Punker Notes [Original Novel]
Part Two: Road Trip
to go to my family’s former church, in part to give some friends of my parents their best, and also to see if there’s anyone I know around the place still. There’s another reason though. I’ve had for as long as I can remember, this nagging spiritual monkey on my back. And nothing I do, no matter what it is: skulling beers and getting trashed, smoking dope, doing acid, coke, heroin or chasing tail, it just won’t go away. I’d been instilled with my family’s religion since childhood and it’s inside me.
I’m sitting near the front of the sanctuary in the Seventh-day Adventist church at 1920 Jefferson Street in central Muskegon. The preacher’s daughter, Lisa Jacobsen, plays piano for the Special Music portion of the service. She appears to be about nineteen. Long blonde hair and very well built, more than adequately curvaceous. She looks eastern European, but isn’t, unless she’s sixth generation or something. I remember her as a pre-teen. Her father had been pastoring the church before the Jim Sturm family had fled the Michigan winters for the California sun. I’m sitting there not able to take my eyes off her, lusting voraciously. Thinking about things I’d done with Nina, Liann Cotten, Erica Nielson, Tracy Randall. Wondering if Lisa has it in her to take part in such activities.
I get up after the preacher’s daughter finishes the piece she is playing to take a leak as Bill Manning steps up to the podium. “Brothers and sisters,” he begins, “our scripture this morning is taken from the book of Psalms. Psalm Fifty-one, verses two through ten. Please read along silently with me... ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me...’ ”
I run into Harold Beebe in the bathroom. I can remember being remonstrated by him regularly for acting up in Sabbath School. Beebe putting his arm on my shoulder his mouth next to my ear sternly admonishing, “Quiet!” his breath often smelling like hamburgers on these occasions. And I would be thinking, “Why in the hell would somebody eat hamburg for breakfast on Sabbath morning?”
“Jackie Sturm!” Mr. Beebe stretches out a hand. We shake hands. “How are your parents doing? Does your dad have his own auto shop out there in California?”
“No..., he works at a dealership. Mike McCarthy Buick in Huntington Beach. And my mom’s an R.N.” I politely answer, not holding any grudges from our Sabbath School days.
“Huntington Beach, huh...? Sounds like you guys are living the good life out there in sunny California. And your mom’s an R.N...? I thought she was a secretary.”
“Yeah, she started studying at a community college out there... And she finished and got her degree and now she’s a nurse."
“Hmm..., that’s quite a change... How’s she like that?”
“She seems happy doing it... And she makes about 20k more a year than when she was a secretary.”
I enjoy relaying this information to Harold as our church family had looked down on the Sturms as poor white-trash for as long as I can remember. This underlying snobbishness was ever-present at any church functions such as picnics, camping trips, evangelistic series, etc.
When I sit back down, the pastor, Gerald Jacobsen, is into his sermon which is based on the morning’s scripture reading.
“King David wrote this after the terrible sin he committed. He had been in his palace looking down on the rooftops of his Jerusalem when he noticed a beautiful woman on her rooftop... This woman was on her roof bathing..., and David drank in heartedly the flesh of this beautiful creature. Sinning at that point by merely taking in the sight of this woman in her nakedness.”
The preacher pauses for a few seconds and looks directly at me.
“This guy must have seen me checking out his daughter,” I think to myself as his eyes are locked on mine. “If he only knew the things I was thinking about doing with her,” nearly laughing as this thought passes through my head. I grab my Church Bulletin and open it up glancing through it.
“We know that he had already sinned at this point,” Pastor Jacobsen finally takes his gaze off of me, “because Jesus himself has told us, ‘Even if you look at a woman in lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart.’ This was some time before he committed his more egregious sins and I say 'sins' because we often focus on David’s adulterous act with Bathsheba. We forget that the king promoted this woman’s husband, Uriah, placing him in the front lines of battle where he was subsequently killed. Uriah, in effect, was murdered by King David, who then married Bathsheba.
“But the message of this passage isn’t David’s transgressions. Let me re-read what Bill shared so eloquently with us when he did the scripture reading this morning. The preacher opens his Bible. “I’m looking at verses ten and eleven if anybody wants to open their Bible. ‘Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.’ ”
That last plea which the preacher just read is what has been at the core of my inner struggling going back to adolescence. Fear has often woken me in the middle of the night with me thinking, “I’m lost...! Lost...!” The idea of the Holy Spirit being withdrawn from my conscience scaring the shit out me. It starts to hit me again now and continues throughout the sermon.
Pastor Jacobsen finishes his homily and the Head Elder offers the closing prayer. Then we are ushered pew by pew out of the sanctuary. As I make my way towards the back of the church I’m pushing whatever conviction that had risen within me during the sermon to the bottom of my brain smashing it down as deep as I can into my unconscious thoughts.
Photo by CirrosisAguda