Posts Tagged ‘religion’

This is Part 6 of my fictional series “Stories of the ER”. In this story, the event really did happen. Everything before, during and after it is 100% fictionalized.



I am generally not a religious man. Even though I was raised in a very Protestant home, my folks never really made us attend regular church services. Sure, mom and dad would force my sister and me to dress in our best “church going clothes” and they would pack us into their little brown station wagon and make the twice-yearly trek to church for Christmas and Easter — usually sunrise service or midnight mass (which always started at 10:30 at night, ironically).

But for the remaining Sundays, we’d spend the mornings doing whatever we wanted: sis and I would get up at 6:30 to watch the Bugs Bunny cartoon show, while dad enjoyed his only day of the week to sleep in. Mom, who was a stay-at-home mom, occasionally would get up around 8 am and spend the next two hours making huge, carb-loaded, coma inducing breakfasts from scratch. At least that was what we always thought they were. But, her little secret was exposed one day when I wandered into the kitchen because the smell of cooking bacon overpowered me. I found her pouring boxed pancake mix into her favorite mixing bowl. She was horrified I had caught her “cheating” – but personally, I didn’t give a shit because the end result was a feast made for a king and I was her little prince.

That was pretty much the extent of my religious upbringing. When I moved out after college and took this job at GW, I didn’t give religion a second thought. Sure, I respect a person’s right to believe, but after seeing a lot of what I’ve seen here in this job, I’m fairly convinced there is no god. How could there be when there is so much pain and suffering in this world.

This story, as you might have figured out, focuses on the topic of religion and how it can and does destroy lives. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked the day the ragheads blew up the towers and the Pentagon with airplanes. I know what happens when flames meet flesh, all done in the name of religion. And honestly, it’s pretty fucking disgusting. “My god, your god, his god, her god” Does it really make a fucking difference whose god is who’s when there’s no evidence of any god? I guess that makes me sound like an atheist. Oh well, call me that. When I tell you about Dharia and how she came to my ER, maybe you’ll understand why I detest religious zealots.

This is Dharia’s story. I’ve had to fill in a lot of the details, unfortunately. You see, Dharia was one of the women who didn’t make it out of my ER alive. In fact, she barely made it into my ER alive. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Living in DC, we have a lot of  foreign nationalists come here and take up temporary residence while they represent their countries’ political and diplomatic interests. And of course, they’re just as vulnerable to accidents and injuries as anyone else. However, being foreigners, they aren’t entitled to US healthcare benefits. Well, change that a little. The recent ADA has, to the upset and outrage of many, allowed foreign diplomats to enroll for healthcare coverage if they’re here on an A or G Visa, whatever the hell that means. We were just told to treat them like any other sick or injured person and the government will foot the bill. However, years ago that wasn’t the case. They were required to have their own international health plan before they arrived, should they need medical care while in Washington on official international business.

Regardless of their visa status, we did have a few foreign diplomats come through our doors over the last few years. We’ve had, if I can remember, a couple heart attack patients, several traffic accidents because they weren’t used to driving on the opposite of the road, and one or two drunk driving accidents. One guy from South Korea on an economic visit was struck while walking across the street to the federal building by a Russian diplomat, who had just returned from a lunch heavy with vodka and was driving erratically back to his rented apartment. This in and of itself nearly caused an international scandal of epic proportions. They resolved the sticky mess by just declaring themselves diplomatically immune from prosecution and, despite our best efforts  to try for prosecution and criminal charges, nothing ever happened in that case. I guess power does have its privileges.

Unfortunately, the wives and children of these spouses don’t have that same level of protection afforded the diplomats. Is this unfair? Absolutely, which is why the wives and children are seldom seen out and about, enjoying the same types of privileges their husbands and fathers get. Welcome to politics.

But as I’ve said, with power comes privilege. And while privilege certainly played an integral role in Dharia’s story, it wasn’t through her, but through her husband’s abusive behavior that Dharia came to us, only moments before I witnessed her pointless death right before my eyes, while I stood there – unable to do anything to help her or even comfort her. You see, Dharia was a suicide victim. The how and why of her suicide is what needs to be told.

When she came through our hospital doors, seconds from death, all she could do was stare at us in wild-eyed terror — eyes screaming what her charred lips couldn’t — “Help me, oh please–help me!”  Her arms were stretched outwards from her body – sticks of bone, fingers burned off completely. She walked in on two wooden planks – what used to be her legs. Her clothing had melted onto her skin, then into the skin itself. The smell of charred flesh and burnt hair trailed in still smoking ringlets all the way up from the nubs of what once were her feet to the very top of her exposed and peeling scalp. Her earlobes were bubbling as the cartilage melted into human fat globules, dripping onto the floor below. There was nothing left of her to save, and we all knew it.

