the tailgate an inch or so off the ground? That would be awesome.

The pickup was all loaded, and the lady turned and faced me. She’d been waiting for this. For five fucking years.

“God bless you for your help,” she said.

“You are more than welcome,” was my reply, and I meant it.

I’d been waiting, too.

END


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9 thoughts on “Lighten up, Francis”

  1. I believe in God and Jesus at least as sincerely as you don’t, and some times your atheism actually concerns me. I respect you, though, and I respect people with religious beliefs different than mine, too. That has led my wife and I to some serious discussions about saying “God bless you” or “Merry Christmas” to people we don’t know. We’ve decided to continue, because from us that’s a salutation more profound than “Best wishes” or “Have a good life”.

    You seem to have grasped that your neighbor was sincerely wishing you well and not trying to force her beliefs on you. That’s a good thing, because it shows that people with different beliefs can not only get along, but actually respect each other. Good! Now we just need to get some of our leaders to subscribe to that kind of tolerance.

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