In ‘81 my mom married a wannabe biker, ex-speed freak, from Paramus. He later got heavy into the Jehovah’s Witnesses and tried pulling mom and me into it. That was a big part of why she got out of there, before I got too fucked up.
There weren’t priests, but “elders” in the congregation, about 6 -all men, all white, who ran shit. One of them, Brother Zachus looked a lot like what Mike Pence looks like now, both in affect and physique but a bit more rotund. I think he was like the head elder because he’d always be whispering in people’s ears, even to other elders and they’d scurry to go get more folding chairs or stand up and recite scripture. They were way into Revelations and the Old T, especially The Book of Daniel. That’s probably why I started thinking about the end of the world so much at 10 years old, but that’s another story.
Instead of churches they had what were called Kingdom Halls, which were crummy little house-like buildings that they prided themselves on being able to erect in a weekend. Apparently there was some scripture where the lord told them houses of worship should be built in just a couple days or something. But this was back when houses of worship were logs with a bunch of blankets or something stretched around them without wires, lights, heat, and toilets.
There were at least 3 bible studies a week at someone’s house and field service on Saturdays – which was going from door to door, knocking to spread the Word. You were required to wear a tie to do that, and I refused to learn how to, to get out of it and save face with friends at school. To this day I still can’t tie a tie. There was also a congregation “meeting” on Sunday at the Kingdom Hall where there was more bible study, a sermon by an elder, and singing, all within the backdrop of a generally stifling setting at home throughout the entire week.
One time when a Sunday meeting was over, everyone was standing around for fellowship, or what I liked to call “talking”, I ran into the bathroom to pee. When I swung open the door and jumped in, Brother Zachus was standing at the tall urinal and looked over his shoulder acknowledging me saying “young man” before I could step back out. I sheepishly walked over to the short urinal, undid my belt, slid the latch open on my khakis and waited to pee. I glanced up at Brother Zachus who trained his gaze deep into the calamine colored tile as if he were on Mt. Sinai looking out into the valley. Just as I looked back at my urinal and was about to start, he ripped a HUGE, long, pungent, bass-heavy fart -like the sound of a dying old woman calling out for her husband named Frank- and punctuated by a trailing succession of loud sloppy ass-clapping.
Being 10 years old, I busted up. I looked up to see if he was laughing, but he just stared into the tile without a trace of the slightest smile on his face. I reacted with an immediate effort to try not to laugh. This of course, made me convulse and erupt into fits. He farted again “doooooooowt” -not quite as long as the first but clear as a bell, and deep.
I lost my mind. If I hadn’t been standing at the urinal I would have pissed my pants. Instead I stood there spraying the wall and floor, occasionally making it inside the porcelain as I tried to stifle my laughter. I couldn’t look at him. I heard him zip his fly, clear his throat and spit, flush, and then smack the heels of his penny loafers down on the floor with intent to the door, which he swung open and went out of.
I stood there and laughed until I cried for another few minutes and then went to the sink to calm myself down a little by splashing cold water on my face.
When I stepped out of the bathroom, Zachus was standing next to my stepdad whispering in his ear with a stern look on his face. Looking at him, it was impossible not to recall those farts and impossible not to laugh. A bubble of snot popped out of my nose trying to hold everything in. He pointed at me briefly and continued to whisper in my stepfather’s ear, who responded by giving me the hard stink eye. Again I tried not laughing in front of these two men working hard at looking mean, but that made it worse.
As we drove home, nobody spoke. I sat in the back next to my stepsister and continued to snicker and break every few minutes. She would ask in the haughtiest voice possible, “what’s your problem?” My mom sighed occasionally, but my stepdad didn’t say a word the entire ride home. When we got back, he calmly said to me “go to your room unplug your lamp and your boom box and bring them to me.”
“What!?” I asked.
He repeated himself so I stomped upstairs, swallowing hot angry tears. I unplugged the lamp and my Sanyo and brought them down and gave them to him. He then said “when you are in your room at night, I want you to think about the shame you brought on me.”
“What!?” I said as he turned around and put my light and music onto the top shelf in the hall closet. I ran upstairs and flopped down on my bed in silence and darkness, except for the light from my digital clock. I cried for a minute, but the more I started thinking about the “shame I brought him”, laughing at Brother Zachus’s massive fart that he himself had no reaction to, well I couldn’t help but laugh again.
For three months I laid in the dark and silence at night laughing myself to sleep until I eventually started fantasizing about sneaking into his room and cracking his melon wide open with my Louisville Slugger. That’s about the time he said he really noticed an improvement in my attitude and gave me my lamp and boom box back.
But whenever I see Mike Pence, I get this uncanny feeling about Brother Zachus. The resemblance is striking. Mike Pence looks like a stern and humorless man who farts without affect in front of children and arranges cruel punishments for them when they laugh.