Best Dad Evar sits in silence, laying flat on his back on a threadbare sofa after the rest of his family has been successfully settled in bed. He is using his remote control to flip through his pre-set favorite channels, pausing only briefly on sports highlights shows, on reality shows in swamps, storage lockers and mansions (where contestants are forced to fall in love and/or bitch at each other mercilessly), on shows about outer space and aliens from the past, on movies from the mid 1980's, and on news that's always bad. He's cycled all the way through all of his channels once and a scowl is evident on his face as he is scurrying through his second go-around when his screen lights up with once of those "real history of the Bible" shows. Best Dad Evar can't resist and his remote finger pauses. His head settles back on the throw pillow nearest him almost imperceptibly.
Soon, he is nodding, murmuring "Yeah," and "uh huh" and even "that makes sense."
"Best Dad Evar, do you believe in this stuff?" the narrator asks doubtfully.
"What, the Bible?" Best Dad Evar answers without taking his eyes off the screen.
"Yeah, God, Heaven and Hell, all that stuff."
Best Dad Evar is silent for a moment. He slowly, carefully answers, "No. God, Heaven, Hell, no, I don't believe in any of that."
"You hesitated." the narrator probes, thinking there might be a wellspring of belief under there somewhere.
"No, I chose my words carefully. I always do that when the subject of religion and beliefs come up."
"Why's that?" the narrator asks, though he surely knows, doesn't he?
"Do you really have to ask?" Best Dad replies. It's his turn to probe, testing the narrator's ignorance.
"Apparently so," the narrator replies, now irritably.
"Well, I live in America, where those of us who don't believe in the traditional god or gods are scorned and distrusted."
"Yes, ask around and you'll find out."
"Well, I can't really do that. I can only talk to you."
"Then you'll have to take my word for it. Being a non-believer is about the worst thing you can be in America. I'm a stranger in a strange land when it comes to religion."
"That's unfortunate for you."
"Yes, well, I guess I shouldn't call myself a complete non-believer. I do believe in one amazing power in the universe."
"Really, what's that?" the narrators asks, obviously concerned for his mortal soul.
"Life." Best Dad replies with just a hint of a smile.
"Human Life?" the narrator replies, puzzled.
"No, all life."
"Oh," he replies, but sounds like he's still not sure what BDE means.
"Life is magical. The fact that you can create an entire brand new human baby from two single cells - that's incredible, isn't it?" Best Dad has sat up now and finds the pause button on his remote with a smoothness that borders on automatic, as if pausing live television is as natural as breathing.
"So incredible that a higher power must be responsible for it?" the narrator asks provocatively.
"No! Why would you immediately go there?!" Best Dad Evar is angry now. "Well, it doesn't matter for me because I was never trained to believe in a higher power."
"In other words, it's too late for you to come to believe a higher power is responsible for anything."
"Yes you've got it." There's a pause, but Best Dad continues. "But I can believe in a lower power."
"What?!" the narrator is confused now.
"Never mind. For me life is the power. It's magical regardless of who or what created it."
There is a long pause as the idea sinks into the narrators formless noggin. "So all life is magical. Humans, and worms and even plants?" the idea is sinking in, and the narrator is shaping it.
"And spiders and ants..." BDE continues, leaving the thought hanging.
"Is that why you're so careful to save even spiders when you can?" He's really catching on now.
"Of course. Why kill them when they're magical?"
"And yet, death is part of the magic of life." the narrator counters.
"Yes, yes it is. But being a cold-blooded murderer of life doesn't have to be. That's a choice." Best Dad says seriously.
"Many people choose to be murderers then."
"Yep." He shakes his head sadly.
"So, then you must be strongly pro-life then... politically, I mean."
"Well..." Best Dad hesitates.
"Choosing words carefully again."
"Ah," the narrator responds knowingly this time.
BDE slowly enunciates, "What I'd say is that if get to choose, then I choose to preserve life."
Best Dad smiles, "An excellent word."
"So, you're not a fanatic."
Best Dad laughs softly, "No."
"That also makes you a stranger in this land of fanatics."
Best Dad Evar shakes his head at that thought. "Maybe there aren't as many fanatics as you think."
"You don't think so?"
"No, I think most folks are pretty middle-of-the-road. But the fanatics get most of the air time."
"Don't you want some air time, Best Dad Evar?"
Best Dad smiles broadly, "My fifteen minutes? Sure I do."
"So maybe you're not such a stranger after all."
Best Dad laughs loudly, but when he stops, he nods and winks at the space where he imagines the narrator's voice to be coming from, now chuckling softly as he drifts off to sleep. Another back-ache waiting to be.