Though I’m not a religious person in the traditional sense, I do have deep affection for the Man Upstairs and talk to Him quite a little bit, especially when there’s trouble—which is often—but when the trouble comes in the form of a clerical collar I can’t help but wonder: where’s a fucking lightning bolt when you need it?
After Kevin was discharged from the hospital I drove us over to Saint Francis Catholic Church to answer the job ad they’d placed for altar boys.Chapel Hills Mall had decided not to resume having kids visit Santa after the active shooter kerfuffle.That meant Kevin and I were back to looking for work to earn some dough while we got Civilian Fuck Monkey off the ground.I parked the car and we walked into the church office where an elderly lady with tight, silver curls sat behind her desk typing on the computer. The place had the light, woody smell of an old library.
“Can I help you?” She asked, continuing to type without looking up.
“We’re here about the job,” I said.
“What job is that?” she asked, peering at me over her bifocals.
“The altar boy job.”
“The preferred term is altar server,” she sniffed.
“Your ad said altar boy,” Kevin replied.
“Whoever placed the ad obviously made a mistake,” she snipped.“Are you members of the church?”
“Is that a requirement?” I asked.
“Of course.Altar servers carry out the liturgical functions of the Church.In order to be a server, you should have already received holy communion for the first time.You’d also receive the eucharist whenever you participate in the liturgy.”
“I don’t know what any of that means,” I said.
“It means,” she huffed, “that you need to be a member of the Church.”
“How do you join?”
“You want to join the Catholic Church?” she asked, incredulous.
“Well, if the altar boy job pays enough, sure why not?”
“It’s altar server,” she snapped, “and it’s performed by those who want to honor God by serving within His Holy Church.”
“Okay.How much money are we talking?”
“People become altar servers to serve God, not to get a paycheck!” she said angrily.“I’ve never in my life had someone ask for money to be an altar server.If money is what you’re looking for, I suggest that you go apply at McDonald’s, or—”
“Sally, won’t you introduce me to our visitors?”
An elderly priest stood in the doorway, smiling.His white hair stood out in stark contrast to his black suit.He was tall, thin, and must have been close to seventy.
“I didn’t get their names, Father,” she said, trying to calm down.“They’re here about the altar server position, and I’ve been trying to explain to them that—”
“It’s okay, Sally.I can take it from here.”
“But they aren’t members of the Church.”
“We must always keep an open door for the lost.”
“Oh, we’re not lost,” Kevin said, holding up his iPhone.“We have GPS.”
The priest chuckled.“Oh, that’s a good one, young man.Laughter is a blessing.But we must be careful not to stray into blasphemy, my Son.”He strode over, hand extended.“I’m Father Corradi.”
“I’m Jimmy Merle,” I said, shaking his hand.
“I’m Kevin,” Kevin said, shaking his hand in turn.
“A pleasure, a pleasure,” the priest said, steering us towards the doorway.“Won’t you both step into my office where we can have some privacy?Sally, please see that we’re not disturbed.”
“Yes, Father.”She was clearly not pleased that we had gotten past her.
The priest put his arm around Kevin’s shoulders as we walked down a short hallway.“Such a strapping young man,” he said.
“Oh, well, thank you,” Kevin replied, grinning over his shoulder at me.
What am I, chopped liver?I thought.Why is he fawning all over Kevin and ignoring me?
The priest opened a door, ushering us into a spacious office.Inside sat a desk the size of a small sedan, in front of which were two ornate, wooden chairs.Behind the desk hung a large crucifix, and on the shelves were a bunch of candle holders and other antique-y looking stuff.The walls were lined with shelves full of old books.To the left was a sitting area with a couple of leather sofas and a coffee table.To the right was a large stained-glass window between the office and the hallway.He directed us to the chairs in front of the massive desk. He sat behind it and folded his hands on the desk blotter.
“Wow,” Kevin said, looking around the office.“This place is the shit!”
“Well, uh, thank you, young man,” the priest said.“Although I don’t think I’ve ever heard it described quite that way.Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, Mr. Corradi,” I began.
“Please.Call me Father.”
“Um…Okay.Uh, Father, we were just telling your receptionist that we’re here to apply for the altar boy job.”
Father Corradi chuckled.“It’s not a traditional job like you’re thinking of.It’s a position reserved for members of the Church.”
“What if we joined?Could we get the job then?”
“Don’t you have jobs?”
“No.Well, we did up until last Saturday.Chapel Hills Mall hired us to play Santa and elf for the kids, and our former therapy patient—” Kevin kicked me.“Uh—I mean some random crazy fuck we’d never seen before came in and tried to shoot us, and Kevin wound up in the hospital.Don’t worry, he can still work.But I guess they decided not to continue with the Santa thing this year, you know, after a totally random maniac came out of nowhere and tried to kill Santa, and all.So, we’re back in the job market.”
