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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

 

The Old Man Meyer saw in Church One Day

It was Sunday and time for church. Meyer liked church. It was so big inside and so ornate with all the colored windows and shiny gold bits. The singing was so uplifting and imressive. And then there was the nice man who stood up in front everyone behind that narrow wooden desk and talked about God and how much he loved us all and what a great world awaited us when we passed on. Meyer could never really get a good idea of what 'passing on' meant. Being only five years old, it was a concept that he still retained his innocence of. But it wasn't important to Meyer. All that mattered was the wonderful other place where God and all the good people lived and there was nothing but Love and light.There was a knock on his bedroom door. Mommy was coming to help him get dressed. Meyer could never understand why such a nice house made you wear such uncomfortable clothes.

The drive to church was lovely. Meyer, his mother, and his father clambered into their old station wagon which started with a soft confident rumble and rolled out of the driveway. It was Autumn and the leaves were just beginning to turn their lively hues. Orange mixed with yellow like honey and amber being turned about in a verdant but fading green mosaic. Birds greeted the midmorning with soprano and alto airs played on the keys of their throats. Meyer's father did not even bother to turn on the radio but rather rolled his window down to catch that last wavering bite of crispness in the air. The gentle rumbling of the car soon had Meyer fast asleep again.

He was woken up by his mothers hand on his shoulder and her melodious voice calling, "Meyer dear, we're here." Blinking sleepily, Meyer fumbled with his seat belt and managed to roll off the seat and out of the door his mother had opened for him. Now Meyer too breathed in the morning air and it felt good swirling in his lungs. It got his energy up and he decided to race his father to the door of the church into which other parishoners were already filing. He, of course, neglected to tell his father that they were racing and rushed ahead towards the white arched finish line that stood tantalizingly before him. He went quite fast but slowed down to avoid other people when nessecary. His parents had made it abuntanly clear what happened to little boys who go racing into a throng of people and he could still almost feel the sting on his backside that marked the repurcussions of that incident.

His father greeted Meyer's taunts of, "I won Daddy! I won!" with a knowing smile and a pat on the shoulder to quiet him down and lead him inside. Meyer followed with a smile on his face and the knowlege of his victory dancing merrily across his mind. He walked down the aisle with his parents and clambered up next to them in a pew where they sat awaiting the service to start. His parents chatted with eachother and greeted friends as they came in the door. Gradually the church began to fill up, the doors were closed, and the service commenced. The nice preacher came up, began to talk, and Meyer found himself mesmerised by the comforting words. Then it came time to sing the first hymn. All stood up and Meyer's mother held the hymnal low so Meyer could see it. Even though he could not make out all the words he knew many of the songs by heart. The hymn rose up from the mouths of parishoners and drifted about the rafters of the church. Meyer was having some difficulty as this was a song he was unfamiliar with.

Halfway through, the stong strong gust of wind smelling of the earth after a thunderstorm caught Meyer's hair and touseled it around. He turned in surprise to see that the door of the church was wide open and a tall figure stood there silouhetted against the bright colors outside. It was a man in a rumpled bluish cape of some sort with what Meyer thought was some odd kind of bathrobe of the same color underneath. He wore a broad brimmed hat which cast shadows over his face and long grey beard. Meyer was startled to see that he wore a black eyepatch over his left eye. In his hands he held a staff with some odd leather construct at the end almost like the sheath Meyer's father's fishing knife was kept in but larger. No one else seemed to notice that the door had blown in and this strange man was standing there. The hymn continued unabated as the man walked into the church. He took off his hat and walked down the aisle.

Meyer was nervous and a little afraid as the strange looking man with the odd walking stick drew nearer and nearer with none of the parishoners taking any notice. Meyer's heart nearly jumped when the tall man stopped next to his pew and turned to face Meyer. He trembled slightly as the man's bearded face bent down towards his own and in a curteous whisper asked, "Is this seat taken?," with a quick gesture to the space open between Meyer and the end of the pew. Meyer, still a little fearful shook his head no. He would prefer not to have the strange old man next to him but it was the truth... the seat was not taken and Meyer was a little to young yet to break fully into the habit of lies.

"Good," said the old man, adjusting his cloak and sitting down, then, "thanks," as Meyer scootched in a bit to give him even more room. The one eyed man sat like someone who knows well how to take a good rest after a very long walk. A wry grin appeared across his face as he leaned back in the pew, enjoying the sensation of each muscle streching and relaxing. A long restrained, "Ahhhhhh...," escaped his lips as the last notes of the hymn died away.

The preacher began speaking again but this time Meyer was too curious to listen well. All of his attention was focused on the strange man sitting next to him. He had been told it was impolite to stare but he could not help studying those strange features and odd clothes. He watched the man rest for only a few moments but then he sat up straight, rested his walking stick against the side of the pew and began looking all around the church with feverish intensity. His one eye danced about the crowd but Meyer got the strangest impression that it was the missing eye that the old man was seeing with.

