I was walking on Fillmore Street when I saw a middle-aged man in a crimson ball cap bent over, his hands on his knees. A woman was comforting him. “You okay?” I asked. The man turned towards me. His cheeks were as crimson as his University of Alabama cap. “Never should’ve come to San Francisco,” he said. “Damn liberals want to take away our religious freedom.”
“What happened?” I asked. He straightened. I saw a plain gold cross dangling from a chain around his neck. His wife, a pale blonde, wore a similar cross but smaller. The man pointed at the entry to a clothing store. “They say they don’t do business with Christians.”
I was puzzled. San Franciscans are pretty good about leaving people to their particular religious inclinations. In fact, we were only blocks from a Catholic church and a Presbyterian one, as well as my synagogue.
The woman explained that she’d seen a blouse she liked in the window, so they went in. She found one in her size and knew it would fit. “When we go up to the cash register, the owner tells us we aren’t welcome in his store. He doesn’t want our money. Well, our money’s as good as anyone’s, isn’t it?”
“How crazy is that?” asked the man. “I’m a businessman myself. Own a chain of bakeries from Mobile up to Huntsville. Best wedding cakes in the state. We’re only here ‘cause there’s a convention. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be caught dead in San Francisco. This is the capital of gay marriage, you know.” The woman frowned.
“That fella,” the man continued. “He asks if we keep the Sabbath.” He rolled his eyes. “Jesus is our savior, right? We’re in church every Sunday.” The man’s chest rose and fell. “Then he asks if I work Saturdays. Like I said, I’m just like him. I own a business. Of course, I work Saturdays. ‘Cept football season. Roll Tide!” Apparently, the storeowner told the couple he was Jewish. Working on Saturday violated his religious beliefs. The Fourth Commandment and all. The man shook his head. “Everyone knows the Lord’s Day is Sunday.”
The woman rested her hand on her husband’s shoulder. “That man hasn’t heard the last from us. There are laws you know. You can’t just refuse to sell your goods to law-abiding citizens ‘cause they’re not just like you. What does he expect? That we stop being Christians?”
The man wiped the back of his hand across his face. “It’s not like we want to be friends with that fella. It’s only business. All we ask is to be treated with a little common courtesy like any other customer.” He pulled down on the bill of his cap. “Christians are under attack in this country,” he said. The woman nodded. “I bet that fella’s gay is what,” she said. “And now the Supreme Court says two men or two women can get married. According to my Bible, that’s a sin. And un-American.”
I wondered if they’d ever had a bad experience. “Have gays caused trouble in any of your bakeries?” I asked. The man looked at me with a mix of incredulity and contempt. “Hell, no,” he answered. “We don’t serve ‘em.”
Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.
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