Daniel Botkin: Something Outrageous
Based on a December dream, 2015
“Do something outrageous,” the black-robed preacher pleaded as he looked at the multitude of people seated in the auditorium of the Multicultural Metropolitan Megachurch. “Do something outrageous for God and for humanity. Do something that will make a difference in the world.”
The Multicultural Metropolitan Megachurch was the church to attend in River City if you were young and hip. The Multicultural Metropolitan Megachurch - or “M.M.M.” as it was called - had everything the young and the hip were looking for in a church. A building as big as a shopping mall. A Starbuck’s coffee shop in the lobby. A Christian book store that sold positive, up-beat, self-help books. A big auditorium with comfortable seats. And comfortable twelve-minute sermons from a hip young preacher who knew how to make people feel good about themselves. As a result, a huge crowd assembled at M.M.M. every Sunday.
On that particular Sunday, one member of the crowd was Hugh Logston, a short, somewhat pudgy 20-year-old loner with pale, freckled skin and straight, sandy-colored hair that covered the tops of his ears and hung over the collar of his bright blue shirt.
When Hugh was younger, he disliked having the somewhat uncommon name of Hugh. Too many times Hugh had needed to tell people how to spell his name. When he first met people, they would exchange names and then Hugh would brace himself for the inevitable question: “Hugh... How is that spelled?”
Sometimes people would not ask how to spell Hugh’s name; sometimes they would just guess. Sometimes people spelled his name correctly, but sometimes incorrectly. Once when Hugh ordered take-out food at a Chinese restaurant, he noticed that the Asian who took his order had written “Hiu” on the bag.
Another time, someone at the unemployment office misspelled Hugh’s name as “Hew” and told Hugh to take the form to Ms. Henshaw, the cute young caseworker.
When Ms. Henshaw looked at the form, she smiled and said, “‘Hew Logston.’ Are you looking for work as a lumberjack, Hew?”
Hugh’s pale skin reddened in response to cute Ms. Henshaw’s feeble attempt at humor. Inwardly, Hugh cursed his parents for giving him that name.
But that was a few years ago. The popularity of actor Hugh Jackman had changed Hugh Logston’s fortune for the better. Before Hugh Jackman’s rise to fame, the only well-known actors named Hugh were Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver in the old TV show Leave It To Beaver, and Hugh O’Brien, who played Wyatt Earp in the old TV show Wyatt Earp. Neither Hugh Beaumont nor Hugh O’Brien were young and hip. But Hugh Jackman was both young and hip.
Hugh Logston no longer despised his name. The fame and success of Hugh Jackman had made the name Hugh once again acceptable among the young and the hip. And un-hip Hugh Logston desperately wanted to be hip. That’s why he attended the Multicultural Metropolitan Megachurch. He hoped that the hipness of the other congregants would somehow rub off on him and be absorbed into his persona by spiritual osmosis.
“Something outrageous,” Hugh muttered to himself as he sat in the plushly-padded auditorium seat and pondered the preacher’s words that Sunday. “Something that will make a difference in the world....”
If Hugh did something outrageous enough to make a difference in the world, that would certainly bestow hipness upon him. It might not bestow international fame like the fame enjoyed by Hugh Jackman, but on a local level it would bring recognition to the name Hugh Logston, at least from his peers at M.M.M. Recognition of his name by his peers would bestow a certain amount of hipness upon Hugh. And recognition from his peers and hipness in the eyes of his peers were the things that Hugh Logston craved.
After Hugh left church that Sunday, he drove to the drive-up window at the local Taco Bell and ordered a Nacho Bell Grande and a large coke, like he did every Sunday after church. Then he drove to the Riverfront Park of River City and found an empty picnic table where he could eat his meal alone, like he did every Sunday, weather permitting.
Hugh sucked a big mouthful of coke from his soda straw and vigorously swished it around inside his mouth as he squeezed some Mild Hot Sauce out of one of the sauce packets onto the Nacho Bell Grande that he had gotten from Taco Bell. Hugh silently thanked the Lord for his meal and began eating.
As Hugh chewed the salty, spicy mixture of chips, beans, sauce, and some meat-like substance, he thought about how much he liked Mexican food. But this particular Sunday, Hugh realized that there were more important things to think about. Outrageous things. Something outrageous enough to make a difference in the world.
The preacher’s words were pounding in Hugh’s head. Do something outrageous for God and for humanity. Do something that will make a difference in the world. Yeah, that would make Hugh hip. Hugh knew that he had to do something outrageous for God and for humanity. Something that would make a difference in the world.
