Old Lang’s sign

I miss old Lang. He was a good guy. So wise.

I never learned Lang’s last name. Or maybe I never learned his first. I don’t know. No one ever called him anything but Lang.

He often spoke of his homeland. “Where I come from people live differently than they do here in America,” he once whispered to me. It was after nightfall. The stars shone down brilliantly upon us. We were up in a tree hiding from police dogs.

It’s the weirdest thing about dogs, even police dogs. The smell of bark confuses them. Bark! Of all things! You think it’d be something like turnips dipped in lye. (Which I’ve had, and cannot recommend—though my aunt Earlyne insists they make her clothes come out of the dryer so soft they keep sliding right off her body. But I think that’s just an excuse she uses.) But it’s bark that confuses dogs.

“Be quiet!” I whispered to old Lang. “They’ll be confused. Not deaf!”

“It’s like my father Lung used to say,” said Lang obliviously. “‘In America, they’ll kill you for a cheeseburger.’”

“Shhhh!” I whispered maniacally. “Your father’s name was Lung?

“Yes. Long Lung.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. He was very tall.”

“And he named you Lang.”

“Yes. I was Long Lung’s Lang.”

“I’m starting to hate you.”

“Ah,” said Lang, nodding sagaciously. “Then you hate yourself.”

I started pushing him. “Get out. Get out of this tree right now.”

“Stop it!” he whispered, swatting at my hands. “The dogs will get me!”

“I don’t care. You’re old. They’ll think you’re a wad of weird jerky and move on. Get out.”

“Stop it!”

“Then stop saying things like, Ah. Then you hate yourself.”

“He who abides in the shadows cannot abide by candles,” whispered old Lang.

When he hit the ground he barely made a sound. He didn’t weigh much. And there were lots of leaves down there. Plus he fell on about a dozen sleeping dogs.

“Come on down!” he called up to me. “I forgive you! They aren’t police dogs! They’re regular dogs! I woke them up! Come on down!”

Sure enough they were just regular dogs. “I thought you said police dogs were after us,” I said.

“They were. I don’t know what happened. Maybe these are the police dogs. Maybe now instead of attacking you they train police dogs to take naps until you fall on them.”

“That would be a nice approach.”

“This one here seems to be trying to lick me into submission,” said Lang. “Good boy. Good boy. Okay, stop it.” He looked at me and smiled. “And you said they wouldn’t like me.”

 

Old Lang was a sign-painter. Everyone in town knew one of Lang’s hand-painted signs when they came across it somewhere in their front yard.

“Love is the answer!” said the sign Lang jammed into Mrs. Waddermaker’s azaleas. “But what is the question?”

Climbing into his car Mr. Jenkins almost tripped on a Lang sign that read, “To go somewhere is to go nowhere.”

The Barnekees next door got one that said, “Troubadour pants! Who knew?!”

The sign he put on the courthouse lawn said, “We’re all guilty. Except me.”

Good old Lang. I miss his signs.

I remember the one he did for me. I found it driven into the big planting pot right outside my door. Ever since the shooting I’d let all the plants on my porch wither into nothing. I just didn’t care anymore.

“Don’t cry,” it said. “After this comes paradise.”

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • mike moore

    Happy New Year, John.

  • http://www.facebook.com/msshipley Christina Scroggins-Shipley via Facebook

    :-) funny! And thank you for praying for me this year John! May your New Year be happy and healthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/msshipley Christina Scroggins-Shipley via Facebook

    :-) funny! And thank you for praying for me this year John! May your New Year be happy and healthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/msshipley Christina Scroggins-Shipley via Facebook

    :-) funny! And thank you for praying for me this year John! May your New Year be happy and healthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/msshipley Christina Scroggins-Shipley via Facebook

    :-) funny! And thank you for praying for me this year John! May your New Year be happy and healthy.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    What a great story! Ever thought about going pro?

  • Carol B.

    To quote M*A*S*H….”Here’s to the new year…and may she be a damn sight better than the old! Happy New Year, Shores!

  • http://www.facebook.com/valeriebarlowhorton Valerie Barlow Horton via Facebook

    I was laughing so hard and then the last paragraph, :’(

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      I know!

  • http://www.facebook.com/valeriebarlowhorton Valerie Barlow Horton via Facebook

    I was laughing so hard and then the last paragraph, :’(

  • http://www.facebook.com/valeriebarlowhorton Valerie Barlow Horton via Facebook

    I was laughing so hard and then the last paragraph, :’(

  • http://www.facebook.com/valeriebarlowhorton Valerie Barlow Horton via Facebook

    I was laughing so hard and then the last paragraph, :’(

  • charles

    Happy New Year…. and here’s a toast to a spiritual jubilee….

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    John you’ve been such a huge part of the positive stuff our country experienced this year. Blessings to you and Cat, I hope you get every single one of your hearts’ desires.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    John you’ve been such a huge part of the positive stuff our country experienced this year. Blessings to you and Cat, I hope you get every single one of your hearts’ desires.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    John you’ve been such a huge part of the positive stuff our country experienced this year. Blessings to you and Cat, I hope you get every single one of your hearts’ desires.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeReischling Diane Re via Facebook

    John you’ve been such a huge part of the positive stuff our country experienced this year. Blessings to you and Cat, I hope you get every single one of your hearts’ desires.

  • Stef

    Thank you John for the wonderful posts in 2012!

    Here’s to a great and blessed year in 2013. Happy New Year!

    May God bless you.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    John, thank you for a lot of laughs, slaps upside the head and food for thought. Happy New Year, can’t wait to see what 2013 brings! I sense something big.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com Dan Wilkinson

    Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2013!

  • Donald Rappe

    “And he named you Lung.” Typo alert!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Fixed! Thank you!

  • Matt

    Happy New Year, John. Wishing you the best.

    I had a pretty good new year’s eve. I asked a very special woman a very special question with my mother’s ring, and she said “yes.” Actually she said: “Yes, yes, a million times yes.”

    So yeah, 2013. It’s going to be a good one.

    • Carol B.

      Congratulations!!!!!

  • Donald Rappe

    While paradise is the only answer for the lambs that were slain, and are being slain every day, we should not fail to notice that there is thunder coming from the throne before which they stand.

  • Maria

    Praying for you John, and everyone on this site, for healing, for understanding, for inner-peace, and for love and kindness to come abide by you always.

    • Jill H

      Hi Maria!!! :)

      • Maria

        Hi Jill! :)