guest post

merry christmas to one and all: a story

a guest post by my friend Terri, originally posted on her Facebook page on Christmas Day, 2019, and shared here for the sake of posterity (and people wanting to share the story with their friends).  Original grammar preserved.  I have had the privilege of reading Terri’s works for many years, but this is definitely one of her finest.  Enjoy.

we went to christmas eve service last night, right? methodist high church, very fancy, very formal, lots of candles and people in suits and altar boys/girls in white and black (we’re baptist but we cross the war fronts for christmas eve bc my dad loves formal services for fancy occasions and also they have a candlelight singing of silent night every year)


the minister is finishing up his christmas eve sermon. very nice, very traditional. lots of light-in-the-darkness metaphors, lots of folksy Stories with Morals about how neon & advertisements scream at us all the time these days and we have to learn to be quiet, about getting lost in the woods at night and finding a cabin with a lantern, how scared the shepherds must have been, etc. just as you’d expect from the deep south.

he’s wrapping up. there’s like maybe half a minute left in his sermon. “our charge is to go out and be that light to the rest of the world,” he says.

he pauses for breath.

and in that moment of silence, a sudden, melodic, mechanical, vaguely childlike voice, accompanied by cheerful tinny drums, trumpets a refrain:


the verse finishes abruptly. the world waits, stunned, breathless. the minister stares into the middle distance. the whole earth could not have held a place of more concentrated anticipation the night baby jesus was born.


we the congregation come to a collective realization: this is not a ringtone. this is not a phone, not a tablet. this is not something that can be silenced. this is a child’s toy awoken from the depths of hell itself and it is here to blare the baby shark song at maximum volume into every hallowed recess of this venerable cathedralic sanctuary, and it will not stop until every last vestige of the nativity story is drowned in cement shoes beneath its marine geneology.

the minister closes his eyes, candlelit and serene in the face of his soul’s greatest challenge. the song grows abruptly muffled, as if shoved under a thigh, and maybe a thick winter coat or two, and a fruitcake-thick layer of mortification.

the song does not end. it refuses to end. no simple leg, nor shepherd, nor host of angels can stand against the glorious might of the baby shark song.

“let us pray,” says the minister. there is a rustle of bowing heads and a shared awareness that every speck of attention in the entire sanctuary is zeroed in on the left bank of pews, three-quarters of the way to the front, center-left of the aisle.

the minister prays, smoothly and quickly and without much time in between each microphoned phrase. but he is a mortal sinful man and must take a mortal sinful breath eventually, and in the little space between his last prayer and the word “amen,” there is a small, sweet silence.

into that silence the toy sings, gently, of papa shark. its doo-doos hang glittering and endless in the air, like hoarfrost.

we close our eyes in prayer. amen.

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