“For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Thomas Byron has had a little over 300 years to consider God and any sort of relationship that might be possible with him. He needs a heart knowledge in this. He has never experienced the leap from mind to heart, or at least he thinks he hasn’t.
“I am convinced that lizards and roaches communicate telepathically,” says John Galen Holliday MD.
Thomas and Doc are comfortably ensconced in Doc’s library, a bastion of the latest audio and video technology. They smoke Cuban cigars and sip Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Chipper, Doc’s amazing Cockatiel, is strangely silent this morning. He often roundly abuses Thomas, verbally.
“What’s up with your parrot?” asks Thomas. This is a most unfortunate remark.
“Ignorant hillbilly pig XX###&&!!!!!!!,” says Chip.
“That bird has Tourette’s syndrome,” says Thomas.
“He’s a Cockatiel. He thinks he’s a Bird of Paradise,” says Doc.
Chipper bobs and weaves on a perch with a TV remote on it.
Just now, greater truth hovers over Thomas and Doc and Chipper. They are closer to the peril of love than they think. Our Cockatiel stops on a Gospel channel. On the flat screen, the Three Blind Boys of Louisiana sing Angel Band:
“Oh come angel band/ come and around me stand….”
Down at the end of the street, Thaddeus Jude Mumford, a young fighter-jet pilot, passes out a tract entitled His Efficacious Wounds. Behind him is the fern garden of the St Louis Cathedral. There is a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched. Thad is a snake-handling Oneness Pentecostal. He considers Catholicism to be a Roman-pagan mystery-cult thing.
“Bear me away on your snow white wings,” croons Chipper.
“A gospel parrot,” laughs Thomas. This is another unfortunate remark.
“You @@@###XXXOOO!!!! muff merchant thing,” squawks Chipper.
“He’s not a parrot,” sighs Doc.
In two years, three months, four days, two hours, forty minutes and a few odd seconds our Doc will become a Catholic Christian. He is reading the Christian mystics. Thomas once saw Charles Haddon Spurgeon preach.
“Whose blood now cleanses from all sin…” sing the Three Blind Boys.
“Victory in apparent utter and complete defeat, destruction, death,” says Thomas.
“That is the sum of it,” concurs Doc.
The men are afraid to risk commitment to God, the leap from head to heart. They feel unworthy and fear an ultimate rejection, the risk of love. They are only vaguely aware of these sentiments.
On the street, now, Thomas and Doc make for a nearby coffee house. They walk past our Thaddeus. He gives them each a tract. The Efficacious Wounds tract is from a book by Martin of Tours, a Catholic saint. Thad does not know this. It is in the fine print. The men walk on.
“How can woundedness be beneficial?’ asks Thomas.
”It’s not unique to the human experience,” says Doc. “God become a human.”
“If he did, he should have kicked butt and taken names,” says Thomas.
Bill Poyt, an Orleans parish deputy sheriff, has maced a homeless drunk who was peeing in the alley beside the Cathedral. Bill radios for a squad car. The drunk has been cadging drinks outside a bar. Jail will be a blessing for him. He is in rags and is pitiful. As a child, he was often used sexually by his father. He has no conscious memory of any of this. He has failed in every aspect of life.
Doc wears a nylon windbreaker. This is one of the few really cold days in New Orleans. He removes his jacket and places it around the man’s slight shoulders.
That night, Doc has a dream. He is surrounded by angels. Jesus comes to him wearing the windbreaker over the drunk’s rags. He says to the angels “Here is John, the abortionist who is unbaptized. He it was who clothed me.”
In the morning, Doc finds the windbreaker hanging on the doorknob inside his bedroom.
Bryan Merck has published in America, Eunoia Review, Kentucky Review, Pleiades, DM, and others. He is a past winner of the Southern Literary Festival Poetry Prize and the Barkesdale-Maynard Fiction and Poetry Prizes. He lives in south Georgia with his wife Janice. He is at email@example.com.