We were frozen in place until, of course, the screaming began. Fortunately, it was still pretty early in the evening, so the waiting room was almost empty. Unfortunately, there was a family with small children ages nine and four, who were right in the sight line and witnessed Dharia’s dramatic entrance as she hobbled through the automatic door, moving in a herky-jerky way that reminded me of the walk made by Peter Boyle as Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein.” Only much, much more terrifying to a four-year old, who raised his little hand and pointed directly to Dharia, while stating, “Mommy – That scawy monster is coming to get me! Scawy monster!” When mom looked up from her cell phone and caught sight of what her little boy was pointing at, she became hysterical and started screaming at the top of her lungs, temporarily dragging the attention of the rest of the people waiting from Dharia and right onto her. The intake nurse lunged out from behind her cubicle to see what all the commotion was and was just about to ask the woman to calm down when her eyes locked with Dharia’s, and she froze in her spot, wobbled a bit, then promptly fainted onto the tiled floor. At that point, several of us from inside the ER rushed out to see what was going on, and that’s when I caught Dharia as she started to tumble, face first (or what was left of it, anyways) directly on top of the unconscious intake nurse. The lobby was in total chaos by this time as people rushed about not knowing what to do or where to go. The mother of the small children picked up both her kids at the same time, buried their faces into her chest, and ran out the doors – apparently their visit wasn’t much of an emergency any longer.

With Dharia in my arms, I half-carried, half-dragged her nearly lifeless body through the double doors as quickly as possible to get her out of the sight of others. She looked truly terrifying. I know I had never seen anything like that in my career – even in the worst of traumas we’ve had come through our hospital. I also recognized the sounds of a dying person – the throat gurgling as the person takes his or her last breaths. This was what I heard as I laid Dharia down on the gurney. Her body made this awful thunking sound, like the sound you hear when you throw a fresh, dried log onto a fire pit. This sound haunted me for days afterward, and it was that sound echoing over and over in my mind that led me to do what I did next: call the police. If someone had done this to her, I wanted them caught and put on trial. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let her death go unnoticed. I just needed some answers.

Dharia died moments after she was put on the gurney. Her eyelids had been burned off, so even though she was dead her eyes appeared to still be opened. And, screaming. I draped a towel across her face, cut off what remained of her melted clothing and flesh, and prepared her for the hospital morgue and autopsy. I wanted to know why she had been burned so badly, and how she had managed to get here, in the last few minutes of her life, considering the physical state she was in.

When the police arrived, Dharia had already been taken to the morgue. I explained everything  to the officers as best I could, and begged them to come back and tell me whatever they found out – I wanted to know more about this poor, brave soul who had made one last, desperate measure to save herself. The will to live is one of the most powerful survival mechanisms we have. She definitely demonstrated that will when she defied all odds and walked through our doors,  seconds before both her will and her heart gave out.

The police investigation into her death only took a week or so. What they told me shattered my heart into a million pieces and confirmed my belief: there truly is no god, or couldn’t even be a god if he/she/it allowed someone to set herself on fire in sacrifice to that god. You see, Dharia was Hindu. She was the wife of an Indian diplomat who had brought her to the US with him when he was transferred from Mumbai to Washington, DC. She had been struggling with adjusting to DC – she didn’t have anyone here to support her or talk to her. Her husband was away often – leaving her alone and lonely. She was near her emotional breaking point so one night she decided to go for a drink without him – a very taboo idea for a Hindu woman, but she was desperate for conversation and human interaction.

While at the bar, she met another foreign diplomat – a Pakistani man, who had been at the bar for hours already and had several martinis under his belt when she walked in and sat down on the stool at the other end of the bar, minding her own business. The diplomat noticed her immediately and began making the moves on her. Despite her numerous protestations and flashing of her wedding band, the Pakistani refused to leave her alone. In fact, he got more and more aggressive with her. She had finally decided she had enough of his bullshit and headed back to her car to go home, only to see him following closely behind. When she opened her car door, he pushed her in and raped her right there in her car while she screamed and screamed for help. Nobody came to help her. Once the man was finished, he just hopped into his fancy government-issued Mercedes and drove off into the night. He was never caught.

Although the man was never caught, Dharia’s “infidelity” quickly became apparent when she started to show due to the resulting pregnancy. Of course her husband – who had been away on business for an extended period of time, put the math together in his head and quickly figured out the baby wasn’t his. And because of their religious and cultural beliefs, she had just disgraced him, her, his entire family as well as put his political career and  reputation at grave risk. After a harsh beating at home, behind closed doors, and a vicious threat not to go to the police for fear she would get them both kicked out of the country because of the trouble she brought upon herself (instead of blaming the rapist, where it belonged), she felt she had nowhere else to turn.

