Wednesday
May062015

Door to Door

Justin Bigos


 

The taxi slows, stops before the mailbox, staked to the edge of the small front yard. The driver’s door opens and a man comes around the car with something in his arms – or several things, judging by the way his arms contort to contain them. He shuffles stealthily toward the front porch, the concrete steps. Then stoops to place the objects, one by one, on the top step: a small bundle of pamphlets tied in twine, a large fruit that looks like a combination of football and cactus, a pair of calf-high boots, and a doll lying on her back in a box.

He stands, takes of his cap, wipes at his forehead, which glistens in the streetlight. On his hands many rings, one or two on each finger, even his thumbs. Big rings, with skulls and bones and the battered face of the moon, rings made from spoons and forks, their silver tines coiling around his knuckles. He puts his cap back on (the ring finger, on a second glance, is bare), takes a look at the dark house, a long look or a short look, depending on the night, then walks back to the taxi and drives away.

I watch the taillights – two insomniac eyes – disappear. I close the curtains, then the window.



There is another important difference between the hand of a man and that of an ape. About a quarter of the motor cortex in the human brain is devoted to the muscles of your hands. The human motor cortex, explains Professor Guyton’s
Textbook of Medical Physiology, “is quite different from that of the lower animals” and makes possible “an exceptional capability to use the hand, the fingers, and the thumb to perform highly dexterous manual tasks.”

In addition, neurosurgeons have discovered another region of the human brain that they call “an area for hand skills.” Skillful hands require sense receptors. These tiny nerve endings are abundant in the human hand, especially in the thumb. A doctor interviewed by Awake! said: “When people lose even a bit of sensation from the tip of their thumb, they find it difficult to position small objects like screws.” Your arms have other types of sense receptors that enable you to move your hands to the right place even in pitch-darkness. Thus, while lying in bed at night, you can scratch your nose without punching your face.

     (“The Hand: ‘The Most Elegantly Skillful Organ’” AWAKE! magazine, June 8, 1988)



In the summer of 1988, my cousin Dag and I began breaking into the house of our best friend, John. We waited until all the lights in the neighborhood were out, then put on blazers and ties, gathered a stack each of Jehovah’s Witness literature, and walked through the backyards of the connected row houses until we reached the last, dark one. The first few times, we didn’t need a screwdriver; we just lifted the already-open window until we had room enough to crawl through.

John and his mother, Margaret, had moved to the neighborhood the year before. They had come to Connecticut from somewhere south of Philadelphia. John was just a year younger than me, and just three years younger than Dag, who had already finished a year of high school. Dag, John, and I would have made an unlikely trio later in college, Dag a fantasy/sci-fi nerd who studied Nordic runes for fun, John a normal kid who loved to play Whiffle Ball and basketball and watch what he called “Skin-emax” at night and, me, well, I’m not so sure who I was, entering my last year of junior high and being compliantly groomed for an elite prep school that would take me away from my city, my friends.

At some point Margaret started dating a hairdresser who had moved to America from Iran. His name sounded something like vitamin. When Dag and I started breaking into the house, Vitamin would awake with Margaret and join John in yelling at Dag and me, but he had the softest voice on a man I’d ever heard. He would stand behind Margaret, at least twice as big as him, and tell us in his silk pajamas and black coiffed hair that we were bad boys, very bad, and we must go home. And, even though we were mesmerized by the spectacle, and the fact that John was often trying not to laugh, we slipped back out the window. I am not sure why we didn’t use the door.

The Jehovah’s Witness literature and costumes had been Dag’s idea, but it was my father who had begun leaving the pamphlets on my porch steps late at night. My father drove a cab on the midnight shift in Stratford, the next town over. He was still a few years away from becoming a drunk again, and he had gotten back into the religion he had been raised in but left as a young man. He dropped off copies of The Watchtower and AWAKE! tied together in little bundles. He also left thrift-store shoes he thought might fit me, lengths of macheted sugarcane he bought from a West Indian market, books on vitamins and the Bermuda Triangle, and dolls for my sister. I let the Jehovah’s Witness literature pile up in a corner of my room, until Dag started flipping through it all. There were some interesting claims being made, he said, most of which he could disprove through science, reason, and computer programming. I could have cared less to debunk the doomsday prophecies of what my mother had told me was a cult religion. But then Dag suggested we put on blazers and ties, and test out this Armageddon stuff on John.



