Sunday, October 14, 2007

Remnant — A Parable

by Eric Ayars

It was a small boat, as boats went. It was hardly more than a rowboat, really; but it was safe, dry, and watertight. Rather pretty too, James thought, as he and the other rowers took a short break. It was white, appropriately enough, with a neat line of oars down one side and sturdy wooden benches for the crew. Its name, which they were all so proud of, was stenciled in large red block letters on each side of the bow. Everyone could see that this was no ordinary rowboat: this was the Remnant.

It was a strange name for a boat, but that name filled the crew with hope. They had a mission: saving swimmers. They had a destination: port. They had promises, given to them by The Captain Himself. He had promised them that the Remnant would never sink. He had promised that all those on board would live. He had promised that they would reach port safely. And so, day after day, they rowed.

It seemed to James that surely they should have reached port by now. He knew they weren’t lost—they had a map, drawn by The Captain Himself. It was spread out on a small platform near the bow, next to the careful painting of a compass that showed them they were heading the right direction. Despite all that, though, they had not reached port. James still wondered occasionally if they should have oars on both sides of the boat; but when they had tried that they had run aground almost immediately. "We should return to the old ways," the leaders had told them in the aftermath of that disaster, "and row harder."

James tried to remember how long he’d been on the boat. It seemed like he’d been rowing all his life. Perhaps he’d been born on the boat! After all, his parents were on the boat too, just a few benches away. Come to think of it, so were his grandparents. Well, he grinned to himself as he began to row once more, The Captain hadn’t said how long the trip was—He’d just promised that they would get there safely.

Not everyone on the Remnant had been born there, of course. Next to James sat Steve, who’d been pulled from the surrounding water quite recently. Steve still dripped and smelled a little bit like chlorine, but James didn’t mind. It felt good to have been a part of saving a man’s life. He wished that he could do more for the rest of the swimmers surrounding the boat; but most showed no desire to come aboard. They seemed utterly unaware of their lost and drowning condition as they splashed happily about in their indecent outfits and garish rubber hats. Some swam back and forth endlessly, as if they could reach port on their own. Others clung to small inflatable toys, as if those could carry them safely through the great storms of the end. Most seemed to treat their condition as a game, unconcerned that they weren’t on the Remnant.

Sadder still to James were his memories of those who had once been on the Remnant but had left. His sister had rowed for a long time on the bench beside him, until one day she’d started talking excitedly about “looking farther” and “seeing the big picture”. They had all tried convincing her to calm down and keep rowing, but she wouldn’t. She and his best friend had jumped overboard, and were last seen wading hand in hand into the distance. Someday, he hoped, they would come back to the Remnant; but until they made that choice there was nothing he could do. He bent his back once again into his oar as the painted compass pointed them onwards.

Far above, on the bridge of the great ocean liner, Remnant, the watch was changing.

"Morning, Gabe. Coffee?"

"Thanks, Michael." The glowing creature folded himself into a chair with a sigh and held the steaming mug under his nose.

"Ah, that hits the spot. Quiet watch?"

"I wish! More of the usual, I'm afraid, with emphasis on wars and rumors of wars. I'll be glad when this trip is over!"

"We're almost there now, I'm sure. Soon we'll all be home…" It was such an old joke that they snorted the punchline almost in unison: "…Even the Adventists."

The two archangels sat for another companionable moment before Gabriel broke the silence. "I know this is a strange question to ask after so many years, but I was working with the situation down on China deck in the mid-nineteenth century and missed all the fun. How'd they get that lifeboat to the pool deck in the first place?"

1 comment:

Melvin Bray said...

this is hilarious!!! i'd love to write like this.