I grew up in a heavily Southern Baptist backwater in North Carolina, but I was raised Episcopalian. The Episcopal Chuch (a/k/a the Church of England) is a less filling faith fashioned so that Henry VIII could get a divorce. I could never quite wrap my lil' noodle around the concept of heaven; I could find Antarctica on a map, but heaven wasn’t even on maps of the whole solar system. Religious practice didn’t particularly intrigue me until I thought I could get something out of it here on earth. When I was, I think, eight, I took swimming lessons at the local rec center. Our instructor was a sadistic drunk from the high school athletics department who grabbed me by my hair-free armpits and dunked me in the drink, again and again. I didn’t want to go to swimming lessons, but I had to. That is, unless it rained. One depressing afternoon, I stomped around my mom’s driveway, dreading the rest of the day. I called out to God. Specifically, I addressed the ass-kicking God of vengeance from Testament I (before he had the kid and pussed out). I prayed, begged, bargained and screamed for rain. And He brought it. It poured. Thunder, lightning, everything. I explained to my mom what had happened, and she decided I didn’t have to go to swimming lessons if I felt that strongly about it.
I continued hitting up God for favors until September of my 7th Grade year, when cheerleaders started coming to school in uniform on game days. I realized I’d maxed out whatever God credit I’d had. God wouldn’t sucker one of these sweet gals into blowing me. He didn’t even want me to masturbate. Why wouldn’t he even smite one of my numerous enemies? Apparently, he didn’t give a fuck about his boy anymore. I drifted out of his orbit. Years later, I became a decent piano player and took a music-writing class in a Methodist church basement. I was assigned to write vocal melodies for a few Bible verses. I was so busy flogging the dolphin that I forgot about this assignment until an hour before deadline. In a panic, I scrawled out notes as quickly as I could. My teacher dug it so much that she had the church choir sing my it the next Sunday. As far as I was concerned, it was too little, too late. Thanks to Jim Goad, a far less cynical Christian, for kickstarting my memory.
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