By Zary Fekete
PROMPT — The way I see it ...
One day my father taught me how to use a mop. The mop was old-fashioned with dozens of tendrils soaked with soapy water. My father gave the mop’s rod a twirl, sending the tendrils out in a rotating arc. The soapy bubbles flew a bit farther out, coating the floor. My father flicked the mop expertly, and it slid across the floor in rhythmic sweeps.
We were in the basement of a Methodist church in Budapest where, soon, dozens of Hungarian policemen would arrive after their daily shift had ended. They were coming to watch a bootleg copy of a videotape containing a two-hour film about the life of Jesus. The Hungarian voices on the videotape had been poorly dubbed by non-professional actors, Hungarian dissidents, living in America where they had fled after the failed 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union.
My father finished one round of mopping and then asked me if I’d like to try. This was no Tom Sawyer experiment. He enjoyed mopping. He told me he learned how to do it while he was in the Navy on a ship bound for Vietnam in 1969, three years before I was born. He and my mother wrote letters to each other during his time in Vietnam and then were married in 1971 when he returned. He said he enjoyed mopping because it was a simple exercise which could be learned easily and which immediately gave the mopper the satisfaction of its results.
My father had a religious conversion a few months after my parents were married. He felt a great void in his life after returning from Vietnam, and he took comfort in some of Jesus’ words about eternal life. My mother became a convert after hearing my father’s passion. They joined the missionary organization shortly after and then felt the call to move to Hungary.
I gladly took the mop and awkwardly twirled it. My sunshine pattern of tendrils was not as neat as my father’s, but he said I would learn if I kept practicing. Soon the policemen had arrived to watch the film, but I didn’t stop mopping. I moved to the back of the room and kept sliding the mop across the floor and practicing the twirl while the men watched the film.
By the time the film was finished I could mop as well as my father. We took the bus home after the policemen were gone. As the bus bumped across the cobbled streets of Budapest I looked out the window. It was raining and the bus windows were pebbled with raindrops. It reminded me of the droplets from the mop tendrils.
I asked my father how the film showing had gone. He looked out the window for a moment and then said many people don’t like religion but are fond of Jesus. He compared Jesus to the mopping. He said Jesus taught a simple lifestyle which could be learned easily and gave people the immediate satisfaction of the results.
Zary Fekete has worked as a teacher in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia. She currently lives and works as a writer in Minnesota. Some places she has been published are Goats Milk Mag, JMWW Journal, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, and Zoetic Press. She enjoys reading, podcasts, and long, slow films. Twitter/X: @ZaryFekete