The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 24

I didn’t stay for Vespers, I had other things I wanted to do, but I filed the idea away in my mind as something I would definitely try at some point in the future. There was still some time before I needed to make my way back to Father Davidson’s orchard for the evening around the fire, so I drove the long way around to town and came up from the south. It was a pleasant afternoon—the clouds rolled on by at a brisk pace, allowing for moments of sunshine and warmth. I rolled the window down and stuck my head out as I drove, enjoying the wind rushing through my hair and the sun’s warmth on my face.

As I approached town the road rose up out of the woods and I recognized this as the place I first met Father Davidson. Up ahead on the left was the long, tall stone wall that he had been dancing along the first day we met. I smiled as I remembered him twisting and turning up there, his arms flapping wildly, always looking to be on the verge of falling. As I passed the large chestnut tree where the Father and I had shared that first meal, my view opened up to the entire length of wall, I was surprised to see someone once again atop it. I slowed to get a closer look and when I realized that it was Father Davidson I pulled my car over and parked, to see what he would do. He was sitting on the wall, with legs crossed, facing in towards the property on the other side. He was hunched over and had his face buried in his hands. His entire body shook; he appeared to be crying. “I wonder what is wrong.” I thought to myself. “It’s strange to see him so sad.” I leaned forward in my seat, and then out the side window straining to get a better look at him.

Just then he looked up at the sky, stretching his arms upward, as if pleading with God Himself. And he shook his hands, shaking, shaking them, while keeping his gaze up towards the clouds. His face glistened and his eyes were puffy and red—I could just barely discern these details from my car—he was definitely crying and in great sorrow. I wanted to get out and console him but something held me back.  So I just sat and watched.

A moment later I heard an angry voice coming from behind the wall, directed up at the Father. “I’ve told you again and again to get down from there! I’m calling the police, I mean it this time!”

“Please forgive me, my benefactor! Please, have mercy on me! Forgive!” the Father cried out.

“Are you crazy?!” The voice cried back at him. And then there was silence for a few moments, and I wondered if the person had gone to call the police. Father Davidson continued to cry, looking up at the sky, and then back down into the property on the other side of the wall. “Look,” the voice said shakily, “I don’t want you here. Please, just…go…away.”

“I need your forgiveness!” the Father wailed. “Please, my benefactor! Forgive! I am a slug, squash me or forgive me!”

“That’s it! I’m calling the cops! I’m done with you!” the voice behind the wall screamed; I heard the person rush off, and then a door slammed shut. Seconds later, the Father stood up, walked along the top of the wall to the far northern end—without any difficulty at all—and then let himself down to the ground. He got on his bicycle and rode up the road towards town.

I was sure that I saw him smiling as he mounted his bike, and I think he was even giggling a bit. He certainly no longer seemed to be in the anguish he had been in just moments before, and as he rode up the street he wove back and forth from side to side, and kicked his feet out to the sides as he rode—not the demeanor of one burdened with sorrows. I remembered what the young man in the RV said of the father: that his life is poetry, and everything he does has multiple meaning, the literal and also the figurative, or a metaphorical meaning on top of that. If this was true, then what was the meaning of his tears just now on top of the wall…and what was the meaning of his dancing on the wall before that? Was he just a fraud and a liar as the folks in the café said; was he just looking for attention, perhaps simply a narcissist, or even crazy, like the woman on the other side of the wall called him just now? How could someone cry one moment, appearing to be in the throes of utter despair, and then smile and laugh a moment later, when out of the view of the person to whom they were crying? It seems crazy, or at least insincere; so I could understand why some people felt that way about him. But I didn’t feel that way, not at all, because I had seen the results of many of his antics and the results were good. Doesn’t it say somewhere, “you will know them by their fruits”? A good tree produces good fruit. I was convinced that Father Davidson was a “good tree”, and it was up to all of us, well, to me at least, to discover the good meaning of the things he did. I smiled to myself as I had my next thought: “Father Davidson is like one of those old Rorschach tests, where his meaning is subjective, and varies with each individual, depending on who they are and what they need. And he exposes the inner lives of those around him, for better or for worse.” I’m no psychologist but he did seem to fit this role, and I think he was fully conscious of his role, as he tried to expose people to the truth. But some people don’t want to know the truth. I suspected those were the ones who didn’t like him very much.

I turned slightly in my seat and scanned the large stone wall. “I wonder who lives behind that wall?” It was a bit like a fortification, or a castle wall—so long and so tall, not a typical residential wall. “Whoever she is, she has put a lot of effort into keeping people out, or keeping herself in…what is Father Davidson’s meaning with her? What is he up to here?”

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