Monday, August 13, 2007

Ol' St Joe Is Good To Go

When I walked through the big oak doors of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Holy Relic Bookstore a few weeks ago, I knew for sure that I'd be lying to a clergyman within minutes. Like many post-WWII children who hail from the eastern seaboard, I attended Catholic school for the first six years of my education and became proficient at an early age with all the loopholes surrounding Confession, Penance, and Absolution. I figured out pretty early on that if I had to tell a fib then I could just as easily get out of trouble with God by reciting a few Hail Marys and an Act Of Contrition. A quick Amen later, and I was off on my merry way to play and lie another day...

So by the time my poor parents figured out that parochial school tuition was a waste of money on a perennial 'C' student with little or no priestly ambitions, the imprint of Guilt (and all the psychological antibodies associated with it) had already left a permanent mental stain on my psyche. In other words, even at 50 years of age I still get a twinge of remorse when I hear my own voice speaking less than truthfully. You think it would stop me...but it doesn't.

"Do you have any statues of Saint Joseph," I asked the young, pale seminarian working the register. He was wearing black pants, a black collarless shirt and a black buttoned up sweater. It struck me funny that a lad similar to him, and no older than him for sure, had terrorized me well into my second year of grade school forty-three years earlier. Still, I felt a little guilty for my intentions and what I had mentally rehearsed in the car ride over....The statue would 'be for my boss (lie), whose name was also Joe (true), for his birthday (lie). He too, is a devout Catholic (not sure, but pretty certain a lie) and would be surprised at the kind gesture on my part (no doubt)'--just in case someone at the store happened to inquire why I was really there in the first place..

"Yes," he said. "We have three sizes of Saint Joe. The small one is $3.00, the big one is $8.00, and the stone statue for the garden is $49.00.

"I don't have a garden," I told him, immediately wishing I could snatch back my words from the thick, dusty bookstore air. The lie barely had time to dry as it floated in the silent space between us. I felt the frowns of invisible Guardian Angels looking on in judgement, if not downright disapproval. The young man just looked at me with his holy brown eyes.

I meant to say "My boss, Joe, doesn't have a garden" but you know how it is once you start lying. I decided to plod forward anyway, offering as little as possible to the web I'd already begun to weave, and just get the hell (heck) out of there---with my statue.

"The $3.00 one will be fine," I said, feeling like a real cheapskate. A cheapskate liar, actually.

"Cash or Charge?" he asked, writing out my receipt with perfect parochial penmanship. I felt like he was mocking me. I almost pulled out my American Express Gold Card but thought better of it.

"Cash," I said, my eyes fixated now on the $3.00 sticker attached to the small, cardboard box on the counter wondering if I was even allowed to charge something on Amex that was only $3.00. Saint Joseph looked a little Chinese to me through the small, cellophane window. I had a fairly good idea where it was made as I removed the statue from its box and examined the bottom of the plastic painted relic. Taiwan. Close.

The young man, back at the register now, charged me tax. I wanted to object---the Church being non-profit and all-- but I let it slide since I was there on such false pretenses in the first place. Although, according to the unwritten laws of Karma... as I understand them, I should be entitled, not only to any duty-free (and Guilt-free) religious purchase for whatever reason I choose, but also to a couple free cracks to the side of his head for retribution of his predecessor's cruel and usual actions back in the day. That too, I let pass without incident trying my best not to blow what was left of my Christian cover.

I was almost out the door with my sacred score when I heard him speak from across the room..."Good luck selling the house."

I froze for a second. God, or perhaps one of those invisible angels, must have whispered something into his inner ear. My true motives were now exposed. I should have dressed nicer--no boots, no jeans. Should have taken the diamond stud out of my ear. Of course I couldn't pass myself off as a decent Catholic much less be in possession of any friends named Joseph or otherwise, who might even appreciate receiving such a $3.00 Chinese statue from a heathen such as myself. What was I thinking?...I should have sprung for the $49.00 garden model and stuck with my original story.

"You know, we have a complete St. Joseph's Home Selling Kit for eleven dollars more," he said. "It's blessed, too."

He led me to a Patron Saints display aisle where they also stocked kits for St. Francis of Assisi (Animals), St. Adelard of France (Gardens), and a St. Lucy/St. Clare 2-for-1 package (Eye Disorders). St. Joseph, by far, had them all beat as far as inventory went. There was even a Discontinued shelf with one last remaining St. Christopher (Travellers) who apparently lost his Patron Saint status during a corporate re-org when Vatican I came to an end. I almost bought it out of pity (and because he was the only statue without Asian features) but I was already over budget for this folly.

Onward Christian Soldier...

Back at home I took out the instructions, along with the statue and remaining contents from my upgraded St. Joseph Home Selling Kit, and laid them all out on a tiny patch of earth in front of my Condo. I dug into the mulch area next to a bush where my dog pees every morning and placed the Chinese looking statue into the hole, upside down and facing west. I covered the treasure with mulch and walked back into my home feeling like the least successful Listing Agent on the North Side of Chicago--forty days on the market, no Offers, and to top it off---snickered at and upsold by a second year Theology student in a cardigan sweater. That was the weekend before July 4th.

I forgot it was even there until yesterday when I was talking to my mother on the phone. She mentioned an article in her local paper back east about the powers of Saint Joseph and how she herself, had been praying for the sale of our place for the past two months. I told her the bookstore story and we laughed until we almost cried. She's not nearly as irreverent as me but I gotta tell you...I learned it somewhere.

A few hours later my phone rang and I received my first 'second showing' in weeks. An hour or so later another 'second showing' request came followed by an e-mail later in the day from a suburban agent. She said an offer was on its way and that her clients had seen the place a month earlier and was hoping it was still on the market.

I opened my desk drawer and rustled through my papers for the Saint Joseph instruction sheet. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be praying too along the way but I can't say for sure as the sheet must have gotten thrown out with the rest of the kit. That's just the type of Catholic I am--throw the instructions out with the box and hope nothing breaks. The truth is, I can't imagine that a saint as renowned as Joseph could care less if I ever sold my house regardless of how many of his kits I buy or how many prayers I say for my own sake. I know that advertising in the Chicago Tribune doesn't fare much better, either

An Offer has yet to arrive on my fax machine but I've since concluded that the real secret lies in those mother's prayers. If anyone has the Old Man's ear upstairs, they do. Think about it...what in this world is closer to God than words from a mother's lips? Put together a combination of that, a big enough lever, and a $25,000 Price Reduction ....and get ready to move some Earth, baby.

No comments:

Post a Comment