Freya

She peered over her glasses at the people around her. They should be quiet, she couldn’t hear herself think. Why were people so noisy these days. It wasn’t like this in my youth. We weren’t youth in my youth, or teenagers – we were just quiet. I still am, quiet she thought.

She quietly seethed as the community she had lived in all her life moved from rows of back to backs into towers in the sky. It no longer existed – that camaraderie over the washing lines. People got hard, they got selfish, they barricaded themselves into self-contained, self-proclaimed prison cells in the sky.

She quietly despaired as one by one, the children grew into hulking thugs – maybe the air was better in the sky as they shot up and out, ready to topple anyone that got in their way.

But that was a long time ago, now she quietly sat on the edge of the bench in what used to be a park. But the developers wanted to build and the palms of the councillors were greased and the bench now looked onto a wall. Quietly she thought at all the changes in her life, the noise, it was the deafening noise of people, traffic, building sites, sirens, dogs, children and these bloody youths.

“Oh,” she said out loud to herself, she had never sworn, not even in her head. It was different. She smiled, a wry slight smile that no one would notice because no one was looking at the old dear on the bench. Freya, no one called her that anymore, got up and began the rest of her journey home – to her little rooms in the sky, alone.

tentgirl & jake

She sleeps in a tent, in the woods at the edge of town. In the day she flits into town and dances along the cobbled streets. She sings outside the Market Tavern and eats a feast from the bins of others.

One night she awoke in the middle of a storm, she danced through the trees and sang at the lightening with a thunderous applause. The rain filled her mind, heart and lungs. She cried out as deep cries out to deep.

She sleeps in a tent, in the woods at the edge of town. In the day she hobbles into town and dances along the cobbled streets. She coughs outside the Market Tavern and can only imagine eating solid food once more.

One evening when hobbling home, she met Jake McFadden, he took her home, to his warm couch by the hearth. She coughed through the night and all the way through the next day. As the sun went down Jake fed her teaspoons of chicken broth as she spluttered and coughed.

Jake cared for her tenderly, with gentleness and care. A gentleman in every way. But the town did not know this and circulated news that would be happiest left in the gutter. As she gained strength, Jake’s reputation demised. One day she was better and gathered her things to take back to her tent in the woods.

The townsfolk spat in her path and some didn’t stop at the path. She didn’t understand, she was well but they treated her like a leper. The bins, once full, were now putrid and rancid. She stopped flitting into town.

Summer came and she danced around the trees, singing with the joy only freedom can bring. The ruined Jake saw her and fell in love at the sight of the girl who sang to the wind. He fell in love and broken hearted turned away, the townsfolk would bring up the whole saga of the sick girl

Jake went to the chapel on the main street in town, after the pastor had said his last word, Jake rose.

“People of this town, you have sullied my name and I turned the other cheek. You stopped coming to my business and I turned the other cheek. I will not defend myself against your gossip. You who come into this sanctuary beware, for your minds and mouths are as foul as the trash you put in your bins. You forget that we are all sinners. You forget the one who saved us. I am leaving here, I am leaving tent girl here. I don’t know her name. She doesn’t speak. She only sings. Open your hearts to her, open your homes to her and others like her. God bless them and God bless you.”

He did not wait for rebuttals or defences. He left and gathered up his possessions, leaving on the late bus to somewhere. Jake can be found sleeping in a tent, somewhere. He walks into town and talks to the people about a city not yet seen and a kingdom that is open to all.

data protection

“Good Morning,” the clerk at the desk said and he smiled warmly.

“Hi, I mean, good morning, where am I?” She moved forward a little, feeling strange in a strange kind of way.

“This is processing,” he replied and continued, “just for the record, name?”

“Jade Willow”

“We have no one of that name for today, is that your name?” He frowned as he spoke, put down his pen and looked up burning the insides of her own eyes.

“Well it’s the name I go by, everyone knows me by that name and I guy I once met on Dursey Island he sculpted a jade willow, just for me,” smiling wistfully of times gone by.

“This is processing, it is for your own protection, we must have your baptismal names, what is your full name?”

“Where am I again? ‘Processing,’ what does that even mean? And why protection? Seriously, you seem like a really nice guy, love the glasses by the way, real funky, but, what is the bigger place, outside of processing?”

The clerk coughed, and touched his glasses. A little blush appeared on his cheeks, he coughed again. “I need a little water, could you wait in there?” He pointed to a door with the words, Waiting Room carved into the wood.

Jade put her fingers into the carving, thinking of her husband and his skilful hands. This workmanship was on par with his. Lovely she thought and opened the door. A man in a suit stood to attention, “good morning, ma’am, how may I assist you this morning? We have fruit, infusions, tea, coffee. Although the tea’s not up to much.”

“Where are you from? Is that a Cork accent?”

“Why yes, ma’am, I was born in Cork City just below the Shandon Bells.”

“Could I have a coffee, just black with three spoons of sugar please.”

She looked around the room, comfy sofa, pretty pictures, a small table with flowers. Just like any waiting room anywhere, except something was different. She sat down in the sofa, it seemed to engulf her in the most beautiful hug and she sighed, a sigh of peace. Well whatever this is, it is very nice, she thought.

She chatted to the guy, got his life story, told him where he had gone wrong and what he should have done, the way she always would with anyone. She never understood that; why people didn’t heed her wisdom.

A buzzer sounded.

“That’s for you.”

