Get Thee Down

Get Thee Down charcoal drawing
Get Thee Down short story illustration. Charcoal drawing by author.

Get Thee Down

The boy has fallen asleep in a john boat floating on a lake somewhere between Natchez and Baton Rouge.  The lake is shallow for the most part, but it is wide, wider than most bayous, and its waters back up into the stands of cypress trees that surround it.  Millions of frogs up in the shallows are chirping and buzzing in a white noise that covers up everything but the roars of the bullfrogs.  The bullfrogs bellow out randomly and out of turn, and it gives the chorus some sort of strange pre-human rhythm.

The boy dreams.  In the dream, he sees a prophet or an angel or some other figure pointing to a book.  The figure is speaking in a loud booming voice, but the boy cannot understand what he is saying over the noise of the frogs.  When he wakes, the boy can only remember the words “Get thee down.”

Over the years, maybe every couple of years or so, the boy would have the dream again. The dream wouldn’t always be exactly the same, and sometimes it would be mixed in with other dreams, but the loud voice would always be obscured by the sound of the frogs.  No matter how hard the boy concentrated, he couldn’t make out the words.

Then, one night long after the boy has become a man, he dreams yet again of the lake and the angel, and this time it is different.  This time, the chorus of the frogs dies down, and the loud booming voice is distinct and clear.  Even so, it is still a dream, and all the boy can remember when he wakes up the next morning is “the bleating sheep follow.”  The boy is a deep sleeper, and it is several more months before he can write the full text:

Get thee down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh his arrogance is an outrage. He puffs himself up as the Lord’s anointed, and the bleating sheep follow. Would the Lord need this many lies to do anything? Tell Saul his days are numbered.

short story by Joe Riverson Smith