Sea Side Stories

By Dave

The Service

We have these night church services during the week now and then, depending on the time in the church year it happens to be, and being in the evening and all, sometimes the light and warmth and promise of human interaction attracts some unusual characters, unusual even for this community. Last night was a case in point.

Our church is an old Spanish-style sanctuary, meaning it resembles one of the original missions that were built in the 1800s, but without the guilt-coerced funds. It smells of old wood and musty fabric, or maybe that’s the somewhat dank stray dogs that find their way into the sanctuary on our signature chilly, foggy nights. Goober, uninterested in spiritual topics, prefers to lounge in the narthex. Anyway, we were sitting, uncomfortably, on the beautifully-carved, rock-hard wooden pews, listening to the padre / reverend / pastor going on about something, when I, as one of the ushers, noticed a sight heretofore unseen at this particular venue.

Before I get into that, however, I should probably clarify something. It has to do with my earlier statement about the p/r/p going on about something. Now I’m as reverent as the next guy, and I have an attention span that’s probably on the high side of today’s humans, but now and then preachers tend to go on far longer than any mortal’s attention span can stand, and tonight was one of those nights. So I had lost my focus on the topic at hand and was drifting, as they say, into the realm of terminal inattention.

Anyway, as I was scanning the congregation—part of my usher’s job that doesn’t take long, since there are usually no more than ten or twelve people in the tastefully darkened sanctuary for these night services—I saw someone I had not seen before. That in itself wouldn’t have been unusual, since we occasionally attract visitors—human, canine, feline, reptilian, etc—to our sanctuary when it’s chilly and foggy, as it was tonight. What was unusual was the salient fact that this person, a middle-aged man as it happens, was naked. Even for our community, populated as it is by people who dress in newspapers, who occasionally fall into cliffside catch nets while fishing from their deck, who talk your ear off about wars fought in forty or more years ago, and so on, a naked man sitting in a church pew is a bit on the far left side of odd. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, as was my usherly sense of decorum.

So I did what any normal church usher does when faced with the unusual: I observed.
This man appeared to be doing nothing untoward. He was listening to the sermon. He was sitting there in the normal straight-postured, feet-on-the-floor, arms-crossed position any normal man would assume. He was perhaps better groomed than most of us in the building. None of the expected aging hippie vibe emanated. All seemed to be in order. Other than the
nudity. So I once again turned my attention to what was left of the sermon. I tuned in at the right time.

The preacher was just ending things, and he did it with this emphatic statement, delivered with the classic finger thrust in the air:
“Not on my sponge!”*

Perhaps this meant something to the members of the throng who had been listening carefully, but it ended up being one of those cognitive anomalies to me. I suddenly became intensely curious to what it might have referred, but that curiosity train jumped the tracks and veered off a cliff and into the ocean when the unclothed man popped to his feet and headed out of the church, and somewhat rapidly.

I attempted to follow him, being the curious type, and one of our mandates as ushers is to welcome visitors, but he was moving at an impressive rate, and before I could hail him, and perhaps give him one of our many free inspirational tracts from the handy plastic rack near the door, he disappeared into the fog, nothing but a pair of pew-reddened buns vanishing into the mist. I turned back to the light and nearly fell over Goober, who was apparently as curious as I was about our visitor and how likely he was to get a ride down the coast in his condition.

I fuzzled Goober’s fur and said to him, “Well, there you go…” in my best Reagan, and walked back to the sanctuary. Just another night around here, really.
*Thanks, D.L.B.

Up Next:
The Fog


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