Maybe the Lord wanted someone with a pure heart.  Mine, however, was infarcted.  I guess he overlooked that little flaw when he saw my overall righteousness.  In any case He, or one of his emissaries, called upon me recently in the middle of the night, around 12:30 AM to be precise, just after Perry Mason had solved a case and the network went to their sponsor.  Now, I knew it couldn’t be an ordinary mortal calling me at that time, because I’ve warned people over and over for years that I don’t want any calls after 7 PM unless someone has died.  (If someone is badly injured, I’ve extended the time to 7:30.)  Look, I value my beauty sleep, so I go to sleep early, okay?  But a 12:30 AM call for me was extraordinary, and I was guessing angel or prophet or maybe somebody even with a higher ranking was dialing me up. At first, to be honest, when I heard the voice I thought it was the Supreme Being himself.  Why not?  Noah and Moses had been called, too, so it’s not like I was the only one, right?  And when I thought about those guys, you had to figure we had a lot in common such as piety, modesty and stickball. (Remember, Moses used a stick on that rock, apparently whiffing a few times before he got some water out of it.   But, just between you and me, it’s highly doubtful whether he could have hit a Spaldeen 2 sewers, as I could, unless an omnipotent ruler of the universe  had chosen to intervene on his behalf.)

You have to consider that God works in mysterious ways.  Didn’t he appoint David, a mere shepherd to be a king?  I mean today that would be like picking an elevator operator or something.  So, why not me, a retired guy?  (Editor:  Point of information:  Lao Du is a ping pong bum.)  I was figuring that this could be my divine destiny.  I had a hunch all along that it was intended that I do things other than just serve ping pong balls into the net for double faults.  Truth is, I haven’t been real religious but, hey, I’ve followed the commandments … eh, at least most of  ‘em.  All right, all right, I may have done some coveting in my life.  I apologize for that right now.  Absolutely no more coveting from now on – my word of honor.

Please speak louder, Sir, I said to the voice, most humbly,  I’m having hearing problems.   And hold on for just a sec, I gotta put a new battery in my hearing aid.  Okay, I’m ready.  Oh, wait.  Gotta get a pencil and paper.  Okay, go, I’m ready.  I’m listening.  Yeah, so whadda ya got?  A few seconds later, as the voice started up again, I was admonished for keeping this mysterious supernatural life form on hold.  Then it occurred to me that I knew this voice.  Wasn’t God.  Not a big disappointment, though, because instead of the Almighty it was the unmistakable voice of Jackie Robinson, of all people!   I could identify that distinctive pitch of his, and that velvety smooth southern Californian accent.  Although the words were indistinct  and kinda foggy, I was able to decipher the gist of his message after making out some of the words which sounded like  Save the souls, Expunge the sponge, Cast away evil, Break the color barrier and something about Blasphemy.  From what I could make out, it looked like Jackie was giving me this task to follow in his footsteps to end institutional discrimination.   I assumed it had to be this.  I mean when he said save the souls, he couldn’t have been talking about my shoes, right?  Although, I must admit in hindsight, when he talked about blasphemy, maybe he said amass money.   I’m not 100% about that because, as I said, the whole thing was partially inaudible at times – ya know, like a bad connection.  But I wasn’t about to ask him to call back – what, ya think I’m nuts? He coulda lost my number.

When I mentioned this telephone call from “above,” some of my friends and acquaintances looked at me askance with this squinty-eyed expression which suggested they were on the verge of calling for the men in the white coats to come and get me.  Sure, I knew what they were thinking – that I was losing it.   But it was only this one time that I had this transcendent phone call.  And there was only this one voice and absolutely no visions – I didn’t see nuffin’ – so all of that didn’t add up to making  me psychotic, I don’t care what they say.   Just the opposite.  I’m tellin’ ya, except for my serving into the net all the time, I’m normal.

But I still don’t understand the skepticism on the part of my older brother and older sister – not that I care what these two naysayers think.   I even reminded them of The Lord sending Samuel to anoint David, so why would they and the others be questioning why Jackie Robinson was sent to do something similar with me?  What, I’m not worthy?  What, I’m not righteous enough?  Hey, I ask you: Do I chase women?  I don’t even chase after a new Xushaofa 3 star ball if it goes over a barrier to the next table. (Editor:  That’s because he’s lazy.)  And what about my rectitude?   Okay, well for your information I gave up Diet Coke.  And in regard to another saintly trait, meekness, isn’t my meekness manifest when I lose to everybody these days?  Huh?  And wasn’t I compassionate when I used to give away ‘mercy points’ to a bunch of perverse and misguided bums using outrageous squishees (Ed. sponge paddles) so thick  they make a double quarter pounder at McDonald’s look like a thin sliver of smoked salmon?   Huh?

I’ll tell you something:  I was pleased and honored to be ordered by my baseball idol who had suddenly appeared to me as a voice from the clouds and who was obviously working for the higher ups in order to do something for the Creator.  I was pleased because they had to be recognizing me as an attentive and responsible person, notwithstanding what my two jealous siblings are always saying.  It was I who was being plucked from the masses.  Me!  I knew all along, a 6th sense feeling, that I was destined to be chosen because I apparently have that secret formula of some unique protoplasmic substance in my being.  I just knew it.  I knew that I had some distinguishable attribute that separated me from common folk ever since my mom said I was special that time when I made my bed in 1955.  Gosh, she was so prescient.  And now I had been selected and vindicated.  Hey, I’m the one who got the CALL!  Tell that to my hammock-hugging Big Bro and Big Sis.

I readily admit that I’m not a ‘spirit creature’ who claims to have seen Jackie. But I heard him.  Oh, I heard him, all right.   And it wasn’t like I was obeying the voice because I wanted to be resurrected or anything like that.  I mean I’m not asking for more acreage in the Elysian Fields of paradise.  I just figured that God must have seen a path through me by way of Jackie Robinson to have others repent and salvage their souls.  What’s the big deal?   Penance and penitence are a prerequisite for sinners, and I can be the one to lead the heretics toward the road to salvation. I can teach them how to confess and repent. What’s so crazy about all this?  Nothing!  And I’m virtuous enough to be called.  Now let’s get one thing straight:  My mother said I was a good boy, and she wouldn’t lie.  (Editor:  the brother informed me that the mother said he was a good goy – not a good boy – on the occasion of his having sneaked out to play tennis on one of the High Holy Days.  And the sister told me that Lao Du just recently  discarded his pitchfork and had surgery done to remove his horns and cloven hooves.)

Editor:  What the hell is this all about?

Lao Du:  I’m gettin’ to it.  Maybe I’m kinda getting ahead of myself.  Let me go back a little.

Stay tuned for Part II of  Expunge The Sponge.