About the late 18th and early 19th century, a chess-playing machine thrilled audiences everywhere by beating its human challengers, including such distinguished personalities as Maria Theresa, Edgar Allan Poe, and Napoléon Bonaparte. Finally, the machine was exposed as a fake. There was a man inside!

There is a man inside today’s chess-playing machine too; only he isn’t much better hidden. He is none other than the programmer, who is responsible for painstakingly storing in the computer all the rules of chess playing and all the directions on how to use them so that the computer can contest the grand masters all on its own.

The same is true with all the other expert systems and all the accomplishments in the field of AI. The credit must go to the scientists and engineers who design them. By the same token, to whom should we give credit for the real intelligence of the human mind? Here we must borrow the words of King David of ancient Israel when he was moved to say to the Creator, Jehovah God, in a poetic way: “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.” –Psalm 139:14.

     (“Artificial Intelligence: Is It Intelligent?” AWAKE!, July 8, 1988)



John stood about 5’6” in junior high. He had blonde, spiky hair that he’d begun to tease with hairspray after Vitamin moved in. He was lean, but not lanky. Blue-eyed and pointy-nosed, his cheeks quickly flushed and his brow quickly dampened when playing any sport. He laughed easily, got Bs at school, had a revolving handful of cute girls he wanted to make out with. John was a healthy, normal, American kid, and this – years later, I now realize – is what got under my skin.

When Dag and I slipped through the open window, John would be asleep on the couch, which was his bed, directly to our right. We were in the living room. The TV was to the left, always turned on with the sound off, on screen princesses in medieval negligee straddling smooth-chested knights with feathered hair. There was a small table with two chairs by the TV. A dresser and vanity mirror facing us from a wall, and to the right a hallway, leading to the rest of the small house.

Part of the game, of course, was to see how long it would take John to wake up. One of us would begin, usually Dag, reading from the magazines. Dag seemed to have particular themes he wanted to develop, particular points he wanted to make by reading the most laughable sections of Jehovah’s Witness thought. I just opened the pages at random: It is not unknown for “clinically dead” persons to be revived . . . Suppose, though, that all the nuclear powers actually agreed to total disarmament … There can be no question about it: Homosexual relations have greatly accelerated the spread of AIDS … For me, the words I read were some pleasingly random assortment of gibberish, the patterns asserting themselves only partway, teasing with suggestion, nuance, occasional absurdity. I was having fun with what years later I learned to call “found art.” I was cutting off one passage then starting another, dropping one AWAKE! to the floor and flipping through the next, announcing to sleeping John what would happen if he disobeyed his father or did not ease his wife’s mind by taking charge, advice he could of course sleep through at the age of twelve and his father never spoken of—but John would not sleep through the advice. John would awake, his eyes opening, moving, scanning the room, taking in the hazy sight of his two best friends in blazers and ties, once again tormenting him. Then he would jump out of bed and start screaming at us. But he would never curse. His anger was always hurled in full sentences, questions that if written down, out of context, would sound earnest, reasonable, calm. What does this friendship mean to you? What do you consider a decent hour for discussions of the afterlife? Does this make you happy? But his mother cursed the day we were born, and Vitamin, by her side, moved his lips and could barely be heard. We would leave the three of them standing there in their pajamas and sneak back toward our own house, enter through the basement door.



Many meet their mate while completing their education outside their own country and bring the mate home after marriage. Meeting the challenges of marriage takes understanding, patience, self-sacrifice, and conscious effort, even under the best of circumstances. So when the partners come from different cultures, those qualities must be developed to an even greater extent if the marriage is to last. Yet, many culturally mixed marriages are doomed from the start. Why? Let’s take a typical example:

The romantically inclined American coed finds it very easy to fall in love with Sami. He is so accommodating and treats her like a princess. No local boy has ever been so respectful. And those dark eyes—how they stir her emotions! Accepting his proposal of marriage and going to live with him in the mystic East seems very appealing.

What are the chances for such a marriage to succeed?

     (“Can the Culture Gap Be Bridged?” AWAKE!, August 22, 1988)



The mystery of John’s father’s absence was solved when one day a delivery truck showed up with several dozen cases of Coca-Cola. John’s father had been addicted to Coke. Dag and I would have laughed at such a claim, but when John said it, out loud, the cases of soda now lining his living room wall, we stayed silent. John’s mother had had to move the TV into a storage closet to make room for the soda, and so we sat there, John, Dag, and me, on the couch, staring at the wall of soda. It was like some kind of shrine, and we were in awe.

