It was known throughout the house as Black Monday. The night designated for family togetherness and bonding over board games and Scripture. Nobody liked it, but we all suffered along until Dad decided he'd "had enough of you stupid fuckers," and that usually ended it pretty quickly.
It was a night unlike any other I knew as a 13 year old. Granted, my house was never a hell of a lot of fun, but on BM, there was even more tension to wade through.
First, my dad hated the "Black Monday" title that my brother Pete and I had tagged on this festivity. "You know what today is, right kids" he'd ask, doing his best Ward Cleaver at the supper table. "Oh God. It's Black Monday again, isn't it?" was my typical response.
"No. It's Family Togetherness Night."
"Can I be together with you all from my bedroom and just leave my door open so I can hear all the fun?"
"No. Knock it off. We're gonna play some board games and read a Bible verse together."
"We'll be passing the Bible around, then, or just one of us will read it aloud? I mean, does it have to be a long verse or what?"
"Would it completely fucking kill you to NOT act like an asshole for just one night a week? Can I ask for that much from you, Katie?"
"Tom," my mom would say, "I hardly think..."
"No, no no no. She's a disrespectful, foul mouthed asshole, and you know it as well as I do, Pat, so don't you dare point fingers at me!"
"Dad, she wasn't pointing fingers at anyone, she just wanted to say that calling me an asshole isn't necessarily the best way to kick off another Black Monday."
"Quit calling it that!"
By this time, my younger siblings, Dan and Mary would be hiding in their bedrooms. Mom would be holding a box of Kleenex in her lap, as she was always thinking ahead, Dad and I would be nose to nose over the pot roast, and Pete would be laughing so hard, that he had no hope of stopping himself. He clutched at his stomach while tears rolled down his face, and his laughter finally gave way to severe hiccups.
"What's so goddamned funny!" Dad bellowed. It took a while for Pete to collect himself and form a response as he wiped tears off of his face and sputtered on his hiccups. When he was ready, he stood up, clutching the family Bible firmly in both hands, announcing, "Allright all you assholes, time for family togetherness! Grab your fuckin' Bible and favorite board game and let's bond!"
On the rare occasion where supper proceeded after this point without a brawl, we'd all adjourn to the downstairs family room and let the love begin. Usually, we would each pick a verse to read aloud, and then came discussion time. "Christ is my Savior," Dad would reflect. "Without Him and his ever present grace, I would be miserable, indeed." I often had to pinch Pete to keep him from cracking up again, and when that didn't work, I tried to speak over his muffled snorting.
"I'm not so sure about that, Dad," I said. "There are tons of happy people in the world that have never even heard of Jesus Christ."
"They THINK they're happy, but their souls are in a danger they can't possibly begin to imagine. They need the Lord just as much as you and I."
"But they seem okay."
"Appearances are deceiving. On the inside, they're crying out for help."
"I kinda doubt it. I mean, if they've never even heard of Jesus, then what do they care? They have their own gods and everything, right? I don't see why they'd be crying out for someone to save their souls when it's already a done deal, ya know?"
"'I sent my only begotten Son to die so that ye may not perish but have everlasting life,'" he would quote, "'For no one comes to the Father but by me.'"
"So, Christianity's like a mixed bag, then, right? It's good..no wait, it's bad! It's giving and then selfish...no wonder those people picked out a different God. Sheeesh."
By now, Dad was standing again, purple-faced with that super neat vein threatening to split his forehead wide open. "I cannot BELIEVE the disrespect and lack of gratitude you're showing, Katie! Jesus has given you so much, and all you do is give me trouble!"
"I just think that any God I'd want to be associated with would understand if I think it's cool for different people to pray differently and call Him by different names, that's all."
"There is only ONE true God! The Christian God! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ Himself!"
I damn near expected to see Jesus peeking his head out from behind the laundry room curtain every time he said that.
"Well, okay, but what do you get out of it though? I mean there are so many religions out there to pick from...What do you get from being a Christian?"
It was a wonder that he still had the motor skills to fast-pitch his Bible at my head, and simultaneously scream, "Jesus gives me the fuckin' peace that passes understanding!"
Pete busted out laughing, and he was trying to get to the bathroom before he wet himself, but he just couldn't do it. Once the flow of urine started, he gave in alltogether and rolled about the floor in massive fit of guffaws snorts and hiccups.
Gathering myself up off of the floor and rubbing my swollen cheek, I asked, "Where do I sign up?"
And Black Monday held sway over all.