There are no advertisements in the paper. No online banners or television commercials. News of the cooking class that is held on the second floor of the old walkup on the corner of Maple and Elm spreads only by word of mouth.
Even those who frequent the butcher’s on the ground floor have no knowledge of its existence, despite the fact that the staircase leading to the second floor is right by the glass case filled with pink and glistening chops.
Dozens of people are in and out of the shop everyday but none has ever wondered why there are stairs in the middle of a butcher’s shop. In fact, they never even glance at it, acting almost like it isn’t even there.
Clancy Collins, on that particular Tuesday morning, was in a foul mood. She had been woken by a phone call from her mother, who had casually mentioned that Mrs. Simmons hadn’t seen her at church the previous Sunday. What exactly had she been so busy doing that she couldn’t spare an hour for the Lord? Mrs. Collins had mused, her pseudo-subtlety grating on Clancy’s nerves.
Clancy loved Bascombe but, in a town of only a couple of hundred people, privacy had no meaning. She had never been particularly religious but her mother was a Believer, one of those who believed in a deity that was more personal assistant than god.
If you were going to insist on believing in something, why couldn’t you just believe in being as good a person as you could be? Clancy didn’t hold with cryptic messages in century old books – they left far too many things open to interpretation. People tended to take advantage of open-endedness; people like her mother who felt no guilt in tweaking the commandments to suit her needs and, it seemed, to drive Clancy out of her mind.
“Milk, eggs, chicken sausages,” Clancy muttered to herself as she slammed her front door and pounded down the stairs. “Maybe a steak for dinner?”
Pushing open the door to the butcher’s, Clancy cursed the tinkling bell that heralded her entry. She had immediately recognized the blue-tinged wisps and cloud of a decade old Chanel that meant Mrs. Simmons was around.
Perhaps if she edged very quietly…“You’re looking very well Clancy dear,” she heard from behind her. Bugger.
“Very chipper,” Mrs. Simmons continued. “When I didn’t see you at church I could only assume you were unwell but it seems you’re feeling just fine despite ignoring Our Lord.”
Clancy backed up slowly as Mrs. Simmon’s accusing finger advanced, stumbling as the wall behind her gave way to an opening. Mrs. Simmons was enjoying the sound of her own voice and as she bent to examine a rather fine rack of lamb, Clancy turned and bolted up the staircase. Funny, she had never noticed it before.
She’d apologize to George later, Clancy thought to herself as she climbed the stairs to what she could only assume were the butcher’s private quarters. Turning the corner on the landing however, brought her into an airy room. Clancy had entered from the back; in front of her were six wide counters, each equipped with a stovetop, a large two-handled pot, several jars and a large tray of utensils.
Standing behind each counter was a person. Or at least, what Clancy could only assume were people. The woman at the counter nearest to her had her long flaxen her pulled up in a bun to reveal strangely pointed ears. And was it imagination or did the elderly gentleman turning to talk to the man behind him have a pig’s snout for a nose?
At the front of the room, standing between an industrial sized oven and the largest charcoal burning clay oven she’d ever seen, was a man. He was sucking furiously on the limp cigarette dangling from his mouth, his long, rather matted hair curling beneath his ears.
Clancy was about to speak when he seemed to notice her and grinned. Momentarily floored by his gleaming white teeth, Clancy flushed; she’d never seen eyes that green.
“Fix your eyes on Jesus…the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross”. Clancy frowned as the odd thought flashed through her mind.
The man was still beaming at her. “Hallo, here for the class?” he asked.
“Er, no I don’t think so. I’m sorry to intrude, I was just trying to get away…”
“From Mrs. Simmons, yes.”
How on earth could he have known that? Clancy frowned.
“I’m Jesus,” he continued, pronouncing it ‘hey-seus’. “I teach this cooking class. Stay and create with us. If nothing else it’ll give you a way to kill the time until she leaves.”
Before Clancy could respond, he had turned to respond to a question about the excessive use of guilt and it’s advantages. Clancy couldn’t help herself; she wandered to the nearest empty counter and peered at the introductory sheet.
Welcome faithless comrade! We know it can be tough. Faith is a big, abstract word and sometimes, you just need something to hold on to. Everyone’s got a special recipe. Get started with the questions below to create the perfect blend for YOU!
1. Where do you stand on guilt and how would you like to fund it?
2. Would you like a belief in the universe as a huge, beneficent organism or something a bit more complex to really impress with?
3. Don’t be afraid to be different – how would you like Wednesday as a sacred day?
As Clancy watched, a lady with translucent skin at the counter next to hers poured the bubbling contents of her pot into a clear plexiglass box, and using a long-handled pizza peel placed it inside the clay oven.
“You can’t have a half-baked religion,” explained Jesus, who had noticed her staring. “Things get dangerous when people get something that’s not done cooking; they have this nasty habit of trying to finish it themselves.”