The gospel according to joe

Written by Michael Kolesky


So see. I stumble through these big wooden doors. And I was thinkin’. ‘It’s weird for a liquor store to have wood doors. And who the hell is that dude they got all these pictures of nailed to a cross on the wall?’ And that’s when it dawned on me, man. This ain’t no liquor store. This must be a church. Good thing I keep a pint in my pocket at all times. ‘Cause you know I wouldn’t be able to listen to my father if I weren’t drunk. Gotta be in the same state of mind as him when he’s hollering at ya for God know’s what. But back to the church. I won’t sit through a sermon if I’m sober. Too many people talking this shit that I can be saved. If I’d just put down the bottle. But the joke’s on them. I put the empty bottle down on the steps outside. So now who needs to be saved?


So I notice nobody is sittin’ in all the pews. So I yells at the top of my lungs. To whoever was in there. I couldn’t see a damn thing. Had my sunglasses on.  And my vision was blurring a bit. “It’s one o’clock on a Sunday! Why ain’t anybody here for mass?!”


And some dude walks over in his robe and says. “Sir. It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday.”


“You’re shittin’ me man? Damn. I remember I poured myself one drink Saturday night and I woke up this morning still drunk.”


“Sir. This is a church. Please refrain from using that sort of language.”


“Hey man. The only problem is because of how my face is structured, my eyes can’t watch my mouth. But I’ll try my best. As long as you as you refrain from callin’ me sir. I may be a creature of the night. But me and the Queen have a rocky relationship.  So she won’t knight me. So you calling me sir just digs the sword that has never tapped my shoulders in further. Deeper. Ya dig?”


“My apologies. Can I help you with something?”


“Yeah actually. Can I get a job application for the priesthood? I’d like to have a job where I can work in my bathrobe. And I hear the blood of Christ is about 10% alcohol. So I wouldn’t mind becoming a vampire for a little booze.”


“If you have come here to simply insult my faith I will be forced to remove you.”


“Nah nah. You’re misunderstandin’ me pops. Can I call you pops, Father? I meant those as compliments. I was kidding about the job though. I already have one that I apparently never showed up to for the past two days. Funny how the boss expects you to be a bartender and not have a drinking problem.”


So finally the Pops was gettin’ a tad agitated and says I can pray quietly or I have to dip. And since he was watchin’ me pretty closely, I knew I’d never be able to sneak some shots in while I was in the pews. And that’s when I noticed this wooden box at the side of the building. Now I guess in hindsight it was a booth. Not a box. But I figured, close enough to a coffin. I’m sure the Pops wouldn’t mind if I drank myself to death in it.


I gave a quick glance before I staggered into the box. Ya know. To make sure the Pops wouldn’t know I was drinking myself to death in there. Thought it’d be a much funnier joke if someone just happened upon my corpse. Dark humor is like food though.  Not everyone gets it. But the Pops had a little grin on his face as I sneaked in. I took it as a sign he was ok with my joke.


So I’m sittin in that box. And it’s weird. Cause there was a bench. But it was only about a foot off the ground. So how the hell was I supposed to sit on it? And the area I stepped into was only about half the size the box was on the outside. And the wall had no door to get to the other side. Just this weird peep hole type thing with a grate over it.  “What is this?  Some sort of peep booth that you can’t get off to?”


“I’m sorry son. What did you just say?”


“Woah man. I know this is a church. And a lotta them religious types are against gays.  Now I personally don’t have a problem with it. But if this is a peep show I’d much rather see a woman than a man. Just like the Pops out there would probably rather wanna see a boy than a man.”


“Son. This is a confessional booth.”


“Really? Then I guess in a way it’s a bit of a peep show. But I’m supposed to be the one showing.”




“No. I don’t mean any offense by that. I just mean. This is like going to a shrink’s office. They sit there and their ego gets off to hearing how screwed up everybody else is. It’s kinda perverted to wanna see someone’s soul. Ya know? I’d be much more comfortable taking my cock out than taking my soul out for ya.”


“Are you saying you have nothing to confess?”


“Nah nah. See. What I mean is I don’t have much of a soul left to show. And even if I did I have one, I’d keep it chained to a radiator in my basement. I wouldn’t wanna see that ugly thing.”


That voice behind the grate paused for a moment when I said that. If my sunglasses had been off I probably coulda seen through that grate. Or at least had been able to make something up about it. Not just refer to it as a voice. Makes me sound like a schizo. Having an inner dialogue with myself. Or a Jesus freak. Thinking God is on the other line. Even though the landlines are as dead as He is. Or like I popped too many tabs. But my acid supplier has been out so I haven’t even been able to lose my mind that much lately. I was about to reach for that pint in my pocket. But then the voice came back.


“By the wording of your last statement it sounds like you indeed of have something to confess.”


“What are ya man? Some kinda psychoanalyst? Or some kinda writing critic reading between my lines? The only thing between my lines is the coke I’m too shaky to straighten into a line.”


