Episode 2 – A Church By The Brook
But yet I do remember well the point where my journey began. I and two of my school friends met in open quarters near the old church brook which was nestled on the outskirts of Mandolin. The old church sat bleakly on its bank with a steeple seemingly at the foot of Heaven; reaching out to the clear stars about our heads as we spoke.
It was a simple structure, this church, with one room for services and prayer, and with a small basement where most Sunday school classes were being held. The master frame was much like an oven during summer worship services; blistering our souls when the minister got hot-on-heavy with his sermon; and the temperature did also. It was white painted, simple-square and parched from the summer sting of heat. The stairs were cracked and chipped and in need of dire repair. One door stood in front and another to the basement level on one side. Large oaks nestled at each side of it. One with a branch so peculiarly bent that I often thought it was making some obscure gesture to shelter the church, especially when the minister was on such a tirade binge. Sometimes the air bore down on us with such a stuffy fume that this peculiar tree seemed interested in giving us whatever refuge that was necessary.
On this night however, the moon remained high and bold with light, peaking through one of the oak counterparts with its single, yet white-like reflection. We sat assembled near a mobile campsite by a fire that would glow almost to its peek, in-between the church and the brook just below.
The purpose for our meeting does not leave me so conveniently. There was but one reason for our trio gathering; to become men; to enter the age of manhood. Like children exploring a new world; we were there, tempting fate, humanity, and all the revels of posterity that we could muster. We had a task, a point of determination that would prove beyond all doubt we were true men. It would be a joint venture requiring skill and dexterity, which brought utter fear to the most courageous; to cross into the Randola River and enter Sebastian's Island.
We all three had pre-arranged to meet at the dimmest hour of that particular Sunday night, absent any parental permission to do so of course. Once all else had fallen quiet within our homes each of us snuck out from the comforts of our rooms; undetected and into the stronghold of that night. I, by my own demise, jumped from my second-story window as if I had the clumsy fortitude of a blind and babbling-drunk robber. Even with all the episodes and traditions of knowing my own estate and home by heart, to the very point of knowing how many steps it would take to travel from 'here' to 'there' or 'there' to 'here', I could not have been less ecliptic in my approach.
I had managed to find and rediscover every element within my surroundings that would create the most profound sensation of noise. First of all, there came the latticework just outside my window; standing out like some trip-wire to alert everyone upon my whereabouts and my adventure. Then came the resounding crash of tin canisters the helpers had left out that very evening, round to the back corner of the house; a horse troth, a nice high-pitched bucket, rakes and shovels left over by the gardening worker's who were employed to do planting for my mother.
And yet, to my happy surprise, no one stirred from the commotion, or so it seemed at that moment. So I quickly made my way from the shores of my long driveway and down, nearly three miles, to where the church nestled closed to the creek, and my two friends sat impatiently waiting my arrival. We held to our prescribed allegiance; Jonathan, Thomas, and I then built that weak-ember fire right there on those grounds.
So there I sat in alliance with these two fellow conspirators to do our parent's regulations a bit of harm. Coming together as we were, plotting the sort of thing that would make us men; seeing how our adventure would take a grand measure of courage and fortitude.
There was Tommy; the self-imposed, articulate one. The young lad with a spot more intelligence than most his age, and who had a more proper stage about him. It was quite evident he would look upon himself with a sense of grandeur and pride. He was blind to that simple contradiction - that he constantly displayed a rather weak stomach when even the slightest of perils might come his way, though he might fancy himself as the bravest of souls when danger was not in the mix. I took little regard in his elevated sense of himself. But I knew I would need to be on guard about the times Tommy might feel the need to bolt on us. I had been told that many intelligent people had a deep and intimate sense of cowardliness; Tommy was no different.
There also was Jonathan; the strong, freckled, silent type who had very little by way of counterfeit heirs and false perceptions; but possessed the capability of either turning good or bad. He was far beyond his years in that he was not an impressionable boy, nor did he find amazement in much of anything. He took a liking to me, but for what reason I could not tell. He had the indigenous nature and long tradition of being a farmer; a pure breed and hard-born one for this single purpose. His life had already been settled and I am not sure he felt it to be more of a grace than a scourge. There seemed a lost, but deep sense of discouragement within his thoughts; though he was not one to regularly make pronouncements about his self-prescribed identity.
And at last there was me; of ordinary traits and ordinary abilities. I was nothing special; just a shadow boy finding his way into manhood.