Once, years ago, I was an usher in a neighbourhood church. At a vigil, one night, a pastor walked up to me. “ ’papi, I can smell alcohol, someone’s drunk here”. Sharp nose, I thought, because there were at least a hundred people, but ’papi investigated.
I walked down the aisles, looking for misbehaviour, trying to catch a scent. I’m like a bloodhound in these matters, picked a keen sense of smell from the mater, which can be problematic when you’re with people who do not agree with the finer points of hygiene. The few times I’ve been ill, every smell is amplified, even scented soaps are horrible to inhale.
Back to my sipping saint… So I walked down the aisles, wondering, and like all human beings, trying to use physical appearances to pick a wrong-doer. I saw a man, small and wizened who looked to me like what a drunkard should, sat next to him and waited for the waft of barley to hit me…but nothing. He just sat, unmoving, looking at proceedings like an inspector. After a while, I moved on, puzzled, and then returned to my seat on the front row.
It was time to praise God and the songs began to roll, typical Pentecostal, “throw your cares to the wind” style. Then I noticed him. Moses. A short fair slim young man in his early twenties who stayed around the area and lent a hand at church events. Every time a new song was raised, he’d clamber past two rows of seats and their occupants, yelling his approval, “yayyyyyyyy!”, and then commence dancing a furious jig right in front of the pulpit. In "spiritual" places, exuberance like this is common place and can blend with other innocent expressions of joy, but there was something here, slightly out of place. At the end of each song, he’d return to his seat and then start the entire proceedings again,
After the 3rd yell from Moses, I walked up to him and said, “Come with me”. He did. Some ushers followed too.
’papi: Moses, you’re drunk.
Moses: Me!!!? Me?!!
’papi: I can smell “it” on you.
Other Ushers: Yes, you smell of alcohol
Moses: (Relenting and hazy-eyed, he lapsed into the 3rd-person as if he was trying to cut a deal for being an informer): Ok, what if someone went to a party and he drank somet’in… Just one bottle of wine. Will you say that person is drunk?
Other Ushers: One bottle? And you came to this vigil after?
’papi: Go home, Moses.
(A reluctant Moses complied and all was well)
The last time I heard of Moses, many years ago, I was told he had climbed an electricity pole to effect corrections as unauthorised people do here. Unfortunately for him, power was restored while he was holding the wrong wire, and he was thrown across half the road and broke a leg… but look at the positive side, his running sinuses must have cleared up.
Moses is well now. What brought him to mind? There is a much older Moses in my neighbourhood who fiddles with power transformers in the middle of the night and climbs poles all over the area, causing chaos. He’s also perpetually drunk. A real delirium tremens candidate. Sometimes I wish, he’d get tossed across the length of two streets.