“What do you need Joseph?” I said to the homeless man who regularly frequented the church looking for food. I was locking the outside doors of the East entrance to the church when I saw Joseph sitting on the ground.
“I got a serious problem. I need to talk to Pastor Ros.”
Ros was upstairs just getting ready to leave choir practice. I was feeling generous, so I thought I could handle this one myself and save the clergy the trouble of talking to Joseph that night.
“What do you need Joseph?”
“I got a serious problem,” he repeated. His voice had the timbre of a garbage disposal with a fork dropped in it.
“What do you need Joseph?”
“I’ve been in jail for the last few days. I was released from Orient Road Jail today, and I started walking toward downtown hitchhiking. There was a man who picked me up and gave me a ride. I got a serious problem. I need to talk to Pastor Ros.”
“Why don’t you talk to me right now. We can’t help you with food till tomorrow.”
“Well…the man who picked me up, he started some hanky-panky when we were in his car, and he put something up my butt, and it’s something hard like a marble, and I can still feel it in there, and I keep grunting like UUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH, UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH but it won’t come out, and I think it’s still in there, and I keep going UUUUUUUUUHHHHHH, but it’s stuck, and I got a serious problem.”
Quickly realizing that my training as a church organist had never prepared me for a situation like this, I reversed my previous plan and said, “I’ll go get Ros. Stay here.”
When I reached the choir room, I quickly found Pastor Ros and said, “Ros, Joseph is outside.”
“Tell him to come back tomorrow morning. We can’t help him tonight. What does he want?”
“You’ve got to hear this. You’re not going to believe it.”
I proceeded to recount the whole story including the jail time, the words “hanky-panky”, and my best imitation of the grunting. When I had completed my impression of Joseph, Ros appeared to be made of carved marble. She seemed unable to either close her jaw or change the uncanny expression that had spread across her face during the grunting. The only visible sign of life was the vibration of her brain as she attempted to process the information. The words struggled out of her open jaw as she made her decision. “Which entrance is Joseph by?”
“The East entrance.”
“I’m going to go out of the West entrance. You go tell him to walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
I returned to Joseph and told him that Pastor Ros had already left. “Walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
“But, I got a serious problem. There’s something up my butt, and I keep grunting, going UUUUUUUHHHHHH, UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH and it won’t come out.”
“What do you want me to do?!! I can’t help you with that! I’m not going to check it out for you! If you need help with that, then walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
I, unfortunately, had to leave Joseph there on the side of the building. I always hate to leave homeless people in difficult situations, but this was a special case. When I arrived for work on the following morning, I went to check my box for mail. All three pastors at the church had heard the story and had conspired together against me. In my box was a latex glove, a tube of KY jelly, and a note attached that said, “Can you meet me in the library? I got a serious problem, Joseph.”