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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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"Dear friends and relations young man. They were looking for their people
"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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