I See Too Well

When I was about twelve, I overslept on a Sunday morning. My shining mother ousted me from bed and made me dress hurriedly. I fumbled for my glasses on the bed stand and accidentally struck them, sending them skidding across the smooth top and down behind the bed.

“Oh no!” I cried trying to pry my way behind my bed to grab them, but for the life of me I couldn’t reach them.

“Samuel!” came my father’s voice. “It’s time to go. You’ll have to snack on a muffin on the way to church.”

“I can’t get my glasses,” I cried back. I heard a rustle and into the room strode my heroic father. I had forgotten how breathtaking he was: tall and strong, his Sunday suit jacket a bright breastplate, his brown locks helmet-like on his head. His face was so handsome I stepped back in awe. He bent quickly and reached behind the bed.

“I’m sorry, son. I can’t reach them. We’ll have to move your bed.” He looked at me, his smile shimmering. He glanced at his watch. “But not now. We really have to go. I am leading communion today. You’ll have to make do without them.”

“But, Dad,” I stammered, still awestruck.

“No buts, Samuel,” he replied. “Let’s go.”

It was the most shocking day I’d ever experienced. We walked into the church and everyone was changed. A girl from my Sunday School class came over and I could not recognize her. She was stooped, tiny and waiflike, a cruel look in her eyes. It was only when she spoke that I realized she was our teaching pastor’s daughter. Mrs. Tomlinson, my Sunday School teacher, usually plump and poorly dressed, had become one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen in my twelve years. She was still a little on the heavy side, but she shone: her eyes, her very being. And as she told the story about how Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves, she began to glow more and it seemed that she grew before my very eyes. But looking at my classmates, all I saw were warped, misshapen imps, bored out of their skulls. The one exception was Rodney, the most rambunctious one. He looked like a little angel, bright in the same light that enveloped Mrs. Tomlinson. Why was that?

Then we went to the teaching service and I could not help but stare. Yes, many of those in the congregation shone more or less brightly, were lovely to look at, but the majority were grotesque beings, twisted or bloated beyond recognition. Only when they spoke to me did I realize that some of these were very pillars of the church, men and women whose life seemed above reproach.

But nothing compared to when Pastor Bergman stepped up to the pulpit. The person standing there was the size of an adult, but looked like a giant baby. He gazed at the congregation with a drooling, toothless smile; and when he spoke all that came from his mouth were baby noises. This was the handsome, winsome, gray-haired patriarch of our congregation? This infant? And my parents were taking notes and nodding. I sat, gobsmacked. My mother nudged me and whispered something, then pushed my mouth shut. It was all I could do not to scream, leap up, and run from the room.

The ghoul at the piano played the closing song and we rose to leave. I avoided as many as I could after the service, longing to go home, but we stayed to the very end, as always, as my father is one of the Elders of the congregation. I sat in the corner away from the door, not daring to look at anyone.

“What’s with Samuel?” I heard one of the ladies ask my mother.

“He forgot his glasses,” she replied. “He can’t see so well.”

No, I thought, unaware of where the thought was from, I can see too well.

As soon as we came home, I ran upstairs and squeezed myself under the bed to retrieve my glasses. I promised myself I would never be without them again.