“No. I’m just here to talk to you, son. Call me a conversationalist. I’m just trying to maintain a dialogue between us until you decide you’ve gotten what you need to get out of the confessional.”


“A conversationalist. I dig that man. That’s the line I use on women I meet through Tinder. I tell them the reason I come across as so needy is because I’m a conversationalist. And I’m just tryin’ to maintain a conversation with them.”


“Does that work?”


“Well. They don’t block me. Just never respond. I guess I’m just a conversationalist. Not a great one like yourself.”


“Son. You’re putting words in my mouth. I’m just a conversationalist.”


“Nah nah. Don’t be so humble man. You’re a great conversationalist. You’ve somehow gotten me to maintain a conversation with ya.  And a pretty honest one at that.”


“So you’re saying you don’t talk much? Have you ever tried being honest with these women and telling them that you don’t talk much but want to?”


“Hey man. Don’t go psychoanalysing my responses again. Unless you wanna not be a great conversationalist.”


The voice let out a little bit of a laugh. By the sound of it, you’d swear this voice was my conscience. Overanalyzing my responses. Finding the repressed clues. Trying to give me advice.  But still laughing at the self-loathing. Just generally trying to humanize me. I’d swear man, if I didn’t know how bad my life choices have been, this would be the conscience I never had.


“Since we are in the confessional, I will confess something to you son. It was unprofessional of me to laugh at your response. It’s technically unprofessional of me to continue talking to you if you’re not confessing.”


“So then why ya doin’ it?”


“I feel if you humanize a person enough. And talk to them enough. They will feel comfortable confessing to you if they don’t feel that way when they first step into the confessional. Since you walked into the confessional, whether consciously or subconsciously, you must have something to confess. So I will ask you again. Would you like to confess anything son?”


“Man. You’re pulling that Freudian stuff on me. Next thing you’re gonna tell me I drink too much to fill the role of my dad.  And I go after women that don’t respond to me cause of my mom.”


“Say ten Hail-”


“Woah woah woah. Did I say that was my confession? Nah. My confession is that I’m a writer.”


“Why must you confess that? Writers are interpreters for those of us who can’t understand all the vague glimpses of beauty that life has to offer.”


“That’s a bunch of bull-  That’s a loada-  That’s meaningless. The only vague glimpse of beauty I’ve ever seen was when I was on acid and sniffed poppers. For thirty seconds I understood the entire universe. The good. The bad. And all the vague glimpses of beauty you’re talkin’ about. Then everything went to black. And I came too on the floor unable to put my experience in English.”


“So you said your confession was that you were a writer. As a writer you must understand that words have connotations to them. If you say that being a writer is your confession, then you are admitting that writing brings you a sense of guilt. Why do you feel guilty over being a writer?”


Could ya get a load of this guy? He’s gonna sit here and tell me what I’m supposed to do as a writer. Then ask me why I disagree with him. As if I’m wrong. As if I knew why I disagreed.


“Son. What are you thinking about?”


“I’m thinking about this phrase that came to me that I haven’t been able to do anything with. Bob Dylan’s ‘I’m Not There’ in the style of the Stooges.”


“Are you saying Dylan deserves the stigma that Iggy has? That Dylan is just as trashy as Iggy?”


“Nah nah. I’m sayin that degenerates get the same deep and profound thoughts that prophets and poets do.”


I think he took offense to the prophet thing. It was a figure of speech, though. It wasn’t like I’d been cursing at him the way I was doing to the Pops earlier. He was being silent again. Pulling that psychoanalyst role that he said was unprofessional and all.  Since he was gonna be unprofessional about it, I may as well get stewed too. So I pulled out the pint and began drinking.


“Son. Please don’t drink here. This is a house of God.”


“I get it. I’m not a minor. So you don’t want me sippin’ the blood of Christ. Just those second graders making communion. So they’re easy for ya.”


“Watch yourself. I’ll let your jokes slide while we talk. But I will not tolerate attacks like that. Please, son. Put the bottle away in this house of God.”


“It’s funny. I don’t remember buying this property. But how you gonna tell me that I can’t drink in my own house?”


“So you have a God complex I see.”


“Well. Everything I write is about me. I’m not trying to write the Gospel According to Joe Schmo. I wouldn’t be writing if my words weren’t so important and needed to be heard.”


“You say you’re important. Yet the lifestyle you live seems to be a punishment for you. You say you write because your words should be heard. Yet you feel guilty over being a writer.”


“This is why I never went to church as a kid. They’re always fillin’ you with that Catholic guilt for touching yourself after every broad turns you down. Actin’ like Mary wasn’t a whore. It’s a bit Freudian that Jesus was seeing a broad that had the same name as his mother. And when I called her a whore, I meant his mother. Like she was a virgin. I don’t remember sleeping with her the same way I don’t remember sleeping with most women. And notice I used the hard R as not to swear in my own home.”


“Is your writing about these women you don’t remember and the substances to help you not remember?”


“In a sense.”


“A sense?”


