The Merchants [Short Fiction]

I am still without internet (and consequently: without hope). And yet my blog lives on! This piece was inspired by some very interesting religious occurrences in my life recently. Religious people eh? I hope this strikes a chord in someone (anyone really). If not: may you at least be entertained
-Imran

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The Merchants by Imran Lorgat

[CURTAIN LIFTS. A DESERT. A MARKETPLACE ON A WARM DUSTY MORNING. SANDSTONE HOUSING IN THE BACKGROUND.]

 [A MAN WALKS IN (CM) HE IS AGED AND FATHERLY-LOOKING AND CLAD IN A BLACK PRIEST’S ROBE. HE WEARS SANDALS ON HIS FEET, A GOLDEN CROSS HANGS FROM HIS NECK. HE IS OF ABOVE AVERAGE HEIGHT, WEEDY-LOOKING, WEARS GLASSES, HAS BROWN HAIR AND HIS HAIRLINE IS BEGINNING TO RECEDE. HE SETS UP A SIMPLE MERCHANT’S STAND ON THE RIGHT AND STANDS BEHIND IT. THE BANNER READS: “CHRISTIANITY: LET JESUS INTO YOUR HEART. SIGNUPS OPEN ALL DAY”.]

 [ANOTHER MAN ENTERS (MM) AND BEGINS SETTING UP A STAND ON THE LEFT. HE IS IN CONTRAST TO THE FIRST. HE IS BROWN-SKINNED WITH A WHITE TURBAN ON HIS HEAD AND WEARS WHITE LOOSE-FITTING CLOTHING, A KURTAH. HE HAS A PUFFY BLACK BEARD COVERING THE LOWER HALF OF HIS FACE AND HAS A LARGE NOSE. HE SETS UP ON THE LEFT. THE TWO TALK AS HE SETS UP HIS STAND.]

 

Muslim Merchant: Fine day we are having.

Christian Merchant: Indeed it is. The good Lord has blessed us with a most beautiful sunrise.

MM: Indeed.

CM: You are setting up your stall here?

MM: I am.

[MM BACKS AWAY FROM THE STALL AND ADMIRES IT. THE BANNER READS: “ISLAM: THE ONE TRUE RELIGION. SIGNUPS OPEN ALL DAY.”]

CM: Wouldn’t you rather maybe… go set up some place else?

MM: Nope. I like it here. There’s a nice breeze coming in.

CM: You have set up your stall in direct opposition to mine.

MM: That’s one way to see it.

CM: That is the only way I can see it.

MM: This doesn’t surprise me.

CM: I suppose this makes us, ahem, competitors… as it were.

MM: Someone has to prevent the people who pass here from going astray.

CM: Yes indeed someone has to. It would be a shame if someone were to pass from here without accepting Christ into their heart.

MM: We will see if that is the case. I am sure that when people pass, they will understand what is truth and what is falsehood.

CM: I am sure of that as well.

MM: Good for you.

CM: Good.

[THEY WAIT. MM TWIRLS HIS FINGERS THROUGH HIS BEARD. CM FIDDLES WITH HIS CROSS]

[A PEDESTRIAN WALKS PAST]

MM: Join Islam, the one true religion!

CM: Join Christianity, follow the Lord and Savior of humanity!

[THE PEDESTRIAN WALKS OFF AND IGNORES THEM.]

[ANOTHER PEDESTRIAN WALKS PAST]

CM: Accept Christ into your heart and be free of sin! Sign-ups open!

MM: Follow the true word of God as revealed by Muhammad! Sign-ups open all day!

[THE SECOND PEDESTRIAN ALSO WALKS OFF. THE MERCHANTS TRADE DIRTY LOOKS]

[A THIRD PEDESTRIAN ENTERS. THE MM RUNS UP TO HIM AND BEGINS YELLING]

MM: A great punishment awaits those who turn their back on The Most Kind, The Most Merciful.

[THE THIRD PEDESTRIAN RUNS OFF, PANIC-STRICKEN]

CM: You’re scaring them all away.

MM: Perhaps if you have a problem you should move your stall.

CM: I was here before you.

MM: That doesn’t mean you own the place.

[MM GOES BACK TO HIS STALL AND THE TWO WAIT AGAIN]

[A FOUTH PEDESTRIAN (P4) WALKS PAST]

CM: Christianity! A religion for all times and all peoples!

MM: Islam! A religion untainted by the fictions of men!

[P4 WALKS UP TO THE ISLAMIC STAND. MM BEAMS. CM SCOWLS AND GIVES A DIRTY LOOK]

P4: Is this where I can enquire about the last revelation from God?

MM: Right this way sir! Islam: the religion of peace based on the one true Book of God as revealed by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

P4: I’ve been thinking about becoming a believer.

MM: Well then you’ve come to the right place! Islam is the latest and the greatest way to glorify the one true God. It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s the fastest growing religion in the world!

