Buying Confidence

Jim sat on his couch as lonely as a bottle of water at a NASCAR race. Unemployed and unattached, that was exactly what he was.

This Sunday was going to be no different than any other Sunday. Being as shy as he was, his schedule rarely changed. His mind was cracked and without a patch, his confidence was slowly leaking. By now he figured, if his confidence could be seen as a material thing, it would look like a malnourished dog. He had tried hard to feed this dog but it seemed that it had already given up interest in regaining its health.

He had fed it self-help videos and self-help books but they had leaked out of his brain along with his confidence. He was getting very desperate to get his shyness under control for fear that if he became any shyer, he might lose his voice and his identity altogether.

Sitting in his dirty blue bath robe and slowly falling apart boxer shorts he flipped through the channels on his 22-inch tube TV stopping periodically to watch old sports highlights or to see how many different functions a set of knives had. He rarely stopped for more than five minutes on one channel unless he started dozing off. These days, sleep didn’t come easily and without needing to be awake for anything in particular, he didn’t mind dozing off whenever sleep decided to come.

As his eyes started getting heavy and his channel surfing started slowing down, he hit the Christian mission channel and through the sleepy haze he saw a sweaty, well-dressed gentleman yelling at a large crowd that belief in him and God would cure what ails them. EVERYTHING that ails them he made sure to yell.

Jim slowly rose from his dreamlike state to take note of this supposed miracle-worker. He proclaimed himself a prophet and following a prophet was one thing he had not tried to cure what ails him. He had seen and heard of these TV prophets before but he had always heard that they were liars, using their serpent-like tongues to poison the thoughts of innocent but weak-willed people.

This man looked much better than a serpent. His clothes were so neatly-pressed, his hair so meticulously combed. And his voice was so smooth. It sounded as though he had stolen the signing voice of Frank Sinatra and wrapped his sermon in it. At times he spoke softly to what looked like a crowd of thousands about the importance of following a prophet who carried the healing power of god in his hands. And other times he yelled at them to come up on stage and feel the power for themselves.

The crowd itself stood swaying, hands raised, praising his name, and its diversity was stunning, Black people, white people, old people, young people, men, women, people in wheelchairs, people with canes or with guide dogs all chanted “praise the lord, praise Reverend Jack,” until they could either shout no more or until they decided to get up on stage and get healed.

Jim was now as entranced as the people in the church and he watched nervously as Reverend Jack pulled a man out of a wheelchair and threw him on the floor only to have the man stand up and do a sprint through the aisles of the church.

Next, Jim covered his face with his hands and watched through his fingers Reverend Jack threw a punch at a man who had just proven himself to be blind. Seconds before the holy man’s fist smashed into his nose, the man raised his hand and calmly shielded himself from the blow.

Finally, Jim was brought near to tears when a woman who had just finished stuttering her way through a Bible passage, enveloped the crowd with a performance worthy of the top contraltos in the world after having her throat massaged by the healing powers of Reverend Jack.

Jim was genuinely touched by this man. Not touched in the way people get touched when they see a dog helping a little kitty cat out of a touch bind but touched in the way that it felt like Reverend Jack had reached that healing hand of his down his throat and grabbed his heart and given it a quick squeeze. He didn’t want this feeling to go away, his whole body now felt as though it were wrapped in a warm summer’s night. But he didn’t know how he could possibly keep this feeling. Until the mass cut away to commercial and he heard the calming voice of Reverend Jack speak directly to him.

“You’re a loser, you’re a cripple, you’re a detriment to your family and to society and you know it,” came the voice on the TV. “But you don’t have to be. God loves you and Prophet Jack loves you. And Prophet Jack and the Church of Healing can help you for the low four-time price of $249.99. That’s eternal salvation for under $1000 --- less than you would pay for a new TV or a fancy suit or for facial reconstructive surgery. Think about that for a little.”

And while reverend Jack let that number sink in, Jim did think about it. He didn’t need a TV and he definitely didn’t need a suit. Facial reconstructive surgery would be nice, but painful. What he really wanted was immediate salvation. He listened to more.

“At the Church of Healing, we can cure you of any troubles — medical, emotional, or anything else you can imagine in three easy steps: One, visit our website you see listed at the bottom of the screen; Two, take out your credit card and punch in your numbers — we promise these will earn you more than a lottery ticket ever could; and three, wait for us to send you our booklets on faith and healing. Along with the modestly printed pamphlets I will personally cut off a piece of my hair to send to you. This piece of hair will heal your disorder the same way you saw my hands heal those at mass today. Again that’s three easy steps: Visit, Pay, and Wait. Do this in the next five minutes and you’ll receive this extra vial of holy water at no extra cost.”

Jim was in his wallet before the holy water deal had even been presented. He was more paralyzed with the fear of not taking advantage of this deal than he had ever been for anything else. He would rather run naked through a gymnasium full of his old bosses than betray Reverend Jack by not purchasing a lock of his hair. With tears of joy, Jim typed in his credit card numbers as instructed on the commercial. All he’d have to do now was wait. Wait for the lock of hair and modestly produced pamphlets and he would have his life back. He felt like he’d be able to breather again, like he was once again liked. He pressed “Confirm my Purchase” on the computer screen and his $999.96 began its journey from his card to the pockets of Jack Springer, a long-time drug user and card sharp.

His sermon complete, Jack Springer removes his microphone, throws onto his dressing room table and takes a long swig of tequila. “How many fools bought this crap this time?” he asked his manager while taking a lock of hair from the wig he had just removed.

“Checking the numbers looks like only one so far. But the day is young and you were dynamic out there today Jackie.”

The End

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