Title: Don’t Drink It
Type: Short Story
Date: Summer 2012
Don’t Drink It
Lake Forest, 1998
Every so often Siobhan Calmine, matriarch of the Calmine clan, thought it was of the utmost necessity to bring her heathen children back to the ever-beckoning hand of the Catholic Church.
These sporadic and short-lived outbursts of religiosity were normally inspired by a chance viewing of “The Shoes of the Fisherman.”
She would drag the whole family to mass, at invariably inconvenient hours, and force them to kneel on the hard mahogany pews, and pray for their pagan souls.
The general concept of individuals seeking salvation of their own free will never seemed to resonate with her, as force appeared to be her most compelling tool in reaching the wayward souls of her offspring.
One April evening, the air perfumed by the awakening buds of the peonies, as well as by the stench of ephemeral piety, Siobhan Calmine announced that her family would to church.
After much argument, biting, scratching, and the gnashing of teeth, combined with a peppering of taking the lord’s name in vain, the sullen, lemon-faced Calmine children marched down Greenbay Road, like the Von Traps. They were outfitted in lace socks, large bows, and variations of the same dress and pant set. They were dutifully trailed by a well-trained militia of Eastern European nannies. The company finally entered St. Mary’s open double doors, displaying all the good humor of a flagellant.
They filed into the last two pews, sprinkled with old do-gooders whose children, while they were busily planning trips to the women’s shelter, were off developing addictions to their dear mother’s prescription pills. The first three of the rows were reserved, unmarked, by Lake Forest’s old money, a caste system clearly intended by the savior.
The priest, the incredibly austere Father Rasis, dribbled the sermon with the speed and consistency of molasses in January. The mass lasted just under three days and six hours. All of the Calmine children fidgeted and squirmed like freshly caught sunfish from the shallow waters of Lake Michigan.
The four alter boys, identically clad in white bed sheets with gold embroidered arm holes, filed in a straight, quivering line down to the alter, adorned with tall candles, dishes full of round, unleavened wafers, and a bejeweled goblet containing severely watered down table wine. The last, and smallest, of the quartette limped, slightly, like a baby elk, just escaping the jaws of a hungry lioness. They reached Father Rasis just as he was reaching the part of the mass where communion is given.
As the sermon reached its climax, the priest performing his magical incantation over the bread and wine placed evenly before him, little Clyde, dripping in long spun gold curls, began to perk up, watching him with sudden rapt attention. His entire frame was pushed up against the backboard in front of him, his hands were clenching the railing. His fascination turned abruptly to horror when he realized that the priest actually intended to devour the flesh and blood of some guy named Jesus.
As Father Rasis lifted the goblet to his pursed lips, Clyde climbed on top of the pew, madly waving his arms at the clergyman, and screamed, “DON’T DRINK IT! IT’S BLOOD!” The entire congregation turned around in furious astonishment.
The priest, momentarily ruffled, quickly regained his composure, chuckled heartily, and droned, “Well, there seems to be some confusion here. Now it isn’t really blood that I’m drinking, it’s wine. So, there’s no need to be upset.” He stepped down from the alter with slow and deliberate movements, so that his Godly position could be temporarily humanized for this serious explanation.
Johnny, having had acquired copious amounts of biblical knowledge from his years in CCD, attempted to throw his voice like a sloppy ventriloquist, “But, what about transubsanitation?” The priest was suddenly befuddled yet again, not expecting such a pointed interrogation from the youngest of his flock.
Meanwhile, Siobhan Calmine was mortified. She tried to silence her children as the priest vaguely explained that the wine was, in fact, the blood of Christ, but it still, at the same time, was wine.
Scarlett, Clyde’s twin sister, then decided that her confusion had to be voiced. Her discomfort would have put Frank O’Connor to shame. In the most sweetly innocent of voices she dared to ask, “But…if it’s blood and it’s not blood, then what is it?” She was almost in tears, feebly attempting to hold back meek sobs in her delicate throat.
At this pinnacle moment Father Rasis decided to cut his losses and move on from the Calmine children’s questions, possibly preventing a major schism in the church.