Ken lost a nut in my yard. I exited my garage to find him on hands and knees in the grass.
We were working on his bicycle; our last item on the menu of maintenance was to adjust his rear shock. He removed a small nut that covered the valve and placed it on his bike seat while we added air. I went into the garage to get another tool; Ken took his bike off the rack and rolled it about 5 feet across the lawn. The nut fell off somewhere in those 5 feet.
I returned to find him prostrate in my front yard, butt high, nose to the ground, muttering.
I knew Ken was raised Protestant and still a regular churchgoer, but I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Dude, if you are praying to Allah, you’re facing the wrong way; Mecca is towards the east.”
Ken didn’t think I was nearly as funny as I thought I was, he said in frustration, “I lost my damn nut in your grass.”
“That’s going to be hard to find.” I said, “Too bad you are not a Catholic.”
I was hoping for him to inquire why. Instead he said, “Are you going to get down here and help me find it or not?”
“Looks like you got it handled. Tell you what, I’ll just lube your chain and you’ll probably have found it by the time I’m done,” I replied.
I lubed Ken’s drivetrain and adjusted his brakes, occasionally glancing over at him.
He was still on his hands and knees, going back and forth across that 5 foot stretch of lawn.
I was nearly finished when he said, “I give up, I’m going to drive to the bike shop and replace it.”
“Most shops don’t stock that nut,” I said, “because only really careless people lose them. Too bad you are not Catholic.”
Obviously Kenny’s first inclination was to ignore me, but I had been helping him with his bike, so I think he felt a sense of obligation. “Fine, I’ll bite. Why is it too bad I’m not Catholic?”
“Because, if you were Catholic, you could do the St. Anthony prayer, which is guaranteed by God, to locate lost stuff.”
Ken looked skeptical. “I’m not kidding,” I said, “I’ve been using it since I was a kid and it always works some of the time.”
I added, “But we Catholics were taught that, since ours is the only one and true faith, and since you ‘Prods’ don’t have it quite right, the St. Anthony Prayer only works for us.”
Ken got up from the ground and began to walk towards his truck and said, “I’m going to the bike shop.”
I feared that I might have pushed too far so I said innocently, “Ok, I know it is probably going to tick off the Pope, but I could say the say the Prayer and try to find your nut, but I can’t promise anything because, you know, you being a heathen and all.”
I glanced over to see Ken quietly seething. At least I hoped he was seething.
I got down on my hands and knees and said, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, something is lost and it can’t be found.” I repeated the prayer over and over as I searched the grass. Ken watched for a few minutes before saying, “I’m leaving.”
“Found it!!” I yelled. I got up and did a little victory dance over to Ken and handed him his nut. Ken looked at me like I was haunted.
Now granted, I was saying all that stuff to drive my friend crazy, but most of what I said was true — or it was at least what I was taught.
I have been doing the St. Anthony Prayer to find lost items since I was a kid.
We were taught that Catholicism was the only one proper faith.
We were also taught that, despite the hat, the Pope was infallible, that homosexuality and premarital sex were sins and that women and married people weren’t suited for priesthood.
As a kid, I felt a sense of entitlement that we were the chosen. I remember feeling betrayed when I got my butt kicked while fighting a Jewish kid after a church league basketball game.
I guess he never got the memo.
When looked at, literally all religion (except your own) is farfetched. When you consider the edicts in axioms of other faiths, they sound absurd, but not so much when it is your faith.
But that, of course, is the definition of faith — a belief in what, on the surface, is unbelievable.
I don’t think I made a convert out of Ken, but at least he recognized the power of the St. Anthony Prayer.
I saw no need to ruin the mystery by telling him that I had grabbed the nut off his seat a few seconds after he put it there and placed it in my pocket.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.