Watchtower: Flash Non-Fiction

Jefferson County Public Library: Photo by Noelle

Jefferson County Public Library: Photo by Noelle

The cover is creased, obviously from repeated reading. Part of it torn and only the “Watch” of the Watch Tower pamphlet is visible now. It’s an old edition. Fifteen years maybe and faded. It was stuffed in the back of a bus station rack carrying flyers for local attractions. Clearly no one manages the display much. No surprise given the half asleep ticket agent unable to stay awake for the next turn in the romance novel she’s reading. The station is dead. Not even a station really. A large closet with a bench where you can wait for the Greyhound coming out of New Orleans bound for Raleigh.

The pages crackle a little as I peruse drawings of happy Christians dotting an eager missive. So many sinners and only so much time. Reminds me of how often, in my youth, I sought spiritual happiness in pews only to feel an intruder. I like Jesus. Many beautiful teachings, but I never fit in with Christians as a religious devotee and I failed to believe in original sin. Not a small road block on the religious highway. You don’t need a savior if there’s nothing to save you from. Still, having grown up in a loving Catholic community I found myself lingering in the pages. It is not the equivalent of being black in a white community or gay in a straight one, but there is definitely a kind of outsiders vibe in many places in this country where you aren’t part of the populace if you aren’t right with Christ.

As I flip through images of Sunday pot lucks and food drives I feel that familiar hunger to belong to something. It’s a feeling that has lead me to a number of attempts at community churches that last long enough for me to know I love the people, but little of the teachings. That’s when I catch my hobo bag and head for the spiritual train yard. The last page shows Christ dying on the cross. It is not an image I’ve ever cared for or even the point, I think, of his life. He was never about death, always about life. I rather liked the image from my childhood church on Easter Sunday. A wooden cross covered in chicken wire, standing about six feet tall and placed at the alter. Half way through the service children were invited up to place the Spring flowers each family brought into the cross. Within minutes it would be transformed into the most spectacular floral site. Yellow chrysanthemums, pink carnations, lavender crocus, blue bells, and lily whites. It’s the only image of Christ that moves me and it has never left me. Rising like crocus from a winter’s death.

The pressured hydraulics of the Greyhound sound off on the cracked paved lot. The romance drops and as suddenly, the clerk pops up, checking the time. She announces the arrival, as if I could miss the only sign of life, but I realize this is her whole day. This moment, announcing the arrival of the single bus to pass through town and to finish her vending machine sandwich. I feel the deepest sorrow for a woman I know nothing about and who likely deserves many things, other than my pity. I watch her for a moment. Is it not true that the crocus rises at the darkest point in winter? I smile at her. It’s possible she is just now coming through the mulch. I leave the Watch Tower on the bench. People’s spiritual journeys are unique and curious things. What is a memory for me, may be a beginning for her.

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