top of page
  • Writer's pictureRobert John Andrews

Short Stories: "The Vanishing"

The Vanishing

He had fallen asleep watching television when it happened. Falling asleep watching television wasn’t unusual for him, even when watching a favorite holiday classic. He’d settle into his recliner, a drink on the coaster. Soon enough he’d be snoozing. Sometimes he’d wake before the credits. Sometimes.

This time he wasn’t sure if he had fully awakened. Was this some kind of dream? Or a dream within a dream? Late night TV had become morning and he was taking a walk around the block. Newspapers still lay on the front steps of his neighbors’ homes. The morning light cast odd shadows. A cloud obscured the sun and he suddenly shivered, feeling alone. What difference did his senses sense? Forget the six senses. There is a seventh, called balance. His seventh sense tingled the loudest alarm. He felt out of balance. Then he saw why. Actually, it was what he didn’t see, this perverse unwelcomed rapture.

If his neighbors had known it had once been there, they would have noticed its vanishing. But then those who might have been there to notice the vanishing, they too wouldn’t have been there, they too would have vanished. With the vanishing, all the contributions vanished too.

None noticed, except for him. This man alone. The others passing around him downtown never knew what they had lost. He could. He did. Why him? It’s not as if church interested him that much. Why him? His attitude was hardly unique. Quite common, actually. Most of his friends, like him, felt it fine if others thought church important. He wasn’t hostile, just indifferent. He wasn’t opposed to their choices, it just wasn’t for him. So why him?

Each time the man blinked, another church disappeared, along with all its influence throughout the years since the church’s founding. The algorithm of falling dominoes. Blink. No more stone church up the street. It never had been. A church denied even the mystique of obscurity. Blink. No more upper room sanctuary at the cemetery crossroad. It never had been. Blink. No bell tolling from the bell tower. It never had been. Blink. No small chapel filled with song. It never had been. Blink.

He walked the buckling sidewalk another block, kicking a stone into the gutter.

He was the only man left in town who remembered there once was a church in this spot. He alone sees what now is, now that what was is gone. All has changed. The landscape isn’t the same. Nor is the neighborhood. Nor the town. The folks he sees are different from the ones he knew. He reaches out to grab hold of an iron handrail only to grasp air and stumble.

All those baptized there had never been baptized.

All those married there had never been married.

Funerals there were never held, burials bereft of Scripture, loved ones denied even a whisper of requiescat in pace.

All those who were found by Jesus there, were never found, never comforted, never called to something deeper, never forgiven, never converted, never welcomed. Sins were never exposed to be redeemed.

He reaches out again but fingers find nothing there to hold onto. All those variegated, incarnated acts of the gospel – comfort and support amidst of tragedies, unconditional love and sacrifice for others, helping strangers obtain their own homes, the first school to help children learn to read, a Sabbath to think and talk and listen to people, meals for the needy, finger blood stains on the lady’s quilts, meals for struggling new parents, ice cream socials, outside ashtrays surrounded by recovering men, arguments over the color of the rugs, the challenge of learning to love the unlikeable, children and youths realizing here’s someone they can trust, visits at hospitals, a quiet sanctuary, the formation of the town’s hospital itself, leadership of the community’s social and moral fabric, orphanages, abolitionists brave enough to preach, advocates of civil rights, women ordained as elders, concerts, children pageants and nativity plays with Joseph in bathrobe tussling with Mary, squeaky solos from beautifully shy souls, the comfort of prayer, salted-tears in quiet pews, tasked to decide who is his neighbor, pot-luck suppers and fellowship, Red Cross blood-drives, countless election polls, thirsty clods quenched alive and appreciative, an awe at beholding the mystery of life itself -- never took place.

The man blinked and the last church in town disappeared. Surprising himself, he wished he could blink and vanish too, for now he did not wish to live in this world that is.

162 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page