To make things right again in her mind, Dharia resorted to the Hindu practice of self-immolation. She waited until her husband was at work then took the full gas can out of their rented garage, a stick lighter for the grill, and a blanket and walked to the park directly across from the hospital’s ER entrance doors. She set out the blanket, took a few moments to work up the courage, then splashed the entire can’s contents over her head, chest, legs and, even the blanket. Then, after the gas  had soaked her and the blanket entirely, clicked the lighter and touched it to her chest. As she sat there, flames building and creeping everywhere, her survival instinct kicked in and in one last desperate act of futility, changed her mind and tried to beat the flames out with her hands. By that time, the fire had grown too big and had consumed too much of her cotton clothing that she wasn’t able to stop the burning. That was when she stood up and began the several  hundred yards walk to our ER department. Sadly, it was too little, too late for her. There wasn’t anything we could have been able to do anyways, except maybe give her morphine to help with the pain. But it turned out she didn’t even need that.

If there is a lesson to learn from Dharia’s story it is this: women continue to suffer religious and social persecution at a higher rate than men. In some countries, they can be beaten and stoned to death for many different reasons, without a trial or other formal inquiry.This just isn’t right.

The female police officer who investigated Dharia’s suicide showed me one last thing before we parted ways. She pulled a picture out of her wallet and handed it to me. The woman in the picture was stunning–long, beautiful, jet-black hair. Big, brown eyes against caramel-colored, flawless skin. An electrifying smile. She took my breath away and I was instantly attracted to her. I asked, “Who’s this?” The officer paused a moment, then in a hushed tone said, “Your patient. The suicide victim. I thought you’d want to see what she really gave to the world.” I saw in the picture she was surrounded by little kids. The police officer added, “She had been a kindergarten teacher over in India before her husband was transferred here.”

Her name was Dharia P. She was only twenty-four, she was a beautiful, a shining star, and had the whole world in front of her.

Author’s Note: The story above is entirely fictional. Any similarities to any person, living or dead, is strictly coincidental.





ham_with_cider_glaze_leadWhenever I need a quick pick-me-up, I head over to to look at the humorous pictures of dogs caught in shameful situations. Being a dog owner myself, I can relate to a lot of the pictures. Nothing says “I’m a beagle, I had to do it” better than a picture of one in a near coma from having eaten an entire ham — while the evidence is still on the dinner table, in the background. I’ve been there. I just wasn’t able to catch Lilly in the act. She’s sneaky that way.

But, fortunately for dogs, their short-attention spans and the apparent lack of a guilty conscience keeps them from feeling shame for any longer than, say, the time it takes them to lift their hanging heads and look at you with liquid pools of love as if to say “I wuvs you, mommy. You wuvs me too?” I fall for this every time.

However, with humans, shame comes with a much heftier price — which can last long after the shameful incident has occurred. And that’s what this post is about.


When I was nineteen, I got pregnant. I was unmarried, a freshman in college, and completely terrified. I had been raised in the Catholic church, so I was expected to be the “perfect little Catholic girl” and remain virginal until my wedding day. I was also never given the “big talk” by my mom, because her generation of mothers “didn’t talk about sex”. At least not to me anyways.

Needless to say, the boy I lost my virginity to was the same boy who helped me get pregnant. So much for remaining abstinent. It’s also important to add here that, unlike some of my older siblings, I never went to Catholic school as a kid. Unlike Catholic school sex education (which, by the way is woefully inadequate and borders on ridiculous — I know, I had to teach it), I did get the full course of ‘This is where babies come from and here’s how not to let that happen to you.” I wasn’t completely in the dark about sex. I just grew up hearing “Abstinence and natural planning is the only acceptable practice for Catholics. Birth control is WRONG.” over and over again.

When I officially found out I was pregnant, I knew three things right away: 1) abortion was out of the question, 2) I am not prepared financially or emotionally to raise this child and 3) the child deserves a stable home with a mother and a father, and that wasn’t something I could give him. (it was a boy). Looking back on that moment in the doctor’s office, I still stand by my thoughts.

