Saturday, December 21, 2013

A story for the solstice


 THE SHEPHERD’S STORY


A hard year we’d had of it.
The weather all upside down, autumn in spring, winter in summer.
Crops failing, lambs scanty and weak, and no decent price to be got in the market.
A sense, a deep sense,
A sense things were bad, they couldn’t get much worse;
And yet a sneaky feeling of something actually very much worse just around the corner.
And now this deep cold in the darkest part of the year.
It was Alex first saw it.
Everyone agreed it was him.
Him, her... It.
And someone sniggered. Fred most likely.
Not that we’ve anything against Alex. Well we had, some of us had, but not me.
I’d nothing against him at all. Nothing.
Except this sense I could never get away from, somehow,
This sense there’s something not quite right about him, if you know what I mean, Something of the girl about him, there I’ve said it, though maybe I shouldn’t, and I kept wanting to ask him...
Only he’d look at me just so fierce and defiant like that to be honest I just never dared.
Anyway, it was him who first saw it. Or him, or whatever, and that’s what got me started.
We were sitting together, him and me, apart from the others
Cause they were just grumbling as usual beside the fire, rotten fire they were all saying, When all they had to do was get up and put a wee bit more wood on it,
And I get so tired of telling them,
So there we were, just the two of us, companionable like, (and you can say what you like, Fred Skillings!)
And it was all peaceful and nice somehow and then he said, quietly,
“Look....”
Always saying “Look”, our Alex, and it’s usually about a star he keeps going on about, and we say “You and your stars” and “you’ve got stars in your eyes”, which Fred thinks is incredibly funny, and I was just about to say something similar when.
When I saw it.
Only I didn’t just see it, you didn’t just see it, because it didn’t just light up the sky, it was like a great lamp lighting up your whole body and mind
“It’s a fecking angel”, Fred shouted, excuse the language, “Don’t look at it! Whatever you do, don”t look at it!”
And we all did, of course, everyone did.
Except Fred.
“Don’t trust it! Never trust an angel”, he kept on saying, “They’re just bad trouble they are”
But you had to, you had to look. You had to trust.
Because whatever this was you knew it was right,
“I trust Alan Titchmarsh”, Fred was saying, only he was saying it to himself.
Because we had all gone.
It was Alex who first said it.
“We’ve to go down to the village to look at a baby”, and normally we’d have told him not to be daft.
But we just set off, because we knew he was right, and we all walked arm in arm somehow, the best friends we’d ever been,
and as I walked along it was like music
and this voice like singing
singing not in words, but if they had been, words, they’s have been something like saying “Change is coming, big change, and if you just go with it all will be well”,
and it wasn’t a man’s voice, and it wasn’t a woman’s voice,
it was a voice,
glory, pure glory,
sing speaking in the very marrow of my bones.

Then we came to the place, nowhere special, just a car park.
a cheap tent thrown up on the verge, by the heaps of rubbish,
and homeless people who’d soon be moved on.
And we all felt uneasy, “what were we doing here?”
and then I caught the light in the young woman’s eyes.
Suddenly there were limos, and beautiful people,
dropping on their knees in the mud and the garbage.
And the woman smiled, like she was expecting us,
and then, so we could see him, just lifted up her child.
We all knelt then.
Even Fred, who’d crept up to join us and
and
That Child...
Well it was just a baby, that was it, just an ordinary baby
and there really was no reason to be that awestruck and amazed.
Or so we told ourselves, get up you idiots,
You’re all making  right fools of yourselves.
That was just the usual voice, yattering away in my head
only this time I took no notice of it
until it just faded off to silence in the end.

I don’t know how long we knelt there
and sometimes I think we never left.
Part of me is still there, always was, always will be.
And I can’t tell you what it felt like
one minute it was there and next minute it were gone
and people say well what did he look like?
well...
You saw him! You saw the saviour of the world!
Well...
Well he...
Well he looked like a baby.
Did he have much hair?
What were the colour of his eyes?
And I. I don’t know.
Oh you’re rubbish. You’re rubbish at describing.
And yes you’re right I am
but it wasn’t about his hair
or the colour of his eyes
or even he was going to do anything to save the world,
I mean, speaking personal,
I think the world’s past saving
But
but at the same time
but at the same time it was just
Don’t worry, Alex says,
when he sees me struggling,
You’ll get there.

You see in a way it wasn’t about the baby being anything special.
And not about her being a boy either.
Looking back, I think he was a girl at the same time.
It was just
and as we all knelt down in the mud we remembered
we had been babies ourselves,
still were,
open and loving and curious
and there, somehow, just there
and we can go back there any time
and that’s what he meant, later,
when he told us about the queendom,
or the kingdom, whatever,

and me and Alex got together that day
and that was a surprise
that was amazing
and after that we had a baby.
and that was even more amazing.
And Alex, still working.
there he was
a pregnant shepherd out in the fields
and no-one said a cross or a nasty or unpleasant word.

And later Fred helped with the babysitting






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