Saturday, June 11, 2011

A story

Dusty brown shoes

            5:59am…one, two, three---and the bell chimes. The doors are flung open. They pick up their feet and walk in. To the wooden pews they head and wait in silence.

He is always at the door. His head hangs low, his hands shake. The brown cashmere coat he wears is tied around him with green remnants of a silk tie. He hurries past me and occupies the seat next to the door. He buries his dirt road face in his granite like palms and whispers a few words. They turn into song five minutes later and he goes on till the priest stands at the altar.

My duty is to stand at the door in my robe and welcome the people. I welcome them into the House of the Lord. Their faces are always clean. Their eyes brighter than the morning sun and their skin glows like grandmother's fresh butter. Their palms are soft as white cotton wool. I would stay still for years just shaking their hands. They come and go. Their scents get to me and I whiff them and maintain my composure.

As they walk in I turn to stare at them but end up looking at the old man. As he kneels the sole of his feet is left bare. What is meant to be his shoes do nothing but reveal the miles he has tread on. He bares his heart out to the Lord. His hands barely leave his face. He never looks at anyone and never sits next to anyone too. They stare and curl up their noses. He does not know they stare. Maybe he does, but he does not show it. They come when they can. He comes daily at 5:50am and waits at the door. He comes without asking why or waiting for the driver to drop him. He treads on so many miles to get here. From whence, I know not. His short hair is marred by dust and sand particles. His beard a possible home for lice, fleas or termites. His eyes, I am yet to see. But he has a scar on his left cheek that stretches down to his upper lip. It makes the mark "C" but is slightly inverted.

It is cold in here. For the past 364 days I have been here. I have to be up by 5:00am to prepare for the mass. I get the books ready, sacrament, Bible and talk to the altar boys. I ensure that the lights are on, if not I run down to the basement and turn on the generator. "Go ye and spread the Gospel."

I was told that is what I should do. I have done it for ten years, but my heart is not settled. It is always a test of my measure. And what does the priest say instead? "The true measure of a man is his ability to keep up with the Cardinal principles and virtues of the Lord!"How can I when the old man walks here and the others ride here? I welcome them both, but what of their departure? Do I care to know where they go or how they fare? I have stood in this cold for 364 days.

I woke up today and opened the doors.

People walked in. I looked around at pew next to me…

No brown coat, dusty shoes, no whispers, no stench…I could not see the sole of his feet. I ran into the streets. I am still running, still looking- asking around town for the man with the dusty brown shoes.