Pope Wins Easter Egg Hunt

Easter was coming, and for the first time, I thought I would invite the pope. I told Denise over pot roast. Our daughter looked up and said, “Who’s the pope?” and Gilbert said, “Don’t be a cretin, Marcie. Guy on the rope?” He started laughing and next thing you know, he aspirated a green pea and coughed it out his nose. Marcie felt happy enough to cry. True story.

Anyway, the pope had never been to Easter at our place, so I thought it was about time. Give him a chance to get out of St. Peter’s and see the world. Count me surprised as hell when one of the bishops called me up and said the pope was coming.

“Can you meet his plane or do we need to get an Uber?” he asked.

Duh. Of course I would drive in and get him. Wouldn’t even charge for gas.

When we told our families, they couldn’t believe it.

“I thought he was dead,” my brother Pete said.

“That was the other pope.”

“Which one?”

“Not sure. Pope Genuflectus the XII?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, like he knew the guy, and didn’t know I was jerking his chain: Genuflectus died back in the Middle Ages.

The pope’s plane departed late. Something about him needing to meet a plumber about a leak at the Vatican City. Then his plane—the Angelicus Deum—had to land in Panama so the pope could make an emergency encyclical and distribute a few canonizations.

On the way home from the airport, he sat in back, with Marcie and Gilbert. We told him about the neighborhood Easter egg hunt. He said he had never had a chance to take part in one. We told him about the rules—no elbows, no kicking or crying—and how we kept score. Two points for real eggs. One point for plastic. He looked confused.

“Plastic? Like the magnetic saints in the Vatican Gift Shop?”

“Not that nice,” Denise said, looking into the back seat. She reached out and patted the pope’s knee, to reassure him that this was a class act.

The kids had positioned the eggs before the airport run. We helped the pope out of the car and showed him the yard. Roses over there. Petunias there. The “Poop Your Dog Here” patch of hybrid fescue.

He said some things in Latin, which sounded like he appreciated the mowing I had done the day before. Denise set up behind the tabulation table and our kids took their places at the corners of the yard, to prevent people from bringing in their own eggs. Basket stuffing was a huge problem in the early days of the hunt.

Parents and kids were lining up on the sidewalk. A buzz of excitement filled the air. I could smell the glazed ham, warming in the oven.

“Listen up!” The buzz died down. “We’ve got a special guest today. All the way from Italy. Some of you may know him. Put your hands together for the pope.”

A trickle of applause. Surprising, to say the least. People were leaning toward each other, whispering. “Who the fuck is that?” I told them all the pope would throw out the first Easter egg. I gave him one with Elmer’s and glitter on it. He looked confused. I showed him how to rear back and heave. He did his best, but his egg just looped toward the street and a car ran over it. Everybody cheered.

At the stroke of ten, Denise pulled out the flare gun and fired it overhead. Sparks fell on the kids, but they were already scurrying around the yard.

The pope was surprisingly fast. It was like he wasn’t even touching the ground. Kids would be closing in on a clutch of eggs, and suddenly some invisible force-field would block their path. The pope would float in, scoop up a bunch of eggs and move on. Babbling a bunch of Latin and making the sign of the cross with his hands. You know, pope stuff.

“How come you don’t hide the damned things?” Our next door neighbor Pelvis asked the same question every year.

And every year, Denise told him, “So your kids can find some.”

We hid a few. Most were just scattered on the lawn, so the offspring of Pelvis and Ruminata could avoid complete failure. As it was, their baskets never had more than one or two. Other kids would come up to them, say “hey, that’s my egg,” and they were so dumb, they would give their eggs to the other kids.

Watching this, Denise and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

“How many years has it been?” she asked.

“Twenty? They’re working at Walmart, for Pete’s sake.”

Just like that, the kitchen timer went off.

“Bring your baskets to the judges’ table,” Denise hollered. She was the only judge.

Here came Gubba and Fluberta. Denise counted their eggs and yelled to Pelvis, “Three eggs this year. Combined. Quite the improvement.”

The pope came next. Denise was busy for maybe ten minutes.

“Two-hundred sixty-eight,” she said, looking up at the pope, “your pontificator.”

Nobody else was close. Everybody got to keep their eggs, but there was lots of grumbling and kvetching from the parents.

“Fucking Pope, why does he show up this year, of all years?”

“I know, right? Guy’s got God on his side. Unfair, if you ask me.”

That sort of stuff.

After they cleared out, we invited the pope to join us inside. He polished off a full bottle of Pinot and hit the Kraft singles hard. They must not have real cheese where he lives.

“Best ham I ever had,” he said after dinner.

When we did our debrief with the bishop back at the Vatican, I told him what the pope said.

“Funny,” he said, “he told me he had never had ham before.”

It wasn’t like he lied. The first of anything is always the best—until there’s a second.