Mr. Nelson Quagmire, Arch Deacon
(Archus Vulgaris Diaconos)
Nelson Quagmire was born in Alliance, Nebraska in 1939, the year Great Britain entered its war with Hitler. He grew up wearing bib-overalls on a farm fifteen miles south of Alliance. Beginning at the age of five, Quagmire chopped off chicken’s heads and watched them run bodiless around the barnyard (or was it the other way around?). He prodded cattle, broke horses, whipped dogs, and cropped the horns off goats. Quagmire could split a piece of straw with an axe at 30 paces.
When he disobeyed, which was seldom, young Nelson’s father would take him out to the woodshed and beat his butt blue with an axe handle. Then he’d make him chop wood for three days and stack it neatly behind the barn.
Quagmire dropped out of school after grade eight, preferring to work with goats and cattle. At age fifteen he ran away from home and, after lying about his age, took a job in a grain elevator. By the time he was eighteen, he had become Head Sifter.
At age 21, Quagmire heard the radio program, “The World As It Ought To Be” with host Renwick M. Hamstrung. Immediately he wrote for a fistful of “free” booklets and a subscription to the magazine, The Absolute Truth (TAT).
After reading the materials, Quagmire was baptized in a horse trough at the home of Ludwig Blunderbuss, pastor of the East Alliance Church of Absolute Truth. He felt right at home in the horse trough, and didn’t want to get out when the baptism was complete.
Needless to say, Quagmire became a true believer. After spending two years in the church’s local Putdown Club (modeled after Whips & Chains International), Quagmire was invited to deliver his first sermonette. His topic: “The Plain Truth About Everything.” The sermonette took 45 minutes to deliver, and contained 12 points, each of which was backed up by three scriptures (all of which were used out of context).
It was only a matter of time before Quagmire became a master of mixed metaphors, single entendres, and incisive eisogesis. His proudest moment came when he was ordained as a deacon, and given his first black armband.
Within minutes of his ordination, Quagmire had issued three citations for unsymmetrical parking in the Church lot, and launched an investigation into the attitudes of several church teenagers.
Over the years, Quagmire grew in the office of deacon. After five years, he was elevated to the rank of Arch-Deacon and given a wider black armband, and his own video camera for spying on church members. Quagmire took his work seriously. From an unmarked black van, he obtained a complete photographic record of the shopping habits of all of the women in the East Alliance church. At the end of the month, he filed his report with Pastor Blunderbuss, who had now been elevated to the rank of overall Inquisitor.
As Blunderbuss read the report in his wood-paneled study, his jaws clenched with anger. Some of the women in the Church had been buying products containing monosodium glutamate! Others had purchased refined white sugar. Worst of all, several deaconesses had purchased gelatin suspected of containing pork.
That Sabbath, Pastor Blunderbuss launched into a powerful (euphemism for loud) sermon on the evils of unnatural food products and unclean meats. Quagmire paced the periphery proudly wearing his super-wide armband.
Quagmire watched as members of the congregation registered guilt over the contents of their pantries. Within seconds of the ending of the final song, he rounded up those who appeared most guilty. He handed them a list (crudely reproduced on an old Neostyle) of forbidden brand names and food products. “Read it and get rid of these things,” he thundered in his finest deacon voice. Quagmire was in his element. He was enforcingsomething. This was as good as it gets for a super arch-deacon. His black armband now covered the entire length of his upper arm. He kept his bicep slightly tensed to cause the armband to stretch out for greater display.
The whipped group, clutching their lists, walked hang-dog to their cars, looking neither to the right nor to the left. Quagmire stood atop a slight mound, arms akimbo, enjoying the results of his work that Sabbath. Silhouetted against the steel gray sky, he was truly a formidable figure — archus vulgaris diaconos from stem to brick-tight stern.
Millicent Mugwump, Soloist
(Singus Loudus Vulgaris)
There’s a Millicent Mugwump in every congregation. She’s middle-aged, short, shapeless, and gifted with big hair and an out-of-control vibrato. She’s a soloist even when singing with a group. She begins earlier, sings louder, and holds her notes longer, than anyone else.
Millicent is in her element when she’s providing “special music” for the congregation. She invariably picks songs which even the greatest Met sopranos would find challenging — “The Holy City” being a case in point. Wearing a shiny, sap green dress that fits her like a sausage skin, Millicent launches into the first words, “Last night I lay a sleeping…”
A under-the-breath male voice in the audience says, “Yeah, I wish she’d stayed a-sleeping…”
Millicent doggedly works her way through the song, verse by agonizing verse. Her accompanist prefers to play in the cracks, rather than on the black or white keys. From time to time Millicent forgets some of the lyrics. She repeats ones previously sung, though not from the chorus. Or she improvises. “The sun grew dark with misery…” she sings sadly.
By the time she nears the end of the song, the audience’s collective trapezius is tensed to the max. Will she make that high note at the end this time? It is the equivalent of an ice skater successfully executing a quadruple after already falling twice.
She makes her final approach to the note. Fear sets in. She drops the whole song one octave. The pianist, confused, continues as before. As the moment of truth approaches for Millicent, her voice shatters into a thousand pieces. He sausage skin dress tears slightly across the abdomen. Simultaneous tears appear in her pantyhose. The pianist, shocked, stops playing. The pieces of Millicent’s voice fall to the ground and assemble on the stage. As stunned silence fills the church hall.
The minister, Cyrus Horsefeathers, leaps to the stage and in his best ministerial baritone says, “Thank you Millicent. That was beautiful.”
Millicent blushes appropriately, and begins thinking about the words to “The Lord is My Light.”