Unable to help himself Meyer asked with a hushed voice and a quick glance at his mother, "Whatcha doing?" He glanced back at his mother, she hadn't seemed to hear, good, it was bad to talk in church.
"I'm looking for my people," replied the old man in a kindly unwhispered tone, pausing to smile briefly at Meyer before continuing his close inspection of the congregation.
"Your people?," whispered Meyer, again making a furtive glance at his mother, "You mean you have family here?"
"Of a sorts," said the old man, "more dear friends than family."
"Oh," said Meyer, pausing for a moment to consider the difference between the two.
A moment or two more of watching the man's eye dart across the room and Meyer could contain himself no longer... "Do you... do you see any?," he asked.
"I think so," said the old man in a tone of pleased satisfaction, "though some of them may want to walk with others of my kind.Well...," he grunted as he stood up and grasped his walking stick, "only one way to find out. Stay here little one...," he said with a wink and a kind smile, "I'll be right back."

Meyer watched in shock as the old man stood right up in the middle of the service. It was bad to stand up in the middle of the service and you should only do it if you had to go to the bathroom really, really bad. Meyer knew. But no one noticed the old man as he got up and walked down the aisle towards the front of the church. Meyer squirmed to get a better view and was halted by his mother who reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder, "Sit still Meyer," she said.

The old man walked about the front pews and stopped in front of Mr. Garrity who worked at the local garage as a mechanic. Meyer's father was never short of a compliment on Mr. Garrity who had kept his father's station wagon in good repair though several emergency breakdowns over the winters past. Mr. Garrity was lounging back in the pew as best he could which was difficult for him. He was a large and fit man with great muscles and held his looks and stature much in pride. At the moment though he was doing his very best not to look bored and fiddled absentmindedly with a 4 inch crescent wrench he had found in his pocket.

The old man stopped in front of him and gave him a keen looking over, then he looked at the open church door, raised his hand, and beckoned. The room darkened mildly as if a thin raincloud had momentarily passed over the sun and there in the door stood a new figure. He was as tall as the old man and similar in facial features except that his beard was huge and red. Meyer gaped at the size of his arms which seemed as thick as tree trunks. When he walked the hardwood floor reverberated with each heavy footfall. Meyer watched this muscled titan walk up the aisle completely unnoticed by the parishoners and the preacher who continued to intone about God and heaven pleasantly behind that thin narrow wooden desk.

The giant man walked up in front of Mr Garrity and looked at the old man. They passed knowing expressions and then the titan turned and extended his hand toward Mr. Garrity with a look that spoke 'Hey man, you wanna get outta here, let's go work on that 350 diesel in your shop together, if we hit it hard I bet we can hear that baby roar by three o'clock.' Mr Garrity looked up and it was as if the blank expression he had had before evaporated off his face. He smiled brightly and took the giant man's hand. He was lifted up and as the entire parish looked on unnoticingly, the two of them walked out into the Morning sun towards Mr. Garrity's garage.

The old man smiled as he watched them leave and then he himself continued moving amongst the pews. He walked to the far right of the church and stood in front of Ms. Leanne. Ms Leanne always took that seat. It was the one closest to the biggest window that did not have stained glass in it. It was a clear unclouded view right out into the little garden that sat next to the church. Meyer had often seen her staring out into that green expanse when all other eyes in the church had been on the preacher, the hymnal or the bible. She was staring out there now into the yellows and golds of the burgeoning Autumn her green dress mixing with the image and highlighting it.

The one eyed man looked at her intensely and once again beckoned at the door. The sun outside seemed to flare brighter than anything for a split second and there in the door was another figure. A bright golden haired girl full of mirth and pleasantness. In her hand she held a basket of apples which seemed to shimmer, sending ripples of golden light all about the inside of the church. Meyer couldn't decide about the way she moved, it seemed almost like a walk, almost like a skip, and almost like a dance as she made her way down the aisle. She stopped next to the old man and nodded to him as she gave him and apple from her basket which he accepted with a wolfish smile before slyly tucking it into the folds of his cloak for later. The golden lady interposed herself between Ms. Leanne and the view she so craved above the words of the preacher. Ms. Leanne started from her dejected looking slouch, almost looking annoyed that something had blocked her view. But then she looked up and her eyes cleared. The golden lady beamed broadly at her and extended her hand. With a look of pure joy Ms. Leanne took it up and together before the unseeing eyes of the congregation the two of them walked, yet skipped, yet danced, out the door and into the waiting green garden outside.

