Saturday, July 03, 2004

Part 6
More of a Short Tale

Trooper Mary Brody swung the state police cruiser out onto the highway, set the cruise control, and adjusted the bulk of her body for maximum comfort. It was a nice day to patrol -- a quiet day in June, little traffic, birds singing.

Her mind drifted. She thought about what she would cook for supper that night. Trooper Brody enjoyed food and she enjoyed thinking about it. Maybe she would go to a movie afterward, or down to the pub where some of her officer-friends gathered for beer.

Trooper Brody was in the zone.

"Jumping Gee-hose-a-phat good Lord!" she exclaimed, slamming on the brakes.

For she had come upon a bizarre sight. On the edge of the right lane stood a man in a frilly, pink robe, bent over, hands on knees, gasping for breath. She knew it was a man, because the contours of the prominent rear end, pointed toward her through the flimsy pink material, were much too flat and bony to belong to a woman. Hairy, spindly legs emerged from the bottom of the robe.

Trooper Brody pulled the cruiser to the shoulder of the road, got out, adjusting her holster, and approached the man. He was mumbling incoherently and sobbing between gasps for air. He turned as he heard her booted feet on the gravel behind him.

He looked at the bulky figure in the state police uniform and started whining, "No, no, no."

"Aw, God, cover yourself up," said Trooper Brody in disgust. The man's robe was hanging open, and some rather private parts were hanging down below the garter belt.

"I guess I don't need to frisk you," Brody said to the cowering man. "What is your name, and what are you doing here?"

"S-s-sh--Sanctimonius," moaned the man.

"Sanctimonious about what?"

"No, my name is Sanctimonius."

"Ooo-kay. What are you doing out here, in that?

"Someone hid all my clothes." The man's eyes were rheumy, and his face was blotchy beneath all the makeup.

Trooper Brody sighed, then stifled an impulse to giggle. The day was turning out to be more interesting than she'd anticipated. She was definitely going to the pub tonight. She'd have a great story to tell.

Sanctimonius sat in the interview room at the state police station. Someone had given him an orange jumpsuit to replace the pink thing. He felt dull. Lethargic. He sat at the table, staring off into space.

The door opened. A tall, blond man walked in.

"Sherman," he said.

Sanctimonius lifted his head slightly to look at the man.

"Sherman," the man repeated, pulling out a chair and sitting next to Sanctimonius.

"My name is Sanctimonius."

"Sherman," repeated the man softly. "My Lord sent me to you. God Almighty has been talking to you, but you haven't been listening.

"God wants you to know that you are loved. God loves you, Sherman, and wants to bring you healing. Your mother loved you, too, although you didn't see that.

"Sherman, can you turn to God? Can you ask for mercy and forgiveness?"

The man's eyes bored into Sherman. Sherman wondered if he were about to die.

"God help me," Sherman suddenly cried out. He could see the script of his life played out. He could see the bitterness, the anger, the hatred that had controlled him. "God have mercy on my soul."

The blond man's eyes were moist and filled with compassion. His face and hair were vibrant. The vibrancy seemed to spill off, like a solid substance, all around the man.

"Sherman, I bring you God's healing," the man spoke, as he put his hands on Sherman's head.

Sherman felt himself disappear somewhere. It felt as if he were gliding over deep-blue water with a bright-blue sky above. He gulped in great mouthfuls of cool, clean, energizing air, then dove into the water, amazed at his own gracefulness. The water was cool enough to be refreshing, but not cold. This water had a different consistency than any other -- it was slightly syrupy, just enough to make it feel as though it were clinging to him, enveloping him in a way that sea water never had. It felt so good.

Sherman swam to the surface and took another gulp of air. To his surprise, he was back in the interview room. The blond man was just pulling his hands away from Sherman's head, and he was smiling.

"Who are you?" asked Sherman.

"I think you know. It will sink in after a bit." The man stood and placed his hand on Sherman's shoulder.

"Sherman, you will proclaim the word."

A few minutes later, Trooper Brody entered the room. She had a slightly dazed look on her face.

"The examiner said it's okay to release you. He suggested I take you on home. So I will." Brody cocked her head to one side, as if trying to figure out something.

A half-hour later, the cruiser pulled up to Sanctimonius' little house. Trooper Brody looked at Sanctimonius, who had ridden silently in the back seat all the way.

"I'll come in with you and check out the house," the trooper decided.

Sherman slunk in behind her, looking around warily. Trooper Brody checked the closets and drawers, all of which stood open. They were filled with men's shirts, slacks, suits, briefs and socks. Brody made a walk-through of the house, hand on holster. Everything looked normal.

"Well, I'm going to leave you now," she said. "Everything seems in order. I'd suggest you get some sleep."

She headed toward the door. Something made her say, "And you take care, now. God bless."

Sherman removed the orange jump suit and threw it on the floor, then collapsed on the bed. He fell into a deep sleep.

Hours later, he awoke, refreshed, though he had had a very strange dream.

It was a dream, wasn't it? Sherman frowned. He looked around the bedroom, at the open closet, where his clothes hung as they were supposed to. Sherman's eyes scanned the room.

He spied the orange jumpsuit on the floor. Around it, here and there, were bits of pink feathers.

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