John’s father had fallen off a ladder and hit his head and died. That simple. He was repairing a light, or painting the walls, John wasn’t sure. There had been no funeral. The autopsy found nothing foul, nothing mysterious, just a man who was hopped up on his normal dose of caffeine and fell off a ladder.
           
I remember the silence the day the soda arrived, a kind of interlude that summer. Out of respect for John’s loss, Dag and I did not break into his house that night. John Sr. had emerged; in his exquisitely mundane death he loomed larger than any of our fathers. Dag did not know his own father. My father came in and out of my life via thrift store sweaters and sliced jackfruit, Armageddon chit-chat during the occasional late-night cab ride with the meter off. But now John had a wall red and white and silver, gleaming aluminum, Coca-Cola on one side of each can and Coke on the other.  

We got high. After John broke the spell, the first to leave the couch after maybe an hour or two, he plucked and popped open a can, and drank. Then he turned to us, in what was like the world’s saddest commercial, and held out his warm soda. We stood and drank, passing it around, standing in a tight circle, burping and drinking until the can was empty. Then, without John telling us, without an invitation, we each plucked our own can from the wall. We sat on the couch, drinking can after can, until we began to shake, but no one said a word.

That afternoon we made a small dent in our best friend’s inheritance. Before the end of the summer, it would all be gone.



The
British Medical Journal reports that excessive consumption of coffee or other substances with a high caffeine content increases the possibility of a heart attack by raising blood cholesterol. While modest amounts of caffeine serve as a stimulant and can enhance individual performance both physically and mentally, in larger amounts it has an adrenalinelike effect that stresses the circulatory system by stimulating the heart and dilating blood vessels. Headaches, insomnia, and anxiety may result from consumption of more than three cups of coffee daily. Boiled coffee was said to contain five times as much caffeine as coffee prepared in other ways.

     (“Watching the World: Coffee Consumption,” AWAKE! August 22, 1988)



The only story I knew of Dag’s father was that he once threw pot after pot of scalding water on Dag when Dag was an infant. Dag’s mother, Gretel, had for some reason entrusted Dag Sr., for the first time, with his son. Dag Sr. was a cocaine dealer and user. He had some kind of Aryan gang tattoo on one of his hands, long blonde hair, a silver tooth. When Dag Jr. started to cry – some normal crying when a baby’s only caretaker, its god, is suddenly absent – Dag Sr. panicked. I wonder if he tried the normal things: holding the baby, cooing to the baby, saying that things would be okay and mommy would be right back, kissing the baby’s pristine forehead. But how would such a person know these normal things, someone who then decided to strip the baby of its baby clothes and lay it face-up on a kitchen table, then boil pot after pot of water?

If that’s your one story of your dad, then maybe you look for patterns in everything, everything except humans.

After John’s father’s death, I became more deliberate in my choice of AWAKE! and Watchtower magazines to read over John as he slept; Dag, however, seemed to become more haphazard.  We began to cut each other off. Whereas before we would plan out our routines, now I would begin reciting an article on the afterlife and Dag would interrupt his plea for the homeless with an informative article on glaucoma. I would insist that animals, even the wildest animals in God’s kingdom, panthers and tiger sharks and wildebeests, would be tamed after the second coming of Christ, and Dag would talk over me, insisting that pollution was a relentless killer and that after 55 miles west from Haran, Abraham likely stopped – according to Dag’s recalculation of the Bible’s algorithms – 1.5 miles from Carchemish, along the Euphrates.

When John awoke, of course, he had no idea who was making more sense, Dag or me. He began to scream, the kind of scream that betrays not just frustration and a little anger but the deep-diaphragm frustration and anger of having to reproduce this scream over and over. A routine scream, which, in some way, had become a little frightening.
           
After Margaret and Vitamin joined in the yelling, and after Dag and I crawled back out through the window, we lifted the air conditioner from the grass, placed it back in the window, and closed the window upon it, making sure to align the window frame with the metal grooves on top of the AC. Then tapped the corners with the back of the screwdriver we’d used to pry the window open not ten minutes earlier.



Nine-year-old Christopher Heslop was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as was Matthew, his 14-year-old brother. They had spent the October morning, along with their uncle, aunt, and two cousins, calling from house to house in their Christian ministry near Manchester, England. In the afternoon, they set out together on a sight-seeing trip to Blackpool, a nearby seaside resort. All 6 were among 12 people killed instantly in a motorway crash, described by the police as “an absolute holocaust.”

