Stop Making Sense is the first chapter of my as yet untitled novel. The working title was The Pope Story: The MAn Under The Big Hat, but I don’t think that’s what it’ll be in the end. I hope to have it published in the next few months. I hope you enjoy chapter one, please let me know what you think.
Chapter One: Stop Making Sense
Alex waited in line patiently. “Fa fa-fa fa, fa fa-fa fa fa,” he sang to himself. He was wearing a light tan suit, as always. He found that people remember you better if you always wear the same outfit. Alex was a bright young man who had a lot of good ideas about music and wine and a lot of bad ideas about how women should be treated. This book is not about Alex. In fact, this book only pretends to be about anything at all. You see, story is just a trick to get people to read for longer than they would normally. However, this story does revolve around one man, like the sun revolves around the earth, except not in circles. More like a drunk man revolves around a lamppost that he is clinging to so he doesn’t fall off the face of the earth. He isn’t a big man, but he does wear a big hat. This man is the Pope.
The Pope was busy kicking a man in the ribs in the middle of Sunday services. This wasn’t usual practice at the Vatican, but this poor sap deserved it. If there was anything that annoyed the Pope, it was moshing (while drunk) during a sermon. It simply isn’t done. At least, not in the Vatican. Sure, the Unitarians could have their fun in their own churches, but not when the Pope was running the show. The Vatican bouncers came and threw the unfortunate young man outside the door.
“Go have a V-8!” the Pope yelled after the drunken idiot, then turned and went into his office to think. The Pope loved V-8, but he hated green beans. This was not the Pope’s biggest problem. The Pope’s biggest problem as he saw it was the break-up of the Jackson Five. The Pope’s biggest problem as virtually everyone else saw it was the Anglican Church. However, a third problem presently held the Pope’s attention. The problem was a simple one. Bubble gum.
A casual observer would not expect bubble gum to be a prime concern of the papacy. That’s why those kinds of observers are called ‘casual,’ the term ‘casual’ in this sense meaning ‘wrong.’ In reality, bubble gum worried the Pope more than anything else – other than the Jackson Five. Or more precisely, the Pope worried that he would be stuck with the extraordinarily massive amount of bubble gum he had purchased from Bazooka Joe to sell in the Vatican’s annual fundraiser. The Pope had briefly considered replacing the Communion Wafer with Communion Bubble Gum, but decided against it on the basis that it would bring too many kids to Mass, and God did he hate it when they started screaming right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer.
So the Pope continued to worry until Cardinal Tito interrupted his worrying with some good news.
“Sir,” Tito said. “I have some good news.”
“Eh?” the Pope said. “What is it then? Are the Jackson Five getting back together?”
Tito grimaced. “I’m afraid not, sir. It’s Bazooka Joe. We’ve found him.”
The Pope smiled. “Good. Put him in the dungeon, and feed him only green beans.”
“What?” the Pope said.
“The Vatican doesn’t have a dungeon.”
“Then put him in one of the bedrooms and call it a dungeon. He won’t know the difference. How many dungeons has the average person ever seen? None, so he won’t have any idea it isn’t a dungeon unless you tell him. Jesus Christ, do I have to think of everything myself?”
Tito nodded, and left without a word. The Pope sat, enjoying the moment. His agents had finally captured the elusive Bazooka Joe, the man who had stuck him with over two million pieces of bubble gum. Well, the Pope would soon teach Bazooka Joe about the negative side effects of overly aggressive marketing tactics. The Spanish Inquisition would pale by comparison.
Bazooka Joe felt ill. He had been a prisoner of the Vatican for nearly a week, and since his capture he had eaten nothing but green beans, by direct order of the Pope. Now, Joe liked green beans, but it was a little much, having them three times a day. Otherwise Joe was fine. The dungeon was actually a rather spacious bedroom suite. A plaque on the wall claimed the Queen of England herself had once stayed there.
There was a knock at the door. Joe rose and opened the door. The Pope stood before him.
“Hello, Joe,” the Pope said. “Or do you prefer to be called Bazooka?”
“Joe’s fine,” said Joe. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to give you a treat,” the Pope said. “Here you are.”
The Pope handed Joe a V-8. Joe hated V-8.
“Uh, thanks,” Joe said. “I think I’ll save it for later.”
Joe set the V-8 down on a coffee table and made a mental note to flush it down the toilet later.
“So,” the Pope said, smiling. “How’s the food?”
“Really good, actually,” Joe said. “I love green beans, and you have an excellent chef. I feel like I’ve been the judge on the green bean episode of Iron Chef America.”
The Pope scowled. “Oh well. Have you had time to think about what you’ve done?”
“What do you mean?” Joe said.
“About the two million pieces of bubble gum we couldn’t sell like you said we could. It wasn’t a fundraiser, it was a fundlowerer.”
“Oh, that,” Joe said. “Carpe Diem. That’s all I can say.”
“‘Seize the day’?” the Pope said. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? You’re not going to stand on a desk now, are you?”
“Oh, no. Not Carpe Diem,” Joe said, tapping his toe impatiently, and snapping his fingers, as if that would help him come up with the right term instead of just making him seem like the most rhythmless person east of the Mississippi, which, coincidentally, he was. “Damn. I mean Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware.”
The Pope fumed. “Look,” he said. “I have two million pieces of bubble gum, and nothing to do with them. You’d better help me out, or else.”
“Or else what?” Joe said. “You’re Catholic, and all the good tortures are sins.”
The Pope paused. Joe had a point. The Bible, while all well and good most of the time, could put a damper on things when torture was involved.
“Well,” the Pope said. “If other Popes can send kids on Crusades, lead the Spanish Inquisition, and approve of Jimmy Carter as President, I think torturing a bubble-gum sales representative would be permissible.”
Joe was at a loss. “OK, you have a point,” he said. “But I’m impervious to most methods of torture any humane being would use.”
“That’s fine,” the Pope said. “Shall we get started?”
The Pope waved toward the door, and Cardinal Tito came in. With him he carried a large number of compact disks.
“What’s this?” Joe said.
“Your treatment,” the Pope answered. “The complete collection of Musak. Every single great song they have ever turned into annoying elevator music.”
“No,” Joe said. “No, no, no! Anything but that!”
The Pope motioned for Tito to stop. “Perhaps this ugliness could be avoided,” the Pope said. “If a refund could be issued?”
“Fine, fine, anything,” Joe said. “Do you have your receipt?”
“Yes,” the Pope said. “Let me find it.” The Pope began to search through his robes for his wallet. All of a sudden, a man dressed in a suit of cheap imitation armor burst through the door.
“Either of you two seen a Sampo lying around?” the man said.
“No,” Joe said.
“No,” the Pope said.
“Damn,” the man said as he hurried off.
“What was that about?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know,” the Pope said as he dug in his wallet. “Here’s the receipt.”
“Thanks,” Joe said as he returned the Pope’s money. “Sure are a lot of freaks running around the Vatican.”
The Pope looked around. “What do you mean? Is Michael Jackson here?”
“No,” Bazooka Joe said. “Forget it, never mind. Can I go now?”
“Huh? Oh, of course,” said the Pope.
Bazooka Joe left, and the Pope was just about to set his mind to other issues, with this problem settled, when another problem presented itself. The Pope was needed in the other room. The Anglicans were about to make their move.