All The Mongrel Saints
A Halloween party through the eyes of the saints
It’s all just a big show, Julian thought for about the hundredth time. Just a big scene. A place where everyone comes to show off and be noticed.
His wife Clarisse gave him a stern look. Apparently his dissatisfaction was showing on his face. He offered a small smile as a way to placate his bad mood. She gave him an understanding smile in return and took his hands. Yeah, I know, her eyes seemed to say. She did not like these parties anymore than he did. But it is a necessary evil, she had reminded him.
Curious choice of words, he had replied.
He guessed he should be happy. If you have to come out to a Halloween party, this was the one to come to. Everyone who was anyone was there. But that’s what was so annoying about it. It’s all just one big stupid show, Julian though again as he faked a smile.
It wasn’t the fact that everyone at the party seemed so famous. He had lived among dignitaries and rulers most of his life. It wasn’t even that he wasn’t well known in these circles that bothered him. Well, maybe it was a little bit of that.
Mostly it was just that everyone seemed so fake. They all seemed so nice, so perfect, so friendly and down to earth. When in reality they were anything but down to earth. I mean that was the point. That’s why they were all here. It was because they weren’t down to earth. They didn’t do anything halfway. And here they all were in a room together acting completely normal with talk of the weather and current events and art. When they were actually a damn freak show.
There was Erasmus* (his friends call him Elmo) who supposedly caused a dozen people to get struck by lightning when they came against him. He was sharing a drink and a polite conversation with Apollonia* who once had all her teeth yanked out. You could see her gums as she laughed at Elmo’s jokes. Not too far from them was Joseph Benedict, who look like he had just come from sleeping on the streets — because he probably had.
The only thing worse than the guys who were acting like they were completely normal, were the guys who were bragging about their accomplishments. In one corner, Rocco* was discussing the current plague he was healing people from. John the bookseller* (one of the many Johns) was talking about how good business was going since he got rid of all that atheistic, humanistic crap. Joseph of Cupertino* (there were almost as many Josephs as there were Johns) was trying to prove he really could levitate. No one really believed any of these guys.
Then of course there were the really famous ones. They weren’t really bragging, nor were they acting like normal people. They seemed more to stand among the group, fully aware of the presence they were exuding. Benedict* sat by himself in a corner. Valentine was standing in a circle that included Augustine, Francis, and Patrick. Ironically, Patrick was refusing a drink offered to him by Amand*, who was currently bar-tending. Augustine* was suspiciously whispering something into the ear of Mary of Egypt*, who was blushing.
Julian’s scowl was beginning to grow again when his wife Clarisse wrapped her arm around his and led him over to a less pretentious group playing a game of cards. Julian* gave polite hellos to everyone he knew. Of course, he would have been more than happy to have any of these people in his house. Hospitality was one of his strengths. And by one of his strengths, he often thought it was one of his weaknesses. The two had always seemed intertwined to him.
Julian made polite conversation and shared some jokes with some of the people around him. This was something they did once a year. Thankfully it was just once a year, but it still seemed like too often for his taste. It was the night before All Saints Day. It was kind of a one night fling for the saints.
The party was a chance to get together before they spent the next day being remembered by people who thought they were much better than they actually were. The general public who never quite understood sainthood or saints. It wasn’t that they were a lot better than anyone else. In fact, most of their lives, many of them had been pretty bad people. If anything, they were extremists. Freaks, Julian thought again.
Julian excused himself from the group to go get a drink. As he walked across the room he noticed how the feel of the room changed from one circle to another. John Calvin* was arguing theology with anyone who would listen, just like always. He seemed destined to do this. Martin Luther* was in the corner with a big scroll of paper writing out some gigantic list of some sort. He seemed to look around as if observing the crowd and then jot down another point on his list. Neither one of them were technically saints, but for some reason they always seemed to show up at these parties.
There was a line in the hall because Bonaventure* was in the bathroom. Again.
Julian picked up a beer from the bar and asked Amand to make a Mai Tai for Clarisse. As he started to walk back he noticed that Francis* had momentarily separated himself from the group he was talking to. There was a mangy looking dog at his feet that Francis was petting and feeding pieces of the sandwich in his hand. Francis looked up just in time to lock eyes with Julian.
Julian nodded politely. “Where’d the dog come from?”
“Oh, I just found him roaming the streets on the way here. He looked hungry,” the dog rolled over on his back and Francis gave a good hearted chuckle and rubbed his belly.
Julian had never been much for the big names, but he had always liked Francis. Not that they had ever really talked. But he had observed his composure and he always seemed so much more real, more gracious, and understanding than the rest.