The night before the tragedy, death had been the subject discussed at a neighborhood Bible study attended by the Heslop family. “Christopher,” said David, his father, “was always a very thoughtful boy. That night, he spoke clearly about a new world and his hope for the future. Then, as our discussion continued, Christopher suddenly said: ‘The thing about being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that while death hurts, we know we will see each other again on earth one day.’ Little did any of us present realize how memorable those words were going to be.”

After the accident, the headline of the
Manchester Evening News read: “I don't fear death, said crash child,” and the article quoted Christopher’s exact words. How could a child of nine speak so confidently? What had Christopher been taught to believe?

     (“I Don't Fear Death!” AWAKE!, July 8, 1988)



When I was just a couple years old my father and I were in a car accident on I-95 and I was left with a scar I still have under my hair, and he was left with two shattered knees and five broken ribs. Another time, he intentionally crashed his car in front of my mother’s in some insane attempt to convince her not to leave him. He drove a taxi after my mother left him for good, and eventually he ended up living in a car, which he painted a checkered yellow to look like a taxi, for almost ten years.

When he dropped off the AWAKE! magazines and random gifts, I was usually asleep, but at least a couple times I saw him through my bedroom window. It was strange to see him walking, upright, coming toward me in the darkness. But then he’d slip back into the idling cab, and I’d watch the red taillights disappear at the end of the street.

I could still remember being snuck into the Kingdom Hall. This is where the Jehovah’s Witnesses worship: perhaps not as unadorned as a 17th-century Protestant church in Connecticut, their places of worship are still intentionally plain, anodyne, like a large dentist’s lobby but with different music and magazines. My mother had forbidden my father to take me to this place, which she blamed for my father losing half his mind. When my father’s father died, my father had been circled by his relatives and told the reason my grandfather Joe died was because my father had left the faith – or, “the truth,” as they called it. Turning your back on the truth was worse than never having believed at all. And my father believed this crap, she said, that he had caused his father’s death. She realized this the first time he tied her to a chair and read aloud excerpts from the Old Testament.

The Kingdom Hall was also a kind of theater, it had seemed to me. There was certainly preaching, from a podium, front and center, sometimes a little singing, some acoustic guitar, but what in a church would normally be called the altar here seemed more like a stage. Most of what I remembered was how the congregants would take turns acting out various scenarios of proselytizing door to door. Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite aware of the jokes people tell about them, and they are willing to beat you to the punch, as it were. One couple on stage might sit at a makeshift kitchen table, reading their newspapers, and there would be a knock at the invisible door.

“Who could that be?” the cardiganed husband might say.

The wife would open the invisible door (or peer through the curtains first, or crack open the door on its chain, depending on the neighborhood they were in).

“Do you have a minute to talk about the Good News?” a young man in suit and tie would say from the doorway, copies of The Watchtower in his hand, the Bible in his armpit, Brother Mike or Abe, Sister Iris or Susan, beside him.

Depending on the answer, the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door would choose their reply. Then, according to the next answer, or question, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would choose the next reply. And so on. The congregants witnessing the stage rehearsal for this most serious play would nod their heads, issue vibratory hums of satisfaction, occasionally chuckle at a botched line. There was a script, to be sure. A metric, even. The game of chess anyone plays with a Jehovah’s Witness at the door of their home, or apartment, or trailer, or hovel in the middle of China, will most certainly lose. The only way to win is to slam the door in their faces, so that they will leave, failed in one sense, but victorious in the fact they have offered you a chance to experience everlasting life on earth. Whether you say yes or no, your name has been checked off.

One night my father cried because I told him I did not believe in God. We sat in the driveway of my house, the taxi idling. We had driven all the way to Stratford, to Milford, to West Haven, along the thousands of cattails swaying in the marsh, the briny smell of Long Island Sound in the air, then back through the mostly deserted city streets of Bridgeport, and I had listened to my father proselytize as if I were some stranger in a doorway. By the time we got back to my house, I knew the question was coming. What my father did not know is that I had been listening to Dag, all summer, present and rebut various Jehovah’s Witness arguments. Dag had never stepped foot in a Kingdom Hall, but he had the pamphlets, left on our doorstep by my father. What Dag didn’t know is that I half-paid attention to his diligent yet obnoxious deconstruction of Jehovah’s Witness logic. I could have cared less if a religion made sense; even at that age, a year away from prep school, when I would study the Bible with the Jesuits, I knew religion was not supposed to make logical, mathematical sense. God was not a computer programmer. More important, I did not believe in Him. I did not feel Him in my heart.