“Yeah. I guess I’m not exactly true to my writing. Sure. I do a lotta substances.  So I can convert all the friends that are concerned about me into fiends. But the women are exaggerated. I wouldn’t feel guilty about sleeping with them ya know. It’s just I don’t have the opportunity to sleep with them because women don’t really care for me all that much.”


“Are you guilty about your writing because it’s not true?”


“No. Because the feelings are true. The events are the only blasphemy to my name.”


“You’re giving this information up very easily now. Aren’t you going to make me work to get you to confess?”


“What do ya want from me man?  First you give me this whole psychoanalyst thing saying you’ll wait till I’m ready to confess. Now I am confessing. And you’re saying I’m not fighting back enough.”


“I’m just saying. You seem like somebody that sticks to your morals. And one of your morals seemed to remain a closed book.”


“I’m amoral. Not a moral. I’m the epitome of escapism. So my philosophy is whatever helps me feel the least at the moment. Right now. I’m pretty drunk. And I’m just going with the flow of the liquor. Which is weird cause I haven’t been able to afford coke for a while to keep me ramblin without consequence. But in all honesty. I’m a pretty open book. If you just take my work off the shelf and read between my lines. But I want you to still judge me by my cover.”


“So you are published. Congratulations.”


“No. I’m not. Never will be. I wouldn’t be able to escape if my work were published. Cause the psychoanalysts and writing critics of the world, like yourself, would refuse to judge me by my cover.”


“The Lord can’t judge anybody by their cover. God knows the absolute truth of who you are. As long as you confess to your wrong doings, he will understand why you commit them. You just have to believe.”


“I don’t believe in anything but myself. So I guess I believe in God.”


“Whether you like it or not, everybody believes in something. You admitting you don’t believe in anything is your belief. Belief isn’t a matter of God. It’s not a matter of schools of philosophy. Belief is your motivations and actions. You can’t escape believing in something. Even if your belief is escapism.”


“Woah, man. Get a load of this guy.  Am I right? Thinking I do things cause I believe. I do things because I have no concern for myself or others. If I were concerned I’d be living much differently.”


“If you weren’t concerned you’d be published.”


“Fuck you, man!” I yelled to the voice as I downed the last of the pint. “I can mock your precious church all I want. Don’t mock me or my writing! You don’t know what shit you’re talking.”


“I’m just judging the book by the cover. Just like you asked. And the cover says the book is full of sins. Therefore you must be a sinner.”


“You bet your ass I’m a sinner. And my only sin is wanting to be heard. That’s why I write. Cause I want somebody to hear what I have to say for once in my life.  Cause nobody listens. None of the women listen to my womanizing. None of my fiends listen to my decadence. Nobody in the world listens to my writing. I just want somebody to listen for once. Not that I’m fucked up because of the drugs and women. But that I use those as a cover to my book of how fucked up my soul is. So maybe that was the Freudian slip of how I ended up in this damn confessional. With this damn voice trying to psychoanalyze me.”


“Say ten ‘Hail Mary’s.”


And with that I left that damn coffin. Cause I wasn’t about to die that shit of a hell hole they call a church. I lit a spliff as I was walking outta my own house that they were getting ready to kick me outta anyways. I turned around one last time to yell some sarcastic hallelujahs or amens. But as I turned around, I saw stepping outta the coffin the voice. It was a tall, older man. Long white beard and white hair. Long robe. If the robe had been red, I would’ve sworn it had been Santa that I was talkin’ to the whole time. It’s not like there’s that big of a difference between Santa and God. They both monitor all of us. Deciding if we’re good or bad.


The only gift he got me was reaffirming my hatred for the church. Can you believe that? I tried to watch my mouth as much as possible for this guy. I was even starting to think I might be able to respect him, too. And that’s the gift he gives me.


So. I was walkin’ around the crumby parts of town. Looking for the good kinda peep show. That kind where you can drink and smoke. And see real women. Taking off real clothes. And I was tryin’ to find one where a woman named Mary that I couldn’t remember sleeping with was working. And I tipped her well. Cause she still remembered me.


I sat in my stool. And I’m pretty sure I just meant the chair I was sitting on. But I had run up quite the tab. Sitting there. Whispering to myself between shots. “Hail Mary.”  And I must’ve said it at least ten times. That’s the thing about misogynists. We don’t love sex. We praise women. But throwing all those tips at her. And drinking as much as I do. My wallet was pretty empty when it came time to pay my tab.


And that’s why I’m writing this story. As an explanation. I’m not trying to sucker free drinks. I’m more respectable than that. I’m not that bad of a guy. No matter what my cover says. Would I even be able to put a cover on this story? Since it’s written on a stack of bar napkins. The only thing I deserve to be published on. With the exception of rolling papers. So my confession is just as much smoke up your ass as I am.


I just wanted to explain. That I can’t pay my tab. Cause Santa Claus told me to praise the woman. And damn. Did Mary deserve all the money I threw at her. Despite the scar tissue from spending the tips on track marks at the horse races. And the wear and tear from trying to figure out if my cover was armor or paper. I could still see a lotta vague glimpses of beauty in her.


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