J. B. Mulligan
Paulie sought the road to Tarsus for years, but his compass kept spinning and stopping, and his number never came up. He kept a scream at the sky locked in his chest, where it paced and growled and chewed on his heart, but he kept his faith that there was faith, and one day it came. He was surprised that it did.
"He's speaking in tongues," the villagers cried. "God has chosen him," they shouted joyfully, while a voice inside asked, "Paulie?"
The priests, who weren't sure, confirmed that this was so. God spoke, and they listened. After all, they decided what the words meant. God was a mystery to Paulie and the people of his village: warm in their stomachs, cold in their minds, but He was clear in the words of the priests.
Paulie was thrilled at first, and struggled to be humble. Mostly he succeeded at that, which startled everyone, including Paulie. At first, he accepted what the priests said he was saying, but something inside, or inside the eyes of the priests, told him they were not telling the entire truth. Then he began to think that they were not telling the truth at all. He felt God inside him growing angry at the priests, but every time, the priests said God was pleased with the priests, but angry with His people. And the more God raged through Paulie, the more the priests said God was angry with His people.
The priests treated Paulie and his family well, but once he decided the priests were lying, the joy he felt for his family's ease, and standing in the village, turned bitter in his throat. And the words of God steeped in the bitterness, until even the villagers could sense it. So the priests decided that Paulie had been seized by a demon, and must be banished from the village.
Paulie's family was angry with him, and he could not make them understand that the priests were lying, that their village was being betrayed. He shouted at his parents, and they looked at the ground and told the dirt that they would miss him. They lied like priests.
Out in the desert, as Paulie fought birds and lizards for bugs and bushes spotted with dew, God's voice grew louder, and Paulie could still not understand. At last he screamed at the sky, and the sky screamed back that he had failed. It seemed that God Himself was lying, and Paulie couldn't understand how that could be. He began to weep for silence, but the sky wouldn't stop shouting.
First published: November, 2006
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