OWN PERSONAL HANNIBAL
story by Howard Langmead
Runner up in The Age Funny Short Story Competition 2001
Published in The Age March 2001
nemesis of a spiritual teacher is not the atheist in the street
but the insightful and outspoken person in the pew. Every priest,
rabbi or guru understands the concept of the feral worshipper. The
person who eats the priest at the parish picnic and requests a Bishop
for seconds. In my ministry this role was fulfilled by my three
year old daughter Hannah.
ordination service was a solemn and pompous affair, an Anglican
art. St. Paul's Cathedral was packed beyond capacity as I processed
in my new robes and my imagined halo gleaming. Hannah spotted me.
With her experience of waking me during the night she easily filled
the cathedral with her voice. She shouted with damnable honesty,
"There's daddy pretending to be a minister!" My career in the church
was doomed from that moment.
as a curate to a large eastern suburban parish. A curate is an apprentice
minister. It is unrelated to the curette of gynecological fame.
Hannah was told the rules of behaviour in church for three year
old children of curates. She was free to do anything so long as
she was quiet. This included reading, drawing and walking around
the church with her shoes off.
my first sermon to the bored looking North Balwyn faces, Hannah
went boldly where no one had gone before. She entered the sanctuary
and explored the potential that the holy furnishings had as gymnastic
equipment. She then moved to the communion rail and twirled herself
around and around, very quietly. She brought a more animated response
to the faces of the startled worshippers than I had managed by my
the service, sensing she might not get all the paternal approval
she had hoped for, Hannah queued with the parting parishioners who
were welcoming me to St. Stephen's. She stood before me, reached
up to shake my hand and said, "I was very quiet, wasn't I?"
surprisingly, soon after this, the bishop arranged to visit my family
at home. My wife was pregnant, and Hannah was following her progress
with great interest. Hannah's favourite book at that stage was 'Where
Do I Come From?' She read it to me every night and would ask meaningfully,
"Do we really need another baby in this family?"
the bishop arrived Hannah was in the lounge room lying in the bean
bag, her hands joined above her head and her body squirming. The
bishop asked condescendingly, "What are you doing, dear?"
stopped her gyrating and gave him that intense look that three year
olds reserve for really stupid adults and replied, "I'm a sperm,
looking for an egg." She returned to her experiential sex education
session. The bishop again reassessed my suitability for ministry.
Hannah. One day she may understand why I sent her to the Baptist
church down the road.