By: Dennis Bates
Okay, so there I was, minding my own business in the church parking lot when a big, black limo rolls in and Satan himself gets out.
I tried to scrunch down behind my steering wheel and hide, but he must have seen me. I have to say he didn’t look as menacing as I thought he might. In fact, he looked pretty ordinary and almost friendly. Still, I was quite certain I didn’t want to be his friend. My mother warned me about such things from the time I was old enough to understand warnings.
The first thing he did was walk completely around the outside of the church building apparently counting off the steps and making notes in a little black notebook he pulled out of his vest pocket. He nodded and smiled. Then he tried to peer in through the windows to see what was inside. He put his hands around his eyes and leaned on the glass, pressing his nose to the window panes while he looked.
I slid lower in the front seat of my pickup truck, but every time I moved, he turned around and winked my way. Like I said, he must have seen me, but I have no idea how he did. I thought I had hidden pretty well. Guess not.
Satan walked straight to my vehicle, holding his black note book in one arm against his chest like many church members hold their Bibles. The closer he got, the less menacing he seemed to be, but that didn’t stop me from sweating bullets when he stopped less than a foot away from me.
“Excuse me,” he said, tapping on my half opened window, “I hate to bother you, but do you know anything about this church?”
He ducked his head so he could look in my side window at me. I didn’t want to look back, but for some reason I had to. Curiosity, I guess. That and a friendly stare that froze me in place.
He handed me his business card. It read: S.A. Tan, consultant and entrepreneur. Isn’t everybody these days, I thought to myself.
“I’ve gone to that little church all my life,” I finally said. “What would you like to know?”
Satan shrugged. “Is the property for sale? I’m trying to acquire property in the area. This one interests me in particular.”
“Why?” I asked. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s always been a church. What would you do with it?”
“Mahjong parlors,” he whispered, covering his mouth with his hand as he looked around. “They’re the latest rage.” He smiled and chuckled, “At least they will be.”
I scratched my head. “Never heard of such a thing,” I said.
“I like being on the cutting edge,” he said, winking at me. “You know what I mean? I’ll be looking for partners at some point. You have my number on my card. Give me a call if you’re interested. No experience necessary; we have an extensive training program. ”
I nodded my head as I looked at the card, but I had no intention of calling the number. In fact, I had no plans to keep the card.
“Just don’t wait too long to decide,” Satan said. “From the looks of things, most of these smaller churches won’t last much longer. There are too many empty spaces inside. So, if they don’t want to sell, I’ll wait.” He clasped my shoulder with his hand and his grip was a lot firmer than I would have suspected from his appearance. “Once I take over, things will heat up in a hurry,” he said. “Just some friendly advice. It’s best to be in on the ground floor.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “That’s all I ask.”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, I’d better get going. If I don’t get back to the office, there will be you know what to pay.” He laughed at his own words.
“Uh huh,” I said, watching him back away from my truck.
He saluted with two fingers. “I’ll be waiting to hear from you. Nice talking with you.”
The black limo pulled away and my wife came out of the church building. She slid into her side of the truck and let out a sigh.
“How was the meeting?” I asked.
“Same old, same old,” she answered. “You been waiting long?”
“Long enough,” I responded. “Dear, if it’s all the same to you, I’m going to wait for you inside the next time.”
“Whatever,” she said, smiling.
“And I’m thinking we need to start inviting more people from the neighborhood to come to church. There’s just too many empty seats in there.”
Now I had her attention. She turned to me and raised her right eyebrow. “What’s gotten into you?”
“You ever play mahjong?” I asked.
“Neither have I and I have a strong feeling I don’t want to learn.”