(Just a note first…I have been using my new ReMarkable tablet to write posts the past few days. Today,the tablet and I had, well, issues. Fortunately, I printed a draft and can type it in. Sorry…no handwriting to dig through today.)
Paul could feel the dubious looks and incredulous stares on the back of his neck as he hung up his placard and shovel in the same spot he’d been placing it for years. He placed his overcoat directly beside it, a coat he wore for protection from the elements of his small town who preferred to meet prophecy with thrown rotten eggs rather than repentance.
As he turned to meet the eyes of the Christian judge behind, he found that he had to lower his gaze a couple of feet. “Ah, one of Jackson’s boys.” he thought. Jackson had long got past the judgmental stage with Paul and even managed to overcome the usual awkwardness that remained. Jackson treated Paul as a fellow man. He liked Jackson because of that. Would his three boys turn out as well? Would this one that was staring at him now turn out to be cut from his father’s cloth? Who knew?
Paul raised his head a little bit to give a greeting to the young boy and was himself startled when an involuntary grunt escaped from his throat. The boy darted through the narthex door and into the sanctuary before Paul could even think of how to apologize.
Paul took his seat in the back pew of the Methodist Church, arranged his long hair and longer beard with a few strokes from his hand and prepared himself for the rituals and songs to come. He didn’t care for worship all that much in the Methodist tradition. But it was God’s house and the people in this sanctuary were polite. They might stare, but they didn’t ask him to leave his shovel at home. Most just ignored him and that was fine. They may well be damned for not heeding his shouldered message but they let him go on carrying it.
And yet the older man could not keep from stealing glances at the middle son of Jackson through the whole worship service. At first he thought it was the burning desire to apologize to the young man for he had indeed scared him. Soon, that desire faded and Paul recognized the boy for who he was, one of the silent ones. During his many walks through town Paul would be taunted by the cries of groups of kids – “Crazy Paul! Crazy Paul! Crazy Paul!” – but the silent ones may have been in the group, but never took up the cry. He doubted that this young boy would ever be brave enough to stand up to his friends but he was silent. Sometimes, silence was golden for Paul.
That didn’t settle his mind either and Paul still found himself looking at the boy from time to time.
Then it hit him.
Was it really a grunt that escaped from his throat? Or was it perhaps God speaking to the young man through Paul in a way only the boy would understand? Is that why he was frightened? Despite the many times Paul heard himself referred to as crazy, he knew he was completely lucid. He also knew that he didn’t understand half of what God did in this world and understood even less of what God didn’t do.
The boy would just not leave Paul’s mind so when the final hymn started, Paul decided to make an early exit. Reaching the narthex he donned his overcoat and shouldered his sign, the placard of prophecy plastered on a snow shovel – “THE END IS NEAR! REPENT!”. He walked out the door and allowed his ever present snow boots to smack the hot July pavement as he journeyed home for the day. With each step, instead of the listening for the cries of “Cra-zy Paul!” he allowed himself to whisper a prayer. “Jackson’s son…Jackson’s son…Jackson’s son.”