Chants Intoned, Albino Pachyderms Exchanged
by Edward Jones III
I was at the office far too early in the morning. I heard a noise and looked through the haze of cigarette smoke. My editor Hugo was sitting on my desk. “Son,” he said, “I got another assignment for you. It’s a doozy.”
Fast forward three days and I was in our nation’s capital, on my way to a shindig the likes of which I had never witnessed before. I thought I had seen it all—the headhunters of Borneo, the tap-dancing grandmothers of Kyrgyzstan—but LGBT Mormons and their allies? That was a new one for this old-timer.
I knocked on the door of a nice pile of bricks in northwest DC, host by the name of David Burton. Nothing like the marauder’s cave of Tegucigalpa I had expected. It was brightly lit and festively decorated. It smelled of pine and holly berries. Trying to blend in with the cheerful and nattily dressed natives, I asked what the celebration was about. Apparently the birth of a deity; I didn’t quite catch it.
I followed my nose to the kitchen—my home away from home—where I saw any number of savory and sweet foodstuffs. The guests had brought them in a style I learned was called “potluck.” Obviously a food offering to the deity. I dug in with considerable satisfaction.
The natives were conversing with such enthusiasm, it took their leader a minute to get their attention. Randall Thacker was his name. Soft-spoken, face like an angel, but I could tell he was all steel underneath, like Baby Face Nelson. Probably packing heat, too.
What followed was a highly stylized but brutal ritual named after an albino pachyderm, in which numbers were passed out and helpless victims forced to choose from a pile of gifts. Even if a native avoided the trap of less desirable booty, the chosen bauble could be snatched away by another native with a higher number. The most-traded gift was a bizarre codex about the “Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger,” written by a man also named Randall. I ended up with a lovely picture volume of the history of Southern Virginia University.
Just when I thought it was safe to slip away undetected, one of the natives sat down at a keyboard instrument called a piano and others began to sing. These were clearly ancient tunes, intoned since time immemorial at the ritual reenactment of the deity’s birth. But the voices were mellifluous, nothing like the shrieking chants I had witnessed in Kolkata and Eritrea. Something inside me melted a little, and strange drops fell from my eyes.
As I stole away into the night, the host pressed some more Christmas treats into my hands. They were just the thing to gladden the heart of this world-weary newshound. I never learned exactly what these gay Mormons were about, but I could tell the world was a better place because of them and their deity.