However, despite knowing that I handled my mistake the best way I could at the time, I have recently come to realize how horribly mishandled I was during this time by my parents–more so by my mom than my dad. I cannot blame my mom for what she did and how she treated me – she was only going on the doctrine of the Catholic church and  how it feels about birth control (absolutely NOT), abortion (eternal damnation if you so much as even think about it) and pre-marital sex (yet another sin so evil *insert eye roll and heavy sarcasm here* if any teacher in any diocese is caught having it they will immediately lose their job).

shame_by_bbastos-d33xu55My mom was horrified of the shame I had brought on to her, the family and, most importantly it seemed, the Catholic church. I felt like the “spiritually soiled girl,” destined for eternal damnation. I was certain I could never get married wearing the white dress, or take communion without confession first (another thing she wanted me to do), and all the other forms of penance and emotional flogging I had to do in order to get back in “God’s good graces.”

In an effort to keep the family safe from my obvious disgrace, I was sent off to live with a woman I didn’t know until the baby was born and I could home again and resume my life as an “unblemished, pure Catholic girl.” I, however, had to continue on with my life as if I had no worries or stressors on me. Instead of much-needed counseling, I was told to continue to “lead as normal a life as possible.”

I enrolled at a community college, bought a cheap gold band to wear as a wedding ring for my non-existent husband who was in active duty in the Marines (part of the series of lies I had to tell everyone so as not to blow the cover off my family’s shame). Lie upon lie was told to friends of the family: she went to live in California, to live with her big brother and attend college out there because it’s free– was the mega lie my mom told her teacher friends.

The guilt and shame were poured on thick. My mom  laid the ultimate guilt trip on me when she insisted I not tell my older sisters I was pregnant — because, according to her Catholic point of view–my non-Catholic sisters would just judge and berate me and call me horribly irresponsible. The irony is startling.

Incidentally, I never did tell either of them until about two years ago — thirty plus years after this all happened. And, unlike what I had been told and feared would happen, neither one of them cast a single stone of judgment in my direction. In fact, both admitted they were saddened to hear that I “couldn’t come to them freely” with this news. They were angry at my mom, though, for letting her Catholicism plant false ideas into my head. Again, that good ol’ Catholic guilt was at work.

Once the baby was born and adopted out, I was told “Okay, that’s over. Time to move on with your life. We’ll never speak of this again. Promise?” Sadly, after all of this trauma and what can only be called “emotional abuse,” I agreed.


It took ten years before I could even talk about the incident to anyone. I was afraid of being shamed and judged all over again. It took the death of both of my parents to allow myself the opportunity to grieve over the loss. It is taking the help of a great therapist to help me recognize and process the enormous, near-crippling shame I have been feeling since that day in the doctor’s office almost thirty-one years ago. It will take courage, strength and confidence to forgive myself for allowing it to happen in the first place. That’s the hardest part.

Now for the “lesson learned” in all of this. And I hope this message reaches as many religious folks as possible who have found themselves on the precipice of their child’s poor choice(s).

Never, ever shame your child for their mistakes.

Yes, you can tell them you are disappointed, angry, upset, or whatever adjective seems to fit your mood. But, how  you treat them after you share your feelings can and will have lifelong effects. Kick them out because they’re gay and it goes against your religion? Devastating. Kick them out because she got pregnant and it goes against your religion? Devastating. Telling them they are destined for hell because they made a single, poor choice that doesn’t align with your beliefs? ABSOLUTELY, 100% DEVASTATING.

It has taken me thirty-one years to deal with the emotional abuse that has permeated my life and has caused many problems for me. I feel if my situation had been handled without the religious judgment and condemnation but instead with more love, patience and compassion, I would be even better than I am today.

If you wish to shame someone, then try shaming a dog. They don’t seem to care enough about your opinion to suffer any permanent effects.



I spend a lot of time on Twitter, perusing the following hashtags: #catholic #religion and #atheist. Why? Because I enjoy learning what’s going on in people’s heads and disseminating these blurbs between what is just opinion and what is fact. Right now, in the game of logic, fact and reason, the #atheists are winning hands-down.

What saddens me is the idea that atheists need to “come out” of the closet and profess their non beliefs. This is comparable to homosexuals needing to remain silent about who they are, out of fear or threat of ridicule, violence and discrimination.

I’ve been struggling with this topic for years and have always deferred my true feelings based on the need to “belong” to some group. Admittedly, I had seen atheism as something only angry, agitated, cynical people belonged to. Listening to my brother curse the Catholic church for its horrifying antics (before I investigated his claims and found them to be truthful and honestly deserved) I certainly wasn’t one of those people, therefore I certainly couldn’t call myself atheist…or could I?

After reading and learning as  much as I can about atheism, and what it is/is not, I have realized that it puts my true, authentic thoughts and feelings into something concrete. And everything that I thought about atheists was completely wrong. Ever since I started having short little tweet chats with some very smart people, I’ve realized how much more alive, deliberate, nonjudgmental, accepting and happy atheists tend to be. And those things are exactly what I am looking for in my life.

