pd mallamo



At a mission conference in Zurich almost a decade before, he had met an elder from Sausalito. This tall blond young man maneuvered his way to his seat and said, “So I hear you’re from Santa Monica.”

Yes, he replied. That’s right.

The young man asks if he goes to Frisco, and he replies that he goes there frequently and likes it very much. He sees, at the electric corners of the young man’s mouth and at the electric centers of his eyes, something he’s never seen before.

Then the young man smiles a smile like a rising sun, and for a moment Adam is struck dumb. “Do you know Pearl Street?” the young man inquires, and smiles again, this time so close he can count his eyelashes if he wants to. “There’s a place called Durango Thai about the size of a hallway that makes red shrimp curry8 so hot you cry. Oh God,” he laughs. “It’s unbelievable. So damn good. Make sure you get the limeaide, too. They squeeze it in the back then blend it up with coconut milk, mint, honey and ice. They throw the rinds out in the alley. There’s a big pile of them back there. It smells like the ocean.”

He moves closer still and whispers in his ear: “Jesus don’t fix this, amigo. Still, here we are in Zurich. Thus saith the Lord.” He leans back in his chair, spreads his arms, and shouts, “Two months and I’m home! I can hardly believe it!”


The interviewΩ is very cordial, full of laughter and encouragement. By the end of it he knows he is free. As if the universe were actually organized in such a manner! Of course he can’t do those things, but he will not tell them now. (But how he loves them! How in his heart he wishes them health and many converts until the Lord’s mighty finger touches the earth to burn it, to convert it too, into an orb of fire and glass.) Why not just work for Pat Robertson or James Dobson – doing precisely the same things for twice the money - or go back to Syracuse and make truck spots for Neanderthals? What Saint, a century and a half ago, would have imagined that the Last Dispensation of the Fullness of Times would wind not up but down, into bureaucracy and ennui?

The verb is where the action is he thinks as he shakes their warm hands and walks back out into the sweetened rain, into the bloom of Deseretϑ. Everyone knows that. The only question is the verb you chose. We go with god into each new world, each transfiguration, but He is not for long in small lives of poverty and fear. And if He is not ravishing, He is not god.

(Even then, drifting back and forth over that line of belief.)


8 Durango Thai serves this with rice, six or seven large charcoal-grilled shrimp, and Vietnamese-style fresh greens and sprouts with sweet vinegar sauce.
Ω He had taken the position with the agency in Syracuse because he thought the Lord had desired this. Now he is sure this had been correct, that his tenure among the ignorant and venal has been singularly beneficial, not least because he is now fully conversant with his own ignorance and venality.
ϑ Even in the Church there are those one understands only after reading the suicide note.

pd mallamo writes in rural Kansas near Lawrence where he and his wife own a small organic vegetable farm. He works in Kansas City. An interview with him can be found at Granta online

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