Four Guys Walk into a Bar
by Art Cerf
A priest, a rabbi, a TV evangelist and an agnostic walk into a bar.
Sounds like the beginning of a great joke but in truth, it’s the beginning of a story.
The four were fast friends back in college some 35 years ago and once a year in the fall, they’d meet on campus to update each other, tell old stories, drink, play cards, curse and spit. They all agreed to get a Covid test before this year’s gathering and three of the four did so. The fourth meant to but got busy and forgot. But he was feeling great and had been nowhere near anyone with the virus.
The tele-evangelist was the last to arrive and saw his friends at a table down at Morrie’s…their agreed upon rendezvous. Â After handshakes and hugs, they called the barmaid over. The Â evangelist– a millionaire many times over–ordered the most expensive bourdon in the house and a double at that. Â The priest ordered a white wine. The rabbi–a recovering alcoholic–stayed with a diet Coke and the agnostic had a beer.
After much laughter, a second round was ordered and after those drinks were finished, the TV preacher dropped a hundred dollar bill on the table and told the waitress to keep the change.
They then walked over to the best hotel in town where the evangelist had booked a suite big enough for the four of them. The agnostic said even if they split the cost four ways, he couldn’t afford it. The rabbi and the priest agreed but the preacher waved them off and said he’d pick up the tab and write it off on his taxes.
They went upstairs and soon were playing the game of Hell at ten cents a point like they had 35 years earlier, youthening as they played.
Hours later, everyone was hungry so the preacher called down to room service. He ordered a large Porterhouse steak for himself. The priest just wanted a bowl of soup. The rabbi said he’d have a Rueben and the agnostic said that sounded good to him and added a side of cole slaw. Then the TV preacher added a bottle of champagne.
The young waiter wheeled in the feast and the preacher opened the champagne with a pop and poured for everyone, including the young waiter. He thanked the group but said he wasn’t allowed to drink on the job. The minister said rubbish, tucked a $50 in his pocket and said, “Drink up.”
The young man removed his mask, took two sips, thanked everyone and left.
The weekend was fun for all and as they left their separate ways, the preacher thought though he loved them all, he was surprised on how depressingly ordinary their lives were.
The priest admitted to himself that he was jealous of the TV star for each week, he preached to millions while the priest drew 200 to Sunday services on a good day.
The rabbi just looked back on the weekend as a wonderful break from his real life.
The agnostic loved them all but thought the preacher was in for a big fall…making millions for his church, buying his own plane, a mansion, a Rolls and who knows what else, writing it all off as church expenses.
About a week later, one of the four got sick, really sick with Covid. A day later, two more of the group got ill and two days after that, the fourth was in the hospital. Two would die. The other two would face a lengthy recovery.
Contact tracers looked at all four and who they had contact with while on campus. They traced it to the young waiter who had shared a glass of champagne with them. He was doing fine.