One might think that a naked man walking down Peachtree Street in the afternoon would be easy to spot, but Doyle Pendergast wasn’t the typical naked man. He strode along with confidence, almost daring anyone to call him out. He made eye contact, greeted those who bothered to notice him with a boisterous, “Howdy!” If hands were offered, he’d vigorously shake them before continuing on his way. If anyone took exception with his state, he’d cease his forward movement and engage the aggrieved party in a lengthy discourse about what he was doing and why, and few who questioned him found fault with his reasoning. In this way, he devised a curious form of invisibility. People deliberately didn’t see him, giving him license to make his daily treks largely unhindered. Even the police steered clear, not wanting to take on the responsibility of explaining to their superiors how such an individual had been able to move with impunity for so long through their streets.
It was almost by chance that Doyle first began his odd excursions. Before, he’d been the typical office drone, working in just another cubicle city in another unadorned office building. He had been with his employer more years than he wanted to count and, while he progressed over time, never really felt rewarded for his endeavors. He’d started as a low-level clerk, fresh out of college and, over time, managed to rise to a low-level office support representative, spouting his practiced spiel whenever someone would call for assistance. Doyle was behind-the-scenes, hardly noticed unless someone needed his assistance and, for a long time, he relished the anonymity. Beneath the surface, however, there was always this wild streak to his personality, which he mostly suppressed, the longing to break out and do something totally unconventional, something no one expected. Which is why, one afternoon, completely out of the blue, he decided to remove his shirt while he was headed home from work.
The thought first struck him in the lobby of his office building, an impulse he found difficult to resist. In fact, it happened almost unconsciously, as he strode away from the elevator toward the door, he just started undoing the buttons, so that by the time he exited through the revolving doors, his shirt was slung over his shoulder. He assumed this would cause a stir, people staring, not able to comprehend why this man had suddenly decided to go shirtless, but, to his surprise, no one seemed to care. People glanced in his direction, but no one made much of a fuss about it, which further inspired him.
From there it was a simple matter to remove more and more clothing, until he was moving along completely in the buff, once again expecting to shock the unsuspecting masses, and once again finding himself all but completely ignored. He was somewhat disappointed at first, until he realized that in not reacting to him, the people downtown were giving him the biggest reaction of all. The more they tried to ignore him, the more he found them making furtive glances in his direction, then abruptly turning away, pretending not to have seen what they had, in fact, just seen. He knew he’d hit upon his one grand gesture. Now he considered himself an artist.
Eccentricity was no stranger to Doyle’s family. His cousin Cecilia was part of a religious organization called The First Church of Jesus Christ, Steno, a.k.a The Christian Stenographers. Their mission in life was to faithfully record every word Jesus said to them for later revelation, and they frequently issued voluminous correspondence on every topic imaginable. The Evangelicals, fearing the competition, immediately set out to discredit them, calling them a cult and instructing members to ignore the lengthy, often cryptic epistles issued by the group. What really worried the clergy was a larger concern, namely, what if these yahoos actually were receiving messages directly from Jesus? Where would that leave the rest of them?
Doyle wasn’t close to his cousin, and doubted she’d find his new found method of expressing himself appealing. Most of her time was spent scribbling shorthand into her notepad, so she rarely entertained family or friends any longer. Doyle had, with increasing frequency, received her curious epistles, as had most in their family, but he rarely gave them more than a cursory glance, maybe managing the first or second paragraph before finding other ways to spend his time. Now that he’d taken on his own mission to engage the world, he started to take a second look at his cousin’s correspondence and found them very insightful.
Most were written in a rambling, steam of consciousness style, one thought hardly connected to the next, but through them all, Doyle noted a strong sense of logic, encased in a vast array of religious symbolism. Cecilia’s emails were always twenty-five hundred characters, no more, no less, and each new email took up where the last left off, as though she were instinctively editing pages and pages of her handwritten notes, knowing just where to stop and start. Though each was a long stream of words, they were perfectly punctuated and capitalized. The sentences varied, giving a cadence to the notes as though they’d been meant to be read aloud and sometimes, Doyle did just that, finding them to be clever, if somewhat nonsensical monologues. If only he could find a way to connect them to his afternoon excursions, he was certain he could make people sit up and take notice. He might even realize his life-long dream of being interviewed on Channel 5.