Friday, January 28, 2011

Larry And Pastor Tommy

By John McDonnell

It was another aimless Saturday afternoon at the bar, and Murphy was washing shot glasses and serving beers to a motley collection of patrons who were watching a ballgame on the battered TV.

Larry was practicing time jumps, and kept disappearing and reappearing with souvenirs from different eras. So far he'd brought back a dinosaur tooth from the Cretaceous era, a whalebone corset from 16th century England, and a five course Thanksgiving dinner from the future that was the size of an aspirin. He was dressed like a Turkish pasha, complete with a scimitar in his belt. 

The serenity was interrupted by a portly man who burst through the door wearing a blue silk suit, a black pompadour and rings on each of his fingers.

"Tell me, brothers, have you seen The Light?" he said, walking over to Larry and Murphy.

"Light?” Murphy said. “My customers don’t like much light in here.”

“Actually, light is an interesting phenomenon,” Larry said. “When you get to the quantum level--”

"I’m talking about The Light of Salvation," the man said, slapping the bar for emphasis. "My name's Pastor Tommy Bogus, and I'm here to offer you eternal bliss. Have you seen my TV show?"

"Yes I have," said Edna, who had just been dropped off by Dolores while she did her Saturday errands. "You're that nice man whose show comes on between my soap opera about handsome doctors and the other one about cheating wives. Or is it cheating doctors and handsome wives?"

"There will be no room for cheaters in the Kingdom," Pastor Tommy said.

"I often wonder about religion," Larry said. "Interesting sociological phenomenon. Does it describe reality, or is it just the brain's way of explaining what it doesn't understand?"

"Why, it's as real as this solid wood bar," Pastor Tommy said, slapping the bar again.

"That’s actually vinyl," Murphy said.

"I think religion is such a comfort," Edna opined. "Why, I don't know how people can do without it."

"There are some civilizations in the universe that think it's nonsense," Larry said.

"There's nothing wrong with nonsense," Edna said. "The world needs more nonsense, if you ask me. It would improve our dispositions."

"As I was saying," Pastor Tommy said. "There's only one truth in the universe, and my religion has it."

"Truth," Larry said. "What is truth? When you ask someone to tell the truth, what are you saying?"

"You're saying he's screwed, if he’s married," Murphy said.

"Would any of you care to make a donation?" Pastor Tommy said, holding out a tin cup. "It takes a lot of money to keep that TV show going."

"Take a look at this place," Murphy said. "Does it look like I'm wallowing in money here?"

"I have a trust fund, and I'd be glad to dip into it for a donation," Edna said. "The only thing is, Father set it up so I don't get any of the money until I reach 65. I can’t imagine what he was thinking. You’d think I was the world’s worst spendthrift!” She readjusted her black taffeta cocktail gown and pillbox hat, looking at herself in the mirror behind the bar.

"How about you, son?" Pastor Tommy said to Larry.

The air shimmered and Larry disappeared. In a matter of seconds he reappeared with a small birdlike dinosaur, covered with feathers and sporting a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. It was blinking as it stared around the room. It locked eyes with Pastor Tommy, flapped its wings, said “Auk!”, then cocked its head, waiting for a response.

"Good God, what is that?" Pastor Tommy said.

"A Bambiraptor,” Larry said. "From about 75 million years ago. Cute, but beware of those teeth. I thought you could sell it to a zoo and get some cash that way."

"Not if you paid me a million dollars," Pastor Tommy said. "Son, there’s only one word for that. . . ‘unnatural’!”

He bolted for the door, dropping his tin cup on the way. It clattered to the floor and rolled around, but Pastor Tommy paid no attention to it. He was headed for the light. 

"Funny, he looks taller on TV," Edna said.