Edgar came over and told me he was a “man of the cloth,” and I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I guess I had heard the phrase used to describe clerics of one sort or another – priests, rabbis, pastors, imams, and the like. Edgar sure as hell wasn’t one of those, so he had me wondering when he said “man of the cloth.”
Edgar sold hope from a old, beat-up Volkswagen bus, but business was slow and he pretty much had to rely on the charity of those more fortunate. He talked about driving off to some place where the market would be better, but he never got around to it. He would ply his wares and talk a good game, but never really do what he hoped to do. We all deal with a little bit of that in our own lives, I suppose – even those who are real successful, they sometimes never get around to some of the things they want to do. Go ahead, just try to tell me you don’t know what I’m saying. You know damned well what I’m talking about.
“I’m a man of the cloth,” he told me on that evil, wet Thursday morning. He grabbed me by the collar of my jacket and shook me. He looked me in the eyes. His were all bloodshot and looked like they were covered over with an unhealthy layer of pus or slime or something. He looked ill. But sure as can be, he shook me and told me “I’m a man of the cloth.”
Now, I wasn’t too sure how to respond, so I just looked at him and said “that’s great, Edgar.” He giggled when he heard that, and I heard him make a little noise in his trousers. Sometimes he would get like that when he was excited.
I think he was mistaken. He wasn’t really a man of the cloth, and I think he was just using that term loosely. He would stand before God, sure, just like the rest of us, and he would intercede on mankind’s behalf. He never knew how to keep quiet, though, like I always suspected a real man of the cloth would. I never met a real, honest-to-goodness man of the cloth, but if I did, I was sure that he would be quiet. Not mousey; just quiet. I was sure that he would keep kind of still and silent and wait upon that all-holy voice of the Almighty to rumble through the skies and through his heart. I wouldn’t expect him to just go shooting his mouth off all the time and going about the business of always telling you what he thinks about every damned thing that pops into his mind. Every damned thing.
At least, that’s what I guessed a man of the cloth might be like, and Edgar wasn’t that. You know the type?
So when we found Edgar hanging by his neck off the Government Bridge, I finally got the idea. There he was on another evil Thursday morning that wasn’t nearly as wet, but every bit as evil, I suppose. His face was all blue, and his eyes were all kind of buggedy-outty. He was hanging so gently, so quietly, with the toes of his shoes just barely getting wet in the river. It was a sheet he was hanging by, it appeared. A long, white bed sheet. Real soft-looking.
A man of the cloth, after all.