CM*cough* that’s only because it was so small to begin with.

MM: I have all the different varieties available for your viewing pleasure.

[P4 STARES SPEECHLESS AT THE FAST-TALKING MERCHANT]

MM: There’s Sunni Islam, a very popular choice. It’s well-developed, globally recognized, travels well and has a huge following. Very simple and can be adapted to your everyday needs. But of course there are other variations too, so many to choose from. There is, of course, the Shia variant. Quite popular in some parts of the world as well, but perhaps not always looked upon favourably by the other sects. Just between you and me, maybe stay clear of that one for now hey?

[P4 Nods]

MM: And of course we have many other more advanced variants that you might be interested in. There’s Sufism. Another very popular choice. Very esoteric, very spiritual, but very powerful. But maybe for more advanced users. You seem like a beginner so maybe leave Sufism for now, you can always upgrade to it later. Oh and you can also go Wahabi, Salafi, Ahmadi, really the choice is infinite. It’s all in the brochure here.

[MM HANDS P4 A BROCHURE]

P4: Do you maybe have a recommendation. I’m really not sure where to start.

MM*puts hand on chin* hmm, maybe go Sunni. Very compatible with most lifestyles, you can’t really go wrong with it.

P4: I think I’ll do that. Become Sunni.

MM: Sunni Islam comes in 4 different varieties: Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Ghambali.

[P4 OPENS HIS MOUTH BUT SAYS NOTHING. HE IS CLEARLY OVERWHELMED]

MM: Go with Hanafi. Very basic. You can always switch later.

[P4 nods]

MM*Extends contract* Just sign here. And here. And here. Very good! Now take these books, give them a read and enjoy your ticket to Paradise my friend!

[MM SLAPS P4 ON THE BACK. P4 WALKS AWAY WITH A STACK OF BOOKS, LOOKING VERY FLUSTERED. CM SNEERS AT HIM PAST HIS SPECTACLES]

CM: There goes another lost soul for the Hellfire.

MM*smirks* from where I’m standing, I see only one lost soul for the Hellfire, my deluded friend.

[MORE PEDESTRIANS WALK UP AND DOWN PAST THE STANDS]

CM: The Son of God calls to you, will you not listen?

MM: Paradise awaits those who accept the truth!

[PEDESTRIANS CONTINUE TO WALK PAST IGNORING THE TWO]

CM: You there!

[A PEDESTRIAN (P5) STOPS]

P5: Me?

CM: Yes you, sir! Will you not heed the words of the Son of God?

P5: Uh.

CM: Come over here. Yes, don’t be shy, come over here.

[P5 WALKS OVER TIMIDLY]

CM: Are you interested in finding God, my son?

P5: I guess…

CM: Well then trust me, you don’t want to mess with all this new-fangled stuff like Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith. You want old, you want reliable, Christianity is the original monotheic religion.

MM*coughs* Judaism.

CM: Like I was saying. Christianity is the one true monotheic religion. It’s 2000 years old, it’s tried and tested, and it comes straight from the Son of God himself. Even the Muslims acknowledge Jesus.

MM: Not like you infidels do.

P5: If its 2000 years old, wouldn’t it be obsolete?

MM: He he he

CM: Obsolete? Heavens no! Christianity has kept up with the times. It has grown, it has evolved. I was just trying to explain that it’s proven to work, you see. But obsolete? No, no, no my friend, it’s reliable. It’s stood the test of time. It’s an eternal classic. Like Coke. You like Coke, don’t you?

P5: I do like Coke.

CM: Of course you do, my good man. Now Christianity is like Coke. It’s not like all these watered-down new-age religions, Christianity is solid stuff. And it’s not outdated, it’s changed with the times. Most Christians even accept having sex before marriage nowadays. I’d like to see you find an Imam that will allow that!

P5: Wow that does sound pretty attractive.

MM*Hmph*

CM: And five prayers a day? No pork? Forget that! Who wants to live a life without bacon? I mean those turban-heads don’t know what they’re missing, am I right? Trust me son, Christianity is the religion for you. Want to hear the central tenet? You’re going to love this.

P5*Getting excited* Sure.

CM: ALL of your sins have already been forgiven. Guaranteed Heaven. No muss, no fuss, no messing around with good deeds and bad deeds and all that jazz. Just accept Jesus into your heart and you’re on the road to blissful Eternity.

P5: Where do I sign!?

CM: Well first you need to decide on a package. Let me show you what’s on offer.

P5: Ok, sure.

CM: Ok so we’ve got the classics, the old favourites: Protestant and Catholic. Catholic in particular comes in two varieties: Roman and Irish. Catholicism can be a little heavy going for beginners but, on the upside, it has a long history and you get the satisfaction of knowing that the Pope is watching over you. You look like a man who needs some structure. Catholicism will work for someone who likes rules, for some who likes being told what to do-

P5: Actually I like to think for my-

CM*Interrupts P5 by talking fast* but of course, not everyone likes to live by so many rules. There’s also Baptism. Very popular choice, very friendly people, the Baptists. And if you ever want to wash away your sins, there’s no need for all that long-winded confession business. So formal and stodgy the Catholics can be eh? With Baptism you just need to go down to the river and wash it all away. Heck, even a shower will do. Very literal people, the Baptists, got to love ‘em.

