There were no women allowed at the mission. No women. No booze. No drugs. No fighting, no complaining, no bitching, no swearing. Church every Sunday. Chapel worship every evening. No Baby Jeebus worship and no bible study: no bed and no food. It was a simple equation. No submission to piss testing for every substance under the sun: no assistance. Not even when it is minus-stupid outside. Not even when the desperate bastard in question is kicking hard and starting to shake and vomit and soil his only pair of pants.
Not clean, not sober, then you are not coming in; not even if you also have no jacket and no shoes and no hope of a meal anytime soon. I am the muscle at the door of this exclusive club of desperation, the front of house for Yahweh & Son Corp, also known as The Mission. It is a mission whose objectives were heretofore unforeseen and unknowable, one of the essential mysteries it is not encouraged to poke at too deeply by those who have things to hide that they prefer to cloak behind a veil of divinity and mild insistences that ‘His ways are higher than ours, monkey-people, so don’t question why you are freezing yer tits off outside in January because you don’t fit the criteria of worthy desperado’. There are levels of access to ‘heaven’ also known as a bunk in a heated room, with a plate of something that vaguely passes as bread and meat, and the unworthy echelons of scum are not permitted to enter. It is what it is.
No matter how much these acolytes of the Unknown Mission ring their bells, and raise their palms to the ceiling, both Father and Son remain incommunicado to the sinner and saint alike, but still holding the keys to heaven, or at least a room, shower and meal at the only free shelter game in town. The system is rigged. The truth-bombs are primed as lies, and everything that suffers is bound to die at some point. The Mission might have revealed its objectives as being to create more mindless zombies for Jeebus and his old man, using heat, food and a roof as bait. It is genius really. The higher proselytizers of The Mission with their air conditioned dog houses, multi-million dollar private plane collections, funded en masse by panicked grannies and their pension books must look at the tentacles of the network reaching out, gaping maw wide open swallowing widow’s pennies and the fragile fragments of hope and desire to be loved of the longing millions who need to believe that this life of suffering is not the end and rub their hands together with greedy glee.
Perhaps I am being unkind. Perhaps I am being a little too harsh. Keeping the door, as I do, it is easy to fall into such absolutisms. No doubt there are some honest to goodness do-gooders, some real strayers from the wolf-pack, a few gentle lambs that never made it to the slaughter. I don’t doubt that whatever their motivations or intentions, that some of the herd try and nurse the stragglers through the valley of death and destruction, it is just that not many of them make it my way. I have my orders. I shine their shoes. Do you blame me? Since that time I got rolled bad I haven’t been able to hack it outside. I try and be fair, look the other way when I can, but the law is the law, and that much is nothing to do with me.
The regime is tough but fair. Up at 6.30am, breakfast duties completed by 7.30am. Sanctions for those who are fit and able but not up for the morning at the prescribed time. The physically dilapidated are allowed some leeway. Chores and duties are given out. I am the doorman. The muscle. Peter at the gate, but my name ain’t Pete. Tiger Boy is on cleaning duty, which is a joke as he has to be persuaded and cajoled to take the extreme risk of getting naked and into the shower. As he sees it he ain’t ever gonna be safe. Prison thing. Street thing. Man thing. Victim thing.
There are those who eat here, but don’t live here. I get to know ’em. This ain’t no paycheck deal I got here at the closet I call my batcave. When they come in they store their gear in the Batcave. All their bags. I am trusted with just about everything these souls own in this world. They don’t have to be clean just to eat, at least they don’t test ’em. They just have to be not perceptibly twisted.
The drunk and high don’t get fed. It doesn’t make me feel good, and after all that was my deal for much of my life, but I am old now. The young uns have to pay their dues just like I did. Tub of peanut butter and a spoon….and an eightball has to suffice.
I keep the brooms and ladders, the cleaning supplies and mops and buckets at the front. The diners backpacks at the back. They check their bags in with me, eat their supper. I give ’em a ‘goodnight’ or a ‘good day’ and I try and mean it as much as I can. Unless they misbehave, in which case I boot ’em out – give the transgressors the good news about their behavior. Some of these visitors try and shoot up in the bathroom, or else they curse at the staff. I couldn’t care less, but the powers that be don’t like it. It is at odds with the ethos of the joint. Some complain about the food. Ingrates. At least I am grateful. It is the least I can do. After all, it is cold out there. Think of it as dining room monitor combined with batcave keeper of the buckets. Nothing left to do but clean up and get on to the next plateau.
It is not wise to get too involved with day to day life. In this version of life that runs parallel, if not consecutively to the usual way time takes existence, there are a few rules made by residents, not staff. Televisions are not to be touched. There is a pecking order in who gets to touch the remote control, and when they are allowed to change the channel. No one touches my guitar. My guitar is like my service animal. It is my emotional support system. My lifeline. The rest basically falls under ‘don’t be an asshole’. I fail at that a lot of the time, but hey, we are only human. A fact that is glossed over by the management.
You see it is not done to complain about that which is free. Except this shit ain’t free. It is paid for in increments of enforced prayers, compulsory participation in Yahweh and Sons praise and worship, morning classes in being a decent member of society, as per their rules and definition, chores that amount to busy work, and some that amount to hard work. Nothing is free, especially not a bed at The Mission. Expect to be scolded, controlled and censured. Pay with your freedom. Pay with your free will. I suppose they think that whatever shit you were doing wasn’t working, so they have a right to insist you do it all their way. That is how to end up being a doorman at the gates of a broken heaven, where the lights turn on, the food is better than nothing, but barely, and don’t you dare complain about the beds. It ain’t the streets, and ain’t that the truth, brothers and sisters!
Sometimes at night I play Gloria on the old emotional support guitar. There isn’t much rebellion that is allowed this side of heaven, but what they don’t understand can’t hurt me…”oh she look so good…oh she look so fine….”
The Doorman took a deep breath. “You know I believe. I really do. With every ounce of my soul I believe. But does it all have to be so constricting?” His feet were heavily bandaged and the stench of decaying flesh hit me full in the face. He was rotting alive. The staples in his head pulled the skin a little too tightly on one side, giving him the appearance of a man with a lopsided facelift, a permanent semi-rictus, yet it was obvious to all but the perpetually blind to goodness that there was a kernel of kindness that dwelt within. The flame was not yet out entirely. Like Bob said, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there….”