>>> The Lady's Shave
By staff writer NG Hatfield
February 6, 2008

Pastor Mike was my girlfriend's fantasy.

I never understood it. He was portly, short; he had this thin goatee that looked like a cat's asshole. His cheeks were always this bright red that I had thought was reserved for supermarket brats who hold their breath to prove points, or at the very most extreme, Santa Claus impersonators. Strangely enough though, Pastor Mike was like St. Nick: he sold the idea of Christ's birth for a living. But unlike the jolly, fat man, Pastor Mike was a red-faced baboon who gave kids miniature Bibles instead of Super Nintendos or Power Wheels.

I just couldn't quite get why Jen got all jazzed up while he read sermons and then wanted to fool around after church, but I didn't argue. I was 16 and desperate for the delicate touch of her tongue on my business.

“Maybe I cried because the idea of her fantasizing about a prissy Man of God emasculated me.”

I suppose Pastor Mike had a certain charm—some kind of magnetism that allotted him his position as Youth Pastor at the Cornerstone Baptist Church. And it may have even been that Holy Man magic that graced the wet spot in Jen's libido. Still, he was probably 28 or so and I attributed the attraction to his age, and maybe his position of power, or maybe it was the fervor of his sermons. It didn't exactly concern me, but it did make me feel pretty fucking uncomfortable. Especially during Sunday School.

And there we were, with other kids noticing it too. During prayers. During church-led games. During Sunday School. Jen sat beside me in these beige, metal, fold-out chairs and Old Pastor Mike commanded the front of the classroom in the basement of the church. The big room reminded me of a retard's kindergarten. Bright yellow-brick walls and happy faces of various ethnicities were painted all around a large image of the earth. There were blues and greens and even whites for the icecaps. I never understood the red faces that mixed in with the tan Caucasians, the black Africans, the yellow Asians, and the ultra-white Eskimos. I suppose they were meant to be Indians. Whether it was the tomahawk kind or the curry kind, I'm not sure. It was some real congenial bullshit, either way.

“I don't see how a hotdog has anything to do with gay marriage,” Pastor Mike said to me, adjusting his tie in a particularly comic way. The Sunday School class giggled and rocked back in forth in their seats. It was honest laughter—delight that one might get from a David & Goliath cartoon or a Family Circus comic—but they knew it was a somewhat dirty joke and a few covered their grins with their Bibles. It reminded me of this time that a buddy of mine sneezed in church and a snot wad stuck on Mark 4. His pages stuck together and I said he jerked off to Jesus. So, it didn't bother me so much. I had dealt with poor Christian comedy since birth. My mother was one of the bulwarks of that sense of humor. But for me, hers was more endearing than annoying.

I scratched my arm a few times then tried to remember my position for the class. “Well, Christians are the majority. They control the way our democratic government is run. Right?”

“Well…I mean we live in a world of vice. It's much more complex than that.”

“No,” I said, “it's not more complex. If you look at anything that's happened in the realm of personal freedoms–”

A kid named Louie shot his arm up, but didn't wait to be called upon by Pastor Mike. “What about my right to say ‘God Bless America?' or to pray in my public school?”

Louie was a worm who just so happened to also resemble a rat. You know that type. Two, protruding teeth that were always visible, even when he wasn't smiling.

I, who had always feared rats, hated the fucker instantly. As I learned of his tendency to polarize the class with political stigma that wasn't even remotely related, I made it apparent. “My bad,” I said, “I thought we were having a debate about something completely different.”

Louie sucked in his cheeks and peered at me with his beady little eyes. He was a rat bastard.

I loved arguing and the topic of homosexual rights vs. the Christian agenda was a hot topic for me. Marietta, a good friend of mine, was a lesbian in the truest sense—had a girlfriend, dildos, all of that—and she had explained it to me in a way that I found useful to get back to our conversation.

“The point is,” I said, “if, let's say, Jewish people had the same mindset as ‘we' Christians do, the vox populi would say, ‘If it ain't Kosher, screw your mother!'” I paused and smiled, “If I walked down the street happily eating a hot dog—with mayonnaise and American cheese—any Jewish person could legally slap it out of my hand because they controlled the way the government works. Not to mention the fact that in the same friggin' book of the Bible that bans our church picnic's bacon, bans homosexuality. It's a baseless argument that's used only to sensationalize a problem that doesn't exist, to gain the support of stupid homophobic rednecks for the Church.”

