Cocksure on the Fifth Day by Patrick Henry Reardon

Cocksure on the Fifth Day

So far, so good, I suppose. At least that's what the Landlord said.

It is dark now; the sun went to bed a few hours ago. Then the stars showed themselves, and they are quite wonderful and . . . well, fresh. I hope to spend much of the night just looking at them.

You know, this really is the life, and I count it my good fortune to be here. I think this is what I was made for. Especially the quiet of the night. The Landlord, when he instructed me earlier today, said that "nightwatchman" might best describe my work.

During the daytime it is different. According to the Landlord's instruction, I am charged merely to parade up and down and pretend to be an officious butler of sorts; "just walk around," he said, "and look important. For now, you're in charge. From time to time, assert yourself. Keep in mind that you always speak for me."

In fact, he insisted, my walk itself should be a sort of strut, with my neck straight, crown up high, and my chest out. When nobody was watching, however, l mainly spent the day admiring the flowers that arrived earlier in the week. Anyway, such was my first day at work, and things went pretty well.

There is one other point, nonetheless, I should mention, something I am reluctant to share with the Landlord. It is this: I appear to be the only one around here with any idea of what's going on. The rest of the newcomers seem to imagine this is some kind of summer camp. More than half of them spent the whole day swimming. Quite a number of them seem completely fascinated with the trees. Others flitted off in all directions. Fun and games, fun and games, all day long, fun and games; nobody's serious.

I am—let's be frank—the only one here with the slightest sense of responsibility, the only one in the whole place who actually stands on his own two feet. The general flippancy around here doesn't seem to bother the Landlord, but I'm sure not thrilled about it.

But enough of that for now. It's nighttime, and there isn't much happening. Most everybody seems to be asleep. "Just stand there," the Landlord told me at sunset, "and keep watch through the night." So I am alone with my thoughts.

These thoughts are mainly about the other things the Landlord told me. He let me in on a secret: He has this new fellow arriving tomorrow afternoon, somebody who can put the place into shape. He, too, I understand, will be a biped. We should get along fine.

High hopes the Landlord has for the new man, but he is a bit unsure, I think. He asked me to keep an eye out for the fellow, just in case things go wrong, or he starts to get off track. If I see or hear anything amiss, the Landlord said, I am to give the man a stern warning . . . or two . . .

Whew! I wonder if I dozed off. I must have. It was like a dream or whatever. Very disturbing, and dark. It was like nighttime after another fifth day. Really weird, if you want to know the truth. Some people sitting around a fire, it seemed, and I was very upset about something. I must not doze off like that again.

Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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