Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Good book times three

The bibles came into my possession by their own devices. Occasionally, small red testaments travelled home with me from school, delivered by nameless laymen spreading God's word to all the little children. Separation between church and state be damned.

My mother's advice, gospel at the time, rang in my ears. One must never destroy or defile a book of God, for fear of burning in Hell for all eternity. And so, I carried each little red albatross home, and cared for it.

The secretive black leather bible sealed shut, cover to cover. The zipper caught on the corners, and I cursed its design. I zipped and unzipped to alternately admire and protect the onion skin paper. I wondered what "begat" meant. That's as far as I'd gotten.

My God was a very large man with long grey hair, armed with a scowl and lightening bolts. My relationship with him was rooted in fear. I had somehow confused the Christian creator with Zeus. And, so it was.

I compensated for my lack of faith, trust and Jesus-love with rituals to help protect my family from God's wrath.

Perhaps for my mother it was merely an anecdote. Or, perhaps it wasn't her who told me at all. Maybe it was a movie or a book or my own terrified child mind, but for reasons that made sense at the time, I began hiding the bibles under the mattresses to protect the sleeping from evil and death and anything else God might have slated for them.

Under my parents' mattress, I slid the fancy leather bible. It seemed superior to the free versions and more suitable for the heads of the household. I imagined a force field surrounding the bed, and conducted tests to ensure the holy book wouldn't cause discomfort. The little red versions found resting places on my and my sister's box springs.

I felt sneaky, forcing religion on my father like that. He was never much of a theist. I rationalized that my actions were for the greater good, and I slept better, knowing that a force field protected my loved ones. That is, until my mother changed the sheets.

I hadn't thought that far ahead. Wide-eyed and embarrassed, I squeezed my arm between the mattress and the box spring of each bed, as far as it would go, all the way around. My mother had removed the bibles. Although she said nothing to me about the find, I suddenly felt powerless to protect my family from fires, robberies, murderers, ghosts or tidal waves---all things I worried about extensively.

If my mother didn't think it could work then perhaps it couldn't, I decided. There was only one way to find out. I held my breath knowing that I risked burning in Hell for all eternity and tore a page from the red book. To my surprise, I didn't burst into flames. The book was impotent. Felt that I was forced into it, I developed more effective means to protect all that was dear to me.

One. Two. Three. Four.
I started counting, silently and compulsively. Four was safe if my eyes were closed. Multiples of three were always bad. Thank God I knew my multiplication tables, and that my family survived my childhood without being involved in the battles between good and evil that were so very commonplace in my little pink bedroom.

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