Jan 18, 2007

The words of Moses

At first the words still rose. Uncalled for they would come up until his eyes burned and his throat seized and he would rush to the corner and dry heave into a bin of oil rags.

No man can be holy, the words would come, no man can be wholly holy but that his lips be burned by God, but that his soul be seared by the Spirit, but that his wretchedness be ripped away by the righteousness of Jesus Hallelujah. No man. No man. For man is but a worm, a detestable centipede walking on one thousand feet of sin. No man, amen. No man, amen. No man can stand before the holy God.

When the spell was over and he could hear again, he would hear himself spitting in the silence. He swallowed the words down, never saying them aloud, swallowing them and choking them until he lost whatever lunch he'd eaten into the red rags' bin. He would be left heaving, his nose running slightly and his eyes smarting, he would heave and heave and everyone would watch him.

They would stand there, looking awkward and feeling weird and no one would say anything and all there was was the sound of him trying to spit that feeling away.

Jesus, his boss would say then. Are you okay?

His boss didn't call him by name. None of them did, usually. The lady who worked at the shipping and receiving desk would call him Moses and the guy visited once a month selling tools would say Hey Mo, but the rest of them didn't use it.

That was okay, he didn't use their names either. It wasn't that kind of shop and except when he was spitting and heaving and choking back his preaching words, the silence was comfortable.

Sometimes the only thing he would say all day would be, Yeah, I'm fine. I'm fine.

He left the light on so when he was walking home in the evening, when the desert of the Red Bluff Reservoir was turning from tan to brown to red to orange to gray and black, he would see the light when he was passing through the cigarette-and-glass-littered grass and stepped over the curb.

He would see it and it would feel like someone was waiting even though he was glad no one was because he didn't want to have to say anything. He wanted to let the silence grow. He wanted to let it grow until the words all went away and he couldn't impersonate the voices of God, couldn't steal the lines of the minor prophets. Moses wanted the darkness to fall and the spaces to grow and the stillness to wrap him away.

The light bulb was good for that. The magazines were good for that. The picture pages in the stack of magazines warped from the rain and curled and dried again. The shop was good for that too. There was work there, nuts and bolts and grease and wrenches. Moses took things apart and he put them back together and he took things apart. He tore things down and Moses didn't say anything.

Part 1: Moses