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THE PROMISE OF THE RAINBOW
by: Max Burbank

If youíre like me, then weíre identical twins separated at birth who grew to adulthood without knowing each other. If youíre a little bit less like me than that, but still in the same ball park as far as the kind of fella you tend to be, you probably find yourself wondering "Should a guy who once watched two Dwarves arm wrestle under a pool table in a Florida Lesbian bar even be allowed to direct a Sunday school pageant?"

It was a Unitarian Sunday school, but you probably guessed that by now. And while several other people in my party saw a single Dwarf at the bar later that evening, Iím the only one claiming two have scene two of them arm wrestling. To be fair, I might have imagined it. Iíd had a bit to drink. I was miffed it had taken a full half hour for anyone to realize I wasnít just a really butch dyke. My wife says itís because I use words like Ďmiffedí. What the hell does she know? Was she there? Is she a Dwarf?

The point is, twenty years later Iím directing kids in a Noahís Ark pageant at a Unitarian Church and worrying Iíve maybe lost some of my edge. That is not an excuse for my behavior. It is an explanation. A justification, a way of saying what happened was not my fault, which I suppose technically is an excuse, but you know what? Why donít you bite me? Why donít you take a frigging number and get at the very end of the extremely long line of people who need to bite me.

I mean, it just seems to me that one minute itís two A.M., Iím in a windowless confirmed bachelorette bar swapping Quantro shots with a Little Person who is a quarter of an hour away from breaking my thumb when it finally gets through her undersized head that I am a MAN, I am here with female FRIENDS, and the next minute? I have a mortgage, two kids, a wife, Iím standing in the aisle of our nations oldest houses of Worship, mere feet from the pew Nathaniel frigging Hawthorne sung hymns from, shrieking at a sobbing four year old in a dove costume.

"No Philip, NO! You can NOT be a lion in the animal parade for the simple reason that you are the DOVE! THAT is the reason behind the dove costume you are wearing, that is WHY you run flapping down the aisle and back again with a branch in your beak, something I imagine you have never seen any of the lions on the Discovery Kidís channel do, because lions CANíT fly and if they did theyíd come back with a dead gazelle dangling by itís broken neck from their beak, which would really suck as a symbol of peace when compared with an olive branch, and in case your little pre-school brain has never taken this in, LIONS DO NOT HAVE BEAKS! If you were HELL BENT on being a fucking LION you damn well should have SAID so a month ago when I first dipped my toes in this FUCKING QUAGMIRE of a PAGEANT!"

I want to say that this outburst was something I built up to over a period of several weeks. It wouldnít be true, but it certainly would paint me in a better light. I mean at some point Iím sure I could have said "no" to all of this, but when was that point? And was I thinking about Anne Margaret in "Viva Las Vegas"? Because there should be a goddamned law against asking a guy to direct a Sunday school Pageant while heís thinking about Anne Margaret in "Viva Las Vegas". If you havenít seen it you need to rent it now, because the moment the King let her go is the moment he set foot on a path that led to a solitary, naked death on a toilet.

See, the thing is, when you agree to do a pageant about Noahís ark? You are agreeing to write a childrenís play that features God KILLING VIRTUALLY EVERY LIVING THING ON THE PLANET. Good old benevolent God on his granite throne with his long white beard and his bathrobe, which is the way kids see Him no matter what you tell them, orchestrating the most complete genocide, the most thorough holocaust, EVER! Everyone thinks Noahís Ark is all cute animals, "Twoseys-Twoseys" and "Gopher Barky-Barky", and I suppose it is, but each of those animals are the LAST OF THEIR KIND! The Ark tossed for forty days and nights on a ocean filled with BLOATING CORPSES!

Which is what I TRIED to explain to the hapless little pre-schoolers who were my Ďcastí during the first read through. I tried to tell them this was the story of a capricious, dangerous All Father, that it was a way of understanding a world where tragedy and horror lurked around every corner, and there was never any explanation for the endless, agonizing struggle for existence, a world NO DIFFERENT from their own. And some little child star, some angelic Pre-Raphaelite cherub, quite possibly one of my daughters (which might explain why she was not yet crying, having grown used to my methods of expression over the years) pipes up:

"But what about the Rainbow?"

"The Rainbow." I replied, "The Rainbow, the Rainbow, ah, yes, whatÖ aboutÖ the rainbow? Sung by Kermit, Lisa Frankíd on backpacks and lunchboxes and notebooks and bicycle helmets, Listlessly inscribed on any non-moving surface by anime-eyed hopefuls such as yourself, THE RAINBOW! Our Lordís promise, his admission that perhaps in killing off every human being on earth down to the last suckling babe who wasnít immediate family of one, stinking boat builder, He MIGHT HAVE OVERREACTED A TAD! The Rainbow, the RAINBOW, the Holy sign that God will NEVER AGAIN destroy all life!Ö With a flood."

"That Holy Cheater! That divine finger crosser! Donít you get it? Does the rainbow mean he wonít kill us all with a comet?! Is it any proof against Him making the SUN BLOW UP, or go OUT or just swell enough to roast us all like a world full of Thanksgiving Day TURKEYS?! Does that rainbow say "I, GOD, will NEVER send a pandemic Plague that will make your underarms swell up like grapefruits until the pressure cracks your chest cavities like frigging WALNUTS?! PEOPLE, PEOPLE, HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO THIS PLAY IF YOU DONíT AT LEAST TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT?!"

Now, see, that got even my daughter, if thatís who she was, crying. I have a gift, and Iím like a terrier, I donít give up Ďtill the hole is dug.

I guess I have to wonder (as several of the parents did, in writing) if Iím really the right person to be an upstanding member of the community? If Iím totally honest, I have to say I wasnít really any more comfortable trying to improvise my way through a knife fight with a Lesbian Dwarf, but if she won (and my friends say she did) Iím sure it was due to my broken thumb.

Wouldnít you think, though, that on the twenty year pendulum swing from drunken brawling in a Florida Lesbian bar to directing a Sunday school pageant at a New England Historical Landmark, somewhere in between might have feltÖ comfortable? Itís probably just the fistful of Excedrin Migraine Relief talking, but is that really too much to ask? A little stretch of Rainbow I might call my own?

Next year I am scheduled to do "Daniel and the Lions Den", which should go more smoothly. Nothing But Lions in that one, and not a dove to be seen, though I may have couple of the youngest girls arm wrestle in the background.


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