Black Fast. That is the first thing I remember my mom telling me about Good Friday. No eating between meals. No meat (after all it was Friday) not even wild duck or deer, which for some reason was permitted on normal Fridays. I never understood that rule although it seemed to be the custom. Not to matter, I hate duck and I only began to like smoked deer meat when I lived in Nespelem, Washington on the Colville (Nez Perce) Reservation in the late ’60’s. But I digress. So here I was as a 9 year-old faced with an awful bread and water Black Fast. It sounded horrible. I knew I was going to die during this Black Fast of hers. I asked her why fast and in her you-are-guilty-Irish-mom-look-way, she explained it was to suffer along with Jesus, because today was the day he died for our sins, she said. And so I was to suffer the Black Fast because he died for my sins? I didn’t think he knew me way back then. Where there more sins He missed so that my fasting would make up for them? Dunno. Sounded like it. After all I was perpetually guilty of something and I was going to pay big time by fasting.
I protested to my mother that my no-religion friend, Billy, who lived down the street, didn’t have to fast. He’s going to hell anyway, she replied. And that was that. It was bad enough that I played with Billy who was on the fast track to hell for NOT being a Catholic, but it was worse that he had hamburgers on Friday and didn’t have to fast AND didn’t have a religion. Whenever I hung around him I thought he had the better approach to life, but I kept these thoughts to myself just in case when he was judged, I would be judged right along with him. You know, guilt by association.
Usually on this day I would get dragged to church to endure the 3 hours preached by a scary old priest with a cross stuck in his belt. He would boom the seven last words of Jesus that he spoke from the cross. Add to that the stations of the cross and it was a long afternoon. In those days, banks and shops would close from 12 until 3, so there wasn’t much to do anyway. It was not a Good Friday. I couldn’t play with my trucks even if I sneaked them into church. I couldn’t draw pictures on the envelopes in the pews with the little stubby pencils they provided. No I had to endure my Black Fast and loud preaching for 3 whole hours in silence and sleeping with my eyes wide open.
When I was ten,I pretended I was sick so I didn’t have to go to church on Good Friday. I figured Jesus had died enough for my sins. So it fell to my dad to stay home with me. I couldn’t watch whatever was on TV which was almost nothing. I couldn’t read my racy National Geographic Magazines and transport myself to the South Seas. But that day I found something magical hidden in my older brother’s dresser, a cigar. I had 3 hours to kill before the rest of the family returned from church so I went out in the back yard and fired up the cigar. I made the mistake of inhaling since that is what the older guys did. I instantly felt myself turn green. A real sickness took over. I staggered to my room to die. I guess my dad must have smelled something because the next thing I knew he was in my room ranting about smoking. Since he always scared me when he was in his ranting mood I ‘fussed up. He dragged me back outside, found the cigar I threw in the bushes. He picked it up, dusted it off and shoved it back into my mouth lit it and forced me to continue smoking it until I puked out my stomach. There was nothing in my stomach except my stomach, because I was on a Black Fast.
Soon the Good Fridays gave way to Holy Saturdays and of course, Easter when all fasts were gone and chocolate was the order of the morning. I like Christmas because of the presents and like Easter because of the egg hunt, the chocolate bunnies and of course, Peeps. There is nothing extraordinary about Peeps except they’re Peeps. In my juvenile way I always thought that around the tomb on Easter Sunday were bunnies, eggs and yellow Peeps. Yeah I know, I’m going to join Billy on the slippery slope to Hell.
And so it goes…peep, peep,peep See you Monday