To their surprise, I immediately asked them in. "Coffee?" I offered. "Er, no thanks," replied Jim, "but a glass of water would be nice."
"Now, fellers, what have you blokes got to say for yourselves?" I enquired, as we sat around the table while Jim got a dirty big book out of his briefcase - a tome that resembled a bible, but which was in fact The Book of Mormon, one of the stupidest wastes of good Tasmanian old-growth forest you might ever see.
"Do you know anything about our church, Laurie?" asked Jim, who was obviously the senior partner of the Jim and Pete show.
"Nothing at all," I lied, wondering what tale of idiocy would shortly be coming my way. Jim, who'd been to Mormon training school by the look of him, asked me straight off (and believe me, I was unprepared for this) "Are you worried by the prospect of spending eternity in hell, Laurie?"
Well, ten points for announcing your utter stupidity up front, I thought to myself. "Tell me about this hell you speak of, Jim," I replied more courteously. Jim launched himself into a tirade of imaginary horrors that would have done James Joyce proud. After three or four minutes of this I was becoming both impressed by his reserve of adjectives, and worried about his sanity at the same time.
Now, it just so happened that, a couple of days previously, I'd had a bit of an altercation with the limb of a tree I'd been removing down in the bottom paddock. The thing had fallen and twisted, sending a smallish branch in my direction. I'd turned to run, just as the branch came down and grazed my back. Nothing serious, but I had some pretty hefty cuts and grazes down my back that made it look like it had come in contact with a cat-o-nine-tails half a dozen times. To tell the truth, I was more pissed off with the thought that it had ripped to pieces a favourite t-shirt that proclaimed "God is dead - now let the bastard rest in peace, motherfuckers." A sudden thought came to mind.
"Jim," I interrupted as speckles of froth were starting to appear around the sides of his mouth, "there's a bit of a problem I see in your argument, if you don't mind me saying so. You see, I have a medical condition - well, to tell you the truth, it's a mental health issue - called Masochism Anxiety Disorder. I know, of course, that it's irrational, but my psychiatrist tells me there's no likelihood of a cure for it."
"Oh," said Jim, utterly perplexed.
"Yeah, it's a bit of a bugger, actually," I continued, "because it's a condition that presents itself as a desire to have pain inflicted upon myself. I enjoy being hurt, to put it simply, and, quite frankly, this 'hell' you describe sounds like my idea of the ultimate fun-park. I mean, I've made up a few little devices I use down in the shed that involve whips and electric motors and such, but hell sounds like the mother of all torture chambers, and to tell you the truth, I can't wait to get there."
By this stage I could see Peter glancing around as if he was coyly assessing the best possible escape routes out of the place, and he had begun to go several tinges of a whiter shade of pale. Jim was studying his book of Mormon as if he was trying to find a verse or two dedicated to the management and care of the seriously deranged. Fat chance, I thought, as I ploughed on.
"I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about. A couple of days ago I had a good session with my cat-o-nine-tails machine I've rigged up. It was most gratifying, I can tell you," I said with a decidely lewd leer in Pete's direction.
I stood up, turned around and pulled my t-shirt up over my shoulders. By this stage, my wounds had become scabrous and evilly red, with blue tinges of bruises on the sides. It was a most prepossessing sight, if I do say so.
At this, young Pete jumped to his feet with a gasp of horror. It was a bad move, because what little blood had been left in his head cascaded immediately into his feet, and the poor bastard dropped like a rock in a pratfall that would have done Buster Keaton proud. He was out cold on the floor of my kitchen with blood trickling out of a nose that was never going to attract nice young Mormon ladies again.
Jim jumped to the aid of his mate with little cries of "Oh, oh, oh!", knocking his glass of water all over the open pages of his book of moronism. At the same time, his face had gone a distinct tinge of green, but, curiously, his ears were the colour of a beetroot. Fuck, I thought, trying to contain my joy, these two could just about pass as the Italian national flag.
I pulled an old bottle of smelling-salts out of the cupboard, and held the open bottle under Pete's flattened nose. He came to with the sort of startled cry that Uma Thurman affected in Pulp Fiction. It was a shame I didn't have a dirty big needle full of adrenalin, I thought. Young Pete would have been seriously discombobulated to wake up with something like that sticking out of his chest.
Eventually, he was conscious enough, and comforted enough, to whisper to Jim that it might be a good idea if they went home. Jim helped him out the front door, down the path, and into the Landcruiser. "Are you sure you don't want to take a look at my little chamber of horrors before you go? I enquired solicitously.
At that, Jim gunned the motor and did an impression up my drive of a Norwegian rally driver. I dusted off my hands and went inside, only to spy Jim's book of Mormon still sitting on the kitchen table.
"Ah, kindling!" I exclaimed. "These Mormons come in handy occasionally."
And, I must say, the Book of Mormon burns beautifully.