The Timbler shivered and curled further into himself, wrapping his tail around his hairless body in a fruitless attempt at warmth.
His perch on top of the wooden grate in the ceiling was uncomfortable and left him exposed to the drafts, but from up there he was able to view the congregants entering the church. Today was Sunday, his favorite day, and the hour had arrived.
He peered down as a family settled in below him. A mother passed small stuffed animals to her two children. The boy lifted a toy mouse to his mother’s ear. She smiled and nodded at it, pretending to ask it a question, to the boy’s delight. The back of The Timbler’s neck tingled as a few hairs sprouted in response to his laughter.
An older woman entered with a slow step. As she passed, several people caught her eye and she gave them a wistful smile. One man reached for her arm and she paused. He gently squeezed her hand and her eyes welled up. The Timbler sensed a few more hairs sprout from his back.
More and more people entered and the pews began to fill. The family shifted over to enable a stranger to join their row. A soft pelt grew across the Timbler’s shoulders as he watched.
A father lifted his son onto his lap and awkwardly folded the order of service into a paper airplane for him. A man settled his elderly mother in a seat toward the front. The usher’s eyes lit up as an old friend appeared with a new cane.
The Timbler was now covered in a thick coat of fur. It had two layers; warm short hairs next to his body, and a long silky honey colored outer coat. He continued to peer down at the people.
A tall man in a navy windbreaker with a messy head of hair approached the table of prayer candles at the front of the sanctuary. The man pulled one of the sticks from the bowl and touched it to a votive, then lit one of the candles. He took a deep breath and began to pray silently. The Timbler could hear the man’s plaintive thoughts as if he were whispering right into his ear.
“Please help Julie with her treatment this week. Let it work, please. Let her live a full life in good health, get back to school where she can play with her friends, away from that hospital.”
The Timbler drooped. There was nothing he could do for this absent girl and her illness. But the man stood alone and broken, and The Timbler knew, at least there he could make a difference.
With only a little reluctance, he gathered all the warmth in his body and concentrated it into a single beam of energy directed at the man’s unknowing back.
The man lifted his head, straightened his shoulders and returned to his seat. He was not smiling, but his face was calm and he greeted his neighbor with a heartfelt handshake. Newly equipped with mysterious courage, he was able to accept the love and concern of the people around him.
Above, The Timbler laid his head on his paws, his body once again naked, as the last of the fur drifted down through the grate.