Man of God
by Vivian Lawry
You never heard of the Rev. Mr. Moses Abraham Davidson? He once preached from the mouth of a stuffed whale—but more of that later.
He rode to his calling in a pony cart, pulling a small wooden wagon in which rode a Chester White hog he called Hamlet. He taught Hamlet—the most civilized of barnyard animals—to fetch, sit, and stay. Hamlet ambled with the Rev on walks and lived in the back room of his house. They were accompanied by a white Great Dane named Baskerville.
The Rev. Mr. Davidson refused to wear black, choosing instead magenta robes, a fisherman’s jersey, or sometimes a yellow blanket with a hole cut out for his head, occasionally a leopard skin. He added a brimless green hat, a purple wool scarf, or scarlet gloves, depending on the season. Whatever he wore, he wore his garments till they were threadbare.
He lived by the sea, and when he wasn’t preaching he wrote fair-to-middling poetry. He regularly wrote letters to the editor advocating the union of church and state, the abolition of taxes, the return of tithing, and the creation of two new cabinet posts: Secretary of Righteousness and Secretary of the Holy Bible. He often pondered writing a novel. Whenever the writing muse was upon him, he pasted a communion wafer to his forehead as a sign that he was not to be disturbed or interrupted for anything short of the Second Coming.
His colorful attire, Hamlet, and Baskerville had gained the Rev. Mr. Davidson easy access to the town’s vacant pulpit, though those in attendance sometimes seemed to be more audience than congregation. Older women flocked to him, especially spinsters, and he handpicked a select few to be the Hallelujah Aunts. The Aunts took turns inviting the Rev. Mr. Davidson for Sunday dinner. They sat in a block in the middle of the congregation, punctuating the Rev. Mr. Davidson’s sermons—against the evils of protein, lust, and sitting—with “hallelujah” and “amen.”
His special mission was saving young girls, especially pretty ones, with long, rambling sermons based on the more risqué passages from the Song of Solomon. It was this particular Bible study that eventually caused the church elders to hire a new minister—though the Hallelujah Aunts continued to host him for Sunday dinners.
In his middle age, with no pulpit and no income, the Rev created the Shrine of the Weeping Marilyn Monroe. It featured a life-size, white marble sculpture he called Marilyn on the Half Shell. She had been seen shedding tears, which inspired testimony of miraculous healings. Thousands of people came from hundreds of miles away, some as far as Michigan and Missouri. He lived quite well on the proceeds of shrine admissions. At this time, in deference to Marilyn’s whiteness, his preferred attire included a large, white hat and a white coat, and he was accompanied by Hamlet and Baskerville at all times. He sometimes alienated rollicking, joking visitors to the shrine by proclaiming that his hog and his dog were more reverent than most people.
One night the Rev. Mr. Davidson was instructed by God to collect, stuff, and mount two of every creature in preparation for Armageddon. He found antique specimens for sale, liberated a few from museum warehouses, and bought a few new ones from local shops. But he stuffed many of them himself after taking a course in recreational taxidermy at the local community college. While most of his fellow students created jazz bands of stuffed frogs or families of hamsters at dinner, the Rev. Mr. Davidson created couples—squirrels, box turtles, pheasants, garden snakes—anything not too big. As his couples took up more and more space in his house, basement, and outbuilding, a vast collection of discards littered his garden—including broken furniture, bicycle wheels, mildewed books, bits of scrap iron and steel, and pottery shards. God told him all would be made new after judgment day and that his couples collection would rise up and live again.
When he wasn’t building his creature collection, he worked on a special sermon, one that would bring sinners—and aren’t we all sinners?—to the light of the Almighty. This sermon lauded the power of God in the parting of the Red Sea, expounded on the Lord holding all creatures in His hand, and ended with the ascension on Judgment Day. He told the Hallelujah Aunts about his sermon and said that on the day of that great sermon, there would be no charge for visiting the Shrine of the Weeping Marilyn Monroe.
At noon one fine August day, the sea beating against the cliffs behind him, the Rev. Mr. Davidson took his place in the gaping mouth of a stuffed white sperm whale, more that sixty feet long. Everyone marveled at the Rev’s taxidermic artistry to have preserved the beast so beautifully—though no one could fathom how that whale came to be on the cliff rather than on the beach below.
The crowd was enormous, having grown all morning, his former congregation augmented, perhaps, by those who just came to see the Weeping Marilyn Monroe for free. But during the Rev’s sermon, as the Hallelujah Aunts chanted and swayed, the spirit fell upon them all, and the masses collapsed into a trance.
Now the action becomes a little unclear.
During the previous weeks some of his neighbors had objected strongly to the detritus piling up in the Rev. Mr. Davidson’s yard. They sought to bring him into line under the auspices of the anti-littering statutes. During the afternoon of the day of his sermon, the police raided his home in response to those complaints. They found the Rev in his living room amid pairs of stuffed dogs and hogs. They also found a warren of concrete bunkers crammed with thousands of stuffed animals, from giraffes to voles. They found eggshells of all sorts, bones, and insects preserved in formaldehyde. Before any evidence could be bagged, the specimens melted away.
The sergeant grabbed the Rev. Mr. Davidson by the arm, demanding an explanation, but could not hold him. He called for backup.
The first officers on the scene claimed that they saw the Rev. Mr. Davidson, wrapped in a Technicolor raincoat, sitting on a golden throne, a crown of golden thorns on his head. His throne sat on the back of an enormous stuffed white dog, which stood on a stuffed white hog, which lay on the white stuffed whale at the edge of the cliff. As the officers watched, the whale dove into the sea, taking the Rev. Mr. Davidson with him. Just as the whale dove, the Rev. Mr. Davidson shouted, “We are risen!”
Really, I’m surprised you never heard of him.
Vivian Lawry is Appalachian by birth, a psychologist by profession, and a writer by passion. She has ties to Eastern Kentucky, Central Ohio, and the Northcountry of upstate New York. She now lives and writes near Richmond, Virginia. Follow her on FaceBook, and visit her website at vivianlawry.com, where you can read more short stories and sample chapters of her books.
Image Source: Richard Sagredo/Unsplash