Clear Instructions on the Baking of Bread

When he was forty the LORD came to Ezra and laid it all out for him, clear and concise and pragmatic as the directions for a bookshelf. It was the weirdest damn thing, not transcendent at all – no choir of angels, no burning bushes, just a voice that shook him awake and demanded. He had a good life, a quiet life, settled, rooted, placid, and he didn’t like it, either the voice or the instructions it gave him. “Schizophrenia,” he told the mirror, which stared back at him with hollow eyes that weren’t anyone’s but his own and kept its own counsel.

He tried to put it out of his mind – which meant he worried at it on nights he couldn’t sleep – and went on with his life. The LORD didn’t speak to him again, didn’t pester him or threaten him or visit him with plagues or anything like that but more and more he felt like he was skipping out on something, or like his life was just something he was faking his way through. Hollow, like his eyes.

It took him two years to argue himself into the right frame of mind. After two years the words were only carved more deeply into his brain; in the rush of the highway he heard the voice of the LORD, rising and falling through the night, inconstant and soothing as the ocean, always speaking. He moved through it, dressed and ate and worked and slept always within its persistent swell. After two years he dressed himself in his best suit and made sure his tie was straight. In the mirror his eyes were hollow but ready, his left side heavy with witness.