Holy War On A Hot Summer Day
The Hare Krishna parade marched down Main Street, carting a huge gaudy dome along with them, chanting and clapping and dancing joyfully.
The Bible bangers were not amused. Venice Beach was their turf, they were there first and earliest and loudest with their megaphones and banners.
They refused to tolerate this intrusion.
Lester Patterson checked the batteries in his megaphone, replacing them like a paratrooper slamming a fresh clip into his sub-machinegun. He stood there on the Lord’s business, determined to stop the advance of godless paganism.
Two blocks away, banging both ends of her hour-glass shaped damaru drum, Sunflower Ashram danced down the street in advance of the huge gaudy dome, sunlight glinting off her clean shaven head. It was a big day for her and her friends; they’d been planning and working for this parade for months.
But as they advanced down the street, ocean to their right, quaint old beach houses to their left, she heard the feedback squeal of a megaphone, then a harsh metallic sounding condemnation: “God will not tolerate the sinner, the homosexual, the fornicator, the unholy, the worshipper of false idols! There is a fiery pit in hell set aside for those who mock the good and loving Lord, who turn their backs on righteousness, who worship Satan in all his many forms!”
Sunflower strove to block it out, to concentrate on her own “tada brahma hatyam” but the bullhorn proved just too loud and her concentration snapped. Yanked out of her state of bliss, her mind now sought a target for her resentment and quickly focused on the tight knot of sign wavers ahead of her.
They stood, looking for all the world like an angry fist and jammed between the fingers of that fist, chopsticks, only the chopsticks were signs and the signs condemned her and her brothers and sisters in Krishna to hell.
“Who are these people?” she wondered. “How shriveled are their souls if they can’t accept the joy of another person?”
The parade advanced to the spot where the protestors stood, the Krishnas banging and clanging even louder in a determined attempt to acoustically drown out the Christians’ technological edge with the bullhorn. The man with the horn leaned over the police barricade, shouting angrily over his megaphone, so loudly that Sunflower could hear his own voice over the amplification.
Hear it…and recognize it.
“Lester?” she said. “Lester Patterson?”
Mr. Microphone didn’t realize she was staring at him. With the bullhorn now directed away from her and towards the gaudy dome the other Krishnas were pushing and pulling, Sunflower could hear the distinctive Tennessee twang in his voice.
“Lester, it is you!”
She broke rank and rushed over to him. He swiveled around to direct the megaphone at her but she pushed it away. “Lester! What are you doing here?”
Lester blinked in befuddlement. Sunflower held her hand up to her forehead, palm out, to block her bald dome. “Sally Ashford? Remember? High school? Madisonville, Tennessee? I had long blonde hair back then.”
Lester blinked again, then recognized Sunflower nee Sally, smiled broadly…
…and immediately turned it into a frown.
“What are you doing here? And with them?”
Sunflower nee Sally dismissed his question with the wave of her hand. “I should ask you the same question. When you were in high school you were not the religious type. Quite the contrary, if I recall.”
Lester blushed, shamed. Two failed marriages, far more failed relationships, dope and drink and a stretch in the pen. That’s where he met Jesús. (Jesús, a Columbian axe-murderer serving three back-to-back life sentences, found religion about halfway through his second lifetime, and now felt eager to share the good news with his fellow inmates. When an axe-murder wishes to have a conversation with you, you listen.)
“It’s a long story,” Lester said. “But…you…this…”
Sunflower shrugged. She fled East Tennessee to find success, found it, learned it wasn’t what she thought it would be, and much like Lester had drifted for a decade or more before glomming onto the Krishna movement.
The movement which currently was stopped and looking at her and Lester quite suspiciously.
“Is he bothering you?” one of her spiritual brothers asked.
Before Sunflower could answer, a female sign carrier with a shark-like face and ponytail said to Lester, “Hey, if you’re not going to preach at ‘em, I want a turn with the megaphone!”
To which a male sign carrier said, “The Apostle Paul taught that women aren’t supposed to preach in church” to which Ms Jaws replied “This ain’t a church” and hit her co-religionist over the head with her sign (there clearly being some history between the two of them) and then things went downhill from there. The national news services described it as “Religious Riot Erupts At Venice Beach” with one channel blaming the Christians and another channel blaming the Krishnas and Al-Jazeera saying “a plague on both your houses” (because Al-Jazeera was better read on Western classics than the Americans were on Middle Eastern poetry).
Lester and Sunflower nee Sally missed all the excitement. They found a nice little seaside café, ordered tea, and caught up on old times.
© Buzz Dixon