“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I fear the only measurable display of confidence you will glean of my soul this day, Father, blooms and withers before you now as a single teardrop in the ocean of eternity, serving for but a flicker of the candle to underline this warning: Today’s confession is a real doozy. Grant me the strength, Lord, to disclose every humiliating detail of my soul’s most recent stray into flamboyant debauchery, and the faith to entrust this stumbling tale of a crumbling failure crutched only by the helpless spectre of his own knotted shame unto your shepherd on Earth, of whose ear I implore patience, and heart, forgiveness. It has been twenty-seven years since my last confession.

I was approached last night in the parking lot of the gas station where I enjoy my nightly glut of caffeine, nicotine, and Colt 45 by an eager, smiling Mormon girl who asked me if I had yet heard the good news of Jesus The Christ. “No ma’am, I have not!” I lied, then continued listening to and engaging with her, nodding and tilting my head like a mesmerized car-keys dog the whole time, and asking her absolutely the most genuine, condescension-free, nonconfrontational questions I could squeeze out of my cold, black heart for well over an entire hour, in the near-frozen grip of a dead-middle winter’s eve.

And I didn’t do it out of boredom or cruelty, and I didn’t do it out of a latent Freudian desire to throw aside my shackles of reason, logic, and a quality kindergarten education to right my wandering soul with a compass calibrated by a whoopie cushion of daffy horseshit rivaled in absurdity only by that of every single other religion ever dreamed up by sadistic old men who love making tax-free bank telling women and children what to do with their bodies, no offense. I did it simply out of my astonishingly sincere respect for her unexpected warmth, enthusiasm, and fearless dedication to a calling I will never understand, and the kind of sheer, runneth-over kindness that can only come from the bottom of a fellow Christian’s good-natured heart’s desire to imagine her naked for an entire hour. Mother of God, she was pretty, Father.

Her name was Sister Halliday—to my ears, a microsonnet too beautiful to christen even the world’s nicest filthy shrimping boat. She was 20 years tight, her painterly visage patently outclassed the penetrating symmetry and neotenic kinderschema of the most adorably-taffy-pulled Stanley Kubrick Pixar character you could ever dream up, and she radiated enchantment and gorgeous loveliness like just the creamiest, glowing oil painting you’ve ever seen come to life and dance around like Frosty The Sexman. Her teeth were huge, and sparkled with more dazzling Parisian intensity than the bridge of the Starship J. J. Abrams Lens Flare Porn, shimmered as pearly as the gates of Heaven’s Gate itself, and tore at my very heart meat with all the voracious, sexy pointiness of Bowie’s original, messed-up English badger teeth, and her silky butterfall of perfumed, blonde hair was as golden and full of holy magic as her underpants.

Sister Halliday, who flashed a darling smile and insisted I call her “Hallie,” presented me with a brand-new copy of the much-maligned Book of Mormon, which she carefully removed from the modest missionary’s satchel they made her pay for herself—along with all of her other travel expenses—with the money she’d earned as a hairdresser back in Arizona before abruptly quitting her job, scraping together her savings, and devoting the following eighteen months of her life to the unpaid suckering of parking lot strangers into Sunday mornings trapped in a house of worship called a “ward”—A designation, which, on its worst day sounds like the part of a hospital, prison, or prison hospital where they melonball chunks of your brain straight into a dog’s mouth right in front of you, and even on salad days still conjures a brutalist concrete rectangle full of people so bored with the tedious mythology of the most famously-buoyant Jew who ever lived, died, and rose from the grave with nary a scratch, that they decided he should Tinker Bell his ass to upstate New York and bury LSD everywhere.

You could tell from the size of the book that she only had one copy in there, and it was plain from her economical trembling that she was reluctant to casually throw around expensive, perfect bound copies of disconcertingly-thick drivel manifestos she had to pay for herself. She’d been saving it, Father. Saving it for somebody she felt certain would become more passionate about reading the entire thing cover-to-cover in one furious evening than finally solving The Mystery of the Obnoxiously-Tottering Patio Table. Somebody who would never spring-load it, say, into the kneeler of a Catholic church pew, rigging it to shoot out like a jack-n-the-box of pure What’s-this-Mommy?-terror right to the shins. No offense.

