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Never the Same
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[Continuing story of brothers, James and Merrill. Here’s Merrill, the one trying to say clean and sober.]

OK, I’m hitting some kind of low. Seeing where I came from—the Real Bottom—I can’t call this that but I can say doing what we did last night means I’ll never be the same. I’ll never be the same with James. My Brother.

I walk taking the longest steps I can without running. I try to stretch out my legs and feel free, but they are heavy and clumsy. I slow down so I don’t trip. One more block and then I make the turn. I’ve only done this once before. Today is Sunday, which is bad. That means people will be there, and very likely Bob won’t even remember me. But I got to do something for my head, my body. I allow myself to say—soul.

I’m taking a walk to save my soul, which of course has been seriously damaged by all that I’ve done before today. I see a gathering of people outside the church all slowly making their way toward their cars. Everyone is smiling and laughing and kids are running crazy, ignoring their nice clothes and their parents. I see Bob. He’s standing on the steps slightly bent forward to three people intent on taking his time. I see in his body that he’s tired. How does a pastor get tired? I guess it’s all the people like me who have a great need.

Now I don’t believe I believe in any of this, but I liked visiting the church that one morning, I liked the sound of angel wings flapping, and I liked talking to Bob. I walk slowly toward the scene that is moving in slow motion. One by one or two, the cars roll away to some happy life. One or two or three say goodbye and a few of those walk home nearby. I get close enough so that I can hear Bob. He’s talking about fishing and hiking and nothing about god. But there’s something about him that makes me feel a little calmer, less bad at least.

He looks up, probably having seen a dark blob hovering in the corner of his eyes. A lost sheep. I laugh inside that I even know about lost sheep, certainly something that accidentally made into me from the Bible. Not that my family had a Bible. We were definitely the lost sheep. And then I just got further lost.

Bob looks right at me and smiles. “Merrill.” I’m close enough to hear my name. He remembered my name. I don’t know what to say. Makes me feel too soft inside and I make a little jerk with my head in recognition. He waves me in. “Merrill, sorry you had to work today and had to miss service.” He’s lying for me.

And then he excuses himself from the people, his flock, and tells me that he’s gonna give me a little catch up service inside. I follow him in the door and I hear the flapping wings of those angels again.


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