He would look straight ahead, and in his West Virginian hillbilly twang, he would spit out a chapter and verse — then immediately cover his eyes with his hands. His hair and his finger nails were long like holy men of olden days.
People mocked him, laughed at him and ignored him. But after a time I came to believe he was indeed a prophet who was warning the rest of us about the impending wrath of the Almighty that would surely come on such a sinful and idolatrous people, of which I was one.
Weakness of Flesh
Knowing the weakness of flesh, I believe this street prophet wisely covered his eyes before and after his warnings because he did not wish to be tempted — and he could no longer bear to see so much evil. Sometimes he would rest for a few minutes and eat a piece of a sandwich or hot dog that had been discarded by one of his wayward fellow human beings. Sometimes boys playing hooky from school would throw rocks at him, laughing wildly when they scored a hit on this holy man in the middle of an urban wilderness. He would try and ignore them, and never responded with anger, only pausing when one of the small stones drew blood, or broke his holy concentration.
“Repent!” he would shout in his fading tremolo voice. “Turn away from your sinful ways, judgement day is at hand.”
He would then go behind the park bench where he lived and take a nap on a piece of a cardboard box he had gotten from an alley across from the courthouse.
Set Upon In The Middle of the Night
Then one day, he no longer showed up on the street corner. A few days later, I read he had died alone one night in a dark, cold alley. His pockets had been cut out of his pants; his worn out shoes taken from his feet. The young beat cop told a newspaper reporter that he had no identification on him except his worn out Bible. The reporter wrote a story about the man because people who worked downtown wondered where he had gone. Even though they mostly ignored him, there was something about him that was comforting in a strange kind of way.
The cop told the reporter that the man was known as “the street prophet of Baltimore.”
© 2018 Chet Dembeck
Categories: Flash Fiction