Fiction

Wilting Watchtower

By: Sterling Warner

Now I’ve always been a modern man—a reasonable man—a person thoroughly grounded in my love of philosophy and college studies. I’d studied the history of religions, the advance of global civilizations, and the fine arts everywhere. In fact, my humble home seemed like a modern Alexandrian library!

Books filled every shelf in my small cottage from the Tao The Ching by Lao-tzu to Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche; Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to The Brothers Karamazov byFyodor Dostoyevsky; The Complete Works of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare to The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliff; Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx to The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir; Silent Spring by Rachel Carson to Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre—just to name a few.
One day in July, the thermometer hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit. To make matters worse, San Jose already had been in the middle of a draught, and victims of dehydration—especially people over fifty—continued to fill hospital emergency rooms in record numbers. Feeling a bit desiccated myself, I filled my bathtub with moderately cool water, stepped inside, and enjoyed a good, long soak.

Certainly, I’m not the only inspired person who sings in a bathtub when nobody else’s around—though I admit, many prefer the rhythmic backup afforded by a shower. Regardless, there I was, grooving in my bathtub, submerging most of my head in refreshing water, singing “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen when I heard someone loudly knocking at the front door. Shit! So much for a few private moments rejuvenating my parched body and soul.

Anatomically, though, I’d cooled down considerably since entering the tub, but the moment I stepped out of it, a blast of fiery air rivaling Dante’s Inferno hit me. “Damnit. Hold your horses; I’m coming,” I yelled at the person who would not stop assailing my doorbell. Wrapping a towel around my waist, I solemnly walked through the living room and opened the door.

Did I mention the temperature read 105 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade? Before me, in the blazing sun, stood two women in corduroy dresses with sleeves that practically came down to their elbows. Additionally, each woman proudly pushed a stroller containing a child wrapped for winter weather in front of them. Beads of sweat dripped off the sun worshipping brows of the women on a mission, while their poor children appeared to be entirely unconscious.

“Yes…what do you want,” I asked without the slightest attempt to hide my irritation.

“Have you heard the good word?” one of them asked.

“Words, words, words. I’m all about words, lady.” Throwing open my door, I pointed to all the books sitting on my shelf.

“I see you have a Bible—well, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and carry god’s true messages—only hinted at in the Bible. May we come in?”

I looked at the children who were baking in their strollers and then at the women eager to advance their ministry through my door. “Sure, come on in,” I said invitingly, as I pulled the towel from around my waste and began to dry my hair.

“Oh my god!” they cried in unison as they inspected every inch of my naked body. “Here,” one person said, as she quickly placed The Watchtower in front of her face with one hand, and then passed me a copy with the other arm .

“Thanks,” I replied and began to fan my nude torso with the magazine. Then the second woman stepped forward averting her eyes for the most part—but looking long enough so she could boast about particulars in her triumphant battle against temptation.

“Please read Awake!, the companion magazine for The Watchtower,” she added, smiled, turned around her child’s stroller, and headed down the driveway. When they both got to the public side walk, they stopped, looked back at me still standing in nature’s glory at my doorstep, made some notes in a booklet, and hurried down the street.

Sometimes, I wonder if the two children ever enjoyed a slice of shade that afternoon or a cool bath of their own, later?

5-20-19

Categories: Fiction

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