When I said so to my father, he cried. He begged. “Just say you believe in Jehovah,” he said. “Say it, or we’ll sit here all night.” I felt both frustration and a very distant kind of love for the man sitting beside me. I had heard the stories. I knew he had been tormented back into this doomsday faith. And yet I sat there. I sat there, after my first denunciation of God, and said nothing. I’m not sure for how long. But, in the end, I did not slam the door in his face. I simply got out of the cab, and I thanked him for the ride. And I closed the door as gently as a fatherless boy can.



Feminists say that to be truly free a woman must have complete control over her own body, including the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This desire for “reproductive equality” with men has contributed to the growing number of abortions—an estimated 55 million worldwide each year.

Even the Bible has not escaped the feminists’ wrath. “Trust in God. She will provide,” say the feminists, deriding the Bible as sexist in its depiction of a “male” God. “Some [feminists] … accuse the Bible of still being the most powerful weapon to keep women in ‘their place’ and would question whether anything so used can be the word of God,” reported The United Church Observer of Canada. Some churches have bowed to pressure from feminist members to adopt “inclusive” language in their worship, replacing male terms for God with names such as sustainer and Nurturer.

     (“The Women’s Movement: What Has Happened to It?” AWAKE!, July 22, 1988)



The summer ended, it seemed, when one day Margaret marched from her door to ours, asked for our mother (not realizing Dag was my cousin, not my brother), and told her about the late-night break-ins. John wasn’t by her side; neither was Vitamin. She stood there in her nursing scrubs and demanded an end to this “sick game,” as she called it. She said John, who normally slept so well, had turned into an insomniac. She said she had hoped “his only two friends in the world” would eventually come around and treat him as real friends should. She told my mother the police would discipline her boys if she would not. Then she left.

I had never been grounded before. But all it meant was that Dag and I couldn’t leave the house, the backyard. So we bunkered in the basement, which was where Dag’s bedroom was. When Dag had moved in, there was nowhere to put him in the house, so my stepfather had worked on the basement enough to make it inhabitable. There was still some exposed wiring in the ceiling, some white paint splotches on exposed sheetrock, and the bathroom had no door, but otherwise it was fine. Dag seemed to thrive in the unfinished dankness of the place. He set up his TRS-80, that prehistoric monster of a computer, and hacked away at the wilderness of his mind.

I would just lounge around, lie on my back on the couch, spiraling a football toward the ceiling, seeing how close I could come without hitting it. If I hit it, I would wait for yelling above me, but no one ever yelled. We seemed to have been banished from the world above us. And I would wonder what John was doing, as I lazily curled some dumbbells or flipped through a book on Vikings. Was he still nervous we might slip out of the basement and break into his house? Was he nervous at all? Did he maybe miss us, standing over him and explaining that most Christians’ belief in Hell is an error, a mistranslation of Gehenna, which was actually, historically, a refuse dump outside of ancient Jerusalem, a burning burial ground for criminals and the homeless, a pit where women, alone, went to rid themselves of the tiny, beating, and nameless hearts in their wombs?



But what about the warlike nature of man himself? Under God’s heavenly government, earth’s inhabitants “will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) Three million people today already live by this Bible text. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

These Witnesses live in over 200 lands and come from many ethnic groups. Before becoming true Christians, some of them were warlike, perhaps even vicious. But as a result of taking in knowledge of God, they now refuse to take up arms against one another or anyone else. Their neutrality in the face of political conflicts is a matter of historical record. The peaceful stand Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken internationally testifies to the fact that a world free of war and nuclear weapons is possible.

Millions of people living today were born in the nuclear age and expect to die in it—if they do not die because of it. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not share that gloomy outlook. Their trust is put squarely in the Kingdom and in their God, Jehovah, with whom “no declaration will be an impossibility.” –Luke 1:37.

     (“An End to Nuclear Weapons: How?” AWAKE!, August 22, 1988)



I have never seen Jehovah’s Witnesses, when they go door to door, walk down basement stairs and knock. But I’m sure they must. Especially in New England and the Midwest, or Haiti, or Brooklyn, New York, places where people go into seasonal hiding from hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, or had once built bomb shelters during the Cold War. But not all basements have stairs outside; some just have a door, more like a lid, you have to stoop over to knock, to open. And what I have been calling the basement of my home was really the first floor. Maybe because it had been unfinished for so long, or because no one had lived in it for years, we called it the basement. Even after Dag moved in.