What outrageous thing could Hugh do? Hugh had heard and read stories about martyrs and missionaries who had done outrageous things for God. But Hugh did not want to be a martyr nor a missionary. If he died as a martyr, he wouldn’t be alive to enjoy the fame and accolades that his martyrdom would bring to his name. If he lived in some far-off land as a missionary, he wouldn’t be here in River City to enjoy the admiration of his hip young peers. So doing something outrageous and radical like being a martyr or a missionary was out of the question. Hugh had to think of some other outrageous act he could do.
What outrageous thing could Hugh Logston do for God and for humanity? Hugh knew that he could not do anything that would require speaking in public. Hugh had tried speaking in front of people in a Speech 101 class that he was required to take at the local community college. There were only fifteen or so students in the class, and most of them, like Hugh, were nervous about speaking in front of people.
But Hugh was more than just a little nervous. He was an emotional wreck. For an entire week before his scheduled speech, he fretted and ate very little and slept uneasily. On the morning of his speech, Hugh felt so sick that he threw up at home before leaving for school. While delivering his three-minute speech about the benefits of pursuing a career as a truck driver - the chief benefit being that you do not need to talk to the public - Hugh’s hands trembled uncontrollably, his voice quivered and quaked, his pale skin reddened, and great droplets of sweat beaded up on his forehead.
No, Hugh could never do any outrageous act that required public speaking. Whatever outrageous thing Hugh did, it would have to be something that would allow Hugh to quietly draw attention to himself in a silent, subtle way.
Something outrageous for God and for humanity. Something that will make a difference in the world. But something that will not require speaking in front of people. Something that can serve as a silent witness.
Hugh thought deeply about that word humanity, and an outrageous idea began to form in his mind. Humanity... Yes, humanity... And inhumanity... Yes... Yes...
Hugh realized what outrageous thing he could do. The revelation had not come in a sudden, blinding flash of light. The revelation had slowly dawned on him, like a lamp with a dimmer switch that allows the light to slowly and gradually illuminate a room. The revelation had come slowly, but it had come.
Hugh now knew what outrageous thing he could do for God and for humanity. One outrageous act that would make a difference in the world. And he could do it right now.
Hugh swallowed the last bite of his Nacho Bell Grande, slurped the last bit of coke from the bottom of his paper cup, wiped his mouth with a Taco Bell napkin, and threw the empty Nacho Bell Grande container and other trash into a trash can. Then he purposefully strode to his car, got in and buckled his seat belt. Hugh always buckled his seatbelt before starting the car, because that was the way he learned it in driver’s ed class years ago. Then Hugh started the car, put it in gear, and began driving south on Water Street, which ran parallel with the river.
It was only a ten-minute drive to the seedy part of town where Hugh would fulfill his destiny by doing one outrageous thing for God and for humanity. One outrageous thing that would make a difference in the world.
Hugh found a parking place, parked his car, and stepped out onto the pavement. He stared momentarily at the door which would be the portal to his destiny. Fulfilling his destiny would involve some pain. Hugh was certain of that. But he was willing to bear the pain for God and for humanity.
Hugh braced himself and silently prayed for the strength to endure the pain. He took a deep breath and exhaled. Then with grim determination, he briskly walked through the door of Smitty’s Tattoo Parlor.
Hugh winced in pain while Smitty tattooed the words onto Hugh’s hairless forearm. Twice Hugh almost cried, but he managed to stifle it. Hugh endured the agony by focusing on the ecstasy of doing this outrageous thing for God and for humanity.
Hugh closed his eyes and imagined how his tattoo would make a difference in the world. The four words Smitty was tattooing onto Hugh’s forearm would serve as a silent witness for God and for humanity. When people saw these words, it would make them think. They would think about the words. And they would think about Hugh. They would ask themselves why this hip young man got these particular words tattooed onto his forearm. What sort of man is this, the people would wonder. What important message is this man proclaiming by displaying these deep, profound words on his forearm?
Smitty finished the tattoo. Hugh paid him and headed for the exit. Hugh’s arm was sore, but his spirit was soaring. Hugh had done something outrageous for God and for humanity, something that was going to make a difference in the world. At least in Hugh’s small corner of the world.
As Hugh stepped out into the bright sunshine on that eventful Sunday afternoon, he held out his arm and admired the tattoo. His tattoo. The tattoo that was going to make a difference in the world. A satisfied smile appeared on Hugh’s face as he looked at the words, sharply and neatly written in a fancy font:
Daniel Botkin of East Peoria, IL. is a Bible teacher, artist, teacher of English as a second language, a songwriter and musician, a cartoonist, and has self-published three graphic novels, Reverend Twistruth, Vols 1,2 and 3. He writes that he has also written many articles for Jewish-Christian publications.
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