Let me set the scene.
It’s a weekend morning, and for once, I actually have no commitments. I open the front door to let in the fresh morning air, and I am ready to ride five miles on the exercise bike in my office/spare room. I am trying to beat my best time. But my dog is in the back yard, barking his head off. I get off the bike twice to quiet him. He is known to bark at invisible threats. I am frustrated with him, because he is messing up my rhythm. So I let him into the house.
My ride is going pretty well, and I am listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition, catching up on the news, but my dog starts barking again, this time in the front room. I yell at him. He won’t stop. He gets my older, mellower dog barking in harmony. I am so irritated! Plus he is standing on the back of the couch at the front window, which he knows he is not supposed to do, barking with all his being. I get off the bike, quite furious, and say to my dog, “Shut up!” I even tap his butt lightly, which I never do, because he is a rescue dog, and must have endured an unthinkably abusive owner in the past, because if I ever even try to pick him up, let alone tap any part of him, he yelps and shrieks and cowers as though I am torturing him without mercy.
It is at the moment of the tap and the yelp that I see the couple on my front porch, watching me. They are missionaries for the Lord, and to the credit of the woman’s bravery, she raps on my front screen door anyway. They are nicely dressed. They look like they smell nice. They look happy together. The woman is holding some brochures, although now she wields them as though they are half offering, half shield. The man is hanging back. Coward. They both look horrified - they cannot hide it - by the sight of the madwoman beating her dog. The madwoman has to respond to them, because she had opened her front door earlier, and cannot now pretend she is not home. I am wearing old beat-up workout clothes and I have a pink bandana tied around my head, possibly making them suspect I am a crazed member of a feminist gang.
The dogs, of course, have resumed their barking, because there really are strangers on our property. The dog was right all along. I go to the door. Just as the woman begins her holy greeting, I manage to say, in a tight voice, “Not a good time.” They both scurry away, and I shut the door hard. With only the memory of fury, I am now filled with shame at my behavior. My ride is over. My dog avoids me. The couple is probably reporting me to Animal Control. I don’t even know what nicely scrubbed and polished denomination they were representing on this lovely morning. I’m glad I didn’t say to them what I usually say to the missionaries for the Lord who knock on my door. I say it now to the closed door, in deep awareness of divine irony, my abject soul in need of saving.
“I’m a Catholic, “ I say.
Just not a very good one.