Before I left my apartment on that Good Friday before Easter, I checked my mail. My eelskin wallet had arrived from the mail order place. Smiling, I put it on my desk and headed out the door.
In my shirt pocket, I had a note reminding me what kind of wine to get at a liquor store in Covington. My friend Greg and I would make a wine stop before heading to our regular drinking establishment.
Heading downtown on the bus to meet Greg, I thought of the new wallet. That eelskin style was popular back in the ’80s.
A few days earlier I had decided that I didn’t want an animal to die just so I could have a wallet. I figure there are plenty of eels in the ocean and having a wallet made out of one of their skins would show I believe in being kind to animals.
Well, that’s what was in my head. Maybe I’m just getting funny in my old age.
Once downtown, Greg picked me up in his car and we headed across the river.
The wine note in my pocket was from my ex-wife. We’ve been divorced for several years, but divorce doesn’t always kill a friendship. I think we’re better at this than being married.
She invited me and our two adult children over for Easter dinner, and I offered to bring some wine. I know nothing about wine, so she suggested a couple kinds to get.
My former wife told me that roast leg of lamb would be the main course for Easter dinner. I couldn’t remember if I liked it. I told Greg I hadn’t had lamb in decades.
We made quick work of the liquor store. Browsing around there would take time away from our weekly drinking session, and we didn’t want that.
At the bar, at our table, the subject turned to Easter.
I told Greg I felt funny celebrating it as I don’t believe in the Bible, don’t believe in fairy tales.
Greg argued there’s some evidence that Jesus existed. I probably muttered “Whatever.”
He then asked me if I could see any merit in fiction — if anything can be learned from it. I probably answered, “But of course!”
After I replied, I got his point — that maybe something can be learned from the Bible. I hate it when Greg makes a good point.
After a couple hours of drinking and talking religion, my friend took me home, where I exchanged everything from my old leather wallet to my new eelskin wallet.
I loved the feel of the eelskin on my fingers, liked the way it fit in my back pocket. While feeling a little tipsy, I told myself I’d never own a leather wallet again.
I work on the weekends — mostly diving into writing projects — so Saturday and Sunday flew by. Before I knew it, it was Sunday evening. Time to eat some lamb.
I arrived at my former wife’s house a little early with the two bottles of wine I bought over in Covington. My daughter and son arrived soon afterwards, and after some visiting it was time for Easter dinner.
The roast leg of lamb looked beautiful on the platter and smelled wonderful. My daughter did the carving.
Before eating, my former wife wanted to say a little prayer. She and I haven’t really talked about religion for years, so I didn’t want to make a big deal out of a prayer. Out of politeness, I lowered my head … but I didn’t say “Amen.”
I helped myself to some lamb, baked potatoes, green beans, carrots and rolls. I tasted the leg of lamb first.
It was delicious, but a thought came into my head as I was chewing: Didn’t Jesus love lambs?
I remembered back to when I was a kid and was forced to go to Sunday school and church. I remembered seeing paintings of Jesus holding a lamb and being tender with it in his arms.
I continued to eat the food on my plate, including the lamb, with thoughts of Greg’s words from Friday — that there’s proof Jesus had lived. What would Jesus think of me eating a lamb? I started to feel guilty.
Yes, it’s true, I am getting funny in my old age.
I hope that Jesus did live. If it’s true, I’m sure he was a good person and someone I would have wanted to hang out with. No, I don’t believe in all the Bible stories — none of them really — but when you think about it, Jesus is a good role model.
He treated people the way they wanted to be treated, with love and respect. I try to do the same and always try to put myself in others’ shoes. Basically, I try to be a good guy, too.
I have to admit I felt more guilt about taking second helpings of the lamb, but, hell, I’m no Jesus. I’m not going to die for someone else’s sins. I try to make a difference in any way I can, but I have to think smaller.
For example, at least no cow had to die to provide me with something to carry my money in. I have that eelskin wallet in my back pocket.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org