The 2nd Plague


Yesterday was a day to forget. You’ve had them. We all have them. It was the kind of day, that, when you finally lay your head down on the pillow, the best thing you can say about the day is:  it is finished.

So that’s what I was thinking, as I climbed the ladder into my beloved loft bed, and crawled across the cool sheets, and arranged the second pillow so that it overlapped the first by two-thirds, and wriggled down under the world’s softest yellow blanket. Positioned just so and prepared for a deep and rejuvenating rest, I closed my eyes and prayed a portion of a psalm …
Weeping may linger for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30 NRSV)

Eugene Peterson, primary author of The Message, says it this way:
The nights of crying your eyes out
    give way to days of laughter. (The Message)

…a version I like, although laughter after a night of crying your eyes out seems a bit ambitious.

I might’ve shed a few tears as I drifted into the bliss that is sleep when you just need to let go, except for the sound. At that very moment,  I heard a very distinct rattling and “scrtch, crtsh, skitczh” and from the corner of my eye I saw the vertical blinds about two feet from my head, distinctly move as if they were being climbed, like a rope.

The Frog was at least as big as my hand, with my fingers outstretched. From the alarmingly close proximity of his bumpy ass to my left cheekbone, he seemed as big as a catcher’s mitt.  I did not wait for him to speak.

I camouflaged myself in the white sheet, and army-crawled under the world’s softest yellow blanket, arriving at the top of the ladder in record time, descended the rungs so deftly and quietly that the frog could not even perceive my exit until the front door was locked behind me, my phone and wallet were clenched in my hand, and I was descending the stairs to my car.

Once inside the car, with several locked doors between me and the reptile, I wondered, “Now. Where shall I sleep?”

*****

Hers is the kindest, most genteel southern voice you have ever heard. When she speaks, the only thing you can think to say when she is done is: please keep talking. Her gracious hospitality and care for those in times of trial is legendary. Her storytelling a skill her grandchildren brag about. Her wit, a blend of pure and racy that make it memorable.

She is on a short list of folks I would call in the middle of the night if I needed help because I know she wouldn’t mind. Yet when she answered the phone at 12:45, and I softly said that I needed a couch just for one night, her lyrical voice gave me pause: “Pastor? I am asleep.”

My stuttered plea turned to a giggle as I tried to explain–which woke her up. Part-way through the description of my predicament, she interrupted me kindly to say, “well c’mon then.”

It was a short drive. Of course she had the light on for me. When I told her the frog had been the size of my head, she visibly shuddered. She took me to her spare room, saying, “I’ve already turned down the bed, and here are your towels. I know you think they are too pretty to use. They are to be used.”

My cup overflowed with relief.

I said, “Thank you so much, Nell. I’m so sorry. I know it’s late.”

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Nell Holmes Mussler

She replied, “It IS late. And… I’m so glad you called me. Good night, Pastor.”

In the morning, she urged me to stay so we could visit over breakfast, but I explained I had a breakfast meeting beginning soon. And that was probably a good thing because–had I not had a reason to leave–I might still be there now …  listening to her voice.

At my car, she assured me again that it really was okay that I had come over, even that late. “After all,” she said, “we simply don’t sleep with frogs.”

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