The chapel smelled like furniture polish. If Henry squinted, Amy Middleton from eleventh grade looked like Polly Finch from behind, the American hero who had been exploded in a methamphetamine lab as part of the war on terrorism.
The devil slapped a picture of Laura Prepon into Henry’s head to get him off track so he couldn’t concentrate on the word of the Lord.
Laura Prepon, the actress who portrayed the redheaded girl on That ’70s Show, had gone on Conan O’Brien to talk about shooting a movie in Alabama. When she said Alabama something happened in Henry’s pants. Where in Alabama? Was she coming back? Why was the world keeping them apart? Oh, Laura Prepon, you have the wide enticing face of a beauteous harlot. You have a vulva like a velvet boat.
It was eye-opening to be in Alabama. It was educational to find out that people could be so different, said Laura Prepon. One person from Alabama had tried to fashion a welcome sign for her as a gesture of goodwill, but this Alabama person did not go about his task properly. The sign was crudely constructed, which gave Laura Prepon a window onto Alabama’s soul, as she explained to Conan O’Brien. Alabama people did not know how to make neat, orderly signs, unlike the rest of the country. Another creepy person from Alabama actually tried to touch her in a coffee shop. Laura Prepon did not know how she managed to stay in Alabama for almost two weeks.
Henry wished he would see Laura Prepon walking through a restaurant with everyone paying attention to her because she was a star of liberal Hollywood. Then he would stick out his foot real casual and trip her, not so she’d get hurt but just embarrassed and everybody would laugh at her so she would know what it felt like. Then he would help her up and reassure her that people are people wherever you go.
“For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Then he would insert his penis into her naked vagina and make a baby, her white legs wrapped all the way around him, legs just about as white as raw chicken legs.
But that was not the way he thought of Polly Finch. He wanted to hug Polly Finch respectfully and tell her everything was okay and lick the inside of her mouth with his tongue.
Poor Polly Finch! Minding her own business! And then she had spotted the innocent Chinese baby walking toward the methamphetamine lab in upstate New York. Just when she tossed the baby out of the way into a soft bush everything blew up. Now she was paralyzed from the neck down and also from the neck up, but they thought she could understand what people were saying. One time somebody said something sad about Jesus and a tear had trickled out of her paralyzed eye! Another time the President had called her on the telephone and told her how it turned out those methamphetamine people had been sending money overseas for terrorism and he thanked her on behalf of the United States for bringing everything out in the clear sunshine of truth and while he was saying it one side of her paralyzed mouth went up in a smile. There were several witnesses! She was the Miracle Girl of upstate New York and a warning to terrorists of all stripes that you can’t get the American people down. There was that one home video where she was drinking punch in the weeks before the tragedy, they showed it on the news every night and she stuck out her tongue and it was all red, bright red, as red as Kool-Aid! It was a famous image that had turned her into America’s favorite paralyzed sweetheart and caused Henry to fall in love, even though she was nineteen years old and already out of high school and paralyzed all over.
Henry found that he was looking at the back of Amy Middleton’s neck, so much like Polly Finch’s neck and the whitish hairs creeping up it, shaped like an arrow, darkening as they climbed, if you lifted up Polly Finch’s long hair that smelled like apple shampoo to give her her special hospital bath you would see something like that underneath. Or if her beautiful hair was all bunched up in her special headgear that she wore for paralysis. He’d like to blow on the back of Amy Middleton’s neck and watch the hairs waving like a pasture of tall grass. All at once his lips got so dry he could feel them cracking. One time Amy Middleton had walked by him after softball in her red shorts and he had caught a waft of something that smelled like a hot ironing board and made him dizzy.
The evangelist was saying:
“One evening at a state fair I came into my employer’s luxurious trailer and found him crying his eyes out. Yes, this very same man with the world at his feet! I was stunned and flabbergasted. In my estimation at the time, he was infinitely my superior. I could not imagine why a person of such lofty attainments would ever need to shed a tear, and I told him as much, for we were as close as brothers in our way. This man gestured wearily between his wrenching sobs at his thousand dollar monkey and his empty liquor bottles and the crumpled pornography that littered the filthy hole he called his home. ‘Sam,’ he said to me, ‘all of this means nothing. I believe it is time for us to get right with the Lord.’ And the name of that man was… Neil Sedaka. Who amongst you is familiar with Neil Sedaka?”
No one was familiar with Neil Sedaka.
This story first appeared on NERVE in 2005.