ON HIS OLD WAY OUT.
The old priest … very old priest … knew that he was dying. He sat on his park-style bench, the one he’d had placed carefully outside his back door, facing the rhododendrons that glowed the summer long, hidden from all human eyes like life should be, and felt the surge of finality that was coursing through his tired old veins.
It was, he supposed with the dimness of ancient thought and enfeebled consciousness, something that all men and women come to sooner or later.
They know that the end is near. They welcome it. They have to, for it means that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow they will meet their god face to face, and that is a marvellous idea. To meet one’s maker, to look him in the face, into his mysterious creative eyes, to teeter towards him on legs newly born in heaven or whatever he wanted to call the endless Kingdom…
To leave the fog behind.
The thick air of life. The nastiness of humanity, its voices contradicting every bit of sense he’d ever known. The denials … he’d heard them all his life … the denials of the majesty of creation, the scorn poured on the obvious beauty of truth. The scorning of the virgin birth … how he’d wept at the sight of tiny ones being Mary and Joseph in their innocence, cuddling a plastic doll and calling it Jesus… Jesu … Christ… the Christ-child…
We will meet in the dawning, my Lord he whispered, so quietly that the robin sitting on a garden spade left in the soil of by careless gardener couldn’t hear.
To leave the mess behind. The congregations of two or three who thought they were growing nearer to his god as they clasped their hands in prayer… and they were, weren’t they? They were the saved, the believers. They were those who knew how everything had been created in that beginning. The Word. It had been the Word. The Order, the Calling into being, the lighting of all lights by a magical proclomation, the making of the firmament that stretched across his dimming eyes, from East to West, from North to South, the planting of the wonderful garden, the man Adam and his rib turned into woman, the lion lying down with the lamb, the absolutely perfect harmony and the tree of Knowledge…
The virgin birth.
The sighing child, circumcised to bloody genderless childhood…
It was all so obvious, so clearly right and true.
The woman grabbing the fruit of that blasted tree, the one true test of fidelity proving her worthlessness, like all women are and always have been worthless. Dear Lord, how he knew that!
How I hated Mother! With her gin and her bottles and her disgusting skirts so short you could see her bottom wrapped in almost nothing… and her filthy ways and the men, men, men…. the embodiment of the foul bitch in the Garden… the despoiler of all that is good and wonderful…
He shuffled, and sighed. Somewhere inside him something lurched, perceptibly, painfully, his chest became solid, a weight like a world pressed on it, he tried to shout but couldn’t… his thoughts raced through the mist of his mind.
University had been a blessing … no women, not one, in that halcyon place, just reading and learning and praying and David…
He heaved and fell slowly to one side, a heap on a park-style bench. The void beckoned. He was almost there.
David was special, the way we were, the things we did, and the prayers we said … No! No! No! There were no prayers, we were in a state of unnatural sin…. We prayed, of course we did, together, Lord protect us…. but our sin persisted, it had to, we had so much love…
“Protect us from each other…” he gasped, and sought silence. But somewhere his heart found another, and another, pulse. The pain was there still, but it slowly subsided, like a mist crafted from agony rising over a valley floor.
All my life, my Lord, I have worshipped thee…he thought and then, aloud, “I deliver myself to your mercy,” he croaked. “And when we meet face to face, you and I, my God and I, you will know the severity of my love for you…”
Severity? Is that the right word?
And then it was the end, his end, final like all ends must be.
The park-style bench grew cold. His garden was enclosed and only a squirrel saw the way nobody came to pray for him, nobody watched as the flies buzzed around, nobody saw the way his flesh dissolved into a sea of maggots, no man and certainly no woman breathed his name, or helped his soul on its way.
And a battered old plastic doll thrust some ago time into his rhododendron bushes by a careless child was dislodged by a careless gust of winter wind, and fell to the edge of his lawn, blind glass eyes his staring saviour.
©Peter Rogerson 17.12.13