“It’s Julian, right?” Francis had risen from petting the dog and held out a hand for Julian to shake.
Julian was slightly dumbfounded that Francis knew who he was. “Uh…yeah…that’s me…,” he said.
“Yeah, uh, I know,” Julian laughed. “I mean…good to meet you.”
“They call you Julian the Poor, right.”
“Uh, yeah, among other things.”
Francis’s let out a deep rich laugh. “Saints are never without their monikers, huh?”
Julian shrugged. “Yeah I guess.”
“Still it’s not a bad thing to be known for.”
“Being poor. Being called Julian the Poor isn’t a bad nickname.”
“Yeah, I guess not. I mean we’ve all taken the vow of poverty.”
“Yes but that means giving up a lot more for some of us.”
“You included,” Julian said. “You grew up wealthy just like me.”
“Yes,” Francis agreed. “But that was a long time ago.”
They heard the doorbell and were momentarily distracted as they turned to see who was at the door. Brigid answered the door and was giving away candy to the kids coming by in costumes yelling “trick or treat” in a hyper, candy-infused tone. Although most of them didn’t know what “trick or treat” meant and said it more like “tricker treat,” as if tricker was an adjective that made it a plea for numerous treats. Brigid began by giving away candy, but she gave away so much that it ran out quickly. She then began giving away furniture and nice household items
to dissatisfied kids and confused but ecstatic parents. Julian wasn’t sure whose house this was, but he hoped they shared Brigid’s pension for generosity.
Denis was standing at the door beside her, holding his talking head in his hands. He was the only really scary one and seemed to get a big kick out of scaring the kids with his talking, decapitated head. The kids would be scared at first and then just figure it was some sort of trick. The adults were always mortified, thinking it looked to real. It was.
“That’s kind of what being a saint is about, right? Giving up stuff?” Julian tried to pull Francis back to their conversation.
“Hmmm, I never really thought about it before,” Francis stroked his beard and pondered. “Never really thought about being a saint, I mean.”
“Yeah, I mean it was never really a goal of mine. It just seemed to happen. And long after I died.”
“But surely you’ve considered it since then.”
Francis shook his head. “Saint has always seemed like rather a loose word to me. People seem to use it if they want to feel better or worse about themselves.”
“How so?” Julian asked.
“If they hear of our good deeds, they say ‘Well, they were a saint, what do you expect? We can’t all live like that.’ If they hear of our bad deeds they say ‘And he was a saint? I’m as good as they are.’ We’re a reservoir for excuses, a bastion of self deprecation, a distorted mirror. Don’t be misled, Julian. Being a saint is a bitch.”
Francis said this last line with a touch of whimsey at which Julian couldn’t help but smile.
“We’re all just mongrels like my friend here,” Francis motioned to the dog. “Just trying to make it off the scraps we’ve been given, looking for a place to belong. Born of the winds of heaven and the stuff of earth, trying to live off both wherever we can.”
About that time they both heard someone yell something offensive that ended in “transubstantiation.” This was quickly followed by cursing and punching. Within minutes, the room was a full-on brawl. Half the people fighting neither heard the original argument nor disagreed with the person with whom they were exchanging blows.
Julian looked around to find Clarisse. She was in a corner behind a maddening exchange
between a wiry Irishman and a large, burly guy who must surely be the patron saint of obesity. Her eyes conveyed her terror as she yelled for help. Julian was reminded that a room full of saints could be a frightening place to be on Halloween.
By the time Julian got to her, the Irishman was on the overweight man’s back pounding his face with all his might. Julian deftly pushed the two out of the way and grabbed Clarisse’s hand and pulled her to safety.
“Quiet!” They heard yelled above the throng. “Stop it! Calm down you heathen bastards!
Julian looked across the room to see Martin Luther standing on a table trying to get everyone’s attention. The fighting gradually subsided and all blurry, black, and bloodied eyes turned to Luther.
“Damn Protestant!” someone yelled and everyone laughed.
Luther smiled, and raised a large German stein in the air. “Here’s to tonight, brothers and sisters.” He shouted. “And may we live to not remember it. Because tomorrow, we all have to be saints again.”
“Hear, hear!” several shouted grabbing the nearest beverage and waving it in the air.
Julian grabbed a red Solo cup with rum and coke that someone had abandoned when the fight began.
“Here’s to tonight,” Luther cried again. “And to all the saints.” Luther took a drink and everyone followed suit.
“To all the mongrel saints,” Julian muttered as he lifted his cup to his lips.