“Have you thought about your rights?” Robert Peterson asked John and Murielle. He was seated at their dining room table one Monday afternoon, surrounded by officious looking forms.
“My rights?” John asked, staring dumbfounded at the lawyer. With his hair slicked down, clothed in an unmiraculous dress shirt, John looked much like an overgrown school boy.
“The rights to that Jesus shirt.”
Robert Peterson had no faith of his own. He believed Jesus had visited John Lundstom’s dress shirt as much as he believed pigs could fly – but this was the most interesting case of property rights he had come across in 34 years of small-town practice and he wasn’t going to let it slip by.
“I never thought about rights,” John mumbled. “I guess it’s my shirt, but I don’t think I can rightly stake a claim on any miracle.”
Murielle shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
“Yes, it is your shirt,” Robert Peterson said, speaking slowly and carefully in the way he had when dealing with farmers. “But you should think about legalizing your rights to the image, that picture of Christ. What if someone decides to make a copy of it and started selling that?” he asked. “They would be making money off your miracle. That’s not right.”
John and Murielle were not easily convinced. John felt there was something sacrilegious about claiming property rights on a miracle; Murielle did not welcome scrutiny. But Peterson was persistent and not only secured their rights for the image, but a significant percentage of profits for himself.
Peterson’s sister-in-law took a photo of the shirt and had postcards made up in the city. They sold for 50 cents at the church, in Peterson’s office and at Betty’s Sears outlet - where she advertised the miracle shirt as available in her catalogue and watched her business grow. Betty wondered how Murielle had got the image of Jesus onto the shirt. If they had been better friends she would have asked. She didn’t believe for a minute it had been a miracle; but she decided Murielle was a smarter cookie than anyone gave her credit for. Everyone knew that since the miracle John had stopped hitting his wife.