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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Charlie Charlie…I don’t care if you’re there

Charlie     I am currently standing in my dining room, staring at two pencils in the vague shape of a cross (or an X depending on where you are standing) waiting to see if something creepy happens. It’s been 10 minutes…and nothing.

I’m slightly surprised by this. After all, it took a while to get them to balance in the first place, which is interesting considering they are exactly the same length and octagonal. I assumed the flat sides would make this a dab easier, but with the metal and the eraser, there is a definite weight distribution issue and scientific principles being what they are I expected gravity to do its thing and cause something to topple fairly quickly. Yeah, not so much.

My son theorizes that the problem with this experiment may be in the fact that neither pencil is sharpened. He’s also pointed out that they are not sitting atop a piece of loose leaf paper festooned with a lot of yes or no options. However, perhaps the real problem is the fact that I have not called out The Question, guaranteed to get things moving. After all, I’m not that crazy!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, I am referring to the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” the latest craze to set social media abuzz since the infamous “dress” debacle a few months ago. “Charlie Charlie” is a game in which participants invoke the name of a supposed ancient Mexican demon and ask him yes or no questions. Rumor has it, if you manage to get him to answer your call, or um…pencils…you may not be able to get rid of him, could become possessed and may have to suffer an unpleasant Catholic ritual known as an exorcism. Lest you think this game is is nothing more than harmless teenage fun, real live exorcists have gone on the record (and gained a dab of publicity for themselves) warning kids not to play it. Naturally this means every kid in America is going to be staring at a couple of pencils this weekend and arguing with their friends over whether or not anyone accidentally jostled the table, blew on it or if that minuscule movement denoted a demonic presence or if it was merely coincidental.

Needless to say that as a professional cynic, I have all kinds of problems with this game starting with its name. How many ancient Mexican demons are named “Charlie” in the first place? I might believe Carlos or some derivation thereof but Charlie? That sounds like a cab driver, someone’s uncle or a lovable bald kid with a really cool dog. I have to say if I were going to come up with a bogus demon, I’m pretty sure I could come up with a better name than Charlie. Still, it’s nice and lyrical, everyone can pronounce it and I seem to be the only person questioning it, so…there ya go. I’m also stymied by his choice of communication tools. Pencils? Seriously? Outside of math, no one uses pencils anymore,  and if he insists on writing instruments, shouldn’t we get to see what a demon’s handwriting looks like? Yeah, I think so too.

Another point of contention is why he is only capable of answering a “yes” or “no” question? I suspect this has something to do with the fact that he can’t write, but come on Chuck, work with me here! If you are a representative of the underworld, I think we are entitled to a bit more, don’t you? If I can’t hear your manifesto on why you think evil trumps good, I really don’t want  you to tell me if I am a girl (yes) or if it is going to rain today (no).

I’m also unsure as to why kids think dialing up a demon is a great use of their time. Wouldn’t praying be more effective? We have about a gazillion patron saints to chat with (and they have proven track records to boot) but I guess good and holy people such as St. Francis, St. Theodora Guerin or even Saint Pope John Paul II lack the seedy forbidden fruit draw of satanic stooges such as…Charlie. Here’s a tip: give as much fervor to your prayers as you do balancing these pencils and staring at them and then let me know which one works out in your favor. I guarantee that in one of those scenarios, if you actually get an answer, you aren’t going to be calling a priest begging him to make it go away!

Look, I am not perfect. I played “Bloody Mary” with my friends when I was little (I never really understood the point of that game either, one of my friends swore that her aunt made contact with Janis Joplin so I was willing to give it a whirl) and at one point I had an Ouija board, but deep down inside, I really don’t believe in a lot of that stuff. No offense to demons, ghosts, spirits or the things that go bump in the night, but I don’t. If they don’t want to believe in me, that’s fine. In fact, I think it’s a fair trade off. However, I also don’t see the big whoop-dee-do about kids gathering around the table to argue about whether or not they made contact with the other side. I’m amazed that in this high tech world, kids will still gather around the most rudimentary of materials in order to give themselves a bit of a fright and oddly enough – it gives me a warm glow to know that the more kids change, the more they stay the same.

Of course if you are going to call on someone from the hereafter, why not Jimi Hendrix, Elvis or Freddie Mercury? My guess is that reaching them will have the same success rate as “Charlie” and your parents won’t freak out as much.


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