Pastor Mike, who had been nodding the entire time, finally said, “Well…homosexuality is obviously wrong.”

Peace-making with generalities. A very well-played hand, considering we were in his sphere of influence. A few of the children said (and a few shouted), “Amen.”

“Did Jesus say anything about homosexuals?” I asked.

It was only a little later when I noticed that Jen and her class had all turned to watch me. I slumped back into my seat and saw that I was the new heretic of Cornerstone Baptist's Youth Program.

I had replaced some kid named Henry Turner, who occasionally wore a leather jacket.

It was a few hours later, after church, when I broke up with Jen. She had my dick in her hand and was trying desperately to get me off with this awkward pet—like one might butter a corn on the cob, if one had not the proper utensils—when in a moment of passion, the name slid through her lips: “Oh…Mike.”

It was a whisper, granted, but definitely definable.

Mike?” I said, “Pastor fucking Mike?” I knew that I didn't really have any choice but to end it. Right then. “Well, I mean…you know what that means.”

Jen just sat there, staring through me with tears forming in her eyes. It had been a year and about five months we had been dating, which just so happened to be the amount of time I spent on trying to get her to have sex with me. I felt sorry for her just then. Just not sorry enough to let her be near me.

“Get out of the car,” I said, pushing my penis back into my khakis. It was a moment of embarrassment that can only be understood by experience. I mean you've got to have a girlfriend mistake your own personal dick for laity dick, I guess, to appreciate exactly how self-conscious I was at that moment.

It could've been ten minutes or ten seconds, and then Jen spoke:


“Yeah, ‘But–' shit.” I had been prepared for that word, “Get out of my car, you fucking whore.”

Jen wiped the pre-cum from her little hands on the soft, navy velour of my beat-up Buick Century's passenger seat and got out of the car. With a familiar weakness, she moved the door to a near close. I had seen her like this once before. I had threatened to break up with her back in October for calling Marietta a hedonistic slut.

Her eyes were red and her cheeks magnificent in wanness. Her hair, like brown straw, frayed and blew in the March wind. She looked like a painting. I don't know how else to explain it.

I looked out and waved as sarcastically as I could.

I thought, I hope she freezes in hell, and cranked the engine, kicked off the emergency break and peeled out of Cornerstone Baptist's parking lot. The wind from the drive home whistled through the ajar door and the Buick beeped warnings of it to me.

And for whatever reason, I laughed.

“Hot dogs,” I said.

And I laughed some more.

When it finally hit methat I had wasted money and precious teenage years on trying to screw JenI actually cried. And maybe that wasn't quite the reason. Maybe it was that I actually loved her or that the idea of her fantasizing about a prissy Man of God emasculated me. Maybe it was because I turned into a zealous masturbator after the whole deal and thought about her during the self-abuse.

Granted, I missed her soft ass and wet mouth and her trusting talk of Jesus and Good Samaritans and Fish and the Post-Tribulation Ascensions of the Righteous. But any girl who called out a preacher's name during a handjob surely wasn't right for me. Or, certainly, anybody. It was that fact that I could calm myself with after I came, and the doubt and humiliation settled into my stomach.

Church. I hadn't been there since the break. The institution in general, much like any institution I could think of, were suddenly falling victim to my newfound incredulity.

Marietta came over one night and asked me what was new. I was curt and she said she could tell that I had changed after (what all my high school buddies called) “The Glorious Break-Up.”[1]

“Oh, I just think I'm an atheist,” I said, and fiddled with a Swiss Army knife's scissors to avoid eye-contact with her.

“Strangely enough, I think I'm straight,” she said.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I snapped the scissors back into the red plastic and tossed the knife on the floor. Marietta slid the straps of her teal shirt to her arms and a pale yellow bra's lace was beaming out at me.

Much like the night she admitted her homosexuality, I didn't know what to say. Unlike that night, I knew what to do.

I got a boner.

She inched closer and whispered into my ear, “I hear you're still a virgin.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I gulped, maybe squeaked, and flipped off the bed to my floor.

I grabbed the security box—a metal chest that I hid my expired Trojan Magnum in—and fumbled to get its key out of my wallet.

Then, I heard laughing.

I looked up.

Marietta was giggling.

“What?” I asked, breathing heavy and finally feeling a sharp pain rise up in the knee that sustained my fall from the bed.

