Ken lost a nut in my yard. I exited my garage to find him, hands and knees, on the grass.
We were working on his bicycle; our last item on the menu of maintenance was to adjust his rear shock. He removed a small nut that covered the valve and placed in on his bike seat while we added air. I went into the garage to get another tool, and Ken took his bike off the rack and rolled it about 5 feet across the lawn. The nut fell off somewhere in those 5 feet.
I returned to find him prostrate in my front yard butt high, nose to the ground, muttering.
I knew Ken was raised Protestant, and was still a regular churchgoer, but I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Dude, if you are praying to Allah, you’re facing the wrong way. Mecca is towards the east.”
Ken didn’t think I was nearly as funny as I thought I was. “I lost my damn nut in your grass,” he said in frustration.
“That’s going to be hard to find,” I said. “Too bad you are not a Catholic.”
I was hoping for him to inquire why; rather, he said, “Are you going to get down here and help me find it or not?”
“Looks like you got it handled. Tell you what, I’ll just lube your chain, and you’ll probably have found it by the time I’m done.”
I lubed Ken’s drivetrain and adjusted his brakes, occasionally glancing over at him, still on his hands and knees, going back and forth across that 5-foot stretch of lawn.
I was nearly finished when he said, “I give up. I’m going to drive to the bike shop and replace it.”
“Most shops don’t stock that nut,” I said, “because only really careless people lose them. Too bad you are not Catholic.”
Obviously, Kenny’s first inclination was to ignore me, but I had been helping him with his bike so I think he felt a sense of obligation. “Fine, I’ll bite, why is it too bad I’m not Catholic?”
“Because, if you were Catholic,” I said, “you could do the Saint Anthony Prayer, which is guaranteed, by God, to locate lost stuff.”
Ken looked skeptical.
“I’m not kidding,” I said. “I’ve been using it since I was a kid, and it always works some of the time.
“But we Catholics were taught that, since ours is the only one and true faith, and since you ‘Prods’ don’t have it quite right, the Saint Anthony Prayer only works for us.”
Ken got up from the ground and began to walk toward his truck and said, “I’m going to the bike shop.”
I feared that I might have pushed too far, so I said innocently, “OK, I know it is probably going to tick off the pope, but I could say the prayer and try to find your nut. But I can’t promise anything because, you know, you being a heathen and all.”
I glanced over to see Ken quietly seething. At least I hoped he was seething. I got down on my hands and knees and said, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, something is lost and it can’t be found.” I repeated the prayer over and over as I searched the grass. Ken watched for a few minutes before saying, “I’m leaving.”
“Found it!” I yelled. I got up and did a little victory dance over to Ken and handed him his nut. Ken looked at me like I was haunted.
Now, granted, I was saying all that stuff to drive my friend crazy, but most of what I said was true — or at least what I was taught.
I have been doing the Saint Anthony Prayer to find lost items since I was a kid.
We were taught that Catholicism was the only one proper faith.
We were also taught — despite the hat — the pope was infallible; homosexuality and premarital sex were sins; and women and married people weren’t suited for priesthood.
As a kid, I felt a sense of entitlement that we were the chosen. I remember feeling betrayed when I got my butt kicked while fighting a Jewish kid after a church-league basketball game. I guess he never got the memo.
When looked at literally, all religion (except your own) is farfetched. When you consider the edicts and axioms of other faiths they sound absurd, not so much when it is your faith. But that of course that is the definition of faith — a belief in what, on the surface, is unbelievable.
I don’t think I made a convert out of Ken, but at least he recognized the power of the Saint Anthony Prayer. I saw no need to ruin the mystery by telling him that I had grabbed the nut off his seat a few seconds after he put it there and placed it in my pocket ...
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.