The basement of the church office was bright and open. The aroma of fresh coffee was wafting in the air as Agnes -a woman in her late sixties- brought in a plate of homemade snickerdoodles. In one of the adjacent rooms, a radio was playing Songs of Praise.
“Oh Lord, deliver us from evil,” seemed to be the hymn of the day. It couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“Ah Agnes, it’s so good to see you,” said Father Andrew, who’d just come back from his early morning jog. “You never come empty-handed, and you know how we all love your baking!”
“Well, let’s hope we have some people to enjoy these cookies,” Agnes said. “Do you think anyone will show up?”
“You’ve got to believe, Agnes. You’ve got to believe. That’s what this place is all about,” said Father Andrew. “This will be the very first meeting of its kind, so you never know, but I have high hopes. Over the past few weeks I have heard from so many people, and they seem ready to take the plunge.”
Andrew, or Andy as he liked to be called, began to arrange some chairs in a circle. He had no idea how many he would need, so he stopped at twelve. How biblical!
Ten minutes before the meeting was supposed to start, the first participant showed up. It was a middle-aged, nervous-looking guy wearing a Yankees sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and dark sunglasses.
“Well, someone’s got to be the first,” he said, as he walked in. “This coffee smells so good. May I?”
“Help yourself,” said Agnes.
“I love my morning coffee,” said the man. “And you know what they say: The best part of wakin’ up … is Folgers in your cup.”
And as he spoke, both Father Andrew and Sister Agnes looked at each other.
“I’m the pastor here,” said Andrew, extending his hand. “I’m glad you could come. Your voice sounds familiar. Have we met?”
“Oh, I get that all the time,” said the man. “I’m John, by the way. We’ve never met, but I’m pretty sure you have heard me before. Let’s see… Have you seen that commercial for the new female Viagra? It came out last week.”
“Not really,” answered Andrew.
“I have,” said Agnes with unusual enthusiasm. “I’ve seen it a few times. Is that where I know your voice from?”
“You, bet. That’s me,” said John. “One day it’s all about having fun in the bedroom. The next I’m selling a cream that can cure athlete’s foot. Welcome to my world!”
A young woman entered the room. “John!” she cried. “I didn’t know you’d be here. I thought you weren’t doing that thing anymore. Aren’t your agents keeping you busy?”
As the two were catching up, Father Andrew whispered in Agnes’ ear:
“Is it just me, or does that young lady sound like she just walked out of a cartoon?”
“You’re right,” said Agnes. “She does sound like a character from a show I watch with my granddaughter. It’s about tiny, obnoxious superheroes. I’m telling you: this is going to be one interesting morning.”
The next person to come in was an unassuming, short fellow with a babyface. He did his very best not to be noticed, but Agnes spotted him immediately.
“May I offer you some coffee, young man?” she asked.
He looked at her for a moment, and said with a booming voice:
“In a land before time…
one woman embarked on a journey
that would change her life…
From the people who brought you “Heavenly Creatures”
comes a story of love, longing… and caffeine.
Rated PG 13.
Coming to a theater near you.”
“I take that as a yes,” said Agnes.
Within minutes, more people arrived, and for some reason, the atmosphere seemed grim.
“Please grab a seat,” summoned Father Andrew. “I know you’re all eager to get started.”
He looked around the circle, making eye contact with everyone in the room.
“Welcome to our first meeting. So glad you could make it. I wanted to start with a reading from Exodus, but I chose a short prayer instead.”
All of a sudden it became very quiet.
“Oh Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
The courage to change the things we can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
“Amen,” answered a few.
“Now,” said Father Andrew, “you’re all here today because you feel powerless, and a part of your life has become unmanageable.”
A few participants nodded.
“Many of you believe that you can’t live without that which has had such a grip on your life for so long. Yet, you feel that the time has come to let go of what no longer serves you.”
“Hear, hear” mumbled one of the participants.
“I know all of you have paid the price for years and years, and have wasted many hours, desperately seeking, and desperately hoping for something that rarely came. Am I right?”
“Oh yes,” said the girl with the cartoon voice. “I was such an idiot.”
Father Andrew stood up and said:
“Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. By being here, all of you have shown that you’re ready to become a member of a new group. A liberated group. And here’s the good news, people: You don’t need a credit card to join. I’m not going to ask you to set up an online profile either.
The only requirement for membership is that you have to have a desire to stop using what you’ve been using. Is that clear?”
Everybody seemed to be in agreement.
“I noticed that some of you know each other, and others don’t. Before we start sharing our experiences, let’s introduce ourselves, knowing that you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge. So, as you state your name, please tell the group why you are here.”
Father Andy looked at John, and said:
“Since you came in first, perhaps you’d like to start.”
John took off his sunglasses, revealing deep, dark eyes that hadn’t had much sleep. He sighed a deep sigh, filled with sorrow and regret, and said:
“Hello, my name is John, and I pay to play.”
And the group answered in unison:
That morning, Voice Actors Anonymous was born.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Next time I’ll blog about how voices.com has added insult to injury by the way it has responded to the criticism of the past few weeks. Click here to read that story.