This is no job for old men, thinks the Prophet, as he watches another old man, almost exactly the same age, actually, rise into the sky in his white helicopter. Like everyone else, the Prophet was quite surprised when the Pope called it quits, finito, kicking off his red shoes and tossing the pointed hat away. One thing the Prophet was grateful for, he sure was glad he didn’t have to dress up in some holy costume, except in private, where it was sacred; not like parading up and down waving and bowing and kneeling and whatever else the pontiff had to do.
Must be looking forward to wearing everyday clothes, some comfortable loafers, or maybe orthotic sneakers, some slacks, a nice open-necked Tommy Bahama. The Prophet liked the old guy—sure seemed a lot older than he himself was—when they met, kind of a stiff, formal occasion with all our lackeys shuffling around and shouldering each other out of the way to make sure nothing un-Pope-like or un-Prophet-like was said. Pope tried to talk to him in his native tongue, knowing he had spent time in East Germany getting the temple built there. Spreche nur ein bisschen, and he laughed and went into English, pretty good, but like a movie Nazi.
Guys on TV talking in hushed tones as the Pope-copter spirals up out of the Vatican, banks over the Coliseum and heads to Castel Gandolfo; sounds like something out of that movie he fell asleep in, good to see an occasional movie as a break from all the meetings, funerals, conferences, hospital rooms, conferences, funerals, meetings, forever and forever, world without end.
He wonders, as he sips his morning milk, already getting lukewarm—why can’t they find a way to keep it chilled for more than 30 seconds?—if he himself could just chuck everything, say so long, adios, auf wiedersehen, board a helicopter in Temple Square, give a jaunty wave—not too jaunty, like Nixon when he resigned, a bit phony, thought the Prophet at the time—jump into the helicopter, circle the Temple, bank right over the Conference Center and the Church Office Building, whir up South Temple, over the University of Utah, catch a farewell glimpse of Brigham, Heber C. and Wilford looking into the valley from their perch on the monument.
Head up Emigration, buzz over to Smith Morehouse maybe, or toward the Provo for some late-afternoon fishing. How grand to get away! His idea of Heaven: eternal fishing in a golden celestial dusk. The widows almost always asked him, “What was Heaven like?” They wanted to know what their recently departed spouses were up to up there, and mostly what they would do when they joined them one of these days, but most of all, what was it like?
He wished he knew, he wished he could tell them something specific, something other than that it would be glorious, magnificent beyond our imaginings. He himself, the Prophet, had his private vision of Heaven, a vision he would never admit, but he wasn’t ashamed of it; he sometimes fell into a dreamy state, often at some funeral while he had to sit all dignified and somber up before the congregation, waiting to say his piece, tell a couple of stories—they always liked his Tommy stories in the old neighborhood—and while he sat in a semi-doze, he pictured Camp Heaven, with rowing races on the lake, chopping wood, cooking bacon as the sun came up, happy Scouts teaching each other how to tie the bowline, the square, the clove hitch, the sheet bend and the half-hitch.
Stuck all day in meetings, giving talks, preparing talks, going to several funerals a week. The Prophet wants to raise pigeons again, even thinks about pigeon coops on top of the Hotel Utah, the Joseph Smith Building nowadays but always in his mind the Hotel Utah, but it would be unfair to the pigeons in the dirty air of the valley.
Tired of the talks, tired of the meetings, tired of the suits that the tailors never got right, tired of even his own stories. His only pleasures nowadays: a spicy enchilada followed by orange sherbert. He’ll never master his favorite language. Soy el Silver Beaver. Me gusta el pescado.
The Prophet watches the Pope’s helicopter fade into the sunset, and thinks, just for a second, that maybe he, too, could say he’d had enough. No es posible, he whispers, and orders a glass of cold milk.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.