If this is going to make any sense to you, you’ll need to read part one of this story.
The notebook Boosh handed me was one of those fancy black ones with an elastic band. I forget what they’re called. I think they’re made in Italy or France or somewhere like that. At the top of each of the first ten pages was a question, printed in all caps. Below the questions were doodles, notes, and scribbled thoughts.
I showed up at his house the following Friday night with the notebook and a bottle of Lagavulin. What you need to understand is Boosh and I had been drinking Laphroaig for a couple of years at that point. But for special occasions, we turned to the royalty of Islay – Lagavulin. I sat the bottle on his table and tossed the notebook down beside it. Boosh brought two glasses and we sat down. Neither of us said a word while I uncorked the bottle and solemnly poured us each a dram. We lifted our glasses and breathed in that musty, leather and tobacco smell of Lagavulin.
“Here’s mud in you eye,” I said.
“Mud in my eye?” Boosh moved a hand to his eye patch and I gave him a sharp look.
“Don’t you lift that patch. I’ve seen what’s under there.”
He grinned. “I was just fuckin’ with you, preacher.”
He raised his glass and said, “Down the hatch.”
We drank the first dram in silence. I poured us a second.
Ah, Lagavulin. How can you describe it? Dark, loamy earth. Salt and meat. Your grandfather’s shed with his old tools, rags, and oil cans. Old leather worn smooth by generations of hands. I also get a little hint of cigarette ash. Not enough to spoil things, just something else in the mix that works. Lagavulin manages to wrap them all together into a lovely package. It’s nothing short of art in a bottle.
Back in those days, when I was a preacher, people came to me with questions all the time. Question about life and meaning and God and evil and goodness. I never had a lot of answers, but I loved the questions and still do. But honest to God, I had never heard questions like the ones in Boosh’s notebook.
“Did you look at the notebook?”
He grunted. “What did you think?”
“I hate to break it to you, but there aren’t any answers to questions like those, so, you know, I don’t really know what to say.”
He grunted again. We both took a sip and sat together in silence.
There is this cool thing that sometimes happens if you’re drinking Lagavulin with someone else who appreciates it as much as you do. You both hold it in your mouths and then swallow at the same time. You experience that bang, that raucous explosion, the strong flavors, and the way Lagavulin wraps it all up in the swallow. You don’t have to say anything. The other person gets it.
We sat together in that delicious silence until Boosh decided to ruin the moment.
“The fuck kind of preacher are you, you can’t answer a few simple questions?”
“I don’t know. A pretty shitty, goddam poor excuse for a preacher, I guess.”
Then we started laughing. And once we started laughing we couldn’t stop. The laughs were deep and full. Belly laughs with slaps on the table for emphasis. I wasn’t even sure what we were laughing at but it was funny as hell. After a time the laughs devolved into giggles and then died out. It got quiet again.
“What about number seven? You can’t answer that one?”
I opened the notebook and turned to the 7th page.
What I want to know, preacher, is this: who ISN’T welcome at your church?
“Okay, I guess that one has an answer. Everyone’s welcome. Anyone. Whoever shows up.”
“Well, I don’t know how I’d recognize one but yeah. Absolutely. But I think what you really want to know is, are crusty, one-eyed, blasphemous, cussing, cantankerous old bastards welcome.”
“Well are they?”
“Abso-fuckin-lutely. Shit, I’ll make a deacon out of you, you show up again.”
Boosh snorted some whisky into his nose and coughed a mist of it out onto the table, which kicked off another round of laughing.
After that it was just drinking and bitching about the Dallas Cowboys. And somehow a couple of hours slid by. Next thing I knew there was a knock at the door.
“That your wife coming to get you?”
The door opened and Jeanene stuck her head in.
“How are you boys doing?”
She saw the bottle on the table and said, “Ooh, is that Lagavulin? Let me smell it.”
I handed her my glass and she moved it back and forth under her nose and closed her eyes. She doesn’t drink whiskey but she likes to smell it. She sat down at the table and slid my glass back over to me.
I threw down the last of it and headed for the door.
“Before you go, you gotta at least answer number ten for me.”
“Number ten? Which one is that?”
I opened the book, flipped to the last question, and read it out loud.
We both know religion is 95% bullshit and anything good that comes out of it was probably an accident. Why are you messing around with it?
Years before someone else asked me that same kind of question while we were eating in a diner. A friend of mine who didn’t think much of religion, but hell, we weren’t going to let that get in the way of our friendship. I told Boosh the same thing I told him.
“I’m searching through all that has ever been hoped in praise of what can never be known.”
He was quiet for a few seconds. Then he said, “Shit. Goddam. Okay, I’m going to have to think about that one a bit.”
I opened the door. Jeanene walked out in front of me.
“See ya next time, preacher.”
I stopped in the doorway and turned around.
“Are you going to be calling me preacher now? Is that the way its going to be?”
“I don’t know. Probably. I like the sound of it. Hey, don’t forget your Lagavulin.”
“I’ll make a deal with you. You keep the rest of the Lagavulin and I keep the notebook.”
There was no way Boosh was turning down THAT deal. He looked around the table for the notebook but couldn’t find it. I pulled it out of my pocket and held it up.
“You were gonna steal my goddam notebook?
“I’ll bring it with me next time. We’ll try another whiskey and another one of your questions.”
He nodded his agreement and we left. I looked back as I was closing the door and he had an elbow on the table with his chin in his palm, staring at the glass in front of him.