“Oh, so you’re the ones who subdued that gunman.I heard about that in the news.In fact, I saw the security camera footage they released.Your friend really trounced that gunman, didn’t he?”Father Corradi smiled at Kevin.
“Fuckin-A he did.He da gorilla!”
“I da gorilla,” Kevin said, flashing his fangs at Father Corradi in a big, simian grin.
“Pardon me for asking,” Father Corradi said.“But that’s seasonal work, and would have ended after Christmas.What are your long-term employment plans?”
“We’ve started a blog, and Kevin’s my business partner.We just need jobs until the money starts rolling in.”
“How far along are you on this project?”
“Well,” I said, “so far we’ve came up with a great name for the blog, and—”
“It’s a stupid name,” Kevin said.
“No it’s not.”
“It’s the worst name ever.”
“What name have you given it, my Son?” Father Corradi asked.
“Civilian Fuck Monkey,” I replied.
“Isn’t that a little offensive?”
“Finally, some common sense,” Kevin said.“Father, I’ve been telling this fuckstick all along that everyone hates monkeys because they’re offensive.”
“Well, that’s not exactly what I meant—” Father Corradi began.
“Everyone loves monkeys,” I interrupted.“Father, Kevin’s an idiot, and as usual doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.So, to answer your question, we have the name.And while Kevin was in the hospital we got the website built.We’re going to start running promotional ads next week.”
“What’s the blog about?” Corradi asked.
“It’s about him sleeping on my couch,” Kevin said.
“That’s only temporary, ass hat.Father, the blog is about changing the world.”
“Hmmm, right,” Corradi said.“But what’s the subject?What’s it about?”
“I asked him the same thing,” Kevin said.“He doesn’t know.”
“I do too, fuck face.It’s about starting a movement.Building a coalition.Saving the motherfucking planet!If you’d listen once in a while instead of stuffing your face with bananas you’d know that.”
“Monkeys stuff their faces with bananas, fuckwit.Not me.And your mother’s handled more balls than the entire NBA.”
“No she hasn’t, dickweed.”
“And since when do you give a shit about saving the planet?” Kevin snapped.
“So why do you always throw your taco-bell wrappers out the window when we’re driving down the freeway, asswipe?”
“What?!I never do that.Besides they’re biodegradable, dick nose.”
“Well you suck on guitar,” Kevin huffed, folding his arms over his chest.
“Yeah, and you’re a big idiot!” I yelled.
“And you’re a moron!”Kevin shouted.
“Boys!Boys!” Father Corradi called, clapping his hands twice.“Calm yourselves!And please, let’s watch our language in the house of the Lord.”
Kevin and I mumbled apologies.Father Corradi stood up, came around the desk, and stood behind Kevin.
“You seem tense, young man,” he said, massaging Kevin’s shoulders.“Why don’t we sit over here on the sofa where you’ll be more comfortable, and we’ll continue our discussion about your…ah…fascinating little project.”
I walked over and sat on one sofa along the wall, and Kevin sank into the one opposite me.A large coffee table sat between us.Father Corradi opened a small wooden cabinet and pulled out a bottle of wine and brought it to the sitting area, along with three glasses.He set the bottle and glasses on the coffee table as he settled down next to Kevin.
“A little refreshment for the soul,” Corradi said, pouring the wine.He handed the glasses around, and we all took a sip.I set my glass on the coffee table.
“As I was saying,” I continued.“We have a name for the blog, the website’s done, and we plan to start advertising it in the next week, or so.”
“You still seem stressed, my Son,” Father Corradi said to Kevin.“Let’s have you lie back so you’ll be a little more comfortable.Yes.There we are.Here’s a throw-pillow for your head.And let’s prop your feet up here.And you haven’t touched your wine.Here you go.Now, drink up, young man.”
Kevin lay stretched out on the sofa sipping his wine, head propped up on a pillow, and his feet resting on Father Corradi’s lap.
“You, uh, comfy over there, Kevin?” I said.
“Oh, yeah,” he replied, taking a hefty swig of his wine.
Wow, this is a little weird, I thought.Oh well, I guess Catholic Priests have their religious customs.
“Like I was saying before,” I continued, “our website is all done.Here, let me show you.”I pulled out my iPhone and opened a web browser. “Give me just a sec to pull up the site, and—”
“How does this feel?” Father Corradi said.
I looked up from my phone.He was massaging Kevin’s feet.
“Oh, that feels awesome,” Kevin said, a dreamy look on his face.
Call me crazy, but this was really beginning to seem like odd behavior for a job interview.
“A little more wine, my Son?” Father Corradi said, refilling Kevin’s glass, then resuming the foot massage.
“A little more to the right,” Kevin said, downing half the glass in a single swig.
Just then my phone buzzed.It was a text from my step dad, Ralph.