P5: It sounds interesting. But what else do you have.

CM: Well really Christianity is so open-ended that you can pick your poison. There’s so much freedom of choice. There’s Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, The Latter Day Saints, Pentecostalism, Calvinism, the list goes on!

P5: I’m actually looking for something new. Something a bit more modern.

CM: Oh, modern we have. Really. There’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 7th Day Adventists. We’ve got some really out-there packages. Religions that will really set you apart from the pack.

MM: Hey if you want new and modern you should come over here. Christianity is old hat, Islam is the new and improved version.

CM: Don’t listen to him.

MM: It’s true, we came afterwards. Muhammad came nearly 600 years after Jesus, 600 years of development and progress. Everything they built, we’ve improved on. It’s like buying a Mac or buying a PC. Tell me, what would you rather go for?

CM*Gets up close to P5* Listen, do you want to grow a beard and cover your wife up so much that you can’t distinguish her from a clothing rack?

MM*Gets close to P5 as well* The Pope touches little boys. Do you really want to be part of an organisation that endorses that?

CM: It wasn’t the Pope and we don’t endorse it!

MM: And the Christians can’t do Math. What’s up with the Trinity? How does 1 + 1 + 1 = 3? And if God has a Son and the Son is also God, then God is his own son. So who’s the mother? They’ve got no sense in those heads of theirs. The Pope goes around telling people to live humbly and he wears a solid gold hat.

CM: Well Muhammad was a paedophile! He married an 8-year old girl. Those Moslems don’t tell you that one now do they?

MM: Because it’s not true. The Hadith clearly says that-

CM: And what about all those wars Muhammad waged? Quite bloodthirsty he was, wasn’t he?

MM: Bloodthirsty? What about all those Protestant-Catholic wars? And the Crusades? Christians have killed more Christians than any other religion has killed Christians!

CM: That was in the past. We have evolved now!

MM: Evolved to touching little boys!

CM: Better that than suicide-bombing you beard-wearing terrorist!

MM: Come at me you celibate old fart!

[THE CM DIVES AT THE MM AND THE TWO ARE CAUGHT IN A SCUFFLE. THEY ROLL UP AND DOWN THE DUSTY FLOOR FIGHTING QUITE INANELY. P5 LOOKS ON IN HORROR AND SLOWLY EDGES AWAY]

[A NEW PERSON ENTERS THE STAGE, THE SHADY DUDE (SD). HE IS TALL WITH CLOSE-CROPPED HAIR AND IS WEARING A BROWN BULKY TRENCHCOAT. HIS EYES ARE HIDDEN BEHIND SUNGLASSES. THE TWO MERCHANTS CONTINUE FIGHTING]

SD: Psst. You there.

P5: Who? Me?

SD: Yes you. Come over here.

[P5 WALKS OVER TO SD BY THE CORNER]

SD: I’ve got some Education over here if you’re interested. Books, DVDS, Audio CDs, you name it. Got some Philosophy, some Mathematics, some Science, some Literature. I’ve even got some Medicine. Here take some Newton and Shakespeare to get you started *pulls out books from his trench-coat and hands them over*. My business card is in the book. Call me when you’re ready.

P5*nods nervously* Thanks. I’ll take a look *walks off hurriedly*

[SD SLINKS BACK INTO THE SHADOWS]

[MM AND CM FINALLY STOP FIGHTING. THE TWO ARE COVERED HEAD TO TOE IN BRUISES AND DUST]

CM: Look at what you’ve done you barbarian, you’ve scared him away.

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2 comments

  1. Is this struggle really external or is it more internal? Are we really being recruited via proselytization or are we simply shoppers walking down aisles with no sales people really there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strictly speaking, I don’t know. Religious consciousness is something I’ve been attempting to understand for a long time and, more recently, in my writing. As someone who’s grown up in it, I feel it’s both internal and external.

      Externally there’s a lot of pressure, and a hell of a lot of guilt tripping, fancy equivocation and false dichotomies. Like politics, externally it’s more a matter of convincing you than making you understand anything.

      Internally is a whole bag of other tricks. Growing up in that kind of environment teaches you a whole lot of self-censorship. And if you’re particularly unlucky, you get drilled with bullshit rules like “don’t question” and “we aren’t meant to understand”.

      This piece didn’t have much to do with all of the above though. It was more me poking fun at the absurdity of each of the ‘one true religions’ coming in so many different packages. And of Imams/Priests obsession with selling someone a religion rather than actually helping them to lead a better life.

      Liked by 1 person

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