It started when I tried hooking up with some hot babes on a missionary trip. I wanted to go and help the indigent in Chicago, but when that was all dudes, I joined with the group going to a group home in Iowa. Turned out the babes weren’t much to write home about, but I did make friends with a nun who asked me to be one of the two student residents at a church over the next two years on campus.
My room was in a repurposed broom closet, next to the garage. So that meant I was incessantly awoken (“Rising earlier than Christ this morning, Father!” usually got a non-response) by the parish priest to shovel the sidewalk, attend mass, and whenever he took his hybrid out to get a McFlurry because the garage door opener was loud as shit. But Fr. Jim was cool. He told me that the Bible was a bunch of fun stories, which wiped away any concerns I had about shacking up near an Earth-is-6,000-years-old creep, he drank beer during Vikings game, and only once wore his Roman collar outside the church, when we went to see Brokeback Mountain. (“Kinda intense there, Dunstan, huh?” he whispered, shoving his hand into the buttery popcorn heap.)
In thanks for the gratuity, I just needed to be the church’s utility infielder. So I had to talk to the homeless whenever they started playing games of chess by themselves in the rec room, cut the grass, wash the dishes, and play piano at mass. I didn’t mind the church tunes—with a little imagination, a lot of those hufflepuffle melodies were early-70s Elton John chording. But an old guy once walked past my dorm room (door closed) and said, “Piano player didn’t really need the sheet music, did he,” to which his wife laughed, “I thought he was going to break the piano!!!”
Hahah! Hohoho! Hehehe!
That was the fucking end of that, let me tell you. I was purely on lecture duties henceforth. The Risen God could get a new Jackson Browne.
Anyway, we had good times in the church, but there were a few spills. The carpet in that broom closet is still a different hue in no fewer than three or four spots (usually in paint-can-sized cylinders) due to my 21st birthday, upon which my friends dropped me off at the church and allowed me to puke up the portmanteau-named shots, like half-fruit and half-sex-act. And I once inadvertently got two police officers called on me for grand theft (“I’ve taken a pre-law-class,” I explained nervously to the angry cops, who I found fingerprinting the pews, “and I think you mean misappropriation”). They thought I stole the church choir’s PA system. Which I did. But only to make a four-track recording EP over spring break. It was all misunderstood. And the good thing was, I could just forgive that bad news like lickety-split by meeting Fr. Jim behind the curtain.
“I’m sorry for that thing I just did.”
“I know you are, Dunstan. Why’d you do that?”
“Cuz I really want a recording contract with Saddle Creek.”
“Say a few Our Fathers and behave yourself.”
“Also, the windows need washing. Why don’t you do that instead of going out and getting drunk tonight.”
I moved out of the church after two years. One of the other dudes living there knocked up his girlfriend, which kinda brought on a few more no-girls-in-the-shower-style rules that killed the juice, and there are only so many times you can watch Star Trek at midnight with a middle-aged priest before you start to wonder if there are better ways to be 21.
But I didn’t mind monastic living. Amply-filled pantry from all the funeral leftovers that the widows didn’t want, a decent cable package, and the moral superiority that whatever the priest gets on his high horse about on Sunday, you know that like five minutes after everyone leaves, he’s wandering around in his sweats humming only the portions of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” that he can never remember.
- Dunstan McGill