I am an atheist.

I do not believe in the existence of God or Satan.

I do not believe in the after life reward of heaven, or the punishment of hell.

I do not believe Jesus died, then came back to life three days later.

I do not believe in the bible.

I believe in science.

I believe in evolution.

I believe that this life is the only life we get, and it should be lived to the fullest, without fear of punishment after we’re dead.

I believe in treating ALL others with respect, dignity and acceptance of who they are.

I believe in being a moral person, and that morality is based on genuine human behavior, not coming from an imaginary being or a 2,000 year old book of myths, which promotes rape, genocide, misogyny, incest, infanticide, and so many other abhorrent, immoral things.

I believe in letting others believe what they want, regardless of whether I agree or not.

Lastly, I want to reach out to all the atheists who have helped me find myself during this journey: my sister, my brother (who died in June and is missed), and my many new Tweeps who have made me feel comfortable in expressing my true self. Thank you for helping me gain clarity!






My latest favorite word phrase is “Cognitive Dissonance.” This is the internal, cerebral struggle that occurs when behavior and belief do not align with one another. For me, that misalignment came from the years-long struggle I had between believing in god versus scientific evidence to the contrary.

I was baptized into the Catholic church as a baby. Every week, my mom would bundle as many of us up as she could and we’d trudge off to church, where I was constantly being told not to misbehave or wiggle so much otherwise “god would be angry”.  And after each mass, I would ask my mom to grade my behavior for god, to see if I was that “good little girl” he demanded I be.


Thus began the cognitive dissonance in my head: always be good, be humble, be quiet, be sweet OR you will make god unhappy. This was the power religion held over me.

As I grew into my early twenties, and actually broke free of my parents’ house, I stopped going to church. I didn’t exactly stop believing, I just had better things to do on a Sunday. I was also starting to re-evaluate my belief system — which wasn’t aligning with my thirst for scientific knowledge and understanding. The chasm was widening as I begun to question, but not dismiss, my beliefs.

Years passed by, and I wasn’t really part of the church any longer, but still willing to believe in god. However, the internal struggle was still growing and slowly affecting who I was presenting to the world. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but religion was turning me into a judgmental “How DARE they do THAT?” kind of person. More and more this dissonance began to eat away at my psyche.

When I went into teaching, I went into it full throttle – determined to be the best, most honorable, integrity-filled teacher I could be. I was determined never to let any student feel bad about himself (or herself); and I would allow him or her to question everything that I said or taught – because that IS the true definition of education.

To accept as truth the words of an adult or authority figure without being allowed to question the validity of that content isn’t education, it is indoctrination.

That was clearly delineated and taught to me when I was in teaching school, and I made sure never to forget the difference.

I ended up teaching at a religious school, comically enough, and that’s where my cognitive dissonance grew to a thunderous roar. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, because I didn’t have to teach religion for the first three years there. However, in the back of my mind and heart, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable being in that position. It seemed like any time I tried to teach a scientific principle, it was met with “But I thought god created the…?” I wasn’t able to answer the students’ very good, very honest questions, because there was no real answer to them. The dissonance I was experiencing came from not being able to do my job as a teacher (which is to cause kids to question) and having to keep from speaking out against the ridiculousness of the religion being taught in that school.

Three years into my position, it was mandated that I teach religion, too. Imagine this conundrum: in the morning I taught about the parting of the sea, in the afternoon I taught earth science — specifically rock formations and water cycles. I was now in a full-blown, cognitive dissonance meltdown – how can I handle teaching both subjects when one completely exposes the other for the fraudulent claims it makes?

The truth is, I couldn’t handle it. It began weighing heavily on my mind and the stress was getting to me. Add a couple of personal family tragedies, a total lack of support from so-called “Christians”, and this is a recipe for disaster. I really did emotionally implode.

After I left (was kicked out, I won’t sugarcoat it here), I began to research and learn more about Catholicism. Article after article talked about thousands of children who have been abused, raped and/or sold out from under their own mothers. Priests who were raping children then using the fear of punishment from god if the children spoke out were being protected by the church instead of being thrown in jail, where they belonged. Some Archbishops went so far as to insinuate that the children — the victims – led the priests on and actually asked to be molested. What a sick, twisted individual one must be to blame the victim instead of the perpetrator. Especially a perpetrator who has taken a vow of chastity and protect and guide his “flock”. There isn’t a word strong enough to explain how vile and despicable these crimes against children are.

