SmokeLong Quarterly

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Getting Religion

Story by Carol Novack (Read author interview) October 15, 2004

Singa’s last one loved big foul smelling dogs and game shows, read the condensed encyclopedia in the bathroom and would never come out till he’d memorized 6 entries. That one never ate anything but Eyetalian food, usually pasta whore style with enough tomato sauce to drown a Chihuahua, and four eggs over easy with toast every morning. That one refused to go dancing and would never talk at dinner. He was a hairy one with quiz show and lottery dreams, no friends, and a mother with a borderline personality disorder popping up at inopportune times. But that one was dexterous in bed, handy around the house and had a Je ne sais quoi.

Singa suffered scant sorrow when his motorcycle galloped off a dirt road, hit an inebriated goat and threw that one a few hundred feet into a coma threatening to last an eternity. Why I didn’t get rid of him sooner I don’t know, she mused, wondering if it was something she’d said. Oh but I know; why quit fooling yourself, she added — on to the next one whenever he arrives.

Singa didn’t believe in anything, never made anything happen as far as she could tell simply fell into the lives of others, or they fell into hers, which worked because in the long run, chance was always kind to her

So when the next one came along with an unpronounceable name in an antique silver Chevy with wings, she simply jumped on his lap and purred like a new motor. She fixed him martinis with green olives and tiny pimento tongues, and read him fairy tales and myths. Clever one pranced around her yard, planting yellow red and purple pansies with quizzical faces. He walked on his smooth, lithe hands always grinning, knew how to tell jokes and ask riddles in a dozen or so goofy sounding languages, made the neighbors’ kids laugh so hard they forgot to breathe. Next one kissed her right where it counted, tickling her till she was red to her toes; and could cook roast pheasants with quince stuffing and puddings that melted in your mouth like fresh honey clouds.

And so it went until one opaque morning when next one took his silver Chevy and flew out of sight; and Singa knew she would never smell, taste, feel, hear, see him again. And as she listened to the silence in the skies with a startling and stinging grief she did not recognize, two young men in blue suits knocked at her door.

The two men couldn’t have been older than 18, had closed cropped hair, fuzz on their timidly florid cheeks, immaculately bleached white shirts, and briefcases; said please ma’am, yes ma’am, pardon ma’am, as they offered annotated bibles of various sizes, recited whole passages aloud, particularly excerpts promising rains of locusts and gleeful acts of arson in the afterworld, eternal pain of the soul, the usual consequences of unbridled carnal appetite; offered salvation, community, comfort, unanimity, simplicity, healing, church picnics, and inspiration from pulpits — but above all, a god’s love.

And so it came to pass that Singa tried on religion like a stiff new gown, renouncing thoughts of this one, next one and those before, expecting nothing but to sing Hosannas and thank a god instead of chance. It came to pass that the pansies in her garden hid their faces and wilted in empathy with the transformation of Singa: Singa, in a trance eating only white Wonder bread, Kraft’s cheddar, drinking no pinot noir; talking of nothing but a god with the good ladies, Mabel, Hortense, and Emily Jones, who took up residence on Singa’s sofa; sitting with cups of tea or glasses of lemonade and always bibles; and so it was until one day she said enough is enough, shooed them all out, amidst raucous protests; took her phone off the hook, and refused to answer the door.

It was enough that life happened by chance, that the skies opened and next ones arrived.

About the Author

Carol Novack is a re-emerging writer. In her yute, she actually managed to get someone to publish a book of her poems, Living Alone without a Dictionary. She also prevailed on a foreign government to grant her a writer’s award, which she squandered on ouzo and retsina on the isle of Lesvos. Ultimately, she returned to native NYC, where she became a people’s lawyer, representing all sorts of alleged miscreants and championing the right of street artists to sell their works in public without a vendor’s license. Much to her customary angst, she hardly wrote anything but legal motions and briefs. Eventually, Carol pursued a Masters degree in social work, and managed to trap it. The excruciating task of writing social science papers dissolved her writer’s block. Carol’s writings can currently be found at Journal of Modern Post, Yankee Pot Roast, and Laura Hird. Others are forthcoming in The Beat, Edifice Wrecked, and Wild Strawberries.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Six

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