by Lex Crane
“Hoc est enim corpus meum.” Climax of the old Latin Mass. Awed folks for centuries, but now… English. Lost much of its majesty and mystery in translation. I grew up during the Latin era, and, as an unbelieving but enthusiastic altar boy, memorized all the Latin required of me. The language was opaque (for the most part) to believer and unbeliever alike. No matter. It was awesome.
An oddity, isn’t it: an unbelieving altar boy? Didn’t get into parochial school until third grade. Eight years old. Missed out on the first two years of catechism. Not so vulnerable after that? Church says that by the time we are in our eighth year, we have entered the age of reason. Could that be why I turned out to be an incurable unbeliever? Not a popular world view. Unbelievers are known to be peculiar. Even suspect. No morals. Who knows what they do in private?
Consider another long ago institution. During the years of the Great Depression, drug stores had soda fountains. Even small neighborhood drug stores. Sold ice cream, ice cream sodas, ice cream cones with sprinkles added as an option. Coffee, lemon phosphate and Coca Cola made on the spot. Coca Cola syrup concentrate pumped into the bottom of a glass, soda added, flowing out of an elegant spigot on demand. See? “Soda Fountain.”
Neighborhood drug stores like this served as community centers for nondrinkers in those long ago days. I didn’t have a nine to five job. A writer. Free to stop in for coffee any time of day. Break in the loneliness of a writer’s day.
Charley ran the soda fountain. Talkative. Had an odd way, as he chatted, of twisting his wedding ring over the knuckle and back as he talked about her. About Marie. He would pull the ring over his knobby knuckle, slip it down to the nail, letting it dangle there for a moment, then point the finger toward the ceiling so that the ring slid down and came to rest on the knuckle.