Really weird dreams.
Ever since Sunday, Meningsbee had been plagued by bizarre nighttime visions, each one nearly sensible and then suddenly making a left turn into Wackyville.
In one of these nightmares, he saw young Hapsy, trapped in a glass ball, rolling down the hill toward six-foot-tall bugs with hammers in their claws.
In another one, he dreamed that Patrick Swanson was water skiing on the Sea of Galilee, throwing fish at nearby peasants.
He also had one with Sammy Collins passing out candy bars shaped like Jesus for what he assumed was communion.
But the strangest one of all was seeing himself crawling on the dirty floors of the big city mall searching for pennies, which he then gingerly picked up and ran over and dropped into the tin cup of a blind man who greatly resembled Stevie Wonder.
Meningsbee recognized the problem. It had happened to him many times. Surrounded by people in need, he began to absorb their pain, feeling it was christ-like to express compassion. He was not only losing sleep, but also the hope and optimism necessary to share the power of faith with the living souls around him.
Opening up the Good Book, he happened upon the story of Jesus casting the demons out of a man who claimed the name “Legion.” On this particular reading, his focus was riveted on the closing exchange between Jesus and the man. The one who was once named Legion begged Jesus for permission to come along on the journey.
Meningsbee understood. You couldn’t blame him. The most exciting thing that had ever happened to this exorcised soul had come, and was now about to be gone. All he had left around him were people who thought of him as a crazy man, who certainly would not be quick to forget his gruntings, growlings and groanings.
The logical thing was to go with Jesus. Sit by the fire. Remember the miracle and attempt to resume his life in the midst of his benefactor.
But Jesus said no.
That’s right–Jesus turned him down. Jesus told him to go back to his own people and friends and tell them what good things God had done for him.
A noble answer for a noble cause. But there was something Jesus didn’t share–if you’re going to help people and continue to be a touchstone of gentle comfort to the world around you, learn how to be tied in without being tied up.
Truth was, Meningsbee knew he could spend his whole life just working with Hapsy, Matrisse and Kitty. He could cordon off the next six months to try to make peace with Sammy Collins and Patrick Swanson.
Yes, he could pick up pennies and try to enrich the prospects of the blind beggars around him, or he could take a tip from Jesus and be tied in but not tied up–allow himself to be human with the people but not swallow all their fears.
There is a point when a teacher needs to assume that the lesson has been taught, and open the door to new students.
Otherwise, he is no longer a teacher.
He is merely a caretaker for a handful of misfits he refuses to let graduate.