Unpaid, forced labor in laundries in the basements of churches led by Catholic nuns. Mass migraMagdalene_Laundries_BNtions of unwanted, un-escorted poor, Catholic children taken from the UK to Australia–without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Hundreds of dead, newly born babies buried in unmarked graves on convent grounds – or shoved into septic tanks — as if their lives never even mattered. All committed by the very people who were demanding others “act Christ-like and do good works.”

Horror story after horror story – none of which I ever heard  the church denounce, discuss or even inform its parishioners. And what has been disseminated to the world has been met by Catholic parishioners with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and silence. I have asked several Catholics for their thoughts on all this, and nobody is willing to talk about it. They continue, however, to attend church and give money each week. Perhaps they are secretly being told to donate to help pay legal costs for the defense funds of their pedophile priests.

Now that I am fully aware of what has been allowed to happen and go primarily unpunished for decades in the Catholic church, I have denounced not only my faith, but religion in general and the existence of god in particular. There certainly cannot be an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god if he continues to allow such evilness from his own employees. And the “free will” excuse doesn’t apply here, either. Priests wear dog collars because they consider god their master. They don’t get a “get out of jail because of  free will card” either.

It’s interesting…I just now noticed my cognitive dissonance has disappeared.


I fanned the pages of the book out in front of her, but I wasn’t able to find the exact location in the book where it discusses him becoming a father. To be honest, after reading half the book, and not exactly liking what I had read, I decided to skip reading the second half, But that didn’t stop me from lobbing my next series of questions at her.

“Mary Ann, is your boss a dad?” I casually remarked. Her mouth slacked open and she almost spat her words at me. “Of course he’s a dad. He’s the best dad, ever. We’re encouraged to call him “Father”. What’s your point here?”

I didn’t react — I knew this topic was going to be very sensitive. I had to figure out a way to ask what I wanted to ask and get her to explain her answers without her calling for security. I proceeded very slowly.

“Are you a mom?” I smiled, briefly changing the subject in hopes of throwing her off my scent.

“Why, yes I am! I have four kids and three grandchildren. They are my life.” She softened a little.

“I take it you’re married then?” I inquired.

“Absolutely. My husband and I have been married for nearly 45 years.” she glanced at her wedding ring and twisted it slowly around her finger. “What does my family situation have to do with my boss’ family situation?”

“I’ll get to that in a minute, okay? I just wanted to know if you’ve had children. I’m assuming then, based on the rules of your organization, that you had your children the ‘normal way’, with your husband, and of course, after you were married, right?” I smiled warmly at her.

“Yes, of course, but I really am uncomfortable with all these personal questions. What in the world does this have to do with my boss’ book?” she responded quickly, almost a little too quickly.

“I just wanted to get a few things out in the open before my next few questions. I wanted to make sure we understand the definition of the following issues: parenthood, marriage, fidelity and child-birth. It sounds like we’re on the same page here. Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.” she answered, a bit too quickly. I could tell the ice was getting a little thinner where I was skating. I decided to just say what was on my mind and be done with this topic.

“To be honest, I have a few questions about the CEO’s paternity status and how your organization explains it. As far as you know and believe, your CEO had one son. Correct?”

“Yes, one son. I agree.”

“And did he marry the woman who bore his child before he got her pregnant? I know your organization is really against pre-marital sex, and isn’t too keen on women bearing children out-of-wedlock. I hear you can get fired for that nowadays.”

“Um, nooo…he was not married to the mother of his son at the time she got pregnant.”

“Oooh, that’s a little scandalous, don’t you think?” I pointed out.

“No, of course it isn’t scandalous! Let me point out that the woman he impregnated was a virgin at the time she got pregnant. She was completely untouched by any other man, including her husband!”

“Hold on there — are you saying that your boss impregnated a woman who was already married to another man? Is that what I heard?” I gasped.

“Well, they weren’t exactly married in the strict, wedding vows, church, flowers, way. They were just…hoo boy, this is getting difficult to explain here.” she struggled to find the right words.

“Well let me try to help. According to what you know and believe, your boss fathered a child. This child was carried in the womb of another man’s wife for nine months –”

“No, not nine months – six months. She found out six months into her pregnancy that she was carrying my boss’ baby.”

“WHAT? You mean to tell me she didn’t even know she was pregnant for the first SIX months of her pregnancy? You have kids, right? How soon after you got pregnant did you find out?” I was shocked, just shocked.

“Look, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what it says in his book. You really need to read the parts in the book that explains how he became a daddy. And by the way, I really don’t like that you’re calling  my boss an adulterer. He never even touched the baby mama.”

“You’re kidding, right? Woo. I need a moment to wrap my head around all this. Let me see if I have this straight. Your boss got another man’s wife pregnant without the man’s or the woman’s knowledge for the first six months of her pregnancy. Then, you go on to say he never actually had sexual intercourse with her — he just, what — told her she was carrying his kid? And she was?”

