God's wrath every day of my life

Selling fish that gently poke fun at Christianity, it had to happen eventually, and it happened today: A Christian took great offense and made a stink about it. Just as predictably, I didn't handle it well.

She started with, "I want you to know that I find all this offensive."

It was the first thing either of us had said. I wasn't sure why she was riled, and thought maybe she was kidding. "What's offensive?" I asked. "Berkeley in general? Telegraph Avenue? Or me?" I smiled, pleased at my little joke.

"Those fish are offensive, young man." Very stern, like maybe she's a teacher, or maybe a Sunday School teacher, and accustomed to scolding children with lines like "young man."

I'm in my late 30s, though. Middle-aged at best, and she looked younger than me — in her early 30s, I would guess. White. Brunette. And for someone so prudish about the fish, she was dressed revealingly — shorts with long legs poking out, and a blouse with the top three buttons unbuttoned, not quite showing cleavage but close enough to trigger daydreams.

I'd noticed her before she even spoke, to be honest, because she was... noticeable. My mind wasn't entirely on her arguments, as she delivered a long spiel: "The fish is a sacred symbol of God, not to be taken lightly, and if you take the symbol so lightly you probably take God lightly too, but you will receive his wrath one day."

"I receive God's wrath every day of my life," I said.

"That's exactly what I'd expect someone like you to say," she said, which is exactly what I should've expected someone like her to say. With disdain she went on and on, telling me what I already know about the fish symbol — it was a means for long-ago persecuted Christians to identify each other — and then she said again how offended she was.

"Well, I'm offended by your being offended, but that's OK. We're free to offend each other."

She mostly talked over that line, to tell me about Judgment Day, when I'll regret mocking the Lord. I retorted with one of the few Bible verses I know: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matthew 7:1).

That didn't slow her down, of course, but I was done listening, and next comes the part I'm not proud of.

As she prattled on, I tried to think of the meanest thing I could say to shut her up, and when her finger-wagging sermon started to wind down, I smiled and said, "If you're going to judge me despite God telling you not to judge me, then tell me what how Jesus would judge your cutoffs?" She hadn't dressed for preaching, that's for sure. The last inch of the curve of her butt was poking past her super-shorts. "That's not church attire," I added.

My comment pissed her off, and that's what I wanted, so when she said something else about God's wrath, I said her legs sure were sexy. That shut her up and she stormed away furious, so mission accomplished, but it wasn't a fair tactic, was it?

Thinking back on it after I'd calmed down, it feels like I won the argument, but by cheating. I should've argued that there's no evidence of God, or that her God is a murderous monster even in his own Holy Bible. Should've argued on the merits of the matter, instead of using her fine legs and well-rounded butt curve against her. That woman was crazy, but at least she raged about what she raged about — God and fish. She didn't take any cheap shots. She never told me I'm fat.

♦ ♦ ♦

After my "day at the office" selling fish, I walked to Walgreens to buy wheat bread and sauerkraut, and one of my new flatmates, Joe, walked out of the store with a plastic bag of whatever. We passed within two feet of each other, and I almost said hello, but he turned his head at the moment we might've made eye contact. He's not a talkative guy, I knew that, but I guess he's really serious about his anti-socialism.

There was a time when I was that determined to look at the asphalt instead of the assholes of the world, and I'm still happy to be a hermit, but I've mellowed some. Now I'll sometimes say hello to strangers, which compared to Joe makes me the president of Toastmasters International.

♦ ♦ ♦

After dinner (four sauerkraut-on-wheat sandwiches), I read and relaxed, and by about 9:00 I was ready to turn in. That's when Judith took me up on my offer, to work on cleaning my future bedroom any time, day or night.

Through a fog of drowsiness, I wasn't sure what we were doing or why, as we moved chairs and a desk and table out of the guest room and into the living room. Sure, let's reorganize the entire house eventually, but what's it have to do with what we need to be doing — emptying the mess from what's going to be my room?

She wanted to move Jake's favorite chair from one room to another (and neither room was my room). That chair is huge and heavy like a throne, and the path was blocked by more mess in the hallway (books and Christmas decorations, mostly, and Lugosi the dog). Judith and I could barely lift the chair, and we couldn't carry it, so she summoned her husband Jake from their bedroom, and told him to help.

He listened to what she had in mind, then said, "Why don't we just saw the chair into little tiny pieces and toss the pieces in the trash? That'll accomplish the same ends, without as much work."

That's negative thinking, but it was also funny as fuck, and that's Jake. Sarcasm is his natural response to everything. It pissed off Judith, but convinced her, I guess — we gave up on moving that chair.

We moved everything else, though. I couldn't see the plan, doubted Judith had a plan, but it's her house, her mess, and maybe she knows what she's doing, I thought.

And she did. After an hour and a half of schlepping stuff from the guest room to the living room, we (finally!) went into the room that'll be mine, and started schlepping stuff out of there, and into the spaces we'd cleared in the other rooms. An extra desk and chair, bookcases, and two ottomans have been relocated, and now the middle of my future-room is free of furniture, and if you watch your step there's a way to walk through that sector of the clutter. I even caught a glimpse of the floor.

It's a major improvement. Mentally and physically, it'll now be less daunting to sort through what's left in there. Then again, a lot of what had been in my future-room is now in the guest room, and we'll need a guest room, too, when Sarah-Katherine gets here.

But… that's a problem for another day. For today (tonight, soon to be tomorrow morning), it feels like something's been accomplished, and I'm getting more confident that we can find a way to squeeze me into this house.

Now, can I go to sleep?

From Pathetic Life #13
Thursday, June 29, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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