Eric Walters shambled through the dimly-lit, narrow corridor. The hallway seemed as if it was built for dwarves. He held the Classifieds clipping in his hand, crumpled and sweaty. On it, an exalted cross (complete with lines of exaltation) floated above the words: "Interested in Religious Experience? Have Time To Spare, Money To Earn? Are You a DRUG-FREE, LUSTLESS MALE Between the Ages of 25 & 30? Call xxx-xxxx" A door suddenly opens, and blocks the entire hallway. A small Korean woman emerges from a cluttered apartment, which she shouts back into in Korean, while carrying bulging black garbage bags of laundry. Her even smaller daughter lackadaisically follows her, and shuts the scratched, wooden door. Eric feigns a smile, and pushes himself against the wall to allow them to pass. The older woman ignores him, and wordlessly pushes by with the bulging bags. The daughter looks up at him, with a blank, merciless stare; and then wordlessly follows her mother. He waits by the wall for them to reach the staircase. Continuing to the end of the hallway, toward apartment number 390, he remembers that phone call. A dull voice came through the static-flooded receiver, in such monotone the man sounded like a recording.
- Hi, this is Eric Walters, I'm responding to an ad I saw in the paper in regards to a religious sort of thing? Is the uh … position still available?
- I see. Can we arrange a meeting?
- Yes. Meet us at 29 Union Street. Apartment number 390.
- What type of rel-
- Bring a urine sample. Goodbye.
He heard the Korean woman's voice fading down the hallway, ascending the labyrinthine staircase. The tepid, golden urine splashed around in the sterilized cup he purchased at the pharmacy. Would he be reimbursed for the cup if he didn't get the job? Christian charity? The hallway already smelt like cat piss. The lighting somehow illuminated this scent. The scent of burnt tobacco also seemed to infiltrate the air. Eric realized there were no windows in the corridor. There were none in the staircase either. He did notice, however, toward the end of the hallway, a cluttering of erect, sky-blue statues. As he came nearer, he began to assume this was the entrance the apartment 390. Virgin Maries: twelve of them, perhaps, gathered in a semi-huddle at the end of the hallway; all glancing morosely at the ancient carpet. They were obviously once outdoors, their sky-blue robes beginning to fade. Eric heard televisions mumbling in various apartments. Families arguing, not always in English, somebody coughing, loudly, perhaps they were dying, he thought. He thought he heard a noise behind door number 390. It creaked, and slowly began to open, and a beam of natural light lounged across the carpet, illuminating each imperfection in the torn carpet. The door swung open, and barely missed Mary. A young man stood there, and looked not surprised at all to see Eric. He was dressed in a short-sleeved button-up white shirt, a thick, black tie, and pleated black pants: the archetypical bible salesman. The young man smiled a yellow grin, and mechanically responded to Eric's presence: "Welcome to Andrew Johnson Ministries. Are you in need of charity, perhaps?" Eric didn't look that bad. He was cleanly shaven, his hair was pinned back, and his pony-tail was tucked beneath his second-hand suit coat. His clothes were, admittedly, mismatched. A mélange of thrift-store finds. They once looked good, in their right place. Somebody received compliments about this coat at one point. To no extent, however, did Eric look like a bum. He straightened his glasses with the hand not gripping the cup of urine (which the young man was now eyeing wryly) and shook his head.
"No… I'm here in regards to this." Eric un-crumpled the ad, and presented it to the young man, he retrieved reading glasses from his shirt pocket, which he simply held in his hand while he read it. "I talked to someone on the phone yesterday and – "
"Ah, yes. You must be Eric. Minister Johnson is anticipating you." The young man pushed the door into the room, which immediately clashed with the derelict corridor. A water cooler rested in the corner of the room. A bum slept on a mauve-cushioned wooden chair. A table supported a stack of year-old, yet unread, Reader's Digests. Two empty chairs remained situated around the table. The young man sat down at an absurdly well-organized desk. A photograph of Pope John Paul II hung over the water cooler. A window, closed, looked over the bay, and the gravel and machinery of apartment roof-tops. Venetian blinds sliced the sunlight into parallel bars of light, which conformed to the young man's face. "Minister Johnson is anticipating you." He repeated, while pointing to a door Eric just noticed.
Eric, attempting to think of an apt response, merely muttered: "I see." While rising from his seat, clearing his throat, and arranging his clothing. Half-way towards the door, the secretary pointed at the cup of urine, which Eric handed to him, and opened the door to Minister Johnson's office.