The old man watched them go. Then he got a troubled look on his face and glanced almost immediately at Officer Thompson. Officer Thompson was a black man dressed in a khaki suit, his lips intoning his own hushed commentary to the preacher's monologue. Meyer knew he used to be a police officer in the big city and his father had mentioned once that Officer Thompson had moved here to "get all away from all that insanity." Officer Thompson was often gruff in manner and now that the preacher's words had turned to mercy, kindness, and salvation Officer Thompson's low whispered opinions on those subjects were finding their ways to the ears of his nearby parishoners who did their best to look like they could not hear the mumbled yet scathing addendums to the sermon. Meyer even noticed the preacher shot a quick and narrow eyed glance Officer Thompson's way which caused his gutteral whispers to halt for a moment behind a bitten tongue.

The old man did not even need to beckon to the door. Without any noticeable effect a well built and sturdy man walked boldly into the church. Officer Thompson was standing up even before this new stranger ever reached him. They met in the aisle and and clasped hands with an eye to eye stare that said, 'I agree with you completely.' In silence they walked out and as Meyer watched them pass the unfazed crowd he noticed that the new stranger's left had was gone... probably in some accident Meyer thought.

Meyer shifted in his seat drawing a glance from his mother, but satisfied that Meyer was behaving well she returned her attentions to the preacher, giving her husband a quick jab with her elbow to make sure he was paying attention. Meyer watched the one eyed man move all about the church now, unseen except by any but him Meyer presumed. He then stopped in front of Mrs Tan. Mrs. Tan was an oriental lady who was always writing. She was never seen without a little notebook and a flurrying pen or pencil. Meyer recalled that she often wore colorful flowered dresses which he liked.

The old man sat down next to her and without even seeming to know what she was doing Mrs. Tan passed him her notebook which she instantly replaced in her own hands with a clean folded sheet of paper from her purse over which her pen bagan fluttering again. The old man glanced though the pages with what seemed like pleased reverance on his face. He stopped from time to time to put the words he saw on the page together with the tune he imagined them going to. During this the cogregation stood for another hymn. The old man remained seated going though the little notebook while Mrs. Tan stood and gingerly placed her blank sheet of paper over the hymn in the hymnal and continued to write as she sang from memory.

Meyer lost sight of them amidst the standing crowd and raised voices, but as soon as the hymn was over he shifted his gaze to see them again. The grey bearded man was sitting down politely waiting for the song's end. When Mrs. Tan had reseated herself he stood and handed her back her notebook which she accepted and promptly opened to the page where she had left off. Then the old man extended his hand to her. She looked up from her notebook and her gaze centered clearly on the old man. She thought a moment and then gently shook her head. The old man smiled wistfully yet knowingly and with a short bow he stepped away from her. She declined her head and was soon again lost in her songs and poetry.

The old man glanced about the church again and walked around a few times as the sermon went to speak of the kingdom of everlasting peace. Meyer's small bright eyes tracked the old man and he gave a patient nod to no one in particular and at last returned to his seat next to Meyer.
"Thanks again lad," said the old man as Meyer once again scootched to make more room.
"Sir...?," piped Meyer quietly, "who were those people who came in?"
"Dear friends and relations young man. They were looking for their people to."
"Sir...?," whispered Meyer again, not wishing to be rude but not able to stem his curiosity either, "why did Mr Garrity, Ms Leanne, and Officer Thompson go with those other people."
The old man smiled, finding it refreshing to speak to a child who asked because he wanted to know and not because he wanted to be told. "Meyer," said the one eyed man, illiciting a blink of surprise that he knew Meyer's name, "they chose to go with my people because they saw something better in being with them than being here now."
"But Mrs. Tan didn't go with you like you wanted her to."
"You're very right Meyer. Mrs Tan chose not to come with me, but I respect her choice and I would never force her to go against the will of her heart," said the old man.

Then the strangest thought ocurred to Meyer bubbling incandesantly into his mind all at once and he asked, in a low inquisitive whisper, "Could... could I go with you?"
The old man let out a hearty laugh and then seeing the hurt expression on Meyers face halted it hastily. "Maybe one day lad. If you choose to. But you have years ahead of you to grow and to learn and to make choices," he paused a moment and then stared right at Meyer. His one shifting eye meeting Meyer's two bright hazel eyes, "You must know yourself through and through, before you come looking for me, or I for you."

Meyer sat back and pondered the rhyme. He furrowed his brow and for a moment thought so hard that he did not notice the old man get up and begin to walk down the aisle. By the time he had twisted himself to look, the grey bearded man was almost at the door. His twist drew another glance from his mother. Who put her hand on him again to let him know she was watching. Meyer watching the old man step out the door and put his hat back on then turn slowly back towards the inside of the church. He nodded towards the image of Christ crucified and soundlessly drew the church doors shut again. There was a click as the doors latched followed by a grunt as once again his mother's elbow gave his father a reminder of where he was. Meyer twisted back around and looked over at his father. His father had turned his head and was looking wistfully at the closed church doors as if he was terribly sorry he had just missed something that he had wanted to be a part of.

Meyer didn't know how or why but from the look in his father's eyes he could tell that he would see the old one eyed man in the blue cloak again someday.

Matthias Wilson

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