And the worst part, Father? The worst part is that I was that somebody. I wanted to be, anyway. Part of me. Part of me wants to tear out of this room right now and run all the way to her arms. Tear up the very sacrament I know in my heart to be the only real ticket out of this room, any room, in any prison of only doubt, and find her in Flagstaff. Hand in hand down some rusty, firebrick road where toasty sails of flickering, candlelit desert winds move us as one—in and out and in and out an in and around the finally-simpatico heartbeats of man’s many-colored collection of holy books. Because I love her. Is that my sin, Father? Expanding my definition of Christ to include the healing beauty of this bonkers Nancy I met last night in the parking lot of that gas station down there, y’know, the uh, this 24-hour deal they got down by those ritzy strip club, uh…bo—bowling allies? Father? Down by the airport? Is it? A sin? I’m in love with an idiot, Father. Tell me what to do.”

“Well. For starters, you can stop calling me “Father.” It’s…still me. Sister Halliday. That’s right. And we are still loitering in the freezing parking lot where—oh, my gosh!—I have been waiting in patient horror for you to exhaust yourself from belligerently outlining your seemingly bottomless cornucopia of hateful and surreal objections to my chosen faith, and repeatedly demanding my signed, handwritten confession to “selfishly murdering national treasure Bill Paxton in a jealous Branch Davidian warehouse explosion of bratty celestial-wedding-tackle bogartary” while articulating your gross and baffling lust for my enormous, glowing badger teeth, and draining 40s from the trunk of your car for the better and absolutely worst part of the longest hour of my life. Message received loud and clear, mister. Bye.”

“Please don’t leave me, Hallie Cat. Not like this. I must see you again or I’ll go mad, you see? I need my wittle Tin-Pan, badly! I wish to be baptized in your soaking wetness. Name a spot, pick a time, and I will be there draped in more bells than you can even count on those delicate yet fiendishly-nimble ticklers.”

“OK, that’s…well—OK, fine. You can see me Sunday morning. At 11 AM. During worship. But strictly in a platonic, creamy-dancing-Star-Trek-free educational context surrounded by hundreds of witnesses. And you have to convert. That is paramount.”

“I see. And what happens to me if I do not. Do that.”

“You die sad and alone, and your miserable spirit wanders the boring antechambers of limbo for ever and ever and ever, OK? Now. If you’d still like to come, we should exchange…I guess..phone numbers. I, uh…right. I mean—OK. Look. Just, please. Look—look at me. Pleeease do not make me regret saying that. OK? Great. Gimme the number.”

“555-3825.”

“Is that…is he jok—are you kidding me?! Are you..5-5-?…oh, my GOLDEN GOODNESS HORSESHOES, DUDE! C’MON, MAN! CHEEZ-ITS H. CREPES! THE PHONY PHONE NUMBER BIT IS AS THREADBARE AS THE WIDESPREAD IGNORANT DENIAL OF JESUS CHRIST’S WELL-DOCUMENTED AMERICAN BIRTHPLACE OF BUMBLEBEE, MISSOURI! Look, if you don’t want to come? You DO! NOT! have to come! Trust me! Good evening, sir!”

“Halliday, wait—please wait, Sister Halliday. I’m sorry.”

“(Long, heavy sigh). What is it.”

“It’s…nothing, Sister. I—I guess I just wanted to feel your tortured, sweet-n-sour breath snake through those filthy glam squirrel teeth one last time and honey my chapped Cornish face hens for good luck. Boy. I love you, Sister, but that pretty head of yours will never snap the big rats in half, if you catch my pinkeye. You will always be the one that ran away.

…And then she slapped me! With all the tragic, bitter melancholy of the very last poor Irish bugger to fiddle himself straight over the grotesque, inverted hull of the RMS Titanic and into the frigid ocean of eternity. And I never saw her again. What am I to do, your Honor?”

“Anything—and son, I mean anything—do everything and anything you can think of that does not include serving on this jury, you twisted son of a bastard. Look at me, son. Right here in my mamma’s eyes. You are dismissed, juror 20197! Bailiffs, please escort this psycho the hell out of my courtroom. And may Jesus Yankee Doodle Christ have mercy on your soul.”