It was this basement door, one night when Dag and I were avoiding sleep, before I’d have to finally walk outside, since there were no stairs inside the house, and walk up the stairs on the side of the house to the second floor – it was the basement door that someone knocked on.

It was John. In a suit and tie, or, on second glance under the light I’d flicked on, in shorts and a blazer and tie, like some colonial British schoolboy, his head swarming with gnats. In this moment, I realized he was not normal – not normal at all.

“Knock, knock,” he said, smiling. He held out an issue of The Watchtower.

Behind me, then pushing in front of me, Dag said, “That’s not what they say.”

“Okay,” said John, looking up at the night sky. “Well, have you heard the good news?” he said. “After you die—”

Dag grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. “Get in here before we all get in trouble.”

John was laughing. “Can’t take it, huh? You can break in and wake me up, and make my mom and her boyfriend get hardly any sleep” – now he was getting flustered – “but you fucking dummies, you can’t take it, can you?”

We all sat on the couch. We hadn’t seen John in almost two weeks, which was only half the length of Dag’s and my grounding. He looked the same, except for the outfit. But he was different. He felt different next to us.

“We’re moving back to Philly,” he said. “The Poconos, actually.”

“The Poconos?” I said. “Isn’t that a mountain? Who lives on a mountain?”

“Peruvians,” said Dag. “People in Colorado. People in Appalachia …”

“Okay, fine,” I said. “But why?”

“Mom wants to move. She doesn’t like Connecticut.”

“What about Vitamin?” said Dag.

“It’s not Vitamin,” said John. “He’s coming with us. He can be a hairdresser anywhere.” 

We sat in silence.

“We leave in a few days,” said John.

And that was the real end of summer, that moment.

Nevertheless, Dag went into his closet and dresser and brought out a couple blazers and ties. He handed me the slightly smaller jacket, and I put it on. We tied our ties, Oxford style.

And that night the three of us, in shorts and sneakers from the waist down, and dressed like Jehovah’s Witnesses from the waist up, walked around our neighborhood, going door to door, but never knocking. We’d stand there, under porch lights or in pitch dark, and we would pretend to knock, even reaching out a fist and knocking on the air right against the surface of the door, then we would pretend someone answered.

“Evening,” John would say. “Have you heard the Good News?”

Then, depending on what the person would say, Dag would offer a retort, or corroboration, a question for further thought. And I would chime in, offering real-word statistics of deaths caused by natural disaster, warfare, homicide, infanticide, fratricide.

“Yes, it is late. But, consider the example of Jesus Christ. Here was a teacher and public figure who exposed himself daily to crowds of people.”

“Oh, we would agree, most certainly. But, the King David translation, though not entirely off base, is maybe 81 percent the true word of Jehovah God.”

“Yes. However, the Catholic Trinity, with all due respect, is a leftover of Irish pagan mythology, and the Virgin Mary, as you know, should not be prayed to directly.”

“Indeed, we are sinners. This is no judgment that human scientists can reverse. But Jehovah God, the Maker of the human body, knows how to do it. Would you allow us inside your home, so that we might discuss how you can live forever in paradise on Earth?”

The looks on their faces, standing there invisibly, filled us each, the three of us, with some sense of brotherly accomplishment. We must have canvased a dozen houses that night.

Game had become mission, the absurd become purpose, and at least on this one night, whether we uttered direct transcription off the page, or sections of the pamphlets we had unintentionally memorized, or improvised with half-truth and conjecture, we did believe someone was listening. Not the sleeping people on the other side of the door, but each other. I remember how intently we listened to each other’s voices in the night. I remember that this was the only way we knew how to try to save each other.

And the coolness in the air, already. I remember the brisk whiff of it.

Summers in New England always end with a sudden morning chill. John was gone by the first day of school. Leaving Dag and me alone or, rather, to finally face each other. Taking all the undeserved and irretrievable forgiveness he had bestowed upon us, all his summertime, to some unimaginable mountain.



Against the clear, blue autumn sky, the mountainsides are ablaze with brilliant colors—red, violet, gold, yellow, orange, and brown. Indeed, the spectacular annual display of fall foliage in areas like the northeastern United States and eastern Canada is a masterpiece of the first rank.

What makes the leaves take on so many colors? Although some key factors still remain a mystery, scientists do know that the process is not so much a change as it is a disappearing act.

     (“Autumn Leaves: Why So Beautiful?” AWAKE!, October 8, 1988)