“You're such a naïve bastard,” she said, and slid up her straps. “You'll get laid, Buddy. But it won't be by me.”

I returned to Cornerstone Baptist on Pastor Mike's wedding day, two years and four months later. This just so happened to be Jen's wedding day too and something about that made it too good to pass up. A freak show, I called it.

Aside from their 12-year difference creeping me out, I hadn't seen Old Jen since that day in the parking lot. I had heard from a few mutual friends that she was pregnant. Also, that she was getting married because she didn't want the baby to be a love child. Though I didn't doubt that she was in love with Pastor Mike, the circumstances of the beginnings of their relationship never got around to me. I had ideas of after Sunday School: Jen trying her best to get him off near that big image of the Earth; Pastor Mike getting off on her ignorant innocence.

Before the service, I decided I'd go up to the groom and give him the old “Good show!” It was retaliation for how I felt during those long hours in the bright church basement, seeing Jen look up at him with such tangible desire that…that it even made me get a little horny. Though I knew it was because of him, I was getting something after one of his sermons.

His goatee had grown out to a full beard and his cheeks had lost their tone.

“Well look who it is!” he said. His pleasant surprise was to counter my obvious intentions of crashing his wedding.

I didn't know what to say, but what I had planned was eventually said. “I realize this is an important day for you and all that. But do you have a few minutes? I need to talk faith with you.”

“Well…yes, I suppose so. The whole thing doesn't start for another hour.” He put his hand on my shoulder and led me out of the church.

We were near the basketball court—an entity that really pissed me off…simply because it was owned and maintained by a “House of God” and only used to get kids to attend church services.

He asked, “What is wrong, son?”

I told him that I was an atheist and I blamed him and his thievery of a woman I loved for everything. This might have been the case, I think, but it sure was tasty as hell to see his eyes squint the way they did—near tears—and almost feel the guilt radiate from him.

First, he apologized. “Son, I didn't realize that would've had such an impact on you. And for that I am truly sorry.

“Well, your hypocrisy gave me new insight into the ‘world of vice' I've heard so much about.”

Pastor Mike then knelt down, seemed to collect his thoughts in a pose. It was a decent show of self-aggrandizement: his fist balled up to his chin and his eyes closed like a fat, country-bred Greek statue.

He rose up and sucked air in. I thought he might try to hit me then, but instead he said, “These women, once, came for a retreat.”

I could feel my face warp into skepticism.

“They were the cooks. Great cooks. All homemade stuff.”

I nodded.

“Well,” Pastor Mike continued, “I don't know how it happened, but somehow, one night after dinner, we got on the topic of how women in the Bible serve only the means of being…well…sinful. And in a matter of three hours, I had seen them turn their backs to God. I said something like, ‘Well we know you're not evil. This food is delicious!' They were all Christian volunteers and they all just got this notion—this notion of divine hatred—stuck into their heads and I just messed it all up.”

I could tell this voice. This was his preaching voice. It was obviously not a true account. It was just some simple allegory.

He was rounding the bend now, “And together, they walked out of the church camp. I saw them all. They left us with only the worst food. We had to end the camp a day later and I'm pretty sure we could've saved at least the young ones. But, we couldn't reach 'em if they only got to eat instant mashed potatoes and drink diet lemonade.”

What a fucking joke, I thought, and smiled.

“One by one,” Pastor Mike said, waving a finger at me, “these women suffered a life of avarice and misery that eventually ended in their burning in hell.”

Burning in hell, I thought and kept my smile.

He listed names—horribly bogus stuff like Dorothy Jones and Barbara Smith—and followed each by their mysterious or otherwise agonizing deaths. Drowning. Burning alive. Stabbing.

I had to give it to Pastor Mike, he certainly had a way with spin. This was no coincidence; these faux-women died horrible deaths because they were atheists. Atheists who were atheists because of Pastor Mike. Yes, the point of the story was that I was going to die a horrible death and burn in hell for ruining his wedding day.

He was trying to scare me. Intimidate me, even after he had won the girl.

As Pastor Mike turned on his heel and walked back into the church to marry Jen, I thought about asking him if any of those lady cooks were crucified, but I didn't. I could only stand there and feel the sunshine behind my eyelids. I could only try to persuade myself that it was truly stupid and irrational to show my face in the chapel again.

I could only imagine that that church camp's cuisine was never quite the same.

[1] It wasn't long after I had told the story that the entire school had known about it.

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