“Weird” Hank

Halloween can really bring out the weirdness in some teens. For example, do hopeful guys think wax fangs, dangling eyeballs, and fake blood serve as female attractants or something? No, this is weirdness.

But lest you think I am just picking on teens, take a look at your neighbor’s front yard. There is a good chance that during this time of year they have propped up a repulsive and headless stuffed mannequin in a chair on their front porch. This suggests to me that any treats gained from these homeowners should be tested for anthrax and rat poison before ingesting them (the treats, not the homeowners).

What really gets me, though, is the otherwise wonderful family who suddenly feels their home is somehow lacking without a fake cemetery—complete with nylon cobwebs—in their front yard. Some plastic headstones even have motion-activated devices that wail like cats being shaved bald when you approach them (the headstones, not the cats, although I suppose they would be in a pretty bad mood too).

All told, this is truly weird.

Not that I am a stranger to strangeness—or cemeteries, for that matter. One time I got both in a single dose.

Hard up for cash as a teen, I took on a gig mowing the grass in several nearby cemeteries. This was after my gig as phone-answerer for a local funeral home, so it was a natural progression. (This was followed by a job shampooing carpets in Chicago-area funeral homes. It was during one of those gigs that I had a near-fatal encounter with a dead nun, but that is a story for another time.)

As for the strangeness associated with my job at the cemetery, that came in the form of an older coworker named Hank, which is not his real name. Hank is no longer living, but his relatives are, and I don’t want to make any of them mad, so I figured I should change the departed’s name just in case family members might see an opportunity for a lawsuit.

Hank lived in a tent and ate a lot of natural food.

One day the boss, Al, and I had finished up mowing a section of the vast cemetery and were headed back to meet up with Hank.

“Well, look at that,” Al said, glancing toward a patch of grass just off the roadway. I watched as he walked over, picked up a dead rabbit by its hind legs, then headed back toward me.

“I’ll bet Hank would like this for supper,” Al said with a smile.

“Ha—that’s a . . . good . . . one, Al,” I responded with a laugh, my voice trailing off as I suddenly realized that Al might not be joking.

He wasn’t.

“Why, shore ’nuff,” Hank said as Al held out his unsightly offering to the man. “Oughta be pretty good in stew.”

Now, I have nothing against rabbits, dead or alive. But at the time the idea of celebrating a day’s work by indulging in such a delicacy as Dead Rabbit Delight didn’t sound all that appealing.

The man was weird.

That’s what I used to think. But a lot of years have passed since then, and now I am inclined to think that it isn’t folks like Hank who are weird.

Sometimes it’s people like us who call themselves Christians but let a poor old man go to sleep in a ragged tent each night after filling his belly with roadkill rabbit meat.

Is that the best we Christians have to offer?

Jesus said, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”*

What? A Christian has an opportunity to help someone in need, and they don’t do anything about it?

Now that is really weird.


*Matthew 25:45

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“Weird” Hank

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