“Yes, that’s what we refer to as the “immaculate conception”. He never touched her, therefore, he never actually slept with her. That’s how it goes.”

“Again, I have to ask you a personal question. This is all a lot for me to take in. But, you do know how babies are conceived and born, right?”

“Of course, I know how reproduction works. I’m not stupid.” she huffed at me.

“Well then, if you know that it takes one sperm and one egg to make a child, how is it even possible that a woman could end up pregnant with another man’s baby (which, is adultery by the way), without ever having had sex or being aware of it for the first six months of gestation? Doesn’t that sound a bit hard to believe? I mean, let’s be honest here. It sounds more like your boss is a bit of a jerk, the way he overstepped his bounds and got another man’s wife pregnant. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Look, I’m not here to cast judgment on my boss. His behavior is not to be questioned, in my opinion. And, if it sounds  a little crazy, then that’s your opinion. I believe what he told me, because it’s in his book. I strongly suggest you read the second half of the book, as that thoroughly explains this whole subject. I don’t know what else to say. My boss is wonderful, he continues to do amazing things for us every day, and I see no reason to pick apart some of what you consider “illogical statements” in his book. He is loving, kind and merciful. What more do I need to say?”

“Oooh, glad you brought the “loving, kind and merciful” subject up. I was hoping to get to those words next. How are we doing for time?”

Mary Ann took a quick glance at the book I dropped onto the table and practically cackled with glee. “Ooooo,” she murmured, “My favorite book! Yes, let’s talk about this!” I figured now was just as a good a time to drop my first logic bomb on her. I had to move very slowly, otherwise, as most of the employees do, she would end up getting angry, start hurling a few insults at me, and abruptly stalk off. This always seems to happen when I try to discuss the CEO and his organizational policies with any member of his organization. Either this or they flat-out ignore my questions. So much for open-mindedness, huh.

I took a long, drawn out breath and with as much calm I could muster, laid out the bait, “I’ve heard this book is the CEO’s autobiography. Is that true?”

Mary Ann looked at me quizzically. I don’t think she was expecting the question, to be honest. “Well…,” she averted her eyes, fussed with her hands a bit, then continued “Yes and no…, I guess.”

“Yes and no? How is that even possible? Either an autobiography is entirely true, or it is not. A biography, the same. There are rules to publishing, and truth in writing is one of them when the book declares itself as a retelling of someone’s life. Otherwise, that’s called “fiction.”

Mary Ann narrowed her eyes at me — it was barely perceptible, but I’m very observant. She opened her mouth to speak, but clamped her teeth together as she struggled with what she said next.

“Well, here’s the truth. It isn’t exactly the CEO’s autobiography, technically…”

“Yes, I know, which is why I asked. I know about writing and I know how writing works. I understand genre, literary device, plot, characters, and all the elements of writing. So, when I asked you if you believe his book is an autobiography, you answered ‘yes and no’. It can’t be both. Either it came directly from his own thoughts, pencil, paper or whatever he chose to use to write  his words down, or it didn’t. Which is it?”

Mary Ann continued briskly, “Well, if that’s how writing works, then I guess it really can’t be considered his “personal” autobiography…”

“How so?” I pressed her for clarification.

“Technically, it was written by several different authors.”

“Where they all sitting down together — you know, like a TV or movie script writing session – and collaborating on each others’ work while your boss was giving them his lines?”

“No, not really. They all wrote their own material, sometimes hundreds of years apart from each other, without ever meeting.”

“Where did they get the information from anyways?”

“Well, they ‘borrowed’ elements of stories from other stories…”

“WAIT — what? Borrowed? Isn’t that a euphemism for ‘plagiarized’?”

Mary Ann flinched. “Wait, no – I didn’t mean they stole other people’s works.”

“You just said these writers–scribes as they are always referred to–borrowed bits and pieces of stories from other cultures. How is that not plagiarism?”

She fell silent for a minute as she heard, perhaps for the first time, the logic of my argument. Regardless, she continued.

“It’s not plagiarism!” she insisted, “It’s the word of my CEO. It’s as simple as that. There is no other way to explain his auto–” I cut her words off.

“Let  me see if I have this correct according to your organization’s philosophy.”

“Okay, go ahead, I’m listening” Mary Ann folded her hands over her lap and straightened in her chair.

“Feel free to interject if I’m missing something, or have something wrong, okay?” She half-smiled, half snarled back at me. I pulled the pin on the logic hand grenade and lobbed it onto the table.

