I AM IN THE BACK ROOM AT THE KINGDOM HALL. I have taken my Bible apart, removed a load of pages so it is thinner, and trimmed the spine down to size. Now I am reassembling it with white PVA glue. I notice the map on the inside cover has been scribbled on. There is a pile of Bibles lost by congregation members on a shelf. I rummage through them hoping to find an inside cover I can cannibalise for my Bible, but they’ve all been written in. One of the Bible’s has a name on the inside cover—Dave Alwood.
The literature servant, Jonathan, enters the room. The Queen is also there. I tell Jonathan what I’m trying to do. “Just take a new Bible from the literature desk,” he says, “and rip the inside cover out of it.”
“I would prefer you not to waste Bibles,” says the Queen, “due to their very limited number.”
“They wouldn’t be limited if you didn’t limit them!” Jonathan snaps at the Queen and storms off into the auditorium.
I apologise to the Queen for Jonathan’s rudeness. Then I chase after him to tell him off but the meeting is about to begin. I go to find my seat at the front but someone is sitting in it. The hall is packed. It’s the circuit overseer’s visit.
Someone tells me I’m supposed to be reading. An old friend of mine, David (Jonathan’s brother), is already on the platform ready to begin the Congregation Bible Study. I grab my copy of the Greatest Man book and join him on stage.
Suddenly, I realise I don’t have a suit jacket on and I’m wearing a jumper. I approach David at the rostrum and tell him. He points out that he also has no jacket and is wearing a jumper. We decide we will worry about it later.
I take my place at a microphone stand and David introduces me as the reader. It’s at that point I realise I don’t know what page we are on because I haven’t prepared for the meeting. I approach David and whisper to him that I don’t know what page we’re on. He confesses neither does he because he hasn’t prepared either.
I call out to the audience, “Does anyone know what page we’re on?” and try to excuse my ignorance by saying “I left my tablet at home and so I’m using a printed copy of the book tonight.” Everyone in the audience is using tablets. No one has a clue what page number the material relates to in a real printed book.
There is a born again Christian on the front row. “This is fucking disgusting!” he heckles, “You should just believe in Jesus!”
Just then, I see my dad in the audience and notice he has a printed copy of the book. I get off the platform and walk up to him. “You’ve got a printed copy,” I say.
“Sure!” he replies, oblivious to the fact he could have helped us.
“So what page are we on?” I ask.
“71,” he replies and shows me the page.
I return to the platform, flicking through the pages in my book looking for page 71, but I find the pages are not numbered sequentially. The numbers are all over the place—1, 2, 501, 502, 22, 23, 607. Eventually, I find page 71 and go to read, but there is no microphone on the stand. I see the microphone laying on the floor so I pick it up and place it in the microphone holder.
Then I go to read again but now the pages have fallen out of my book and are even more mixed up than before. I try to gather them together but then I see there is no page 72 or 73. I get off the platform and sit down in a vacant chair. “It’s ridiculous!” I shout, “Just because some idiot at Bethel decides to be clever and print the numbers in a different order!” The audience gasps.
Meanwhile, David is still on the platform in his jumper trying to find the right page. “Will this get us a bad report from the circuit overseer?” he jokes, trying to warm the now very icy atmosphere.
“Most likely,” calls out the CO from the back of the auditorium.
David decides we should sing a song to kill some time while he tries to find page 71. The music begins but no one knows the words so they just sway to the rhythm. “This is like being at a Pentecostal church,” I joke. The born again Christian on the front row glares at me. He doesn’t look impressed.
The song finishes and we sit down. Somehow, I now have a book and it is open on page 71. I call out to David that I will read from my seat because I’m feeling embarrassed. There are no roving microphones so I will have to shout. I go to read the first paragraph but notice there are no words in the book, only pictures.
I begin to “read” the first picture: “Okay, so there are some fish swimming in the sea, and some blue… butterflies, I think. Then it looks like there is some coral at the bottom and…”
I sigh and close my book. “I’m not doing this,” I say, “I’ve had enough. Find another reader!”