All of a sudden, without warning, my parents became religious. I don’t know if it was the deterioration of my life under the tutelage of Brad Bullah, or their own attempt to rescue their marriage, but just after I started eighth grade we started attending Hillside Presbyterian Church. My reputation suffered.
Brad said that he would have protested, that he would have refused to go. I considered this, and was about to take his advice, until something happened that changed my life: Susan Simms began attending services. Susan was the college girlfriend of Jay Murkawski’s brother, Sam. She became the focus of much of my attention during church services.
Brad said Sam Murkawski was an idiot, that the only thing worse than being a wuss was being a stupid wuss. That made me feel better. And yet, Sam had Susan, and I couldn’t understand that.
During church I spent most of my time casting long and longing looks in Susan’s direction. Let me be frank: Susan was tall, blonde, and shapely, and wore revealing dresses that guaranteed looks. I couldn’t help myself. If Susan sat on the right side of the church, most of the men leaned to the right; if on the left, to the left. We were all captivated. On occasion my mother would jab her elbow in my Dad’s side to break his focus as well. In all practical respects, Susan became the sermon during those church services. Brad said at least there was some good reason for me to be in church, what with Susan Simms being there.
At this point my knowledge of women was quite limited. After all, unlike most of my friends, I had no sister. What I knew of the other sex was deduced from bits of information gleaned from other guys (a not so trustworthy source), ads from Redbook and Good Housekeeping (which my mother assiduously removed as soon as possible), and my roaming imagination.
Come early August it was time once again for Hillside’s annual revival week. Now I had not been through this process before, but it seemed daunting: church services every night for the entire week? But I was offered no choice about it.
“Boy, get your good pants on. We’re going to church tonight and you’re gonna be there with us.
“But Dad, I wanna watch the Smothers Brothers on TV.
“Those commies? They’re making a mockery of this country. No way. You’re coming with us.”