Sunday, October 23, 2011


He held the mike close to his mouth, so that his words could be heard to greatest number of people. "If you hate someone, then the Lord says, you'll burn in hell, a thousand times over! For it says so in the good book, the only book you'll ever need to read--"

"Come back when you have pubic hair!"

The voice came from the audience, from a college boy in a prisoner outfit. His friends laughed, low and dirty, and he tossed a cigarette in the speaker's direction and walked away.

His crude request wasn't off the mark, though,. The boy with the mike could hardly be more than ten years old, with short blond hair, piercing brown eyes, and a grim look on his face that suggested he wasn't enjoying himself one bit. He appeared to be a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and perhaps given what he was preaching, he was.

Unlike the crowd around him, partying in the city of Salem, he was wearing a simple brown outfit and dark boots. Across the street, presumably, his parents were keeping a not-so-careful eye on him, laboring as they were under a huge sign that read, "REPENT, PEOPLE OF SALEM!"

Hey, it's hard work, trying unsuccessfully to convert a sinful flock. However, this isn't to say that the grim-faced boy was alone, because he was being watched over and followed, every step of his speech, by a smiling woman with a purple robe, dressed as a witch. Every so often, she'd dance behind him and sing, "This is total bullshit, this is total bullshit..."

"You are doomed, you worshipers of witches, you followers of the devil!" the boy continued, ignoring the woman behind him. "You don't have to be! The Lord loves you, I love you, and we both want you--"

"Go home and love yourself," said a short boy standing next to a tall girl with pink hair, as the crowd started to grow around the boy.

I tugged at Corb's sleeve. "This is awful," I said. "I hope nothing happens to him."

"They're not going to hurt him," said Corb, transfixed. "This is fascinating. I want to see what happens next." Next to us, Ashes and Theo nodded, not wanting to miss a second of the drama playing out.

The boy ignored the girl and the purple witch, and continued on with his testimony. A group of wicked boys gathered close to him, started taunting him. "Where do you come from?" asked one of the boys, in his face.

"Arkansas," said the boy.

"And this is how you're fucking spending your Halloween? Don't you want to live life?"

The boy paused for a bit, lost his focus, dropped the mike. Then, finding inspiration, he shoved it back to his mouth. "But what is living life? Do you like the life YOU live?"

Frustrated, Pink Hair ran across the street. "Are you just going to leave him alone there and not have someone look after him?" she screamed ao the people holding the "REPENT" sign. "How can you call yourself Christians if you just leave your little boy alone like that?"

A heavy-set man with thinning hair came forward, wearing a blue suit. "Now hold on, ma'am, he's not alone! He has the power of the Lord by his side. But, do you?"

"Maybe you should be by his side, too!" she continued. "What if something happens to him, while you're standing there holding your signs--"

"Nothing's going to happen," said the man, who nonetheless walked across the street, to get face to face with the lady, as the boy continued to proselytize. "But do you know what's going to happen to you? If you continue this sinful life, of witch worshiping and idolatry, you surely are going to burn in hell--"

"How dare you?" shouted Pink Hair, incensed. "You know, I don't have a problem with your religion at all, it's fine with me. Do what you want. But how dare you try to scare me into--"

"Woah woah woah!"

"How dare you try to use a little boy to--"

"Shhh, shhh, shh!" said the man. "It's my turn, let me speak."

Pink Hair stopped. "Okay."

"We're not trying to scare anyone," he said. "We have every right to be here and to speak our mind. All we're trying to point out is that there is one god and one god only, and that these people here who are spending the day, dressing up as demons and worshipping false gods, are sure to burn in hell and suffer a million horrible degradations, unless they embrace the Lord our God, the man who gave his life and died on the cross at Calvary."

Pink Hair rolled her eyes. "See? There you go again!"

"Shhh, shhh, shhh!"

But Pink Hair was just warming up. "You just tried to scare me into--"

"Now, ma'am, it's my turn to talk, you had your say--"

Suddenly, Corb was there by Pink Hair's side. "She DIDN'T have her say!" he shouted to the man. "You just lectured her! When she tried to respond, you cut her off. At least listen to what SHE has to say!"

And with that, the woman tried again. The preacher man gave him a second to respond. Meanwhile, the 10-year-old boy had handed the mike over to an older man, also on the heavy side, who was thumbing through his Bible, ready to begin his testifying. I turned the kids, who were watching Corb and the woman, locked in mortal combat with the preacher man. "You want to leave?" I asked.

Ashes' eyes were huge. "No, I want to stay. This is the most fun all night!"

There's a lesson for you, sinners: you can take the kids to Salem, spend a couple of hundred on wax museums, candlelit tours, and dinners, but sometimes, the best entertainment in life is absolutely free.

We must have spent an hour watching the preachers go on and on and get yelled and mocked by people dressed as witches, or goblins, or Sponge Bob Square Pants. When we finally left, it was only because the preachers had decided to take a break and our legs were killing us.

I think my kids learned an important lesson last night: forget about the curtain and the orchestra. Real life is more immediate, you never know what's noing to happen, and there's always a hint of viiolence in the air. In the end, street theater can make for the best theater of all.

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