Jeremy was - everyone agreed afterwards - as normal a young man as anyone would want to meet. He was of middle height, had middling good looks and the regulation length regulation coloured hair. He was all right in school, never bright enough for great things but not dropout material either.
But there were two things that marked out Jeremy from the others. From an early age, he had made his parents proud of him by being a regular and enthusiastic attender of Bible classes. As he grew to teenage, he had also begun to attend evening prayer meetings. His parents had decided he would become a pastor, and they were justly proud. Simple folk who had been brought up in the knowledge that the Bible was the One True Word of God, they had never thought they were worthy of having a son high in the favour of the Lord.
The other thing that marked out Jeremy was the fact that he had a squint in one eye. It wasn't a very ferocious squint, and there was no reason why it couldn't be corrected by surgery, but the parents and the church were all convinced that the Lord made everything as He wished it and that corrective surgery was blasphemous. Jeremy was sensitive about that squint, and he tried to pretend it didn't exist, but it was the Lord's work and he could do othing about it except corrective surgery, and that he would not do.
No, he did not cut the eye out and cast it away. This is not that kind of story.
Young Jeremy left school and found a job while the Reverend pastor of his church thought about getting him into divinity school. It was not all thatsimple because Jeremy was nott he most attentive of pupils, and his ability to assimilate new ideas was limited. Still, he thought he would try.
It was then that Ned the Nervous, the fire and brimstone preacher whose flaming sermons were threatening to set the countryside on fire, came to Jeremy's town. He held a meet in the town hall which everyone who was anyone attended, except for the mainstream pastor and a few die-hards, who, it was muttered, were probably atheists or worse.
And how Ned the Nervous preached! He threw his arms around, ranted and raved, stormed around the stage, and long before the end of it had half his audience talking in tongues and the other half in convulsions of ecstasy on the floor. "This city is a den of iniquity and vice," he howled, and the walls seemed to tremble from shock. "Remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, yea, and repent," he screamed, and the very earth seemed to shudder at his words. At the end of it he shrieked, "If your right eye offend thee, brethren, cut it out and cast it from thee!" And he followed his words with like deed, tearing out his right eye and flinging it on the stage. The fact that it was a glass prosthesis detracted nothing from the effect of this speech. His audience was spellbound.
Jeremy was very, very thoughtful when he left the meeting. He looked all around, experimentally tugged at his squint-eye, and thought better of it. He then looked around some more. Then he went home.
That night the town burned down, and Jeremy danced in the light of the flames.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2008