Okay, thanks and she got up out of the sofa. Well she tried but halfway through the easy movement she realised and that changed everything.

In the office, the clerk had been joined by another.

“This is the woman.”

“Please take a seat,” the second clerk said. Again there was a genuine smile.

I like this place, she thought.

“Now, full name for the records,” clerk number two asked.

“Jade Willow.”

“Is that the name you were born with?”

“No, my married name.”

“Is that the name you were baptised?”

“No but I don’t go by that name anymore”

“I’m sorry, miss, I mean ma’am, we cannot allow you past processing without your baptismal name and birth surname. It isn’t allowed. We have rules, data protection laws. We must follow protocol, it is for your own protection.”

Jade sat up straight, breathed in deeply and spoke, “Listen mateys, my body got up out of a sofa, it walked in here, I have two feet, two legs. I know where I lost them. There was a car accident three years ago and I have been using a wheelchair ever since. But I walked in here. I know where I am. You can call it processing if you want. But I know your boss and he knows me. He knows me as Jade Willow, he knows my name because he whispered it to me when I asked him to be my boss. When he held me as I rested in his arms, he knew who he was holding. So take your data and stuff it. Is that the door I go through? Right!”

“Yes,” clerk number one answered.

Jade Willow opened the door and entered into the arms of her Lord.

Streams of Sanctuary

The man screamed with all that was within, “sanctuary,” but it came out as a barely audible whisper. He was spent.

Minutes earlier he had hauled his broken frame on to the rocks.

Hours earlier he, alongside his fellow passengers had jumped into the sea as the boat capsized; deliberately scuttled with eight hundred people on board.

Days earlier he was running; running to freedom, running from persecution.

Weeks earlier he had opened the door of his busy surgery, just one more day of treating the usual ailments in the middle-class suburb of Aleppo.

The rocks were like the most comfortable mattress he had ever slept on, better than the Sheraton in Dubai at the last conference he attended. He lay, fighting sleep; a losing battle.

Later, awakening with a little strength restored, he tried to stand but the twisted, knarled left leg refused. He had walked with it, ran with it and swam with it but it had needed treatment days ago. It was broken in at least three places where boots of the terrorists had hit. He was only trying to help, to be a good neighbour, he didn’t ask the religion of his patients and they sat together in the waiting room. But gossip spreads and one person let out they had seen a bible in the surgery and the men came.

Khalid shuffled his body along the rocks aiming for the tufts of dune he thought he could see. His eyes were still slits from days of intense heat, from the beating he was concerned something was detached. He tried to think of them as ‘the terrorists’ because to bring their names into his mind caused bile to rise in his stomach. But he knew them, he knew their fathers well, he played chess with them in the cool evenings whilst sipping mint tea; he knew them well.

Slowly, the determination that had brought him this far brought him to the edge of the reeds and grass, a small stream gushed its way to the sea and he laughed: Streams of Sanctuary.

He drank water from the stream steadily until he was sure his kidneys were working and worked with the reeds and grasses to construct makeshift splints for his leg. He knew if he got as far as trees in the distance he could make a stick that would enable him to walk to the nearest village or town. As he drank from the stream he thought of the living water, how a girl had rushed into his surgery one morning to explain to him  about living water.

Ten years ago he had read of a man in Haiti who had travelled for three weeks with a broken hip, shuffling most of the way. Khalid remembered how in awe he was of this man’s courage. He now understood, it wasn’t courage, it was being more scared of the alternative, it was not choosing heroism; it was choosing life.

B’nyaroi, the girl with the bible, she had died along with her whole family. The men had barricaded their home and set it ablaze. The crowd cheered as the screams stopped. Horrific, Khalid thought. She had been teaching him about Jesus, she had such joy in her eyes and her face shone in a way he had never seen. He listened to her as she excitedly told him about life with this Saviour who was God and man. He said little but the leaflet with ‘the prayer’ had been read and spoken out loud. When he thought of B’nyaroi he thought of peace, love and acceptance.

Minutes later he was moving, a little faster now he hopped some and crawled some.

Hours later he arrived into the village of Velanidia and knocked at the first door.

Days later he was walking on crutches in the gardens of Molaoi Lakonia General Hospital. He had lost half his left leg, but his eyes were much improved. He would never have full sight again but he had enough to see the beautiful anemones and orchids. He was walking in God’s garden.

Weeks later still nursing wounds both physical and emotional he stood on a stage in Athens. He spoke the fluent English, his father had insisted he learn, he told of terror and redemption, he told of hospitality and he wept as he told B’nyaroi’s story.

Months later he enrolled in a theological college somewhere in the world. He know called himself Khalid the Living, he wanted to reach out to his nation, to his former community, he wanted to spread the gospel message of love into the hearts of Bassel and Yaman and all the other young people caught up in the blood battle. His eyes, precious to him now, watered freely when he thought of how much love he had for those young boys, for the men who torched B’nyaroi and her family. How much love the Father has for him and everyone else. He was living, Khalid the Living.

Years later Khalid … (yet to happen)

skeleton story

Sally watched Billy as he ate his lunch. Huge bites of sandwich, snip, snap, snout, sandwich finished. Billy looked up, his brooding eyes catching hers and she smiled.

The smile crossed the borders of their relationship, it jumped over the hurdles, one, two, three and landed into the pools of moody eyes.

The chasm created by too many arguments, too many battles, too many long nights in separate beds, was dispelled in a simple gesture of goodwill.

He reached across the table and she, still smiling held his hand.