When I woke up in my hotel room with an obscenely-dressed, three-hundred-pound woman sitting on my chest, scratching my face with her crusted black hair every time she moved her head, I wondered what took them so long to find me.
It all started a few weeks before when I decided, for reasons that I’d rather not talk about, I’d had enough of the Church of Possum and the Ladder-Day Saints. I collected my few belongings and snuck away from the commune late one night during secret handshake class, taking the Goldfish of Prophecy with me.
I was slightly concerned about what they would do to me because I took the Goldfish of Prophecy, but I was terrified about what they would do because I had also left with the Golden Kazoo.
As the teachings of the church go, the Golden Kazoo was handed down from God to Possum by the archangel Fuzzynubbins and is the mystical instrument that accompanies hymns like “O Possum, how great thou is art” or “When Possum tears your eyes out, you’ll know it’s for your sin.” All these songs are set to the same tune as “When the Saints Go Marching In”; they are accompanied solely by a kazoo, the only musical instrument allowed inside the community aside from the singing voice, clapping hand, and hand-in-armpit tuba.
The woman sitting on my chest was a specially-selected priestess of Possum’s who follows him everywhere he goes, so I knew Possum was somewhere in the room waiting for me to beg for his eternal forgiveness.
The humid room was silent as I listened to Possum’s labored breathing–and after a few minutes, I started to wonder if he was there not for my pleas for mercy but to wait for this giant woman to suffocate me. Finally he barked a short, stern order and the woman managed to remove herself from my chest.
I sat up against the headboard, heaving for breath and drenched in sweat. I looked in the corner and saw Possum curled up in the seat of my chair, sweating through his brown, matted fur.
When I managed to catch my breath I quickly explained that the Goldfish of Prophecy was dead, I had flushed him down the toilet alive three days ago. Possum waved that information away with a quick motion of his gnarled claw and said that had been the eighth goldfish of prophecy they had used in as many years. What they had really come for was the Golden Kazoo.
The people were having trouble building their ladders without the heavenly music of the Golden Kazoo to inspire them for their great reward, he explained to me.
The ladders Possum referred to were the ladders that the Church of Possum and the Ladder-Day Saints gets its name from. The main tenant of the church is that because God was having trouble knowing believers from heathens, he issued a proclamation through Possum, his prophet, that all true believers must construct for themselves a ladder to show their faith and to use to physically climb into heaven when the time has fully come. The problem with this tenet was that since the time of the second coming is never certain, all loyal followers of the prophet wear their ladders strapped to their backs at all times, no matter where they go.
As I looked into the small black eyes of Possum, I understood how much trouble I was in. Few are allowed the honor to see him in person. He always uses a handsome, heroic-looking man to hand down his decrees from God. The reason for this is simple: Possum was afraid that if anyone saw him, they might recognize him as the individual wanted in several states for charges ranging from coupon counterfeiting to transporting with the intent to distribute across state lines toupees made of cat hair.
Business actions like these and many others are still practiced by the Ladder-Day Saints, which make it a very wealthy church–wealthy enough to buy a golden kazoo. I slowly explained to Possum that I had pawned the Golden Kazoo–where else would I get the money to rent a hotel room? After joining, I had given all my money and belongings to the church, a move that did make me a member of good standing and offered me a larger pudding ration at meals, but also burdened me with The Golden Staircase, a 26-foot-tall retractable ladder constantly strapped to my back, thus offering me a faster ascent into heaven when the time fully came.
Possum became furious when I wouldn’t tell him where I had pawned the Golden Kazoo; he threatened me with the Curse of Intimidation, the highest curse issued by the church. It stated that any member who found me could push me to the ground and plant the legs of their ladder over my body. If they ascended the ladder while it was still placed over my body, they would receive immediate entrance into heaven.
I told Possum that the only way they could get the Golden Kazoo back was if they gave me the money–and if nobody followed me, I’d go and retrieve it from the pawn shop and bring it back.
Possum leered at me with his sickly black eyes before saying he would allow me to go and retrieve the kazoo, but only if I stopped at a pet store and got a Goldfish of Prophecy on my way back.
Possum grunted to his priestess, who handed me a plastic shopping bag full of wet, crumpled dollar bills.
I thanked Possum for his kindness and left my hotel room, leaving my few possessions behind. I walked down to the station and bought a ticket for the next bus east, wondering how long it would last, how long I would be looking for a ladder every time I looked over my shoulder.
Email Mr. Tesch at firstname.lastname@example.org.