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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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What’s Going On in the Parsonage Basement?

by E. Martin Pedersen

Like opening a giant book, the heavy storm cellar doors thrown back, down seven cement steps covered in gray dirt to the earthen floor of the dark empty cellar, the smell of dust an inch thick unbearable to my sinuses. There’s nothing here. I put out both hands.


At the far end, I pull a cut-glass knob. The door bursts open to light, and I follow that light inwards, though it hurts my eyes and head. Sloping downwards then upwards, the tiled corridor is lit with naked bulbs at regular intervals. I hear noise, shouting, even a microphone (I know the sound because I’ve used the microphone on my dad’s pulpit).


It’s a boxing ring, a boxing match in a boxing arena filled with strangers chanting, “Kill, Kill, Kill.” It’s so noisy I can’t think. I see no empty seats to the left or to the right, so I walk down the center aisle till I get clear to the front and find my place mid-row. I can only see the boxers when they fight over on my side, since I’m not very tall yet.


The fighters punch away on the far side of the ring, then come over towards me. And I stand up, amazed to see my own father, Reverend Dan—white-skinned, hollow-chested, his back covered with moles, in oversized swim trunks and black leather high-tops—crushing the other boxer’s face in. I can’t think of anything to say and sit down. Why is he doing that? He’s a whispering wimp, a Mr. Rogers. Mom made him spank us a couple times, but he doesn’t even hit very hard.


Now he does, man. On the ropes, he’s beating the crap out of that other guy, whose face is all bloody. Why doesn’t the ref stop the match? Blood splatters onto my own face like mist, and I wipe it off on my sleeve.


Bells ring. The fight’s over. Knock-out. While my dad was pounding the other fighter, I thought maybe he saw me down there among the mob, but he didn’t seem to. I’m not sure I want him to see me here.


On the corner stool, my dad pushes back his straight, black Clark Kent hair with his wet red gloves. His second puts his bifocal glasses back on.


My dad—the sermonizer, the wedding and funeral guy—jumping, hopping on his toes now, with his arms held up high, while hundreds of crazy people with colored scarves cheer him on.


The ref grabs the mike. The loudspeaker booms: “And the winner is ...” The other guy is still down on the mat with two hooded helpers trying to get him up.


And then something happens which teaches me a lesson in faith.


My dad spits out his tooth guard, makes an evil face and yells: “Take that, ya lousy son of a bitch!”