YOUR MOM AND I JUST SAW THE STORY ABOUT THE MALL SHOOTER ON CNN.THE STORY HAS GONE NATIONAL.
COOL, I messaged back.
WHERE ARE YOU?
IN THE MIDDLE OF A JOB INTERVIEW, I messaged back.
THAT’S GREAT!WHERE ARE YOU APPLYING?
ST. FRANCIS CATHOLIC CHURCH.ALTAR BOY POSITION, I typed.
“Let me just get this positioned correctly,” Father Corradi said.I looked up to see him setting up a camera and tripod.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“I always video my interviews with prospective altar boys.It’s customary, nothing to be alarmed about.”He adjusted the camera so it was focused on Kevin, hit the record button, then walked back over to the sofa.“Let me refill your glass, my son.”
“Thanks,” Kevin said as the priest topped off his wine glass.
This was the weirdest job interview I’d ever been on, but Kevin seemed completely at ease. The priest sat down and began massaging his feet again.My phone buzzed again.
FATHER CORRADI IS THE HEAD PRIEST AT ST. FRANCIS, Ralph texted.
I KNOW.HE’S THE ONE CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW.I CAN’T REALLY TALK NOW, I replied.
ARE YOU ALONE WITH HIM?
YEAH, IN HIS OFFICE.I SHOULD REALLY GET BACK TO THE INTERVIEW.
HAVEN’T YOU FOLLOWED THE NEWS STORY? Ralph texted.
FUCK’S SAKE…WHAT STORY? I texted back.Geez, I was taking his advice to get a job, but he wouldn’t stop interrupting me in the middle of an interview.
“How does this feel?” Father Corradi said.I looked up from my phone to see that the priest had moved up to Kevin’s calves.
“Amazing,” Kevin sighed.“How did you get so good at massages?”
“Lots of practice, my Son.”
My phone buzzed.I looked down and my finger froze over the screen as I read Ralph’s reply.
DOZENS OF FORMER ALTAR BOYS HAVE COME FORWARD ACCUSING FATHER CORRADI OF MOLESTATION.THERE’S AN ACTIVE INVESTIGATION GOING ON!IT’S A NATIONWIDE STORY.DON’T YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THE NEWS?!?
“Oh, these are really knotted up,” Father Corradi said.“They’ll need extra attention.”
I slowly looked up from my phone.The priest was now working on Kevin’s massive upper thighs.
“Ah, that feels amazing,” Kevin said.
My phone buzzed again.GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, JIMMY MERLE!!
“Uh, Kevy,” I said.“I think we need to get going.”
“Not yet,” he sighed, taking another sip of wine.“Oooo…a little to the left, Father.”
“Kevin, we really should be leaving now.”
“What’s your hurry?” he replied.
“Daddy just texted, and he said that…uh…he needs our help with something.”
“It can wait,” Kevin said.“Ooo, a little deeper on that spot, Father.”
“Nope. It can’t wait.He needs our help right now.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” He said.“What’s so important that it can’t wait?”
I walked over to Kevin and held my phone in front of his face.“This.”
As the priest continued massaging, Kevin looked at the screen.The sleepy, contented look vanished from his face as his eyes slowly grew wider and wider.
“So, you see Kevin, we really need to get going,” I said.
Kevin seized the priest’s hands—which were almost to his crotch—and removed them from his legs.
“What’s wrong, my Son?” Father Corradi asked.“Were my ministrations too vigorous?”
Kevin stood up, shifting his grip and pinning both of the priest’s wrists in one massive paw.
“Let go of me!” the priest said, trying in vain to pull loose from Kevin’s iron grip. “I said let me go this instant!!”
With his other paw Kevin grabbed the priest’s legs and lifted him over his head.
“Put me down!” the priest cried.“I demand that you put me down immediately!”
“Whatever you say, Father,” Kevin said, and with a mighty heave hurled the priest across the room.He flew through the air, blasted through the stained-glass window, bounced off the opposite wall in the hallway, then crashed to the floor. Kevin grabbed the video camera and snapped it off the tripod then squeezed it between his paws. It shattered into dozens of pieces.
“Now we can go,” he said, dropping the wrecked camera to the floor and dusting his paws.
I followed him out of the office and down the hall. The priest was lying in a heap on the floor in front of us, covered in shards of colored glass.The receptionist was racing down the hallway, her tight, silver curls bouncing like little springs.
“Father Corradi!Father Corradi!” she cried as she fell to her knees next to him.“What happened here?Did you fall?Oh, Father Corraid!Someone call nine-one-one!”
“I don’t think we’ll be taking the altar boy job,” Kevin said as we stepped over the moaning priest.We continued down the hallway towards the exit, the wails of the receptionist echoing us.“Thanks for the wine, though,” Kevin called over his shoulder.