RELIGIOUS ARTIFACTS

Just before being packed.

From the Security station at Hartford airport:

“What’s this, Miss?”

“It’s a monk’s bag.”

“A monk’s bag?”

“You see how it says Zen Community of New York on the flap with an image of a paulownia leaf?”

“A what?”

“Zen monks used these bags to carry their worldly possessions. The bag belonged to my husband.”

“He was a monk and your husband at the same time?”

“Yes, it’s a contradiction in terms, part of the confusion of Buddhism in the West. Part of his personal confusion, too. Careful how you open it.”

“DON’T TOUCH THE BAG! And these were his worldly possessions, Miss?”

“Yes, along with a 50” TV set which didn’t fit inside the bag.”

“What’s this plastic?”

“He took this bag with him when he wanted to live on the streets for a while. The plastic was for protection against rain.”

“And the small umbrella, I guess. This?”

“A roll of toilet paper. You see, public bathrooms—”

“Yeah, yeah. A rainhat. And this?”

“A small pillow. He still liked his creature comforts.”

“I don’t know, Miss, this is very suspicious. It’s the day before Thanksgiving, we gotta check everybody carefully, I’m not sure I can let you board—”

“I have to bring them down to Maryland, sir. You see, this bag and the jacket I’m wearing—”

“Why are you wearing two jackets, Miss?”

“This threadbare, falling-apart-at-the-seams blue jacket from the Greyston Bakery is also from my husband, and both are going to the Smithsonian Museum.”

“The American Smithsonian Museum?”

“The very one. The curator for religion has asked for religious artifacts belonging to my husband to be on display there.”

“These are religious artifacts? Toilet paper, stained yellow pillow, a whistle—what’s the whistle for, lady?”

“To summon help in case he gets into trouble.”

“Not to whistle at pretty women? Ha ha.”

“Ha ha.”

“I’ve never seen religious artifacts like these. And a bakery jacket? What’s so religious about that?”

“He thought that creating jobs for people with no jobs in a blighted neighborhood is very religious. So was talking with street people.”

“And these things are going to be at the Smithsonian to lie surrounded by crosses and stars of David?”

“And Muslim and Native American and Hindu and–”

“Do all you people from Asia have such religious artifacts?”

“He was from Brooklyn, sir.”

“Lady, I can’t let you take these items onboard.”

“Sir, I have to bring them down to Maryland so that my husband’s daughter could bring them to the Smithsonian.”

“Don’t bullshit me, lady. No way these things are going into the Smithsonian Museum. What kind of fool you think I am?”

“No kind of fool, sir.”

“Try checking them in, but you can’t take them into cabin.”

“Okay, sir.”

“I’ll say one thing for you, lady. You tell a good story.”

“Thanks, sir.”