The hotel was a dump. The walls had been papered with a vomit green and beet purple flower print, which was now beginning to curl at the ends like wood shavings. Certain corners of the ceiling had brown water stains, while the carpet had mysterious, unidentifiable splotches of its own. The bedspreads were hard, like starched cardboard, and I shuddered to think what they might look like under a black light.
The room’s TV was several generations away from high-def, closer to the Jurassic era than the digital. That didn’t stop my roommate and I from staring at it like cave men.
My roommate had the remote and was flipping through infomercials for citrus-scented super cleaners and indestructible putty when he came across this televangelist with slicked back hair and a suit that screamed plaster saint.
We have watched some terrible television in our short tenure as road roommates, but how or why we decided to stop at this channel for as long as we did is beyond me. Maybe it was divine intervention?
Our slick new pastor friend was holding a green handkerchief, reaching out towards the screen, beckoning us to touch our dilapidated television sets and be healed. He begged us to. He closed his eyes like he was receiving breaking news from the almighty, crinkled his face under the strain of the divine download, then declared he could see someone. I crossed my fingers in hope that it wasn’t me he saw.
It was fuzzy at first, but then it came to him. A limping lady. A desperate, limping lady. A desperate, limping, broke lady, or at least something very similar to one. She was in need, financial need, and God was ready to write her a check. All she needed to do was write him a check first, and send it to Pastor Slick, P.O. Box . . . God was going to get her that money, Hallelujah!
It was embarrassing. It was insulting. It was funny as hell. It was like the church version of pro wrestlers acting complete with screaming legions of fans and bodies hitting the floor. We couldn’t stop watching it.
“What does the message say at the bottom of the screen?” I asked. My roommate read it: “Says: call now for your free, miracle-empowered, prosperity prayer handkerchief.”‘¨
“Is that why it’s green, cuz it’s a financial oriented hanky?”‘¨
“I guess so.”
That pastor went on, quoting stuff about money from heaven, career success, job security blessings, etc. I told my roomy he should call the number and see if Pastor Slick can do something about getting his batting average back over .200.’¨
“I think it’s going to take more then a green handkerchief.”
“Maybe they have green batting gloves?”
“I don’t care if he’s got a green jock strap, I’m not calling that guy. He looks like an evil David Hasselhoff.”‘¨
“What if God made you stop at this channel so you would see the green handkerchief? What if it’s all part of the plan? I think you should get up right now and touch the television and receive your healing.”‘¨
“But I’m not an old lady, I don’t have a limp.”
“Maybe its a parable: You hit like an old lady and run with a limp. Put on your 3D glasses and reach out to him.”
At this, my roomy hurtled one of his pillows at me from across the room and plowed me in the head with it. “At least I can hit spots when I throw,” he said.
“Touche’,” I said, readjusting my glasses, “but this isn’t about me; this is about you and your desperate need for a baseball miracle. I still think you should lay hands on the television. Don’t worry, if you pass out, I’ll make sure you don’t sleep in one of the mystery puddles on the floor.”
“I am not getting out of bed to touch any televisions.”‘¨
“That’s just Satan talking! Reach out to television set!” I took the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand that separated our beds and began waving it at him like the priest from the Exorcist, “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!”
“You’re the one that’s possessed.”
“You know what’s scary?” I said, placing the Bible back down next to the phone book and the complimentary hotel stationary. “People do it. They do all manner of things like this for scary David Hasselhoff-looking guys.”‘¨
The show went to a commercial break sponsored by Pastor Slick’s ministry. It was for something called a vow of tithe. I know what tithes are because I have made them, but this stuff was very different. The commercial was asking people to give money and promising them it would be returned to them 10 fold. $500 hundred got you $5,000; $1,000 got you 10k. It was as simple as that. The Pastor said $1,000 bucks couldn’t even buy a nice couch in today’s market so I might as well give it to him and watch it come back multiplied.
“Oh this is great!” I declared. “Vegas eat your heart out! Ten to 1 return? Screw baseball, we’re gonna be rich! Get your checkbook, we are going to make 10 grand AND we get a free faith napkin!”
‘¨”Handkerchief,” my roommate corrected.
“Maybe we should get the whole team faith hankies? We’d run away with the league!”
“Sure, why not? Wade Boggs had chicken, we’ve got hankies.”
“Do you think the MLB would put asterisks next to our name for using them?”
“I don’t think they’ve developed testing policies for performance enhancing faith hankies yet.”
Next, a lady was on receiving a healing at the altar. She got whacked in the head pretty good while Pastor Slick shouted hallelujah over and over again. She ran a full lap around the church screaming and waving her hands like she just caught fire.
“Someone put her out for goodness sakes!” I said.
“She’s going to get a check soon. They’ve got to let her burn or God’s not going to send her a check.”
“You’d get a check to if you just touch that television set, then run a few laps around the room. You’d be hitting .900 in the bigs by the end of the week.”‘¨
“If that were the truth, I’d grab that set right now.”‘¨
“It IS the truth. Why would this nice, trust worthy man say it if it wasn’t?” I hissed.
“Yeah right. I just can’t believe someone would fake all that?” He pointed at the TV; the woman had now stopped, dropped, and was rolling around on the floor convulsing.
“Fake what? This lady pretending to be on fire, or the pastor bit?”
“The pastor bit.”
“This dude is absolutely faking it. There is no way he can believe what he is saying. You can’t just write a check to God and expect him to send you back 10 times that sum. God’s not a casino.”
“No, probably not.”‘¨
“Of course not! Slick is telling people they can get free money if they send him money and believe real hard. He’s making loads doing it! Look at his suit. Look at his rings. Look at his hair plugs! Wow. I am in the wrong profession. The rings we got for winning the Double-A championship weren’t even that nice. What kind of dirt bag does a job like this?”‘¨
My roommate took a long, slow look at me, and smiled. “You know . . .”
“Don’t say it-“
“Come to think of it . . .”
“With the right haircut, you would make a great televangelist, Dirk.”‘¨
If you feel like you would like to make a donation to a real cause, please consider these fine charities—some of my favorites—World Vision, Mercy Corp, Disabled Veterans Service Trust. There are no complimentary green handkerchiefs, just the satisfaction that you gave to those in need, more of a blessing then a hanky could ever be.
Readers can e-mail Dirk with questions or comments.