“Even though your organization claims this book is the word of your CEO, it wasn’t actually written by your CEO himself. Therefore, it isn’t an actual autobiography. Correct?”

“Okay, I’ll give you that one.” She acknowledged, “Next?”

“This book was written by several different men, from several different locations, at several different moments in time, over the course of approximately one thousand years. And they were all describing events they never actually witnessed first hand. Right?”

“Yes, correct again.”

“And The stories within this ‘autobiography’ were pieced together in some places using bits and pieces of stories from other cultures. Am I still correct?”

“Uh huh…” she admitted shyly.

“Then, if everything is as I just explained it, what does that tell you about this book being nothing more than a bunch of non-collaborated. non witnessed events put down on paper? A bunch of –dare I say it — myths? How is this book any different than all those stories about Greek gods?”

“But…it’s the word of my CEO passed down to all these men! That’s what his book is all about. It’s a guideline for behavior. This is his book, given to the world, to help us navigate through life, and tell us how we should act and treat others. It truly is the best book ever written, whether he wrote it himself, or some other men did. How are you not understanding this?”

I picked the book up off the table. I opened it to the first chapter. I read the first sentence: “In the beginning…” I put my finger on the line, looked up at Mary Ann and said,

“Okay, let’s try another approach. Let’s talk about the content itself. Maybe we can find some middle ground here…”


After making sure Sebastian was okay to drive home, I was finally able to focus on the interview with the company’s CEO. I climbed back into the elevator and, sure enough, the CEO’s floor wasn’t at the top, but on the seventh floor. I knew this because of all the buttons on the panel, this was the only one ringed in bright yellow gold. It didn’t take a detective with a science background to figure that out.

I pushed the button and leaned back against the back of the elevator, “Oh boy, what am I getting myself into?” I muttered aloud. I really had no idea what my interview plan was. I knew I had a few sound questions written down on some note cards, but I was hoping that most of this interview was going to be open ended. I would ask a question, then let the CEO just “talk”. I was certain I’d learn more about him than ever before. Plus, if my suspicions rang true, letting him “talk” was exactly what I needed in order to prove how completely full of crap I felt his organization has become. I looked at it as a way to give him just enough rope to hang himself. If everything went according to my plan, that is…

The seventh floor button rang– it wasn’t so much a buzzer or a ding as it was more like a bell — and I smoothed my skirt down one final time before I exited the elevator door and walked up to the receptionist. The receptionist looked swamped — the panel of lights indicating callers was blinking continuously. How anyone could keep up with the call volume was beyond me.

I raised my hand in a friendly wave, gave a slight smile and said “Hi, I’m here to interview the CEO…” Without missing a single step (and with her phone firmly attached to her cheek), she pointed to the hallway behind her and said, “His office is back there. His assistant will be with you momentarily.” Good, I smiled back. I’m ready to begin.

Expecting a well-dressed male figure to come out to get me, I was a bit surprised to see an older, gray haired woman dressed in a sharp suit and sensible, black flats heading directly towards me. She was only slightly smiling – more trepidation than friendliness. Something told me she already knew why I was here.

“Hello, I’m Mary Ann,” she smiled wryly at me, “We’ve had a bit of a mix up here. I know you’re here to see the boss, but I’m afraid we can’t let you do that today. He’s been called away on some very important business. Humanitarian work, so we’ve been told…” She continued to apologize for the CEO’s absence, and as I listened to her, I recognized her voice as the same one that had just told Sebastian – the gay man from the elevator – to get the hell out. My eyes slightly narrowed at this realization – already I knew I didn’t like her, and that I would greatly enjoy what was just about to happen. Regardless, I bit my cheek and fought back the impulse to tell her what to go do to herself for being such a disrespectful bitch to that poor guy downstairs.

“I had a few questions to ask your boss, ” I smiled back, showing just the slightest tips of my canines -controlled anger boiling just beneath the surface of my words, “May I ask you them instead?” She stared at me silently for just a few seconds, trying to read the expression on my face as I stood there, arms down at my sides, trying to be as inviting and nonthreatening as possible. I was going to need to go very slowly here, or I’d risk getting kicked out of the building myself.

“Sure!” she smiled back, “I’d love to discuss my CEO’s job with you.”

We walked back to the conference room and she directed me to sit directly across from her. As I made myself comfortable, she went over to the mini fridge in the corner and took out two water bottles for us. She handed me one as I was reaching into my satchel. I muttered a quick, “Thanks” and took out the object I was looking for. I placed it down on the middle of the table and, with a look of half disdain and half curiosity, pointed to it and said,

“Let’s talk about this book your CEO has supposedly written. Who wants to start?”