As much as Garrison had enjoyed his dream, it flew in the face of everything he 'knew' about God, his family, and his friends. In his waking life, he saw no equality between himself and his fellow man, and equating himself with 'God' was out-and-out blasphemy. Out of a fear of a reversal in his recent fortunes, he felt compelled to reject such 'heretical' ideas.
Speaking of good fortune, he got another new student that Saturday afternoon: he immediately told me all about it at the cafe l'Oiseau. I tried to convince him that this good luck contradicted any notion that he was justified to fear 'God's wrath' for enjoying his dream. As usual, he ignored my advice and chose to adhere more rigorously to his orthodox Catholic faith, heading off to the homeless shelter to ladle out soup to the needy.
Being the only white man in the shelter ladling out soup to the Chinese homeless, he kept getting strange looks from them. Continuing with his charity work, he tried to ignore those looks he got. Instead, he thought about his dream, rejecting its 'untruth' about not only how it revealed the divine to him, but also how it portrayed his family and those five men he'd party with later that night.
The devil in me, Azazel, I suppose, is what tempted me to like my heretical dream and consider it a true revelation, he thought as he poured some soup in a bowl. I mustn't entertain such dangerous ideas, or else I may lose work, just punishment from God. I've always been sicker than most people: it's absurd to think everyone else is as screwed up as I am. My friends are way cooler than I.
That night, he and I went to Lee's apartment to party. We were the last ones to arrive, the other five already in another heated political debate.
"There's no such thing as equality," Gerard insisted.
"Right," Corin agreed. "It's an idealistic fairy tale, no evidence of it to be seen anywhere in the real world."
"Maybe not absolute equality," McLean countered, "but that doesn't justify the huge disparity between the rich and the poor, or bank bailouts."
"No justification at all," Lee said, rolling a joint. "That's why we need the state to spread the wealth around."
"That's a surefire way to kill the economy," Gerard said. "You help the poor by letting businesses use their profits to expand, to create jobs. Taxation gets in the way of that."
"I'm in favour of moderate taxation for redistributing wealth," Steven said. "But we need assurances that the money is being spent properly, on those who need it, not just being put in the politicians' pockets."
"Leave charity to the Church," Corin said. "Only God can guide morality."
"Hear, hear," Gerard said, sipping his beer.
"I agree with that," Garrison said. "I've done my charitable deed for the day."
Lee, Steven, and McLean chuckled at the three theists. I wanted to join in the chuckling, in spite of my contempt for the three atheists.
"What did you do, Garrison?" Gerard asked.
"I ladled out soup to homeless people," Garrison said.
"Good for you," Corin said.
"Doing the Lord's work, eh?" McLean said with a smirk.
Lee lit the joint, puffed on it, and passed it to greedy Garrison, who toked it to the maximum, then passed it to McLean. When everyone got sufficiently high, the other five resumed their political debate while I listened to Garrison's mumbling.
"As much as...I'd like to...believe I'm equal...with everyone, I can't," Garrison said.
"Oh, I'll bet you could," I said.
"I can't," he insisted. "There is no equality...only leaders...and followers...God must guide me...If I try to...be my own master, He'll punish me." Garrison belched, then drank from his beer.
"Your fear of divine punishment comes from your parents, not from God," I said. "Just like your fear of the disapproval of these five jerks you call your friends."
Garrison, of course, wouldn't listen to me. He continued mumbling about God's indispensability in his life, and frowning when he saw those five guys sneering at his crazy mumbling.
At the end of the night, I took him home and laid him on his bed. He was so drunk and stoned, he hadn't even taken his shoes off. He drifted off to sleep within seconds.
This was his dream.
I, Garrison, am in my old house in Toronto. I'm about ten years old, and the Five are standing in front of me in the living room.
My father speaks first. "I am God, my child," he says.
"God?" I gasp in surprise.
"Yes," he says, "Your Heavenly Father. Do as I command, live by my wisdom, don't question it like a proud rebel, and you'll be safe."
"That's true," my mother says. "Conform to our holiness, and Azazel will be in control. He'll never leave you, but at least he'll be tamed."
"Your 'holiness'?" I ask, sneering in doubt.
"Of course," she says, annoyed at my suspicion. "I'm Mary."
"And I'm their Son," Reynold interjects. "Jesus."
"OK, this is getting weird," I say.
"Garrison! Don't question us!" Julia snaps. "Accept it, and believe." She then turns into a white dove and flies over to the window sill, where a ray of glorious sunlight falls on her.
"You're the Holy Ghost?" I ask, shocked.
"Of course she is, " Fred says. "And I'm St. James, the Lord's brother. Now, do what is right, for faith without good works is a dead faith."
"That's right," my father's voice is heard to say; I turn my head from Fred to look at him, but instead of seeing my father, I see McLean. "Pay your just share of taxes to help the poor," he says, now in McLean's voice.
"OK, I will," I say to him. "But I'm hardly any richer."
"That doesn't matter," my mother's voice is heard to say. I look over at her, but see Lee now. He then says, in his own voice, "We must all do our part, since the rich won't do theirs."
"I'd chase away the rich, to separate them from their government friends, as I chased the moneychangers out of the temple," the voice of 'Jesus' Reynold says. I look at him now, but see Steven, who now, in his own voice, says, "Instead, I'll chase and bully you into paying your share. You must understand, Garrison: it's for the greater good."
"That's right," Fred's voice says; but I look at him and see Corin instead, who says in his own voice, "Charity is the Church's duty. You're part of the Church; do what is right--good works for a living faith."
I look over at the white dove on the window sill. It changes not back into Julia, but into Gerard. He says, "There's no such thing as equality, Garrison. You'll never be like us."
"Not with Azazel inside you," Lee says. "Freak."
"But in order to lessen the huge disparity between us and your poor, wretched self, you must give," McLean says.
Garrison woke up that Sunday morning, at about 10 AM. Though he wasn't upset by that dream, as he had been from so many others, it hadn't given him the same pleasure or restfulness as the one from Friday night had.
He showered, changed into some nice clothes, and rushed off to church. Arriving five minutes before Mass was to begin, he sat at the first pew, next to Corin, who sat beside Gerard.
"Hi guys," Garrison said nervously.
"Hi," they said to him.
Mass soon began with Father Delacroix approaching the altar. After the Kyrie, Gloria, and Psalm and Epistle readings, he began his sermon, about the importance of thankfulness to God.
"Even non-believers agree that an 'attitude of gratitude' is good for one's health," he said. "Think of how much better gratitude to God is for your eternal soul. So whenever you feel troubled, or angry about something, think of the good things God has given you, and thank Him."
After Mass, Garrison thanked the priest for his 'inspiring' sermon, said good-bye to Corin and Gerard, and met me in the cafe l'Oiseau.
"I have so much to be thankful for," he said. "A new girlfriend, friends to party with, and three new classes. It's all thanks to God."
"It is indeed good that you have lots to smile about," I told him. "But to be honest with you, hearing you thank the non-existent invisible man in the sky gives me something to laugh about."
His smile faded.
© Copyright 2016 Mawr Gorshin. All rights reserved.